HOLIDAY — It's official.
Anclote High School has its first full-time staff members, effective today.
Principal Monica Ilse and assistant principal Fran Helfrich take the reins after finishing up FCAT testing at Land O'Lakes High, where they've worked together for the past three years.
Already they have a laundry list of things to do. Most immediately, the administrators need to hire about 50 teachers.
"We've already spoken to the staffs at Mitchell and Gulf," Ilse said, referring to the two high schools where most of Anclote's students would have attended. "Teachers there have submitted their letters of interest to the district."
Once she gets the list, Ilse said, the interviews will begin.
To make sure everyone knows what Ilse is looking for, she has put together a pamphlet listing the qualities an Anclote High teacher should have, such as a belief that all students can be successful and an ability to integrate technology into lessons and activities.
At the same time, Ilse and Helfrich are preparing the school for students.
Already, the students have voted on a school mascot — the Sharks — and helped choose the school colors of royal blue, silver and white. They've also shared their views on important courses they want to see, which has helped the administrators design a curriculum.
"A big surprise to us was [that] we have a lot of interest in vet assisting and a lot of interest in science," Ilse said. "So we will have a club in vet assisting" that ties with a class at Marchman Technical.
Anclote High also will have certificate programs in culinary arts, environmental resources, networking and nurse assisting; a career academy focused on the energy industry; and four learning communities within the main curriculum.
The school will have an extensive Advanced Placement program, and also will focus on providing positive experiences such as privileges for students who stay "on the right track."
"I have high expectations of students, both academically and as far as behavior," said Ilse, who enjoys pottery and reading when not involved at school, which she admitted takes up the bulk of her time. "It needs to be a safe and orderly environment for students to learn."
She also wants the school to have a lively social climate with strong community interaction.
"High school is about more than classes," she said. "It's about getting involved and having a positive experience."
Anclote's students and staff will have a prime opportunity to make the school what they want it to be, Helfrich said, because it's a blank slate.
"What a great opportunity to open a new school, setting that culture and having high expectations for individuals and seeing that to fruition," she said.
That chance to guide a new school from the ground up is what drew these two administrators to leave Land O'Lakes High, a departure they both called "bittersweet."
"My goal is to spend five to 10 years at Anclote High," Ilse said. "I want it to be a school where kids can take advantage of opportunities to make their future happen."
Anclote High opens to students in the fall. Most of the students will come from the Paul R. Smith Middle School eighth-grade class.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.