Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Assistant principal tapped to lead Weeki Wachee High School

WEEKI WACHEE — Troy LaBarbara had his sights set on the principal's desk when he started his career in 1993. Now he's set to lead Hernando's newest high school.

Superintendent Bryan Blavatt has tapped the 42-year-old assistant principal at Weeki Wachee High to take over when Dennis McGeehan retires on April 27.

That means LaBarbara will likely be the handing out diplomas to the school's first graduating class in 2013.

"I've seen a lot of graduating classes go through in my career, but this will be the most special," he said. "I've gotten close to a lot of these students, and there's nothing I want to see more than them walking across the stage."

Blavatt selected LaBarbara from five internal applicants. All of them had homegrown assistant principal experience.

Among them was LaBarbara's fellow assistant principal, Sue Lisk, who held an assistant's post at Central for nine years — and had a hand in hiring LaBarbara for an assistant's job there three years ago — before transferring to Weeki Wachee in January 2010. On paper, Lisk has more administrative experience, but she is enrolled in the state's deferred retirement plan and must retire in November 2013.

LaBarbara has experience working to improve student performance, and he doesn't rattle easily, Blavatt said.

"Which is a nice trait for a principal," he said. "He seems to communicate well with the public."

The other applicants were Brent Gaustad, assistant principal at Hernando High since 2008; Carmine Rufa, who held an assistant's position at Springstead High for a year and at Powell Middle for five years before heading to West Hernando Middle in 2008; and Tim Urban, manager of professional development for the district. Urban served as assistant principal at Springstead from 1998 to 2002 and has five years of assistant principal experience in Pasco County.

A native of East Islip, N.Y., LaBarbara moved to Florida at the age of 12. His family settled in Spring Hill a year later.

As part of a psychology course during his senior at Springstead High, LaBarbara worked with students with Down syndrome. The experience made an impact.

"That's what drew me to education," he said.

LaBarbara graduated from Springstead in 1988 and earned an associate's degree from Pasco-Hernando Community College. He has bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Florida State University with a focus on learning disabilities, emotional handicaps and early childhood education.

He started his career in Tampa, teaching middle school students with learning disabilities. He moved the following year to Gulf High School in New Port Richey, where he taught the same population until 1997. That year, he became a job placement transition specialist at Gulf, helping students with varying levels of disabilities get the education and training they needed to enter the workforce.

McGeehan hired LaBarbara in 2009 for an assistant principal's position at Central High, then left the following year to open Weeki Wachee and brought on LaBarbara last year.

"He's very diligent about what he does, very proactive," McGeehan said. "He's very open and approachable."

LaBarbara credits much of his success to the support of his wife, Lina, a media specialist at Land O'Lakes High School who helps keep him up to date on the latest education technology. The couple's son, Nicholas, attends Powell, and 9-year-old daughter Hannah is at Winding Waters K-8.

During his final year at Central, LaBarbara helped write a grant application designed to help the school land the resources needed to lift its D grade. Many of the strategies used at Central can be implemented at Weeki Wachee, even though it's a new school that started with a B in its first year of grading, LaBarbara said. The school opened with about 580 freshmen and sophomores, and the current enrollment is roughly 930. That figure is expected to climb to about 1,260 next year, when the first seniors will graduate.

LaBarbara takes his first principal's job amid a sea change in education policy. A new teacher evaluation system based on student performance is being implemented this year, end-of-course exams have begun to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test at the high school level, and all students will be required to take online courses.

"I have plans for all of these things," LaBarbara said. "I just feel like I'm ready to be in that leadership role now."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

Assistant principal tapped to lead Weeki Wachee High School 03/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 7:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gunman opens fire in Nashville church; 1 dead, 7 wounded

    Crime

    NASHVILLE — A masked gunman invaded a Nashville church Sunday and opened fire, walking silently down the aisle as he shot unsuspecting congregants. At least one person was killed and seven others wounded, authorities said.

    Kaitlyn Adams, a member of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, hugs another church member at the scene after shots were fired at the church on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Antioch, Tenn. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP)
  2. Woman dead in St. Petersburg shooting

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Woman fatally shot Saturday night

    A 31-year-old woman was shot and killed Saturday night, police said.

  3. Jones: Rather than criticizing anthem protests, we should be asking about the reasons for them

    Bucs

    MINNEAPOLIS — They are football players. They are teammates. They are Tampa Bay Bucs.

    Bucs wide receivers Mike Evans (13) and DeSean Jackson (11) kneel during the national anthem. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Here kitty, kitty ...

    Blogs

    In a toned down version of the annual rookie dress-up day based on MLB's new anti-hazing policy, Rays rookie players and staff - plus second-year LHP Blake Snell - donned DJ Kitty onesies for the trip to New York.

    Rays rookie players and staff - joined here by Alex Colome - sporting their DJ Kitty onesies before the flight to New York.
  5. Pasco residents affected by Irma invited to town hall meeting

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Representatives from Pasco County Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will play host to a town hall-style meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the first-floor boardroom of the West Pasco Government Center, 8731 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey

    Sandra Cunningham assesses the damage a water oak did to her Church Avenue home when it crashed into her bedroom roof during Hurricane Irma.