The moment proved bittersweet for Teresa Love as she met with her staff Friday morning.
She hated to tell her Cypress Elementary School staff that she would be leaving in the spring. But the idea of becoming the first principal of Odessa Elementary School positively thrilled her.
"I am extremely flattered that the district would ask me, even consider me, to open a brand new school," Love said later.
The opening of Odessa and Connerton elementary schools, plus the unexpected retirement of Deer Park Elementary principal John Shafchuk, generated the need for new leadership in several Pasco schools.
That prompted the shuffle of a dozen principals and assistant principals at schools across Pasco County.
"We had to fill those," said assistant superintendent Dave Scanga, who announced the shifts early Friday.
The resulting domino effect makes room for the rise of two assistant principals, as well as four principal transfers. The new principal assignments are:
• Love, who will take over at Odessa on March 23.
• Margie Polen, who moves from Gulf Highlands to Deer Park on Feb. 1.
• Jill Middleton, who moves from Sanders to Gulf Highlands on Feb. 1.
• Anna Falcone, who takes a promotion from assistant principal at Pine View to lead Sanders/Connerton effective Feb. 1.
• Deanna Decubellis, who moves from Calusa to Cypress on April 12.
• Kara Merlin, who takes a promotion from assistant principal at Mittye P. Locke to run Calusa on April 12.
The district rarely puts new principals in the position of opening new schools. Falcone said she was honored the district put faith in her to get Connerton ready for its first day while also preparing Sanders for its move to the new campus. She looked forward to working with the staff, students and community to get the school up and running.
"If you have a strong, solid network in the community, it just makes (accomplishing) your goals a lot easier," she said.
In addition to the principal moves, the district also will reassign six assistant principals to new schools. (See box for details.)
Those moves come as the district looks to groom future leaders. The switches have administrators transferring from low-income schools to more wealthy ones, or vice versa, so they can see the different challenges that exist.
"We need those assistant principals to grow professionally and to have experiences," Scanga said. "I'm thinking certainly long term about the organization's need to have leaders ready to replace the current administrators."
Sand Pine Elementary principal Ginny Yanson retires in June, and Schrader Elementary principal Mary Ellen Stelnicki is scheduled to leave in December. Other elementary principals whose retirements are approaching include Barbara Munz (Pasco), Emily Keene (West Zephyrhills) and B.J. Smith (Seven Oaks).
"We're in for a heavy load of retirement," Scanga said.
Three of the new appointments take effect Feb. 1. That's because of the immediate need that Shafchuk's departure created at Deer Park.
The rest will come after the spring FCAT examination period ends, to avoid disrupting schools while children are preparing.
As Love said, while there's excitement in taking on a new challenge, the current demands must come first.
"I am grounded here at Cypress," she said. "I have a job to do while I am here."
The administration likes to move leaders in the spring after the FCAT, though, in order to give them a chance to meet students, staff, parents and community members before summer break begins. That way they can come to understand the school's culture at a time when there's not as much pressure as when the new academic year begins.
Superintendent Heather Fiorentino plans to recommend these appointments, along with the move of Sunlake High principal Angie Stone to open Fivay High, when the School Board meets on Tuesday. The board can reject the nominations only for cause.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.