Freedom High School will lose the only principal it has known at the end of the school year.
Longtime educator Richard Bartels "will no longer be the principal after June," he recently confirmed with the St. Petersburg Times.
Bartels, 59, is one of two New Tampa principals who will leave their posts because of the state's Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP, in which employees who reach retirement age or 30 years of employment agree to retire within five years.
Created in 1998, DROP was designed to help give younger, lower-paid employees a chance to advance by encouraging senior employees to retire with enhanced benefits.
Chiles Elementary School principal Sharon Beaubien, 61, also plans to retire at the end of the school year because of the program.
"I went into DROP a little too early," Beaubien said. "I'm not really ready to go." According to the program rules, though, she cannot remain as principal.
Beaubien and Bartels said they may look for work in the private sector or look for other positions in the school system.
Bartels was principal at King High School before leading Freedom when it opened in 2002. With 36 years of service to the school system, Bartels retired and was reappointed at Freedom in 2006. Consistently a B-rated school, Freedom has had some difficult times, as has Bartels.
• Freedom made national news in 2004 when several students were suspended after displaying flags of Colombia and Puerto Rico during Hispanic Heritage Month and again in 2007 after locking most restrooms during class in response to vandalism.
• In May 2005, Bartels' wife of nearly 34 years, Nancy, a longtime counselor and teacher, died of a virus suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 57. Later that year, Bartels Middle School was named in her memory.
• The school received positive attention in October, when first daughter Jenna Bush visited to speak to students about her work with UNICEF.
• In the athletics department, the news was not so good. Athletic director Jose Couret asked for a transfer in September. In the middle of a losing season, the football team faced five player suspensions and more than $1,000 in Florida High School Athletic Association fines for a fight during a game. Head football coach Marquel Blackwell was disciplined after a verbal argument with another teacher, and parents from the girls volleyball team attacked Bartels' leadership in angry e-mails.
Amber Mobley can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 269-5311.