Saturday, December 16, 2017
Education

Kingswood's new principal started there as intern 25 years ago

BRANDON

Amber Craft's work life has now come full circle.

Craft, who started as an intern at Kingswood Elementary School more than 25 years ago, took over as principal on May 19. She replaced Craig Burkhard, who recently retired after six years at Kingswood.

Many things have changed since Craft's days as an intern, but the things she remembered and treasured the most are intact.

When Craft was presented with the chance to fill Burkhard's position, she was excited.

"I've always loved Kingswood, and the Area 5 director is great," she said.

Craft's roots in Hillsborough County are deep. She attended Riverview Elementary and graduated from East Bay High School. Her mother was a media specialist at Riverview Elementary for 40 years and her grandmother was the lunchroom manager at the now-defunct Wimauma High School. Her parents are graduates of East Bay High School.

From 1979 to 1982, she was a teacher at St. Patrick's Catholic School in Tampa. She spent a year at Brewster Adult Center as an occupational specialist before going to Ruskin Elementary, where she remained until 1999.

Then it was on to an assistant principal's job at Philip Shore, a magnet school for the arts in Tampa.

From there, she went on to become principal of Gibsonton Elementary from 2004 to 2006.

Most recently, Craft was an area supervisor of elementary studies for the school district.

"Being at district level, I'm able to go to a lot of meetings on the newest philosophy of (the state Department of Education) and the newest hardware and software programs available for us. I'm just so excited to apply this to my own school site," she said.

She's also eager to take on many projects for Kingswood.

"Craig (Burkhard) left everything fabulous, and you can tell when best practices occur, but there are a couple of things we need to get working on now, and technology is one of them," she said.

Although Kingswood has at least one computer in every class, they could use more. The school also lacks a computer lab for group lessons.

Soon Craft will be rounding up PTA members, business partners and district business personnel to discuss options.

Pat McCants, the school's assistant principal, is looking forward to working with Craft and the PTA on yet another project: getting covered walkways.

"She will also be an asset to our ESE program," McCants said.

School-grade improvement will not be an issue for Craft. Kingswood's grades have improved in the past five years.

For 2006-07, Kingswood's grade went up to an "A" after being a steady "B" for three years and a "C" for several years prior to that.

The school's FCAT writing grade is the third-highest for Brandon elementary schools.

Craft's special talents also will be put to use at Kingswood. She taught dance and organized a dance group when she worked at Gibsonton Elementary.

"I'm looking forward to doing something similar at Kingswood," she said. "Kids learn from the arts."

Craft's plans for the future are clear.

"Right now, I want to be rooted in one place and concentrate on doing what's best for Kingswood," she said.

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