Thursday, June 21, 2018
Education

Troubled Lacoochee Elementary gets a new principal

After weeks of careful consideration, Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning has decided to install a new principal at struggling Lacoochee Elementary School.

He picked a Lacoochee native who wasn't even aware she was qualified for the job.

Latoya Jordan, assistant principal at nearby Cox Elementary School for six years, will become Lacoochee's next leader. Jordan, 38, attended Lacoochee and once lived in the housing project next door to it. But she figured the post would go to an experienced principal with a record of turning around low-performing schools.

"I welcome the challenge and look forward to it," Jordan said Wednesday. "That's where my heart is."

Browning said her role in improving student performance at Cox, which once operated under federal school restructuring rules, met the state guidelines and his expectations.

"Latoya is a talented young woman," he said. "She is from that community. She gets it."

Shirley Ray, who headed Lacoochee since 2010, will become principal at Seven Oaks Elementary School, where she served as assistant principal for four years.

"It's the right thing to do," Browning said after telling both principals of their new assignments. "Shirley is a great principal, but we needed to have a fresh approach."

The change came two months after Browning required all Lacoochee's instructional staff, including administrators, to reapply for their jobs as part of a state-required turnaround plan. State rules say a school that earns three consecutive D grades, or two straight F's, must restaff.

Principals in those cases would be replaced, except under extenuating circumstances.

But Browning, who chafed at having the state mandate the terms of a district-managed turnaround, hesitated to displace Ray, who was the only person to apply for the position when it was advertised. He heaped praise upon her leadership skills in the face of a tough job.

But with state officials making increasing noise about the need to get rid of principals at persistently low-performing schools, Browning budged. He said no state officials made demands, though.

He noted that Jordan had served on the committee that helped select Lacoochee's new teachers, and she has a track record assisting with improving academic performance at Cox.

"I think they made a very good choice," Cox principal Yvonne Reins said. "I think that she will do the best she can for that school and the community will really love her."

Browning stressed that he had high confidence in Ray, which made his decision to move her to A-rated suburban Seven Oaks an easy one.

"Shirley is one of the few, if not only, principals we have in this district that can principal those two types of communities," he said.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18