Jeffrey Haynes, principal at Largo High since 2004, will retire at the end of November after three decades with Pinellas County Schools. Haynes, 61, has served as wrestling coach, football coach, assistant principal and principal at seven county high schools. "Largo High is definitely the one closest to my heart," he said. "My daughters went here. This is where I wanted to come before retirement.'' Haynes is a Virginia Tech graduate who also received a master's in school administration from Radford University in Radford, Va. He and his wife, Alice, who retired in 2006 as the head of the math department at Pinellas Park High School, have three adult daughters and five grandchildren. As his retirement approaches, we spoke with Haynes about everything from his time at Largo High to the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Is the real reason you're retiring because you've realized you're not a morning person?
Well, I have gotten up at 5:30 a.m. since 1979. I am looking forward to sleeping in.
What has been the biggest change since you're been at Largo High School?
Seeing the choice program come and go. It has changed the demographics, and now, they're changing again.
Were you pleased with the decision to switch from the choice plan to neighborhood schools?
Absolutely. It gives parents more of an opportunity to be involved. That's major.
What do you think you'll be most interested in observing as a civilian?
I'm anxious to see the new school built, and I hope it is in 2014. It's the 50-year chance to build a true comprehensive, academic and vocational place.
What's been the most challenging part of being principal at Largo High?
The FCATs. We went from a D to a C. It's been a struggle every year.
Has it kept you up at night?
Yes, it's been everything. It decides so much. When a student doesn't do well on the FCAT, they are required to take remedials. Having remedials takes away electives, which takes away a student's enjoyment level.
As a school administrator and alum of Virginia Tech, what were your thoughts when you heard of the 2007 tragedy (when 32 students and faculty were killed in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history)?
First, how could this happen in Blacksburg? My memories of VT were of a quaint college town. It just didn't seem real. It could happen anywhere. After the tragedy, Largo High School students made cards, posters and letters to send to VT. This just shows how our students are thoughtful and extremely caring.
What would you like to tell Florida's educational leaders?
High school students need choices with classes, and I think we're killing that. They need to read and do math, but you have to give them something to look forward to.
What advice would you give parents?
Stay involved with your child's life. Know what's going on without getting all the information from him or her. Teenagers have a way of putting their own spin on it. And keep up with attendance.
What advice do you want to give teachers?
Be interested in what you're doing. If you start questioning yourself, take a step back.
How have you seen the Internet, with MySpace and Facebook being so popular, change the dynamics with students?
(They) have caused an explosion of accurate, and in most cases, inaccurate information being received by students, parents and school staffs. I strongly urge parents to supervise (the use) of the Internet and all things on it.
What are you most proud of as principal at Largo High?
Being able to lead a great group of educators in the business of developing young people to become well-rounded citizens.
Piper Castillo is reachable at email@example.com.