Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Moon Lake Elementary principal plans to stick around

Elise Landahl greets students and faculty members between classes at Moon Lake Elementary School on Wednesday.


Elise Landahl greets students and faculty members between classes at Moon Lake Elementary School on Wednesday.


Brandon Kelley hopped off the school bus Wednesday morning and began his usual walk to his Moon Lake Elementary classroom when he stopped to take a second look at the red-headed woman cheerfully greeting children.

"Are you the new principal?" the fifth grader asked.

"I am," Elise Landahl replied, smiling.

Brandon pumped his fist and gave out a whoop. "I knew it!" he shouted, turning to a nearby friend. "Hey! That's our new principal! Say hi."

With that it was official. Moon Lake's newest principal — its fifth in one year — was in the house.

Students and staff couldn't have been happier.

"We just had a new one and now she's gone," third-grader Christian Gable said, referring to interim leader Cindy Harper, who stayed for six weeks. "I think (Landahl) will be a good principal."

Second-grade teacher Amberlie Haak stopped her lesson to make sure her students knew who Landahl was as she peeked her head into the classroom.

"This is our new principal," Haak said. "Our new permanent principal, which is a good thing."

Moon Lake has been trying with little luck to get someone to stay in charge for months.

The revolving door on the principal's office started turning after the 2008 FCAT ended and Donna Busby left to open Veterans Elementary in Wesley Chapel. Her first replacement, Susan Barcellino, didn't make it to the start of the 2008-09 school year. She moved back to Collier County.

Cara Allen came next, lasting until February before she moved to New Jersey. Harper followed, with plans to stay just until this year's FCAT testing finished.

Now it's Landahl's turn.

"We want to get it consistent now," said Landahl, most recently an assistant principal at Anclote Elementary, as she listened to the morning announcements in her new office, surrounded by welcoming balloons, flowers and cards.

"I'm staying."

Her goal for the remainder of the school year is to get to know the teachers, staff and students and to find out what they think the school does well and where it needs improvement. One thing she'll quickly learn is how resilient the school has become through its string of principals.

"We're very positive. Everybody works as a team," said media specialist Theresa Case. "We have had Iveta (Maska, the assistant principal) to turn to when we needed to."

Maska made sure that all the short-timers understood the school's philosophy and kept the mission consistent during a time of constant change.

As a result, reading specialist Valerie Burnett said, "I don't feel like there's been a roller coaster ride at all. We've had these changes. But it has been seamless."

At a school where so many kids come and go, and yesterday's problems are rarely today's, it is of no use to dwell on the past, Maska said. "It has to be game on for the kids. We can't get hung up on the fact that we're on principal number whatever."

Still, teachers, staff and students didn't hide their pleasure at finally having a leader who plans to stick around.

"We've done really well with the changes we've had," special education teacher Claudine French said. "But we're also looking forward to some consistency."

Visiting classrooms, Landahl encouraged everyone to stop by her office to bring her good news. Come read to me, she told the children.

"And be sure to introduce yourselves to me when you see me," she added.

The kids didn't wait to comply.

"I'm James," one boy shouted out, waving his hand. "I'm Jana," said a smiling girl. "I'm Zachary," added a classmate.

Landahl laughed as she headed for the door, classroom map in hand to avoid getting lost.

"I'm going to try to hit every (classroom)," she said. "It's exciting."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Moon Lake Elementary principal plans to stick around 03/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 26, 2009 8:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The Daystarter: Rick vs. Rick 2.0 tonight; Bucs' McCoy says some fans cross line; Trump associate to testify; helicopter crashes onto Odessa roof


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.


    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  2. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  3. Trump associate Roger Stone to talk to House panel in Russia probe


    WASHINGTON — The House intelligence panel will interview two of President Donald Trump's associates behind closed doors this week as congressional committees step up their investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

    Roger Stone talks to reporters outside a courtroom in New York this past March. The House intelligence panel will interview Stone behind closed doors Tuesday as congressional committees step up their investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Fformer Trump staffer Boris Epshteyn also will talk to the House panel. [Associated Press]
  4. Pinellas commission set to discuss next budget, licensing board

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Commission will be busy on Tuesday.

  5. Romano: Sure, let's trust a board with no professionalism, transparency or ethics

    Local Government

    So, if you've been following the bureaucratic carnage: