Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Musical chairs among Pasco's principals raises concerns for parents

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County's high school principal list needs some serious revisions.

Within the past month, the leaders of Land O'Lakes, Mitchell and River Ridge high schools have been rotated into new positions. River Ridge now needs a new principal, leaving the potential for at least one more shift.

Already some parents and teachers have raised concerns about the moves.

If you're keeping track, Land O'Lakes High principal Monica Ilse took the top job at Anclote High, which opens in the fall. The administration then moved Ric Mellin from Mitchell to replace Ilse, and Jim Michaels from River Ridge to take Mellin's spot.

Some have told School Board members they don't like the instability the churn looks likely to cause students.

The principal sets the tone of a school, after all, providing leadership that filters through nearly every aspect of campus life. Morale, discipline and a variety of other aspects of the school depend on who's at the top, and change can radically alter a school for better or for worse.

"Recent research … says to us that leadership is second only to teacher classroom behavior in affecting student performance," said Dick Flanary, senior director for leadership at the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "Many authorities will say it takes five to seven years to fully institutionalize massive kinds of change in a school."

So why shuffle the deck, particularly when neither Mellin nor Michaels asked to move? And, doesn't it matter that Land O'Lakes would be getting its third principal in five years, and Mitchell High would be getting its third leader in four years?

School Board members said they have questions about the administration's decisions. But don't expect them to object — even if people are unhappy.

"Change is hard for anybody," board member Joanne Hurley said. "Change is not always bad."

Indeed, School Board member Kathryn Starkey said, often moving seasoned leaders into new roles can reinvigorate the administrator and the school.

"New principals bring in new ideas and new energy," Starkey said. "If these moves cause gains in student achievement, then I think it's a good thing."

Each change came because the administration felt the reassigned principals best fit the schools they will now run, said Jim Davis, assistant superintendent for high schools.

"You look at each individual school and determine its needs," Davis said.

Michaels was an assistant principal at Mitchell when it opened, so he knows its staff and community well, Davis said. Land O'Lakes needs an experienced principal more than an assistant moving up to his or her first top job, he said, so well-respected Mellin fit that bill.

Land O'Lakes' last two principals had top management experience: Ilse was principal of the James Irvin Education Center before coming to Land O'Lakes in 2006, and her predecessor, Ray Bonti, previously served as Gulf Middle School principal.

Leadership changes are inevitable, Davis said, because the school district is opening a new high school, and it wanted a seasoned principal there, too.

That meant at least one sitting principal would be moved, setting off the domino effect that's now occurring.

Davis said the goal is to pick the best leader for each school. What that means for River Ridge isn't settled.

The plan is to have an open application process for the principal's job, Davis said. But even that job comes with a specific skill set, as the person will need to have some experience working on a joint middle-high school campus, setting up career academies and learning communities. And the superintendent could simply appoint someone, too.

Don't expect River Ridge to have a single principal, though.

"When they opened River Ridge that was the case, and it was too much," Davis said.

School Board member Hurley noted that the schools will keep the rest of their leadership teams. Plus, Davis added, the district surveys the staffs to give the incoming principals information about traditions, culture, needs and desires as they join their new school.

"I think principals are sort of like preachers," Hurley said.

They're leaders who tend to a community and cast a long shadow over the way things run.

"But it's just a given that at some point in time, (they're) going to take another assignment," she said. "I don't see it as a problem."

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

by the numbers

75 Numbers of principals in the Pasco County School District.

4.25 Average length of service, in terms of years, at current school.

51 Principals whose length of service is below the average.

9 Principals with 10 or more years of service at current school.

21 Tenure of Pasco Elementary principal Barbara Munz, the county's longest-serving principal still in office.

Source: Pasco County School Board

Musical chairs among Pasco's principals raises concerns for parents 03/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 1, 2009 10:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more


    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  2. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux


    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  3. Hailed as 'pioneers,' students from St. Petersburg High's first IB class return 30 years later


    ST. PETERSBURG — The students came from all over Pinellas County, some enduring hot bus rides to a school far from home. At first, they barely knew what to call themselves. All they knew was that they were in for a challenge.

    Class of 1987 alumni Devin Brown, from left, and D.J. Wagner, world history teacher Samuel Davis and 1987 graduate Milford Chavous chat at their table.
  4. Flower boxes on Fort Harrison in Clearwater to go, traffic pattern to stay


    I travel Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater often and I've noticed that the travel lanes have been rerouted to allow for what looks like flower boxes that have been painted by children. There are also a few spaces that push the travel lane to the center that have no boxes. Is this a permanent travel lane now? It …

  5. Palm Harbor boat dealer facing litany of complaints of bad deals


    PALM HARBOR — With an aging father sick in the hospital and a son just graduating high school, Andrew Kashella, in between jobs, knew what he had to do.

    A sign on a front window of Gulf Coast Boat Sales, 37517 Us Highway 19 N, in Palm Harbor, notifies people they are under restructuring  The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has received 20 complaints against Gulf Coast Boat Sales in Palm Harbor. Complainants say they sold the shop their boats and never got paid and/or paid for boats they never received. Pinellas County Consumer Protection is leading the investigation.