BROOKSVILLE — Powell Middle School principal Dave Dannemiller once told superintendent Bryan Blavatt he was willing to go wherever the district needs him.
Blavatt, it turns out, needs him at Hernando County's newest school.
Dannemiller, 52, officially accepted the principal's post at Winding Waters K-8 School north of Weeki Wachee on Tuesday. The elementary portion of the school is set to open in August.
"I know this is going to be an awesome challenge, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity," he said.
Dannemiller didn't apply for the job. Blavatt bypassed three finalists who did apply to choose Dannemiller, who has more than a decade of experience as a principal in Hernando County.
"I've got to go with situational leadership, and in this situation I need someone who is a veteran administrator with experience at both (the elementary and middle school) levels," Blavatt said. "Any of the three finalists were qualified. I think Dave is the right person in the right place."
The finalists, recommended by a review committee of principals and district staffers, were Bev Chapin, principal at Eastside Elementary; Jamie Young, one of two assistant principals working under Dannemiller at Powell; and Liz Bretz, an alternative school principal in Springfield, Ill.
Before the list of finalists arrived on his desk, Blavatt approached Dannemiller. With his proven record at both the elementary and middle levels, he would be a good match for Winding Waters, Blavatt told him.
"He's probably the foremost principal in the district on data-driven management," Blavatt said.
Dannemiller's career as a principal has tracked almost exactly with the state's A-Plus accountability system, which started to give schools grades in 1999 based on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
He started with the district in 1981, working as a teacher at Mitchel L. Black, J.D. Floyd and Brooksville elementary schools as well as West Hernando Middle. He served a three-year stint as a technology specialist at the district office.
Dannemiller took an assistant principal's post at Brooksville Elementary in 1996. Three years later, he was tapped for the top job at Pine Grove Elementary west of Brooksville, his first principal position.
Pine Grove had a C grade when Dannemiller arrived, bounced back and forth between an A and a B for a few years and has remained an A school since then.
During a broad shakeup of administrators, then-superintendent Wayne Alexander moved both Dannemiller and Young to Powell for the start of the 2008-09 school year. Young had been at Eastside for two years.
Powell has earned a B each year since 2006. Last year, though, the school logged its highest percentages of students performing at or above grade level in both reading and math.
Dannemiller has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Bowling Green State University and a master's in educational leadership from the University of South Florida. He lives with his wife, Kathy, in Brooksville. The couple has two children from previous marriages.
Fourteen applicants met the minimum qualifications for the Winding Waters job, including six internal candidates. Of those, Chapin had the most administrative experience in Hernando, but she lacked time as a middle school administrator. She took her first assistant principal's job at Deltona Elementary in 2001, moved up to principal in 2005 and was reassigned to Eastside in 2008.
District officials have said they expect Winding Waters, with a price of $34 million and a capacity of about 1,400 students, will open with about 500 elementary students. Those students will then fill in the middle school grades.
The school is next door to the just-opened Weeki Wachee High School, on U.S. 19 about 4 miles north of State Road 50.
Dannemiller's last day at Powell will be April 14, after the bulk of FCAT is completed.
Young will serve as acting principal for the rest of the school year, Blavatt said. The position will likely be opened up for applications, but Young will have an opportunity "to demonstrate what she can do," Blavatt said.
That likely won't be the only change in administration at Hernando schools. Blavatt said he doesn't expect to make numerous shifts at the top, but is considering reassignments at some schools based on stalled progress.
"If the students aren't performing well at a school, then it's time to look at a change," he said. "It should be based on performance and not personality."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.