TAMPA — It's the season for principal swapping, but two changes made Tuesday by the Hillsborough County School Board were far from typical.
In an unexpected move, superintendent MaryEllen Elia said she would move principal Carl Green from struggling Middleton High School after two years and put him at Brandon High, where he previously served as an assistant principal.
"We've had some real improvements," Elia said, referring to student test scores at the school, which rose this spring but nevertheless earned a sixth straight D grade and remained on the lowest rung of a state watch list.
"But because of his background at Brandon, it was a great opportunity," she said.
The board unanimously approved the move. It also voted to install veteran principal Joseph Brown at Walker Middle School, which has been roiled by allegations that four students raped a 13-year-old classmate with a broom and hockey stick.
Brown has served since 2006 as principal at Franklin Middle, also on the state's most critical "intervene" list. He previously led Monroe Middle School.
"At each school, he has moved that school forward academically," said Elia, expressing high hopes for him at Walker as well.
Brown will replace Kathleen Hoffman, who told the district she would begin a long-planned retirement this summer. Officials said her decision had nothing to do with the incidents at Walker.
There was little board discussion of that move, but the Middleton switch brought the meeting to a halt, with officials and the audience applauding Green on his service to the school.
"Thank you for what you did for children," said board member Doretha Edgecomb. "And for restoring a real sense of pride."
Middleton has for years been a source of both contention and pride in East Tampa's black community. Segregated between 1934 and 1971, it produced generations of black leaders before being closed when schools desegregated. Alumni led an effort seven years ago to reopen it.
Students and staff members credit Green with bringing a measure of calm and order. But the district faced keen pressure to bring the school into line with the state's accountability system.
This spring, the percentage of Middleton students rated proficient on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test dropped in every category. But the school gained 10 points among its lowest performing students in reading, raising its overall score.
"Middleton had one of the highest improvements in the state in that growth area," Elia said. "I think it would be inappropriate to read into this decision to (change principals) over there. We're moving in the right direction, and I'm pleased with the growth."
Green said he hadn't expected to change schools this summer, but he was proud of what he accomplished, helping more students reach proficiency.
"My job is done," Green said.