Sunday, July 15, 2018
Education

Several schools get new leaders

New principals were appointed at four Pasco County schools during the past week, part of a leadership shake-up that began with the death of Crews Lake Middle School principal Adam Kennedy in January.

Brandon Bracciale, principal at Weightman Middle School, will transfer to the same job at Chasco Middle School, which David Huyck led until his move to Crews Lake three weeks ago. Bracciale had applied for the district's assistant superintendent for middle schools position, and was offered the Chasco Middle job after the district post went to Marcy Hetzler-Nettles.

Angie Murphy, principal at Ridgewood High School since 2012, will take Hetzler-Nettles' old job at River Ridge Middle School. Murphy, who lately has run into problems over dress code issues, requested to be reassigned, said district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

Replacing Murphy will be Chris Dunning, principal of Seven Springs Middle since 2012. Dunning did not ask for a move, but "accepted the challenge," Cobbe said. "A strong principal is what they need" at Ridgewood.

Ridgewood has struggled with academic performance over several years, with less than a quarter of the students scoring at grade level or better on state math and language arts tests in 2016.

Dunning is a popular and respected school leader, but he also ran afoul of district leadership with his sometimes vocal advocacy for certain neighborhoods during the recent contentious attendance zone revision process for southwest Pasco. His wife also raised eyebrows with emails to the superintendent and board members, accusing Mitchell High principal Jessica Schultz and board members Alison Crumbley and Cynthia Armstrong of bad faith during the rezoning.

Parents immediately protested Dunning's reassignment, and petitioned to leave him at Seven Springs, which has been the district's top-performing middle school. He said he would not fight to remain at Seven Springs, and that he looked forward to his next position, which is viewed as a promotion.

"It is wonderful to know I had an impact at this school," Dunning said. "It is awesome to be going out on a high note."

The Seven Springs and Weightman middle school jobs will be advertised, Cobbe said.

Separately, Fivay High School principal Marsha Van Hook was reassigned to an assistant principal position elsewhere in the county. The district did not offer an explanation.

Christina Stanley, principal of Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Calif., will take over Fivay. Stanley had applied for other administrative jobs in the district before receiving this offer.

SCHOOL CHOICE: One in four new applicants to Pasco County magnet programs won a place in their school of choice.

All told, 354 students of the 1,359 who applied were accepted into one of Pasco's three STEM magnet schools — Sanders Memorial Elementary, Bayonet Point Middle and Centennial Middle — for the 2017-18 school year, said district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe.

Sanders, which opened in 2015, had the bulk of the requests but very few seats available in grades other than kindergarten. The school had 1,047 applications, and offered 142 kindergarten spots, four first-grade seats and three third-grade positions.

Bayonet Point and Centennial, each of which launched their magnets in the fall, also had limited availability outside the entry grade of their programs. The west-side campus accepted 25 sixth-graders, nine seventh-graders and nine eighth-graders. The east-side school had more seats open, offering spots to 123 sixth-graders, 20 seventh-graders and 19 eighth-graders.

If parents do not accept the assignment, the next children on the list will be invited to attend.

The district continues to run its open enrollment application process, for students who want to move to schools with open space outside their attendance zone, through the end of February. Specialty programs — including International Baccalaureate and Cambridge — are operating their own admission lotteries, Cobbe said.

WHERE'S THE AGENDA? For nearly six years, Pasco County residents could turn to one website to find the local School Board's meeting agenda and backing documents.

When the publication date arrived this week for the Feb. 21 agenda, though, the document did not appear on the site.

The district has migrated to a new location for its online agenda. The site — www.boarddocs.com/fl/pasco/Board.nsf/Public — will include meeting minutes and board votes, as well as an easier-to-use search function and quicker access to documents that had to be downloaded in the past.

Archived material will remain on the former page until the district can move all of the documentation. The board has yet to agree to stream its sessions.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.

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