SPRING HILL — A familiar face will return to Springstead High School to take over one of Hernando County's top-performing schools.
On Tuesday, superintendent Lori Romano named current West Hernando Middle School principal Carmine Rufa to lead Springstead. He will replace Susan Duval, who is retiring after 11 years in charge.
The appointment marks the first time Rufa, a veteran of 17 years with the district, has been a principal at the high school level.
He said he was speechless when he got a call from Romano on Tuesday morning.
"I didn't know what to say," he said. "I'm just glad she is trusting in me to keep that school going as well as it has been going for Duval."
Rufa, 47, said he has big shoes to fill, but is happy to be going to a school that has a tradition of excellence, a number of good systems already in place and strong staff members.
Three of Springstead's four assistant principals are returning. Jeff Yungmann will take over one of the positions after working in the district office as a curriculum supervisor.
Rufa's ties to Springstead run deep.
He has taught physical education, health and coached at the school, and also briefly served as an assistant principal.
In addition, he comes with another perspective — as a father.
Rufa's oldest son, Dominic, 18, was Springstead's 2014 class valedictorian. His youngest son, Dawson, 15, will be a sophomore in the school's International Baccalaureate program next year.
Romano said Rufa has done fantastic things at West Hernando, where he has been principal since 2012. She noted that the school consistently has been one of the district's highest-performing middle schools.
She said he was the search committee's top pick.
Rufa said he will invest a lot of time to meet with current staff and get up to speed at Springstead. He also will focus on data analysis and building relationships.
"You've got to have both," he said.
Rufa's appointment means there is now an opening for the top job at West Hernando Middle.
In addition, there are principal openings at Endeavor Academy, the district's alternative school, and at Westside Elementary.
Westside's principal, Gina Michalicka, has been promoted to the district office to become the supervisor of elementary programs. She is considered a "principal on assignment," a move that allows her to maintain her current level of pay.
Danny Valentine can be reached at email@example.com.