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New principal's trip ends at St. Anthony

Pasco County's 1999 Teacher of the Year has taken the top job at the 115-year-old Catholic in San Antonio.

Sister Roberta Bailey was in the middle of a trip to the Grand Canyon when she got the good news.

On an 11-day, cross-country trek with another nun, Bailey stopped to make a phone call.

Back in San Antonio, the Rev. Dennis Hughes told Bailey to hurry home _ St. Anthony School needed its new principal.

For Bailey, Pasco County's 1999 Teacher of the Year, the move is a sort of homecoming _ she served as the top administrator at the 115-year-old Catholic school from 1986 to 1990.

"I heard about the opening and just knew it was the right thing for me to do," she said.

Bailey was named the county's top teacher for her work at Moore-Mickens Education Center in Dade City, where she taught pregnant teens to be child care workers.

She has been at Moore-Mickens since 1996 and said she had no intention of leaving.

In May, she learned that the principal of St. Anthony was leaving for a job with the diocese in St. Petersburg.

Bailey, who has been an elementary school principal and also founded two Montessori schools, said she missed the administrative side of education.

"I missed being in the position where, if you see something needs fixing, you can fix it," she said.

"I enjoyed very much being with the students, but I missed the mobility of going around the school and seeing everything that's going on."

Bailey started her new job on July 12. At St. Anthony, she oversees about a dozen teachers and guidance counselors, along with some 220 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

She replaces Kay Rizzo, who left after six years to take an associate superintendent's position with the diocese in St. Petersburg.

In a career that spans more than 40 years, Bailey has taught preschool, served as a choir director and taught at the college level. The role of principal, she said, is one of her favorites.

"I think of the principal as being like the conductor of an orchestra," she said.

"He doesn't play the music, but he helps the troops keep in time and make a pleasant melody."