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New principals relish their roles

Seven former assistant principals will start the 1999-2000 year as leaders of their own schools.

New faces will appear at Mount Vernon and Sawgrass elementary schools in St. Petersburg and Curtis Fundamental in Clearwater.

At Bardmoor and Fuguitt elementaries in Largo and Blanton Elementary and North Ward Disciplinary in St. Petersburg, the faces will be familiar to most students because their new leaders joined the staff as acting principals earlier this year.

In addition, three schools have principals transferring from another facility. Forest Lakes Elementary in Oldsmar is losing Gregory Walker, who has been assigned to Anona Elementary, Largo. Walker is being replaced by Robert Evers, from Sawgrass Elementary. Patricia Huffman is moving from Curtis Fundamental to Belcher Elementary in Clearwater.

Bardmoor Elementary

Linda Nore, 52, has been at Bardmoor Elementary since 1991, when she was transferred as assistant principal from Meadowlawn Middle in St. Petersburg.

"It really is nice to be in the same school," Nore said. "I feel the same enthusiasm and excitement about being principal that I felt when I started teaching in Pinellas County 29 years ago."

Nore, who has been acting principal since January, graduated in 1969 from Florida State University with a bachelor's degree in physical education with a minor in health and science education. She started her career in 1969 as a teacher and volleyball, track and cheerleading coach at Riviera Junior High in St. Petersburg. Nore also has taught and coached at Seminole High and Seminole Middle schools.

In 1981, she received a master's degree in administration and supervision from Nova University and was promoted to assistant principal at Meadowlawn in 1984.

She has been married to Largo Middle science teacher Rich Nore for 30 years. The couple has two daughters, April Winnermark, 27, and Heather Nore, 21.

"I have worked very hard to build positive community and family relationships with Bardmoor stakeholders, as well as build a strong school culture," she said.

Blanton Elementary

Blanton Stands for Best is the motto Deborah Turner came up with in January when she became acting principal.

Turner is teaching students character by stressing what she considers the four core values _ respect, responsibility, honesty and self-motivation. To do so, she has come up with an innovative approach to discipline.

Creative intervention and incentives characterize her approach to discipline. She has already established a Best Bus Club where students earn points and awards for good behavior while riding to and from school. Good manners in the cafeteria can add up to a seat in an outdoor bistro with butterfly garden.

"We try to celebrate everything we accomplish here," said Turner, 49, who has been assistant principal at the school since 1996.

Making curriculum and programs exciting so children have ownership in their own learning is another of Turner's goals.

"Learning is supposed to be fun. That's the idea," she said.

Part of that fun includes a feat no other Blanton administrator has done _ give the school mascot a name. The 37-year-old dolphin has been named Splash, and in its honor the school is adopting a dolphin at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

"I love these children to death _ they are wonderful," Turner said. "My job isn't work. I love what I do."

Turner earned a bachelor's and two master's degrees from William Patterson University in Wayne, N.J., and received her gifted education certification from the University of South Florida. She started teaching in 1972. She has worked in 13 Pinellas County elementary schools and served as a gifted coordinator and media technology specialist for Sussex Wantage Regional School District in New Jersey.

Turner has two children, William Dobson, 25, and Stephanie Dobson, 23. Her husband, Cliff, is employed by the district and works in plant operations at Pinellas Park High.

Curtis Fundamental

Kathy Duncan, 49, attended Pinellas County schools from kindergarten to her graduation from Northeast High in 1967, where she was the first female class president.

She comes to Curtis Fundamental from an assistant principalship at Lake St. George Elementary, where she worked since 1988.

Duncan graduated from Florida State University in 1971 with an elementary education degree. She earned a master's degree in reading education in 1975 and obtained her administrative supervision certification in 1980, both from the University of South Florida.

She began her career teaching second and third grades at Bardmoor Elementary in 1971, the year the school opened. In 1975, she became a Title I curriculum resource specialist and was appointed assistant principal at Gibbs High in 1983.

As principal, having experienced both ends of the education spectrum will be a real plus.

"That secondary experience is very valuable," Duncan said. "It gives me a good perspective of where students need to be to be successful in high school. It also has given me a wide variety of experiences with teachers."

Duncan said she brings knowledge and experience to Curtis Fundamental that will make it an even higher performing school.

The opportunity excites Duncan. So does her new staff.

"I feel I have the ability to bring out the best in parents, teacher and community," she said. "One of my traits is that I continue to learn and grow so that I can be the kind of leader that facilitates change and inspires people not to give up.

"The staff is great," Duncan added. "They never get the publicity they deserve. I'm really excited to work with a whole new staff of professionals."

When those rare free moments occur, Duncan can be found on the sidelines cheering for her daughter Brooke Johannessen, a softball, volleyball and soccer player, who is a sophomore at Countryside High. Her other daughter, Kristen Johannessen, 19, attends New College in Sarasota. Duncan and her husband, Kyle, also enjoy exercising.

Fuguitt Elementary

Susan Boyd, 43, has been acting principal at Fuguitt Elementary since February, when she was transferred from her job as assistant principal at Rawlings Elementary in Pinellas Park.

During her stint as interim principal, Boyd said she realized the school was one of the best-kept secrets.

"We have a very positive culture with a community family that I don't think a lot of folks know about," Boyd said. "As soon as you walk in the door, you recognized that warmth and family atmosphere. I wasn't sure when I left Rawlings that I would ever be able to duplicate the enthusiasm of the staff and parents."

The challenge, she said, will be maintaining the A status the school recently received from the state.

Her strong point, Boyd said, is a background in Total Quality Management, a business technique that promotes streamlining and efficiency. In 1998, Rawlings was the first school to receive a Governor's Sterling Award for Quality, a prize for organizational excellence in the public and private sectors.

One new project Boyd plans to introduce at Fuguitt is called "Voice of the Customer."

"It's listening to parents and asking how our office is running. Are administrators visible and paying attention?" Boyd said. "It's listening to their voices so we can make improvements."

Boyd received a degree in physical education and a degree in health education from the University of West Florida in 1979. She obtained a master's degree in educational leadership in 1992 from Nova University.

She began teaching elementary physical education in 1980 in Okaloosa County. Boyd came to Pinellas County in 1981, where she taught at Lakeview Fundamental, St. Petersburg, for 10 years before heading to Rawlings. From January to June 1996, Boyd acted as assistant principal at Mount Vernon Elementary. She returned to Rawlings in September 1996 and became assistant principal in 1997.

For Boyd, relaxation comes in the form of golf, trout fishing, sitting on a porch with a good book overlooking the mountains in Georgia and "tearing up a dirt road with a four-wheeler."

Mount Vernon Elementary

Valerie White, 47, comes to Mount Vernon Elementary from Ponce de Leon, where she was assistant principal since 1994. White, a native of Floridia, has taught in elementary, middle and high schools, as well as being a guidance counselor and administrator.

White graduated from Florida State University in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a minor in early childhood education. She obtained a master's degree in guidance counseling in 1978 and received her education leadership certification in 1994 from the University of South Florida.

She started teaching third grade at Ivey Lane Elementary, Orlando, before coming to Walsingham Elementary, Largo, in 1976, where she taught for five years and spent four years as a guidance counselor.

White also was a counselor at St. Petersburg High and was guidance department chairwoman at Largo High.

"I am excited about being at Mount Vernon because it is similar to the school I left," she said. "It is a neighborhood school with more of a community environment."

Among her goals are implementing student and teacher recognition programs and developing business partnerships. However, she said, her priorities are to develop high student achievement and focus on the school improvement plan "using strategies that have been proven to work based on research."

White also intends to promote small-group instruction within the classroom, allow teachers an hour uninterrupted block of time to work with their students and celebrate accomplishments.

"When it comes to celebrating successes, I really want to go overboard," she said. "I want to involve students more in their own learning by helping them set individual goals so they can monitor progress throughout the year. When kids are able to see progress, they take an active role as learners."

Besides traveling, movies, reading and concerts, White enjoys the beach and "anything that has to do with water."

North Ward Disciplinary

Susan Keller, 48, came to North Ward Disciplinary, St. Petersburg, in March as interim principal.

Keller graduated in 1971 from Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, with a degree in elementary education. She received a master's degree in specific learning disabilities and one in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.

Keller's career began in Hillsborough County schools, where she taught first and second grade. In 1972, she started at Pinellas Central Elementary, Pinellas Park, teaching fifth and sixth grades, and later moved to Westgate Elementary in St. Petersburg, where she worked with students with specific learning disabilities.

After taking eight years off to raise her children, Jessica, now 22, and Justin, now 15, Keller returned to the district in 1985 as a staffing and discipline intervention specialist. In 1992, she became assistant principal at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle, Largo, where she stayed for three years before going to Seventy-fourth Street Elementary, St. Petersburg.

Keller looks forward to working with the sixth- to eighth-grade students who have been assigned to the disciplinary program after violating the district's code of student conduct.

It's a challenge to be a principal at any school, she said. But being able to identify students' strengths and give them the tools they need to make the transition back to their home school is an exciting one.

"These kids are so receptive to any initiative that we offer. They embrace the strategies we put in place to help them become successful," Keller said.

Keller also is pleased with the supportive staff at North Ward that works to empower students and help them understand they are capable of making good choices.

When it comes to educating, Keller views her role as a parent as her most valuable experience.

"It really has embellished my success," she said. "It puts a whole different light on things. When I deal with parents I try to remember every child is someone's baby."

In her spare time, Keller enjoys spending time with her husband, Jeffrey, and their children, as well as boating and swimming.

Sawgrass Elementary

Jean C. Marks, 38, has taught all elementary grades except kindergarten. She joins the staff at Sawgrass Elementary from Skyview Elementary, St. Petersburg, where she has been since becoming assistant principal in 1995.

Marks received a bachelor's degree in special education from the University of West Florida in 1983 and a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of South Florida in 1993.

Marks' first job was in 1984 at Richard L. Sanders Exceptional Center, Pinellas Park. She transferred to Bear Creek Elementary in 1989 and moved to Northwest Elementary in 1994, where she worked as an intervention specialist.

What is impressive at Sawgrass Elementary, Marks said, is the dedicated staff and family atmosphere.

"I am thrilled to be leader of a group of teachers who care so much about their students," she said.

Marks also is excited that by early fall, her students will be online, able to "further their education without being confined by the walls of their classroom."

Like all principals, increasing student achievement is a goal for Marks, as well. But so are providing information for her staff to learn what's on the cutting edge of educational research and improving student reading levels.

Marks said she brings an understanding of all students to Sawgrass.

"I have experience with special to regular education students and understand the diversities they have," she said. "I also know what it's like to be a teacher in those settings. I am facilitator with strong curriculum knowledge and know what makes an effective school. That's what I hope to bring to Sawgrass."

Marks and her husband, Randy, enjoy racing sailboats, scuba diving and exercising.