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The new principal actually served at the high school earlier as an assistant principal.

One of Nature Coast Technical High School's former assistant principals is coming back to lead Hernando County's only magnet high school.

Toni-Ann Noyes, who currently serves as principal at West Hernando Middle School, has been tapped for the position.

"I'm so excited," Noyes said Thursday. "I'm happy to be going home."

An eight-member committee of Nature Coast staffers, district-level employees and community members made "an overwhelming recommendation" for Noyes from among five finalists, superintendent Wayne Alexander said Thursday.

"I think she'll be diplomatic, and I think she possesses strong instructional leadership skills," Alexander said. "I think she's the right fit for the next wave and evolution of the school."

Alexander said the district will now advertise to fill the principal post at West Hernando.

Noyes, 51, served as an assistant principal at Nature Coast when it opened in 2003 and stayed until 2007, when she became principal at Eastside Elementary in Hernando. She stayed for a year before moving to the top job at West Hernando.

The New York native stayed home to raise her three children and then went back to school for a career in education. She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Saint Leo University and took her first teaching job in 1992, when she was hired as an exceptional education teacher at D.S. Parrott Middle School in Brooksville.

Noyes stayed there for 11 years and became a department head before moving on to Nature Coast. She earned a master's degree in educational leadership from Saint Leo in 2001.

Noyes notes on her resume that West Hernando maintained its A grade under her leadership.

The search committee was impressed with Noyes, said Ken Pritz, principal at Hernando High School.

"She showed a lot of confidence in her interview and demonstrated that she felt like she could go in and do the job at Nature Coast and provide what the staff felt they were looking for," Pritz said.

"Nature Coast is a wonderful place to be," Noyes said. "The teachers are so involved. They take their subject matter so seriously, and the students are so special."

Noyes made $74,439 at West Hernando, and will see a bump to $76,860 for her new position.

The pay range for the position is $76,860 to $87,438, depending on years of experience and education level. Her start date hasn't been set.

Four of the five finalists already worked in the district. A sixth - Carmine Rufa, an assistant principal under Noyes at West Hernando - pulled out of the running earlier this week.

Two other finalists had experience at Nature Coast.

Dianne Azzarelli, a former curriculum specialist for the district assigned this year to an assistant principal position at Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill, served as an assistant principal at Nature Coast from January 2005 to November 2007.

Joy Green had served as assistant principal at the school since 2006 and was moved this year to an assistant principal post at Powell Middle School.

The other finalists were Sue Lisk, an assistant principal at Central High School, and Paul Clemons, principal at East Ridge High in Clermont and a former teacher in Hernando County.

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School must recover from varied troubles

Noyes takes over at Nature Coast on the heels of what was by many accounts one of the most difficult years for a local high school in recent memory.

The year brought two scandals involving teachers resigning amid investigations into improper relationships with students. A student was struck and killed while riding his bike, and another was seriously injured in a car accident. Still another committed suicide.

A brawl at an away game cost the football team a chance at a state title.

"I want the community to truly understand Nature Coast," Noyes said. "Yes, they've had a few things happen, but that's not really what the school is all about. Unfortunately, it's clouded people's perception."

She said she's looking forward to her first staff meeting, and later, her first meeting with students.

"I want them to know I've never lost sight of what a positive group of individuals they are, and we will continue to build on that," Noyes said.

Sonya Jackson, formerly the district's executive director of school services, had been picked by Alexander to take over at Nature Coast this year. She would have replaced Margaret "Tizzy" Schoelles, who was reassigned to Fox Chapel Middle School. But Jackson applied to be the district's assistant superintendent and was selected by Alexander for the job last month.

Tony Marrero can be reached at or (352) 848-1431.