BROOKSVILLE — Brent Gaustad, the Moton Elementary School principal who was hired in January to turn around a school on the brink of state intervention, will retire next week, the Hernando County School District announced Monday.
Gaustad's last day will be Oct. 31. According to the district, assistant principal Patti Martin will take over as principal, and the district will post an opening for her assistant principal job.
In an interview Monday afternoon, Gaustad said retirement had been on his mind for some time, but he wanted to make sure he could leave Moton in a place where it had everything it needed to move forward.
"I was probably going to bounce around June 30 of this year," he said. "But with all the chaos and trying to hire more people, I thought, 'I'll stick around for another year.'"
An educator for 31 years and administrator in Hernando County schools for the past 11, Gaustad was previously principal of D.S. Parrot Middle School, where he cemented a reputation for turning around struggling schools. He took over Moton as it stared down possible state intervention: Plagued by administrative turnover, the school had received a D grade the previous two years, and the Florida Department of Education had started watching it closely.
The school scored a C in 2018 and avoided a state takeover. The rest of the spring did see turmoil, though, as then-Superintendent Lori Romano fired the school's teaching staff, an incident that sat at the core of Romano's firing by the School Board in June.
But earlier this year, Gaustad was optimistic and enthusiastic about the school's direction. Students seemed more engaged. The school's walls had been repainted and its courtyard cleaned. A community-oriented family resource center opened in the spring.
"Culture doesn't change overnight," he said in a September interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "But we see the start of it changing."
Gaustad said he was excited to see Martin become principal, and he'd asked that she be made assistant principal with the idea that she'd take over when he retired.
In the press release announcing Gaustad's retirement, Superintendent John Stratton praised Gaustad for inspiring other school leaders and for his "boundless energy."
Despite the initial plan to stay for another year, Gaustad said he felt Moton now had the processes in effect to make it a more successful school moving forward.
"I just felt that they were there, and we've got a great leadership there," he said."It just seemed good."