Nineteen of Pinellas County’s more than 120 public schools will have new principals in August, after the school board this week approved a slate of changes proposed by Superintendent Kevin Hendrick.
Two of those schools — Lakewood High and Pinellas Park Middle — will also see assistant principal changes as the district sets them in new directions.
Lakewood High has come under heavy criticism from within the community over its academic performance. Writing in The Weekly Challenger newspaper last month, former St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis took principal Erin Savage and her team to task for having high percentages of seniors not on track to graduate several years in a row.
Savage, who led Lakewood for eight years, made arrangements to overhaul her leadership team. After one of the school’s valedictorians said during graduation that the school had “extreme and pervasive administrative incompetence,” Savage and district leaders met to discuss her future.
“There was an agreement maybe it was time for someone else to come in and take the school further,” Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Woodford said.
Conneisha Garcia, principal at Lealman Innovation Academy since 2016, was appointed the next leader of Lakewood. She started with the district as a substitute teacher in 2005 and over the years also has been a teacher, curriculum specialist, staff developer and assistant principal. Her replacement at Lealman Innovation was not named.
Savage was not placed at another school. But Woodford stressed that replacing her was not a disciplinary move, and that she would remain with the district. She added that two of four current assistant principals will continue at the school.
Pinellas Park Middle has been one of the schools to test out new programs in the district’s middle school transformation project. As it begins the 2023-24 academic year, it will do so with a new principal and assistant principal.
Principal Jason Shedrick was assigned to a post in the school district’s transportation department. School board members said they had heard the move was related to a Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association complaint that many educators did not like working for Shedrick and were planning to leave.
Union president Nancy Velardi sent a letter to board members complaining about Pinellas Park Middle and other schools, saying they lacked the leadership to nurture and keep good teachers.
Woodford rejected that version of events. She called Shedrick “phenomenal” and said the district wanted to use his skills as a strong planner in a department that needs added direction, with changing routes and bus stops to cope with persistent driver shortages.
Shedrick had contacted the district asking for new challenges and opportunities, Woodford added. She said he already is making a positive mark in the department. The district has advertised for a new principal at Pinellas Park.
Several other schools also are seeing leadership shifts, as their principals have resigned, retired or taken new assignments in the district.
The new principals include: Lisa Austin at Maximo Elementary, Tijuana Baker at Eisenhower Elementary, Kimberly Cook at Tarpon Springs Elementary, Nikishia Dixon at Mount Vernon Elementary, Vickie Graham at Woodlawn Elementary, Casey Maker at Northwest Elementary, Tekoa Moses at Lakeview Fundamental Elementary, Holly Oakes at Westgate Elementary, Phyteria Proctor at Bay Point Elementary, Antoinette Wilson at Cross Bayou Elementary, Carmela Harvey at Pinellas Gulf Coast Academy, Robert Ovalle at Seminole Middle, and Kevin Schottler at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle.
The school board approved the changes on Tuesday.
In addition to Pinellas Park Middle and Lealman Innovation, three other schools have principals yet to be named. They are Pinellas Park Elementary, Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary and Ridgecrest Elementary.
It is not unusual for the school district to have multiple principal changes in the spring, as contracts come up for reconsideration. In May 2022, the school board approved 11 appointments.
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