Pinellas education news: new principals, National Merit winners, summer writing camp and more

Published May 25, 2017

Top administrators named at schools

The Pinellas County School Board approved a number of administrative changes at a special meeting this week, part of the turnover process that routinely occurs at the end of the school year. The board followed the recommendations of superintendent Mike Grego on the following moves: Mary M. Athanson, assistant principal at Osceola Middle, will become principal at Palm Harbor Middle; Heidi E. D'Ambrosio, assistant principal at Calvin A. Hunsinger School, will become principal at Richard L. Sanders School; Martha B. Giancola, Apprenticeships and Work-Based Learning Specialist, will become principal of Career Academies of Seminol e; Michael J. Hernandez, principal of Fitzgerald Middle, will become principal at Northeast High; Andrew W. Oyer, 9-12 science specialist, will become assistant principal at the Center for Advanced Technologies at Lakewood High; Ursula W. Parris, assistant principal at Seminole High, will become principal at Meadowlawn Middle; Deborah L. Thornton, exceptional student education specialist, will become principal at Paul B. Stephens ESE Center; and Michael J. Vasallo, assistant principal at Gibbs High, will become principal at Dunedin Highland Middle.

Two students win National Merit honors

Pinellas County seniors Brian Y. Price of Palm Harbor University High and Nikhil Sharma of Lakewood High in St. Petersburg were among 14 Tampa Bay area students to come through the stringent, two-year-long process and be selected as National Merit Scholarship winners. Out of 1.6 million juniors in 22,000 high schools who took the preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in October 2015, the highest-scoring 16,000 students became semifinalists who entered in the competition. Out of those, 7,500 were named finalists. A committee of college admission officers and high school counselors reviewed students' academic records, the difficulty level of subjects studies and grades earned, scores from two standardized tests, contributions in leadership and school and community activities, recommendation letters and an essay written by the finalist. Each winner received a $2,500 scholarship to use at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university. Hillsborough County counted 11 winners and Pasco one. In college, Price plans to study biology and Sharma plans to study computer science.

Writing camps open to low-income students

Two organizations, Keep St. Pete Lit and the Morean Center for Clay, are teaming up to offer free creative writing summer camps for low-income students ages 9-12. The week-long camps are run by teachers from Keep St. Pete Lit. Students will explore storytelling through play, art and writing in a welcoming environment. They also will be invited to participate in a final camp reading. The camps will run from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. July 17-21 and July 24-28 at the Morean Center for Clay, 420 22nd Street S, St. Petersburg. Space is limited. To learn more, visit or call (727) 798-4530. The deadline to register is July 5.

SPC nears decision on new president

After bringing all five presidential candidates to campus for meetings and interviews, the St. Petersburg College board of trustees will meet May 31 to select the a successor to outgoing president William D. Law Jr. The meeting is open to the public. It will be held at the SPC EpiCenter, Room 1-453, located at 13805 58th St. N in Clearwater. For more information, visit the college's presidential search website,

Grant funds USFSP program to share ideas

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg has received a significant gift to support a new program called the Open Partnership Education Network, or OPEN, which is inspired by the Aspen Institute. The program launched late last year and showcases expert speakers and themed events on a broad range of topics, aiming "to connect organizations and people who might otherwise never intersect," the university said. USFSP said the initiative was made possible thanks to the support of the Aresty Family Foundation. Founding donor Jim Aresty said OPEN will help propel St. Petersburg to a new intellectual level through speaker series and other events, such as workshops and panels. "It's about taking fuzzy ideas, connecting resources and working together to see where they lead," said OPEN's director Walter Balser. The foundation did not want to disclose the amount of its gift, the university said.