The atmosphere feels a little chilly at Frost Elementary School in Riverview.
“Parents don’t seem to be happy; I want them to be smiling!” said Toynita Martinez, the school’s new principal.
Martinez, who moved to Frost from Booker T. Washington Elementary School, dreamed of being a teacher since she was a young girl playing school with her friends.
She grew up in a military family and lived in Germany, Japan and seven states, and they arrived in Tampa in her eighth-grade year. She attended Leto High School and the University of South Florida and received her master’s degree from National Louis University.
She was an educator in Hillsborough County for 20 years, and then her vocation found her.
“A principal mentored me, saw a leader in me and encouraged me,” she said. “I pursued leadership and never expected to be a principal. To be honest, it just happened. Somebody saw a spark and said, ‘I want you to interview for this.’”
She did and was promoted to assistant principal and then principal at Booker T. Washington, where she built a positive culture and climate in which parents became happy to follow routine procedures and students learned to choose better behaviors, she said.
Each year, there were improvements: a more welcoming atmosphere in which parents said good morning to the staff, fewer referrals, days when children weren’t sent to the office, and less-frequent calls to the district offices.
Martinez, a widow, knows what it’s like to be the parent of a child in school. She has one son, 21-year-old Julius Martinez, who is pursuing a degree in parks, recreation and tourism as a senior at the University of Florida.
She hopes to accomplish at Frost what she did at Booker T. Washington, for the sake of the students and their families.
“Frost is a really great school, a solid C school,” she said. “We’ve got a wonderful staff; we need to all pull together. I hope to increase student achievement and build the climate and culture here.
“I want parents to have trust and confidence in the staff that teaches their children. I want them to feel welcome and know their children are loved and taken care of and educated,” she said. “That’s my goal here.”
Send news of community interest to Barbara Routen at [email protected]