2 schools welcome new principals
BRANDON - Two longtime members of the Hillsborough County school district are bringing their expertise to eastern Hillsborough County to preside over the student bodies at Armwood High and Kingswood Elementary. Mark West, a former Plant City High and Bloomingdale High science teacher and 20-year administrator, has taken the top post at Armwood in Seffner. Annette Gaddy takes over at Kingswood Elementary in Brandon for Amber Statham, who took the top job at Gibsonton Elementary. West replaces Michael Ippolito, who left to become principal at Tampa Bay Tech, where he had taught from 1990 to 2004. West said he looks forward to the challenges that lie ahead and to spearheading the new collegiate academy that will start next year at Armwood. The academy will allow students to earn their associate of arts degree from Hillsborough Community College on the high school campus.There are challenges at Armwood. Last year, the Florida High School Athletic Association found that parents of five Armwood football players falsified residency information to get their children into the Seffner school to play ball. The state body stripped the school of its 2011 Class 6A state football championship, its state runner-up crown from 2010 and fined the school $12,743. Ippolito was not charged with any wrongdoing. West also comes into a school with some in the student body that have had disciplinary issues. West did not want to comment on that specifically, but said he thinks Armwood students are proud of their school and getting more students involved in extracurricular activities will give them more ownership. "High school should be for everybody, and everybody should be here and get involved," West said. "There are great programs, including ROTC, culinary arts, music and, of course, sports. I don't want to dwell on problems. The majority of the kids want to be here and want rules." West said he likes administrating at the high school level, in particular, because that is when teenagers are beginning to set goals for their future and he likes being part of that. "I want to make sure when they graduate they have those goals and are ready to move to the next level." At Kingswood Elementary, Gaddy has her challenges as well. More than half of the students at the Title I school are on free or reduced-price lunches. The change itself is a challenge, Gaddy said. "But children are children, and I will help where I am needed. "The Kingswood (state) grade has been a rollercoaster between an A and a B," she said. "My specific challenge at this point is to work with the teachers and staff in the area of writing. We want to get our writing level higher. It is one of those areas that needs some extra attention." Gaddy said there is already a good parent-teacher connection, but she hopes to make it stronger. "I believe in team work and a great connection between school and parents," Gaddy said. "Parents working collaboratively with teachers make students more successful."
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