ST. PETERSBURG — Three struggling Pinellas County public schools will lose their principals after this year, with some of them moving to high-performing schools.
Superintendent Michael Grego announced the changes at a school board meeting Tuesday. The Florida Department of Education requires any school that earns an F grade or two successive D grades to replace its principal if he or she has worked at the school for more than a year.
Dunedin Elementary and Maximo Elementary in St. Petersburg both received F’s last year, and Ponce de Leon Elementary in Clearwater received a D. The three are among the top 20 schools in the district with the highest levels of poverty.
“I’ll say up front I recognize the sensitivity and sometimes the uncertainty of these situations, but as superintendent I also have to keep us all focused on the improvement of not only these schools but of all of our performances and keep people aware of the areas we need to grow in our district,” Grego said. “Student achievement has to continue to be our top priority.”
Kerry Apuzo, principal at Ozona Elementary in Palm Harbor, will replace Principal Kathleen Brickley at Dunedin Elementary School. Brickley will become an assistant principal at Brooker Creek Elementary School in Tarpon Springs. Dunedin earned an F grade last year after getting a D and C grades in previous years. Ozona has been a straight-A school since 2001. Brooker Creek earned a B last year but has a long history of A grades as well.
Lakisha Falana, principal at Tarpon Springs Elementary, will replace Randi Latzke as principal at Maximo Elementary in St. Petersburg. Latzke was allowed to retain her position at Maximo last school year after it became the first under the school district’s “turnaround” plan to receive two successive F grades from the state. With Maximo receiving a third F, Latzke will be made principal at Lake St. George Elementary in Palm Harbor, an A school.
Lake St. George Principal Paula Texel will go to Ponce de Leon Elementary, which has had two successive D’s and a C from the state. Ponce de Leon Principal Thea Saccasyn will become an assistant principal at Tarpon Springs Elementary, a C school.
Arthur Steullet, principal at Sunset Hills Elementary in Tarpon Springs, will become principal at Tarpon Springs Elementary. Sunset Hills has had two B’s from the state in as many years.
The two assistant principals will take their new posts July 1 and the others June 9.
“I believe with these recommendations we’ll continue to improve our school district, improve our quality of leadership and improve students’ skill levels at these schools,” Grego said. “We’ll continue to work with all of these leaders to develop growth plans.”
Last year, five schools faced Pinellas’ district turnaround option plan, which ultimately required all employees at the schools to reapply for their jobs and resulted in some being reassigned to other schools. The state gave district officials several options for turning around the schools. They could close the schools, convert them to charter schools, hire an outside company to run them or create a district-managed turnaround plan. Pinellas chose the latter again this year, with input from “district administration, business partners, community members, school principals and school leadership,” Grego said.
The district-led turnaround was the “best remedy for controlling the improvement of our schools,” he said.
“We continue to believe in the ability of our teachers and without a doubt the ability of our students,” Grego said.