PLANT CITY Principal Jennifer West says she’s been looking forward to Tuesday for some time.
The halls of Lincoln Elementary Magnet School can get a little too quiet during the summer, West said.
“I miss the students when they aren’t here,” said West, in her third year at the helm at Lincoln. “There aren’t the smiles and hugs.”
About 30,000 students are expected to return to class when the 26 schools in East Hillsborough County open Tuesday. Across the area, teachers were busy last week getting their classrooms in order and preparing lesson plans.
“I love to teach and I’m excited for the year to start again,” said Sarah Berzins, a second-grade teacher at Lincoln.
She’s in her third year of teaching but this is her first year at Lincoln, which is an International Baccalaureate school.
Fellow second-grade teacher Cheryl Chancey-Judah said she also looks forward to a fresh crop of students in her classroom each year.
At Simmons Career Center, Exceptional Student Education Specialist Venesia Carter was putting together class rosters and teacher planning notes as she readied for the new year. Carter said she loves the chance to impact a new crop of students.
“I like being able to make a difference in the lives of students and staff,” she said.
Fifth-year Principal Cleto “Sundy” Chazares is welcoming a half-dozen new teachers to Simmons this school year. The school’s more than 300 students will also have another career option, welding, to join the dozens of other career paths.
Chazares, known on campus as “Mr. C,” has set an ambitious path for his faculty and students: He wants teachers to work extra hard to motivate students, who he hopes will earn standard high school diplomas. He ultimately hopes 80 percent of seniors will graduate with standard diplomas, which make it easier for them to enter college.
Jennifer L. Davis, the school’s assistant principal of curriculum, said Simmons has already made great strides in that area; in 2013-14, graduating seniors earned 18 standard diplomas, compared with two the year before.
Chazares also wants to encourage more parental involvement, including by forming the school’s first PTA.
“Every time we start a new year we always have a goal in mind,” he said.
Area Leadership Director Jerry Jackson said all the schools in the Plant City area have the same principals except for Bryan Elementary, where Jennifer McCrystal takes the head administrator’s job. The former Buckhorn Elementary School assistant principal takes the place of Cheryl Boddie, who retired.
Jackson said he met with the principals last week and they were all looking forward to the 2014-15 school year, he said.
“They are all energized and ready to go,” Jackson said.