Before thousands of youngsters piled on to school campuses, teachers and schools administrators were on the job preparing for their arrival. And at three elementary schools, new leaders took their seats.
Kelly McMillan never envisioned herself sitting in the principal's chair when she began her career as a teacher. She planned to be a teacher for her entire career.
This year, though, she'll be at the helm for Boyette Springs Elementary School and says her diverse experiences will help her to lead the school in a positive direction.
Cindy Dowdy started her career as a media specialist. This year, she'll head up the staff at Cimino Elementary.
And at Riverview Elementary, Melody Murphy returns home to lead the school where she first started teaching.
Before coming to Boyette Springs, McMillan served as assistant principal for elementary instruction at Summerfield Crossing Elementary, beginning in 2007. Before that, she served as a resource teacher at B.T. Washington Elementary for a year and was a teacher at Palm River Elementary and Brooker Elementary beginning in 1994.
"I didn't ever want to a principal in the beginning," McMillan said. "I wanted to just be a teacher forever." But after working with some administrators she calls fantastic, McMillan said she began to change her mind.
"I guess they saw something in me and pushed me to go into administration," she said.
McMillan said she has had a wide range of experiences and believes that diversity will help her to be a good leader at Boyette Springs, which has about 525 students.
"I'm a big proponent of continuous improvement."
That can be tough at an A-rated school, she said.
"Sometimes, the challenge is just maintaining that high level of performance," she said.
"I'm passionate about kids and moving them toward success. I'm hoping to bring a lot of positive energy to Boyette Springs."
McMillan received her bachelor's degree and her master's degree in educational leadership from the University of South Florida. She is married, has two children and lives in Valrico.
Dowdy was appointed principal at Cimino after former Principal Deborah Talley was named elementary supervisor and generalist for Area VIII of the Hillsborough County School District.
Dowdy has served as assistant principal for elementary education at Cimino since 2006.
Cimino, which serves 750-plus students, holds a special place in her heart. Dowdy has been there since the school opened.
"I love the parents, the kids, and Cimino has always had character education and has always strived for excellence," she said.
As an A school, some might sit back on their laurels. Not Dowdy.
"We've maintained our A, but we're never satisfied," she said. "I have a lot of plans for continuing to move forward. The challenge is always to continue excellence."
Married with two grown daughters, Dowdy received her undergraduate degree at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala., and her master's degree in early childhood education from Breneau University in Gainesville, Ga. She studied educational leadership at the University of South Florida.
Before serving as assistant principal for Cimino, Dowdy, who lives in Valrico, served there as media specialist from 2002 to 2005, then spent a year as a reading coach.
Murphy began teaching at Riverview Elementary 1990 before being transferred two years later to Boyette Springs when it opened in 1992.
The Riverview resident was promoted to assistant principal at Cork Elementary in Plant City, and then did a four-year stint in the same position at Knights.
In 2005 she was named principal of Bryan Elementary and later accepted a lateral move back to Cork.
"After 13 years, I'm excited to be working where I live," she said.
Murphy received her bachelor's degree in elementary education and her master's degree in educational leadership both from the University of South Florida.
In her new assignment Murphy replaces Jennifer West, who was transferred to Lincoln Elementary School in Plant City.
Murphy said she looks forward to shaping the future for the 60 teachers and 650 students at her school.
Her goals include building teacher leaders who can train their peers and help advance their skill sets, bringing Riverview back to an A grade from the B it received last year, and focusing the staff on teaching students to take interest in their own learning by working together.
She also wants to foster relationships with business leaders who can provide students with a look at real-world experiences.
Raised in Tampa, Murphy is a product of Hillsborough County public schools. She graduated from King High School. She is married, has three children, ages 11, 19 and 27 and is an avid reader who enjoys family time and playing poker.