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Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Fresh start in store at school


Published:

LACOOCHEE - Latoya Jordan, the assistant principal at Cox Elementary in Dade City, is poised to take over as principal at Lacoochee Elementary, the east Pasco school that is under state scrutiny because it expects to receive its third D grade in as many years.

"We feel this is going to be a very good move for Lacoochee," Assistant Superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson said Thursday.

Lacoochee's current principal, Shirley Ray, is to be transferred to Seven Oaks Elementary in Wesley Chapel, where she will take over for B.J. Smith, who retired.

Superintendent Kurt Browning will recommend the principal changes to the Pasco County School Board at the board's next meeting July 2.

The announcement about Jordan comes the same week the state Board of Education approved the improvement plan the Pasco school district submitted for Lacoochee.

The possibility that a new principal could be brought in was announced in April when district officials said that all teaching and administrative jobs at the school would be advertised as open for the 2013-14 school year as part of the perennial D school's turnaround effort. Ray applied to retain her job, but Larson said the district decided to go in a different direction.

"Shirley Ray has been a wonderful principal, but we need a fresh approach," Larson said.

Although all the teachers also had to reapply for their jobs, many of them were retained. Jordan was part of the group of administrators who interviewed teaching candidates for Lacoochee.

Cox Elementary also at one time was under state scrutiny and Jordan played a key role, along with Principal Yvonne Reins, in helping the one-time D school improve to a C and then to a B in 2012.

Lacoochee Elementary is a Title I school, which means it is eligible for extra federal funding because most of the students come from low-income families. Nearly 95 percent of the 409 students qualify for the free or reduced-price meal program, and 73 percent of the students are minorities.

The school was an A school in 2009 but has struggled recently. It was a D school in 2011 and 2012, and the district expects it to be a D school again when the state releases grades in the next couple of weeks.

That's why a turnaround plan is necessary. After a meeting with DOE representatives, the district decided on the staff makeover rather than the other school-improvement options, which include transforming the school into a charter, hiring a private management company to run it or closing the school altogether.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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