When Hillsborough County students returned to the classroom Tuesday, the 2,400 who headed for Newsome High met their new principal, Carla Bruning.
Bruning, who previously served as principal at King High, has been in one Hillsborough County school or another since she enrolled in first grade at South Tampa's Sidney Lanier Elementary.
She attended Monroe Junior High, graduated from Robinson High School in 1975, earned her teaching degree in physical education and bachelor's from the University of South Florida, and launched her instructional career at Gaither High before heading to Brandon to teach science at Bloomingdale High.
Bruning also earned master's degrees in science education and education leadership from USF.
In 1994, Bruning was hired as assistant principal at Durant High, where she worked until her move to King in 2001 as assistant principal for curriculum. She assumed the reins as principal in 2004.
"Newsome is not just a school but part of the FishHawk community," Bruning said. "Working with people — family, parents, community — is what I do the best. This just felt right to me.
"Plus, it's a friendly community with a high regard for education. You can't ask for anything better than that."
"We have a lot of really, really bright kids," she said. "I want to continue to push them into honors and advanced placement classes. I want them to gain experience in higher order thinking. I believe that capacity can always be increased."
Bruning is looking forward to working with the school's staff. Newsome has 156 teachers and about 25 support personnel.
"The people I've met are very professional and I can feel the spirit of working as a team for the good of the kids," she said.
Like most teachers, Bruning entered the profession imagining she would remain in the classroom. Today, she said she's pleased to be involved in administration but still finds her happy place around kids.
"I love being around students," she said. "And I love learning from people. I'm motivated to see people — children and adults — achieve things they didn't think they ever could."
She admits administration has changed a lot during her tenure and that the change has been a mixture of rewarding and sad, but she's still confident that teachers can and do respond to a higher calling, hone their craft and raise the standard.
"Yes, because that's the heart of a teacher," she said. "A great teacher is going to do it no matter what."
Bruning said the principal role can feel like an ambassadorship for education, with the emphasis on educating the public.
"Sometimes I'm a politician for education," she said. "To educate the public that education is so important. I want people to think for themselves, to read and to draw their own conclusions."
Outside the job, Bruning said she's passionate about life and enjoys everything she does.
"I like to attend after-hours school events," she said. "I love spoiling my niece and nephew and hanging out with my family. I love to read, to walk on the beach, to shop, and to travel."
She also has a dog named Panda, attends Palma Ceia United Methodist Church in South Tampa, and believes in the future.
"I'm optimistic," she said. "I always feel there's an answer, a hope and that things are worth fighting for. I enjoy life and believe that people should have a good time whatever they do."
And key to that good time, Bruning would say in a thousand different ways, is a lifetime devoted to learning.
Get to know
Who: Carla Bruning
Position: Principal, Newsome High
Born: Tampa, 1957
Educated: Sidney Lanier Elementary, Monroe Junior High, Robinson High, University of South Florida
Career: Hillsborough County schools, 27 years
Moved to Newsome High: 2011