New East Bay High principal started as a secretary
GIBSONTON - Maria Gsell, who was named East Bay High School's new principal Jan. 1, has come a long way from her days as a secretary for Hillsborough County schools. The Delaware native moved to Tampa in 1973 and waited to go to college until her children were older. In 1996, she graduated from Hillsborough Community College with an associate's degree in liberal arts, and then headed to the University of South Florida to earn a bachelor's degree in English. Throughout her college days, Gsell worked as the principal's secretary at Plant High School in Tampa. By 2000, she was doing her teaching internship and, four years later, went back to USF to complete a master's degree in educational leadership. She graduated in May 2006. "That June I was hired as one of the first assistant principals at Lennard High School," Gsell said. She acknowledges that she rose through the ranks quickly, but says there's no secret to why."Do a good job where you are, and the promotions take care of themselves," Gsell said, attributing the philosophy to Lennard's first principal, Denny Oest, who is now in charge of secondary education curriculum for the school district. "I'm so excited, honored and humbled to be the principal of East Bay," Gsell said. "It's a tradition-rich school with a longtime faculty. We have some amazing programs here." Her goals include learning everyone's name, getting the school back to an A grade on the state's annual School Accountability Report, and providing supportive, collaborative leadership. Gsell replaced Sharon Morris, who was East Bay's principal for 29 years. "You can't fill her shoes," Gsell said. "You have to build your own relationships with teachers, staff, students, parents and the community."
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