For the third time in as many years, Bartow Middle School will start classes without a principal.
Principal Pam Henderson, who had only been at the helm of the troubled middle school for a year, was transferred to lead Dundee IB Academy.
Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy announced the change at a recent Polk County School Board meeting, where she also said another 20 schools were also undergoing leadership changes.
“Pam did a really good job at Bartow Middle and had worked hard to bring the school’s grades up,” ” said LeRoy on Monday. “But, she has expertise in International Baccalaureate programs and we needed her in Dundee to get that school started.” LeRoy added Henderson had earlier taught at the Dundee school.
For now, the BMS principal slot is being advertised both internally and externally. LeRoy said that to her knowledge, there had not been an interim leader named. Regional Superintendent Tracy Collins could not be reached Tuesday and the school had received no word either. Assistant principals Byron Williams and Katie Shytle were both in training Tuesday and could not be reached.
BMS is one of the district’s lower performing schools, but according to LeRoy, the failing grade it registered with the state Education Department had been boosted from an F to a D-plus in last school year’s ratings.
“The school made some gains under Henderson’s leadership,” LeRoy said. “And we are going to try to find someone to keep that upward movement going this year.”
Some eight Polk principals were either transferred or reassigned for differentiated accountability issues, LeRoy told the school board, which means their schools failed to raise their grades. None of those were in the Bartow area.
Some of the schools with new leadership or pending new leaders were because of retiring principals. Among those were Garner Elementary, Sikes Elementary, Carlton Palmore Elementary, Boswell Elementary, and Gause Academy in Bartow. Gause’s leader Mark Thomas is retiring and his replacement also had not been named.
Last year, LeRoy explained, there were some 74 leadership reassignments, but only 17 were made for the coming school year.
“More of our principals are making gains,” LeRoy said. “But we still have a long way to go.”
LeRoy also said that some of the retiring principals will be kept on staff as advisers as their replacements are named.
“They will be available to help guide their successors in the transitions,” LeRoy said.
The administrative positions are being fast-tracked by the district’s human resources department, LeRoy also told the school board.
“We really want to get these filled as soon as we possibly can so schools can reopen with leadership in place,” she said, yet added, however, that no timetable had been set this week.
In addition to the principal post at BMS, open hiring is underway for leaders at Wahneta Elementary School, Lawton Chiles Elementary School and Kathleen High School. Assistant principals are also being sought for Westwood Middle School, Frostproof Elementary School, Dixieland Elementary School, Mulberry High School, Stambaugh Middle School, Auburndale Central Elementary School and the Davenport School of the Arts.