LAKEWOOD RANCH — After a first round of interviews last week, three longtime educators remain in contention for the principal position at McNeal Elementary School, which will be vacated when Principal Ronna Paris retires this summer.
A seven-member panel of district officials and members of the McNeal family whittled the list to Barry Dunn, James Horner and Norma Scott, who all currently serve as assistant principals at Manatee schools.
“It’s an exciting time for McNeal,” Manatee County Public Schools’ Director of Elementary Schools Tim Kolbe said. “This is a big moment. They want to get someone to carry on the traditions at McNeal, but whenever anybody new (comes in), there’s a freshness, too.”
The community can meet the finalists during a community forum at 7 p.m., May 14, at the school, 6325 Lorraine Road. McNeal parents will be able to ask questions of the candidates and provide feedback to district officials, which will be used in the selection process.
Manatee Superintendent Tim McGonegal and Lynnette Edwards, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, will review information from the forum and interview candidates before McGonegal makes a recommendation to the Manatee County School Board on June 8, Kolbe said.
Kolbe said finalists were selected based on their responses to questions, experiences in education and how well they connected with representatives of the McNeal family.
“They all had a working knowledge of the school,” Kolbe said. “They had done their research. They understand the importance of student achievement and instruction. These three (candidates) rose to the top in that.”
Barry Dunn, a 15-year veteran in elementary education, currently serves as the assistant principal at Williams Elementary School in Parrish.
“My philosophy on education is that every child is an individual who learns in his or her own way,” Dunn said. “As educators, it is our responsibility to be familiar with that information and use it in our everyday practices. Educating children is more about process than content.”
Dunn started in the classroom in 1994, teaching fourth- and fifth-graders at Gocio Elementary until 1997 when he began working at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus in Sarasota. There, he was a data/literacy coach, fourth grade teacher and Exceptional Student Education inclusion teacher.
He served as the assistant principal at Oneco Elementary School from July 2005 to July 2007, when assumed his current position at Williams.
James Horner already is a familiar face at McNeal Elementary School, where he currently serves as assistant principal.
He helped open the school six years ago and has served there every year since except one — when he went to help a new principal at Daughtrey Elementary.
“Our current Principal Ronna Paris has mentored me along the way to the point where I’m definitely ready to step up and take that responsibility,” Horner said. “My heart is at McNeal.”
With classroom experience as an Exceptional Student Education teacher, Horner has served as the assistant principal at Braden River, Wakeland, Daughtery and McNeal elementary schools since first stepping into administration in 2002.
A 22-year-veteran in elementary education, Norma Scott currently serves as the assistant principal at Moody Elementary School.
“I feel that inspiring students and giving them a love of learning is the most important thing a person can do,” Scott said. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re here for the children.”
Since taking her first position at Bayshore Elementary School in 1987, Scott has taught gifted and special needs children as well as students who speak English as a second language.
She took her first assistant principal position in 2000 at Gene Witt Elementary, where she served eight years before becoming an administrator at Moody.
Contact Pam McTeer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McNeal Elementary community forum
WHAT: Finalists will be meeting the community and answering questions. The event is for adults only.
WHEN: 7 p.m., May 14
WHERE: McNeal Elementary School, 6325 Lorraine Road, Lakewood Ranch
Freedom, Bashaw also searching for principals
Two other East County schools also are looking to fill principal positions.
Freedom Elementary School will hold interviews with select applicants on May 15 and a community forum with the final three contenders on May 19.
Bashaw Elementary School will hold interviews with finalists on May 21 and a forum with the three finalists on May 26.
The superintendent’s recommendation for all three schools will be presented to the Manatee County School Board for approval on June 8.