LAKEWOOD RANCH — Tom Zellars once was superintendent of the school district from which he graduated high school, so he knows and values continuity.
But Zellars, who has held various education positions, from teacher of economics to assistant principal, principal and superintendent, can also handle change.
Zellars began his new job as assistant principal at Southeast High School Nov. 4, with just a weekend separating his last day in the same role at Lakewood Ranch High School.
Manatee County School District officials told Zellars of his reassignment Oct. 30, two days before his final day at Lakewood Ranch, Nov. 1.
“I was told this is my new responsibility and I will assume my new responsibility and do it well,” Zellars said.
Steve Valley, school district spokesman, said the reassignment was part of a multi-administrator move intended to better serve impacted schools and students.
“After a careful review of administrator skill sets and administrative team compositions, Mr. Zellars was selected from Lakewood Ranch High School to fill a position left vacant by the leave (of an administrator at Southeast),” Valley said.
On his final day, Zellars went on the morning school news broadcast and told the students he loved them.
“You have made me feel whole in times of sadness and sorrow; you have provided me joy and happiness through your sharing and caring,” Zellars told them.
The next night, near his bedtime at 11 p.m., Zellars kept a promise to the Lakewood Ranch Marching Band and watched them perform in the Music in Motion competition.
On his first day at Southeast, Zellars participated in an orientation, during which he learned about his new job, and he often stopped to say hello to some of 1,300 new faces.
“A first day is a first day,” Zellars said. “It’s almost too soon to talk about it. You help everyone be comfortable, and you hope to get comfortable yourself. It’s a new school for me.”
An administrator known for his empathy, Zellars will handle “tardiness and time outs.”
“I hope my legacy was that I value the education system, I value students and I value close relationships,” said Zellars, noting he is most proud of helping Lakewood organize its Parent Teacher Organization and leading an ‘A’ school. “I had a fantastic time at Lakewood Ranch, and it’s hard to explain how involved you can be with the school. You can’t help but make more friends and work well with people.”
In Manatee, Zellars has served as assistant principal of Braden River Middle School, principal of Johnson Middle School, and most recently as assistant principal at Lakewood for 12 years.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].