James Dougherty now meeting with teachers, staff and families to prepare for new school year in east Bradenton.
James Dougherty has been juggling his responsibilities as the assistant principal at Palm View K-8 School while preparing to become the principal at William H. Bashaw Elementary School next school year.
Doughtery has been spending time getting to know the teachers and staff at Bashaw Elementary, learning what they think the school does well and what could be improved.
“They were unbelievably welcoming,” Dougherty said. “I’m sitting down and meeting with each one of them one-on-one, and I’m excited to hear about all the things they think are wonderful about the Bashaw family and also hearing about some of their ideas and some of their visions on how to make the school even stronger.”
Dougherty’s next step is to meet with Bashaw Elementary students and families during the summer when he officially becomes the new principal, which will be his first time serving as a principal since he started his education career in 2008 with the School District of Manatee County.
“My goal was to become a principal of my own school because I want to have an impact in the community, the students, staff and also those families because it goes back to strengthening those families’ bonds with the school,” Dougherty said. “I want these families to be proud to say their kid goes to Bashaw Elementary School.”
Dougherty came to Bradenton as a teenager when he attended IMG Academy for two years before getting a scholarship to attend Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, where he received his bachelors degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing.
After he graduated, Dougherty moved back to Manatee County.
“I love this community, and I want to see this community flourish,” Dougherty said. “I’m so happy to see the amount of growth I’ve experienced since my first time visiting here in 2000.”
After a year and a half of working in sales, Dougherty realized it wasn’t for him.
Dougherty always had an interest in education, so he decided to become a substitute teacher for the School District of Manatee County.
The principal at then-Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School asked Dougherty to join the staff working with students with special needs as a paraprofessional.
“That was my hook,” Dougherty said. “Just to be able to build relationships with those kids and especially those students that needed somebody that wanted to care for them and wanted to see them grow.”
The next year, Dougherty became an exceptional student education teacher for kindergarten through fifth grade.
“I love the fact that on top of working with the students, watching the students grow and watching them develop, you
become another family member because you’re in constant communication,” Dougherty said. “You’re working with them through developing goals through their [Individualized Education Program].”
Working with the students and families inspired Dougherty to graduate from the University of South Florida’s education leadership program in 2015.
Dougherty worked as a student support specialist at G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School from 2014 to 2017.
In 2017, Dougherty became the assistant principal at Palm View K-8 School, which he said was a struggling school at the time with a D grade from the Florida Department of Education.
“We were able to build a culture on goal setting, on identifying our needs and working on them and then also celebrating our students and staff when they did succeed,” Dougherty said.
In one year, the school went from a D to an A school. The school has also implemented the WOZ Ed Pathway program that focuses on coding, the engineering design process, drones, cyber security and mobile development.
After seeing what the WOZ Ed program has to offer for students, Dougherty is looking forward to seeing how STEAM is implemented at Bashaw Elementary.
“I would love to be able to make it a community vested program where maybe we can get some community support to bring even more resources to endorse the program because there’s some amazing things going on right now,” Dougherty said. “The kids surprised me especially with areas like computer coding and programming.”
Dougherty wants to expand STEAM into various content areas in the classroom such as math and language arts.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.