LAKEWOOD RANCH — The three finalists for the Lakewood Ranch High School Principal position possibly met their toughest critics during a community forum June 30 at Lakewood Ranch High School.
The contenders — current Lakewood Ranch Assistant Principal Don Sauer, current Manatee High School Assistant Principal Linda Nesselhauf and Melanie Metz, an assistant principal in New York — introduced themselves to staff and parents before presenting their top priorities and strategies as administrators and fielding questions from them in separate forums.
Parents probed finalists about everything from improving the school’s image and safety on campus to their feelings about fine arts programs.
“We need somebody who’s going to enforce the rules fairly,” said Kathy Stasiowski, whose son, Ryan, is going into the 10th grade at Lakewood. “We would prefer somebody who’s very familiar with Lakewood Ranch High School — somebody who knows what’s going on here.”
Community and Lakewood staff members who attended the forum provided feedback and comments about each candidate to the school district. Officials plan to use the information gathered there in deciding on who will best serve Lakewood Ranch High School.
The finalists will now go on to interviews with Superintendent Tim McGonegal and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Lynette Edwards this week.
As the only out-of-state finalist, Melanie Metz currently serves as the assistant principal at Williamsville South High School in Williamsville, N.Y.
After graduating from Florida State University in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, Metz spent two years in the publicity and events planning, before turning her attention to a career in education in 1997 Volusia County. She moved to New York in 1999 to teach and was thrust into an administrative role at her current school, Williamsville South High School, in 2005. Although her title does not reflect it, she said she has been acting as the unofficial principal for the last two years — a situation that has given her experience in developing an entry plan and handling change.
“I come to you with a wealth of strategies to keep kids safe,” Metz told parents. “If you have really good, strong relationships with the kids, they will tell you (what’s going on).”
As an administrator, Metz said it is paramount to make sure students know that she cares about them, that she listens to them and that she acts on what she says consistently.
“I love high school kids and for my entire career, I’ve worked with high school kids,” she said, adding she makes a point to stop by to see them at their work places. “They have to feel like the people here care. You celebrate the things they do on all levels.”
An original member of the Mustang administrative team, Linda Nesselhauf has spent the last two years as assistant principal at Manatee High School.
Nesselhauf has spent her entire educational career in Manatee County. She began as a middle school English teacher at Lincoln Middle in 1976 and began assuming administrative roles in 1985 as the coordinator teacher/advisers program at Bayshore High School and then as a grade level administrator at Harllee Middle School.
In 1996, she became an assistant principal on assignment for Manatee, meeting with parents, assisting in reviewing and monitoring of school improvement plans and substituting for absent principals in schools without assistant principals, among other responsibilities.
She formally began her administrative career as an assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch High School in 1998, where she served until 2007.
“My first core value is that you should have honesty and integrity,” she said. “I believe in being upfront. You have to be trustworthy.”
Nesselhauf said her top two priorities as an administrator are student safety and education. She said she would look at best practices for improving safety on campus and look at data to make sure that Lakewood continues as an “A” school.
Nesselhauf also said she wants to better implement the district’s strategic plan by encouraging students to set goals for themselves and making learning relevant.
A current assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch High School, Don Sauer has spent his entire 22-year educational career in Manatee County high schools and is an original staff member at Lakewood.
Sauer began as a social studies teacher at Lakewood when the school opened in 1998 after 11 years teaching at Southeast High School. He also worked as a technology specialist and activities director before becoming an assistant principal in 2005.
“My top priority is consistency with discipline,” Sauer said. “Discipline would be first and foremost. (With that in place) a lot of things help themselves. You have to make sure what you say is what you are going to do.”
Sauer also said it is essential for students and staff members to feel supported and to know the vision for the school. Having everybody moving in the same direction will ensure success, especially as the high school adopts a new curriculum next school year.
“I’d just like to take it to the next level,” Sauer said. “It’s taking those issues that the parents, staff and parents think we have and trying to make them as consistent as we can to make Lakewood Ranch the best school that we can be.”
Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].
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.