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Mills backs choice for Lakewood principal

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 3, 2014
  • East County
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EAST COUNTY — Lakewood Ranch High School may soon have a new principal, and it’s likely be someone new to Florida.

Cynthia Saunders, executive director of secondary schools, selected Justin Terry, a candidate from Texas, to lead Lakewood Ranch High following the retirement of Principal Linda Nesselhauf this summer.

Saunders chose Terry over two internal candidates: Scott Cooper and Tony Losada, who are assistant principals at Bayshore and Manatee high schools, respectively.

After two days of reviewing resumes and the surveys completed by the public at community forums — at which candidates fielded questions from faculty members, students and their families — Saunders and the four other members of her interview committee chose Terry as the best fit to replace Nesselhauf.

“He was the top candidate selected by faculty, and he came in very strong as well with the community,” Saunders said. “ I took that information to heart; I wanted to select someone the public was comfortable with.”

Saunders said she was impressed with the father of three’s 11 years of administration experience.

On Monday, Superintendent Rick Mills backed the committee’s decision and announced his recommendation to hire Terry for Lakewood’s top post. Mills made his recommendations for principal positions at eight other Manatee schools, as well.

Saunders felt Cooper and Losada were perfect matches for middle school administrator roles, she said. She recommended Cooper for the principal position at Electa Lee Magnet Middle School and Losada for the principal position at Buffalo Creek Middle School.

“The other two candidates were very viable candidates,” Saunders said. “I just thought they were better fits for a couple of the middle school positions. They (Cooper and Losada) were just thrilled to hear the news, though, and seemed very excited about those schools. When I called Mr. Terry, he was very excited for the opportunity, as well.”

The Manatee County School Board will vote to approve recommendations June 10.

If the board approves Terry as the next Lakewood Ranch High principal, his contract will take effect July 1.

Born and raised in Wylie, Texas, Terry earned a Bachelor of Science, Master of Education and a Doctorate of Education from Texas universities.

He has worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, and has been an educator for 13 years.

Terry will leave his position as the director of academic and career connections at the Wylie Independent School District to move to Florida with his family.

He plans to search for homes in Lakewood Ranch, where he will raise his children, Tatum, 8, Reid, 4, and Beckett, 7 weeks.

The move to Florida is a new beginning, he said.

“My wife and I have researched Florida, and Lakewood Ranch seems like an excellent community to raise our kids,” Terry said. “Taking this position will be a new challenge and will allow us to plant ourselves for a while, to instill ourselves in the community.”


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