East Manatee County schools lose long-time administrators.
| 4:40 a.m. June 22, 2016
Two East County schools are saying goodbye to administrators who have worked at the sites more than a decade.
Braden River High Assistant Principal Don French is leaving for Bayshore High School after 11 years. Meanwhile, 70-year-old Vic Herbert, vice principal at Tara Elementary, is retiring after 11-and-a-half years.
French learned he was moving May 16. He was expecting the call to move since the Manatee County School District routinely shifts
its principals and vice principals, but after 11 years at Braden River and 10 years prior at Lakewood Ranch High School, where his wife, Macie, still teaches, it was tough to consider.
“This area is all I know,” he said. “We serve the district; if they see a need at another school, they move us.”
When his relocation was announced, it was not well-received at the school. Some students took to social media to protest the move, and called him “the heart of Braden River” on more than one tweet.
“I knew there would be unhappiness,” French said. “But my job is kids. There’s a building full of kids (at Bayshore), so I’ll do my best.”
French is known around the school for his involvement with students and being the sponsor for the Student Government Association. He’s also known for his antics with his best friend and colleague, Dan McLean, who teaches social studies and also co-sponsors SGA. The two make sure that one of them is at attendance for every school play, every game or every event.
“It puts a face to a name, and makes us more approachable,” French said.
He’s tried to stem the reputation administrators had when he was growing up — the idea that students only went to the principal if they were in trouble.
Bayshore High School is French’s alma mater. He graduated from the west Bradenton school in 1981.
“My friends are getting a kick out of it,” he said. “It’s full circle.”
Herbert has had several chapters in his career. After getting his master’s degree in education from New York University in 1971, he launched into a niche educational administrative path for 32 years, running schools for adults, both narcotics addicts in rehab and criminals in correctional facilities.
Although the job could be high-stress sometimes, Herbert said it was still the same concept as any other school.
“It’s still management, making sure the job is done,” he said.
He moved to Bradenton in 2002, and when a position for assistant principal at Tara opened, a spot 10 minutes from his home in Peridia, he applied and was hired in 2004.
“I’d never worked elementary before,” he said. “I thought, that’s where a lot of (problems) start, and maybe I can make a difference.”
Every morning, he would walk the campus to check for safety breaches and he monitored children who he knew were having problems. He made sure he stopped in every classroom to say good morning.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said about leaving. “I’ve seen staff grow up and have kids, seen them come back and give me a hug.”
He and his wife, Barbara, have seven grandchildren, so the couple is looking forward to spending more time with their family.
Herbert is also looking forward to enjoying the country club life at Peridia.
“I haven’t golfed in a year,” he said with a chuckle.