Ryan Chase, Sarasota High School’s new principal, said he is driven each day by the difference education made in his own life.
“I take that with me every day to work: that one person, one conversation, one relationship, can change someone's life, and I hope to do that every day with our students or staff, or families,” he said.
As a first-generation college student who worked multiple jobs, Chase found value in his life through his success at school, including through his relationships with his teachers and by serving as a leader on campus.
“I remember finding so much motivation from doing well in school and understanding that, if I could be a part of that for someone else, it would be such a fulfilling life for me,” he said.
There is no better place to live that dream, he said, than the first high school built in what he calls one of the top school districts in the nation, at which he will assume his role on Sept. 25.
In fact, Sarasota was where he intended to start his career, although he ended up landing a role in Manatee County instead in 2008.
When Manatee County was facing budget shortfalls in 2013, he decided to look back to where he said his heart had always been, accepting the job of assistant principal of curriculum for McIntosh Middle School. He later served in the same capacity with Sarasota high School.
“From the very moment I was here, I knew I was walking into something very special, and I'm excited to come back to this amazing tradition that Sarasota High has, and for how I can fit into that, and also to work with our amazing staff and students and families to build us into the next phase of the future of the school,” he said.
Sarasota High School has a “tremendous” amount of positives, Chase said, citing its "great staff that is really focused, student-centered, and really puts the needs of our students first."
However, he said the wider community will be of help as well due to support from organizations like the Sarasota High School Foundation.
“When you have that kind of support already in place, from parents and from the community, and from our staff, the sky's the limit.”
Chase said he is also excited to sit down with the administrative team and begin looking at what the school can improve; they have been analyzing the data from last year and will be looking at newer data once student testing is completed.
He said he is working with Assistant Principal Lindsay Gallof to ensure that teachers are able to work together in professional learning communities to analyze data and make sure they can offer the most successful interventions and strategies, as well as to see what professional learning opportunities teachers are in need of based on the data.
“The biggest thing is getting with our staff and our students and our community and listening, and then addressing things that I can do my best on with the great team we already have in place here,” he said.
As he steps further into the role, he believes his extensive experience will be of value.
His last three years at Brookside Middle School have been “tremendous,” he said, stating during his time there, he built the school into something he could be “really, really proud of,” as the feedback he received at a recent open house confirmed.
“It tells me exactly what I wanted to hear, which is that we have built a place that really puts the students first, and that when students enjoy coming to school, they feel safe coming to school, and they're learning, I am doing my job as a principal to create that environment.”
He said when he served as an assistant principal of curriculum at Sarasota High from 2020 to 2023, the school also saw a “tremendous” amount of growth.
“I'm really proud of that work as well, because it took an entire team to put that work together, and it wasn't just me, but everyone working together on that goal."
In 2023, he was recognized by the University of Florida Alumni Association as the “Leader of the Year” for one of its affiliates, the Sarasota County Gator Club. He became president in 2020, helping to restore features including events and to rebuild the board of directors.
“I'm really proud of that because there are so many amazing leaders in this country that are involved in Gator Clubs and affiliate groups, and to be recognized as among one of them is a tremendous honor, but I'm more proud of the fact that we have built this community in Sarasota that is serving the needs of all of our University of Florida alumni,” he said.
The club was also recognized as the most improved Gator Club, out of the 87 affiliates nationally, in 2023.
Chase said there are many qualities that resulted in him receiving the award.
“I think good leaders are listeners. They’re team builders, they're trustworthy, they're responsive, they're ethical, and they are people focused," he said. "They understand that any person that works for them, any employee, is a person first."
Outside of education, Chase loves spending time with his family, including his wife of 15 years, Madeline Chase, who is an assistant principal with Florida Virtual School, and his children, 11-year-old Carter Chase and 7-year-old Claire Chase. As a result of his son, he also spends time giving support to special needs organizations in the community.
Outside of school, you know where to find him.
“I’m a Disney person,” he said. “You’ll find me at Disney.”
However, the place he is proudest to be is Sarasota’s most historic high school campus.
“Setting foot on this campus every day is a reminder of how much honor I get to have in my job every day, and I take that seriously,” he said.