Polk County Schools approved promotions, transfers and new hires for its district-wide school administration positions at its Aug. 16 school board meeting.

The following new administrators and principals have been announced along with the release of their backgrounds and qualifications.

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  • Melisa Browning has been promoted to Principal of Spook Hill Elementary. She is the former assistant principal of Fort Mead Middle/Senior where she had served since 2018. Browning has also served as principal at several schools throughout her career with the district, beginning in 2010 when she started as principal of Stambaugh Middleschool. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in instructional leadership from USF.
  • Kenneth Henkle has been named assistant principal at Laurel Elementary. He previously served as Vice Principal ll at Citrus Ridge Academy since July 2020. Henkle started with the district as a teacher in 2010 at Dundee Ridge Middle Academy. He attended Ohio State University, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and earned a master’s degree in educational technology leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
  • Robert Holby is now vice principal at Winter Haven High after serving as vice principal II there. His LinkedIn page shows he was a science teacher at Lake Region High School and an academic coach for the district with experience in curriculum development, lesson planning, educational technology, training and adult education. . Holby holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Political Studies from the University of South Florida.
  • Cornell Kirkendoll has been promoted to assistant manager at Southwest Middle. She previously served as Vice Principal ll at Southwest since October 2020. She also served as a teacher from 2000 to 2020 at Medulla Elementary, Tenoroc High, and Kathleen Senior High, respectively. Kirkendoll earned a bachelor’s degree in Specific Learning Disabilities at the University of South Florida and then a master’s degree in Variable Exceptions at USF.

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  • Cassandra Peters was recently hired as ESE Program Director for Charter Schools and Private Schools. She previously worked as an ESE Center Administrator in Hillsborough County since June 2019. She attended the University of South Florida and earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders and a Masters in Educational Leadership. Peters’ career began in 1998 as the Exceptional Student Support Supervisor for Hernando County Schools and also served as Senior Supervisor of Student Services at Pasco County Schools before moving to Hillsborough Schools.
  • Jennifer Rouse has been named Senior Director of Professional Development, a step up from Senior Coordinator of Professional Development Training at Polk Schools, a position she has held since August 2018. Her career began in 2005 with County of Polk as a teacher at Kathleen Elementary School.
  • Patricia Trejo was recently hired for the position of Director of ESOL with Polk County Schools. She had worked since 2018 as a curriculum planner for Hispanic/Latino studies in Palm Beach County schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern.

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The following administrative moves have also been approved by the school board:

  • Melissa Bearden has been transferred from vice principal of Garden Grove Elementary to vice principal of Spook Hill Elementary.
  • Angela Birdsong left DEAN at Stambaugh Middle to be promoted to Acting Assistant Manager at Southwest Middle.
  • Jessica Gavin has been promoted from teacher at Garden Grove Elementary to acting vice principal of the school.
  • Katherine Gaymont has been promoted from Coach of Katherine School, Lake Alfred Polytech Academy, to Acting Assistant Principal of Lake Alfred Poly Academy.
  • Keiva Lark has been moved from assistant manager of McLaughlin Middle to assistant manager of Lake Marion Creek.
  • Nadia Lewis, former principal of Kathleen Elementary, was recently hired as acting principal of Stephens Elementary.
  • Alexander McLuckey has been promoted from Alexander, assistant principal, Highlands Grove, to acting principal at Lewis Elementary.
  • Brenda Norquist has been promoted from in-school coach at Sleepy Hill Elementary to acting vice-principal at Highlands Grove Elementary.
  • Shing Palagano has been promoted from district-wide behavioral specialist to acting assistant principal at Lawton Chiles Middle.
  • Heather Palmer has transferred as vice-principal at Spook Hill Elementary, AP at Auburndale Central Elementary.
  • Tina Ramsey has been promoted from school coach at McLaughlin Middle to acting assistant principal at McLaughlin Middle.
  • Amy Santangelo, vice-principal at Highland City Elementary, has moved to the position of vice-principal at Valleyview Elementary.
  • Chabre Timmons has moved from the role of principal at Spook Hill Elementary to assistant principal at Highland City Elementary.
  • Ingrid Vann has been transferred from vice principal at Jesse Keen Elementary to vice principal at Crystal Lake Elementary.
  • Brett Wiersema has been promoted from teacher to acting assistant principal at Mulberry Middle.
  • Alexandra Wise has been transferred from Principal at Lewis Elementary to Principal at Elbert Elementary.

In other school district news

Polk Schools is hosting an “Interview Day” teacher job fair on Wednesday at the Jim Miles Professional Development Center in Lakeland. Schools will conduct interviews with candidates and job offers can be made on the spot.

The minimum salary for teachers is $47,500 with health insurance benefits, free health clinics for employees, Florida Retirement System benefits, among others. Interested job seekers can register online at polkschoolsfl.com/jobfair or contact recruiters at [email protected]

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Following the announcement of roving, random searches for weapons at school building entrances, the district sent out a press release about some of the other new safety measures shared with parents at polkschoolsfl.com/backtoschool.

“While we cannot openly discuss all of our security measures, we have made many improvements over the years,” said Jason Geary, senior director of communications, but provided the following list of new security measures and existing;

  • All schools have security cameras on all of their campuses.
  • All schools are secured daily to prevent intruders.
  • Schools have entrance door security systems to restrict access to campus.
  • Schools have one or more armed and extensively trained School Resource Officers (traditional law enforcement officers) or School Security Guards (district employees trained by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office).
  • All schools have lockdown alert systems.
  • School and district personnel complete a variety of scenario-based training (e.g., tornado, fire, evacuation, containment, or act of violence) each year.
  • School staff and students hold safety drills every year to make sure they know what to do in an emergency.
  • Students and staff are required to wear identification badges every day.

The Polk County School District will meet again Tuesday at the Jim Miles Professional Development Center, 4270 Wallace Road in Lakeland, beginning with a workshop at 12:30 p.m. and then its regular board meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Paul Nutcher can be contacted at [email protected]

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