• Principal: Mrs. Eliza Croze (Defant)


     Ms. Defant

    My name is Eliza Croze, the proud Principal of Highland Lakes Elementary Leadership Academy. I am a graduate from St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with an ESOL Endorsement and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. I began my career in Pinellas County Schools in 2006 and served as the Principal of Skycrest Elementary School (2018-2022) and Assistant Principal (2015-2018). My background includes serving as a 1st, 2nd, and 5th-grade teacher at Walsingham Elementary School (2006-2015). Also, I have a daughter in 4th grade and a son in 6th grade.  


    I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to lead a school with such rich traditions both in and outside of the classroom. Highland Lakes has earned a reputation of academic excellence through the hard work of the students, teachers, parents, and staff.  Highland Lakes is proud to support numerous challenging academic courses, an outstanding gifted program, visual and performing arts programs, and various school clubs and extended learning programs for students.  Also, Highland Lakes is beginning its journey of becoming a Leader in Me school! We encourage you to experience our school culture, one that is focused on providing students with the academic and social resources, that will prepare them for the 21st century.  

    We believe that it is important for our students to be connected to school through positive relationships and a strong sense of community.  I believe that every student can learn and be successful when provided the right supports and opportunities.  Our teachers and staff are committed to providing all students with an appropriate and challenging educational experience in a respectful environment that fosters learning and growth. I assure you we will take the time to strategically plan, forge positive relationships, celebrate our achievements, and continue to build on our successful foundation where our entire community thrives. 

    Highland Lakes Leadership Academy is a place where exceptional teaching and learning is the norm.  I am truly honored to be a part of the Highland Lakes community. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions/concerns throughout the school year. Go Panthers! 

    Eliza Croze, Principal 

Assistant Principal

  • Jason JessieAssistant Principal: Mr. Jason Jessie

    A product of Pinellas County Schools, I am proud to continue to serve as your assistant principal. I have been in education for twenty plus years, 15+ as a teacher.  I have a Master's degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida. I reside in the Palm Harbor area and am married to a Pinellas County teacher. We have three children that have either graduated or are currently attending a Pinellas County school. 

    Go Panthers!