A conversation with the principal

By Sophie ojdanic
SNN Staff Writer
How do you feel about how your first year as principal has gone?
I feel really good about it, although it has flown by. …  With lots of deadlines and graduation coming up, I’m a little nervous. 
How did students do this year?
We do have quite a few students that need to do credit recovery in some of their academic classes, but that’s kind of normal. There are those kids that excel - they pass all their classes - and then there’s the small group of students who need that extra push. Behaviorally, we’re doing okay. Like any other school in Pinellas County, there are those kids that mouth off to teachers and are defiant.
What was your favorite part of this year?
It has been all of the events that I have gone to for students. That’s the part I like. When you become principal you kind of miss out on the daily interaction with students. If a student comes in here, it’s usually not a good reason, so with me being able to go to the different events, I actually get to see the students from a different light. They’re not in trouble, they’re not having an issue, so that’s the part I enjoy the most.
What kind of things have you accomplished this year?
I have all this stuff on my mind. Students attended the FBLA conference and won awards, we have students that are going to the women’s conference about technology, we have students that won awards for the science fair, … journalism won the Pacemaker. ... The AMSET students are always doing things, they were (even) making a garden box for another school the other day. 
What were the two best things that happened this year?
As far as to the school, I would say we got the rubberized track and our media center is being converted from an old school media center to a “student commons area.” … As far as another good thing, we had people come from across the state to the school for the Ford NGL meeting to see the student ambassadors that escorted them around the campus and gave tours of the campus. We got a $2,000 check from them, so that shows what happens when students pull together and speak up for the school.
What part of being principal was most unexpected?
The number of times I sign my name weekly. Whether its payroll, invoices, checks or paperwork. There are mounds and mounds of paperwork. That’s the part that takes me away from the student body.
Now that you’ve been here for a year, what is your overall impression of Lakewood?
I think it’s the best school in the universe. You know, I went to Lakewood, but things are so different, so I’m seeing things from a different perspective now. A zillion years ago I was a student walking the halls, now I see it from an adult view. I think the students are wonderful, the diversity of the school is good. 
What are some goals you have for next year academically?
Academically, my goal is to always raise test scores, raise graduation rates. Test scores especially with the Algebra I, we were the lowest in the district last year, which is no secret. 
 If you could ask the students to change one thing what would it be?
One thing would be to attend class. Come to school more often and on time, and every day. I think that’s going to help the test scores.
What are things you’d want to change either about you or about the rest of the school for next year?
I think one of the things that I would change is probably meeting with my staff on a more regular basis. We are building a culture here at Lakewood, so we’re all on the same page. We’re always asking teachers to build a culture with students, and build a relationship with students, so I think I need to build a stronger relationship with the staff.
Do you have any advice for the students?
Get involved, be involved whether it’s through yearbook, journalism, sports, the band, because then typically those involved in extracurricular activities tend to stay in school longer. Utilize the adults in your life, and utilize the resources to help you navigate through high school.