BROOKSVILLE - After conducting interviews and vetting resumes for more than a dozen finalists, a search committee forwarded on to School Superintendent Bryan Blavatt its top recommendations for open principal positions at Westside Elementary, Chocachatti Elementary and Central High School.
"They selected a couple top people, and I decided where they were going to go," Blavatt said. "I am pleased to announce that selections have been made for several principal vacancies."
That happened Thursday and on Friday morning the district announced that the assistant principal of Pine Grove Elementary, Gina Michalicka, will be replacing retiring Westside Elementary School Principal Nancy Kesselring, and assistant principal of Parrott Middle School, Lara Silva, will replace private-education-bound Maria Rybka as new principal of Chocachatti Elementary School.
"I was so absolutely shocked to hear, because they really have to get to know you and trust you to take over one of their schools, and I'm very glad they're giving me this opportunity," Silva said. "I feel very blessed."
Silva applied for both the principal positions at Chocachatti and Westside Elementary, and she said she would have been honored to receive the position at either school, but having worked at a charter school she has more experience with magnet school philosophy.
"I'm really happy being the principal of a school having to do with the performing arts, because that's something I enjoy in my own personal life," Silva said. "I have the utmost respect for the applicants that went for the position, and I'm truly honored to be welcomed into this family of educators with Hernando County, and I hope to serve them well."
Silva also said that she and current principal Rybka have already made plans for Silva to visit the school starting next week, and to meet the faculty, students and parents prior to summer break and her official start date of July 1.
Michalicka could not be reached for comment.
Michalicka has been an administrator in Hernando County for four years and was chosen for her strong instructional leadership and knowledge of curriculum, according to a release issued by the district. Silva has previous experience as both an assistant principal and a principal in Miramar.
Assistant principal positions like the kind Michalicka and Silva graduated from are known for their mentorship, Hernando Classroom Teachers Association President Joe Vitalo said, and raise the natural question of who will replace the soon-to-be principals.
"There's a lot of new things coming down the line," he said.
Like how almost 20-year veteran principal Marvin Gordon, who after a brief retirement attempt stepped in for Joe Clifford last December as interim principal at Central High School, has also found a replacement in Explorer K-8 Principal John Stratton.
"He's done something new for us, when we brought in a recently retired principal," Vitalo said.
Stratton could not be reached for comment.
Stratton has more than eight years of administrative experience between Hernando and Citrus counties, and his egress as Explorer K-8 principal leaves a coveted seat in what appears to be a career game of musical chairs. There's also talk about administrative positions opening at Springstead High School by mid-year, as well, Vitalo said.
All applicants for the elementary school positions were from within the Hernando County School District and several applied for both positions.
The applicants for Westside Elementary principal were: Beverly Chapin, Susan Dean, Nancy Johnson, Laura Kane, Joyce Lewis, Gina Michalicka, Jill Renihan, Debbie Shaw and Lara Silva.
The applicants for Chocachatti Elementary principal were: Nancy Johnson, Laura Kane, Shari Meyer, Gina Michalicka, Jill Renihan, Debbie Shaw and Lara Silva.