The new principal of Marathon Middle High School is a "collaborative" type of administrator who plans to work closely with her teachers and other staff members to achieve academic excellence there.
Wendelynn "Wendy" McPherson was confirmed as the new MMHS principal during the June 24 school board meeting in Key West.
On Monday, she stopped by the Sombrero Beach Road campus to pick up the keys and seek the counsel of outgoing principal Hammond Gracy.
Gracy was McPherson's former boss during a previous stint as assistant principal at MMHS, the largest educational institution in the middle Keys. Her time at MMHS also overlapped with former principal Harry Russell's time there. Coincidentally, McPherson then reprised her role as Russell's assistant principal at his current perch at Sugarloaf School.
"Of course, [Gracy] had advice for me," McPherson said. "He was my supervisor for two years."
McPherson was born in the small town of Crane, Ind., but moved to the Keys when she was 10. She is a product of the Monroe County School District.
"I went to Horace O'Bryant and Key West High School," she said.
The new principal holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Florida State University, an M.S. in educational leadership, crriculum and instruction from the University of West Florida.
McPherson has also received numerous accolades during her career, including Teacher of the Year awards from Sigsbee Elementary in 2000 and 2003. She was named Inclusion Teacher of the Year, also at Sigsbee, in 1995. She is a national board certified teacher, state-certified reading endorsement teacher, a state-certified classroom walk through trainer, and a Florida reading initiative trainer.
McPherson planned to spend Tuesday meeting with her staff to come up with a plan for the way forward at MMHS, which combines 40-plus teachers and more than 600 students in its middle and high school grades.
"If I come up with the plan on my own, it's not going to be as good," McPherson said. "I want and need input from my staff."
McPherson comes from a family of educators. Her husband, Mike, serves as the director of academic affairs at Florida Keys Community College, and her sister-in-law, Christina, serves as both the principal of Poinciana Elementary School, and the district director of accountability and assessment.
Her ability to remember student names is bolstered, she said, by the fact that she runs into them around town from time to time.
"It's one of the blessings of a small school and community," McPherson said.
Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter expressed confidence in McPherson's abilities in a press release posted on the district website.
"Mrs. McPherson is an outstanding choice to replace Mr. Gracy," Porter wrote. "She is a skilled instructional leader who has experience in the community. I have confidence in Mrs. McPherson, and I know she will continue the excellence that has been established at Marathon High School."
As of presstime Tuesday, Porter was able to reveal a number of other hires he plans to recommend to the school board at its next meeting on July 22.
-- Mike Michaud, currently an assistant principal at Key West High School, will be recommended as the districtwide security and safety coordinator.
-- Leslie Holmes, currently the program coordinator at Take Stock of Children Monroe County, will be tapped as the dean of students/emerging leader at Poinciana Elementary School.
-- Kyle Shear, currently an employee of the Hillsborough County schools, will be recommended as the dean of students/merging leader position at Gerald Adams Elementary School.
Porter also said he hoped to be able to make dean of student position recommendations for Plantation Key School and Stanley Switlik Elementary School at the July meeting.