Call it the little school that could.
Key West Collegiate Academy (KWCA), which survived infighting, personnel changes and personal tragedy to graduate its first class earlier this month, has a new principal -- and a new scholarship program.
Cory Oliver, a former teacher and administrator from Somerset Academy in Broward County, was in town this week to begin preparations to take over from interim Principal Christopher Plantada.
It'll be the first principal job posting for Oliver, who was born and raised in Hutsonville, Ill., population 550, and the first full-time principal Key West Collegiate has had since the last one, Adri Stewart, killed herself in late December.
"Where I come from reminds me a lot of down here, that small-town feel," Oliver said Wednesday. "Everybody knows everybody, and everybody is always looking for a little bit more, but they're happy with where they're at. It's a weird dichotomy. The parents that I met here during my first interview told me that they're looking for a little bit more for their kids, and that's something that I've always wanted for myself."
Oliver holds a Bachelor in English, with a focus in literature and some creative writing, as well as a master's in rhetoric and composition from Southern Illinois University.
He also has a master's in educational leadership from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
While working at Somerset, Oliver -- who is married and has a 2-year-old son -- was in the running for a pair of principal jobs when the Key West opportunity presented itself.
Like Somerset, KWCA is affiliated with the for-profit Academica charter school management corporation, which handles the back office operations.
"Each board member spent time with him, and we loved the enthusiasm he showed," said Todd German, president of the KWCA board, which hired Oliver. "Corey seems to be a remarkable teacher, and a great trainer of teachers. He has great ideas and plans, and we're looking forward to him making this school his own."
Oliver worked for Somerset for five years.
"I've never really left education," he said. "From high school, I went into the Army National Guard, but then it was straight into college. When I started working on my first master's, that's where I really fell in love with education."
A former rock musician, Oliver claims to be a "pretty open book."
"I'm pretty honest, the way I deal with people," he said. "I have really high expectations, not only from the kids, but from the parents and teachers as well. It's really important that students go outside of their comfort zone. I don't like cookie-cutter approaches. I want the kids to be able to learn in a way that's good for them."
Oliver plans to be living in Key West after the Fourth of July holiday, when he'll plan a meet-and-greet with the community at the Tennessee Williams Theatre, on the campus of Florida Keys Community College, also the location of KWCA.
"You'll always know it's me driving around town because there's this big Superman logo on the back on my pickup truck," Oliver said. "It's my alter ego."