SEMINOLE – Seminole High School started the 2018-2019 school year with a new principal – Jane Lucas.
Lucas is a familiar face to area students. She spent the majority of her 29-year career at Seminole, recently serving as assistant principal over the last several years, and before that was chair of the music department and a music teacher.
She steps up to replace Dr. Thomas Brittan, who served as the school’s principal for the past four years. At the end of the last school year, Brittan offered the role of principal at Azalea Middle School in St. Petersburg.
“I can’t wait to see what he and his team will get done there,” Lucas said.
Brittain wrote in an email to the Beacon, “I had such a wonderful experience at Seminole High School and I feel so good about it because the school is left in such wonderful hands with Jane Lucas at the principal position. Jane…will do an outstanding job.”
Lucas said this summer’s leadership transition at SHS has been an easy one because she was an integral part of Brittain’s administration.
Brittain has actually “tapped (her) for leadership” when he came to Seminole. So, Lucas knew the day for her to lead SHS would eventually come.
“It just happened faster than I thought,” she said.
She’s played a key role in improving the school’s graduation rates over the past several years – from just 86 percent to nearly 98 percent graduating – and improving student engagement.
“It all came about with relationship building, the personalization of kids’ academic plans and behavior plans, and really getting to know the kids, getting them connected with mentors and really getting them involved in at least one thing at the school,” she said.
The personalized learning opportunities have helped students get excited about school, she said. In recent years, SHS has stood apart from other schools in the county by launching seven academies focusing on specific fields of study, including education; e-commerce, Internet marketing and law; performing and visual arts; engineering; graphic arts; and sports careers.
The Center for Education and Leadership, the first of the seven academies launched by the school, has been so successful that it was selected this year by Pinellas County School to pilot a new partnership with the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg, Lucas said.
This new program, Stay Sharp, will allow students choosing education as a major to attend the USF St. Petersburg campus on scholarships provided by the university and the school district. At the end of graduation, they will also be offered advance teaching contracts with the school district at salary level 6.
“We’re growing them back into the Pinellas County pipeline. We’re growing our own,” Lucas said. “It’s really an exciting program. What a great leap ahead for young adults to start not in debt and to have this advance contract.”
Approximately 450 SHS students – nearly a quarter of the total enrolled students at the school -– are part of the CEL program.
iHawk Academy has also been integral to student success, as well, she added.
“This personalized learning (program) was really instrumental the last three years,” she said. “It’s so important – the idea of how personalization, meaning the voice and choice of the student, comes together with project-based learning, hands-on and sometimes cross-content related, and making a different in our school, our community and globally.”
Also new this year, SHS will play a “musical transition, a fade up and fade out,” over the loudspeaker during class changes.
“Before this, we were known as the ‘un-bell’ school. We had no bells, no problems,” Lucas said. “But we’re initiating it this year for our freshmen. We heard our community and its needs and decided to initiate this.”
She is excited for the new school year and said that big things are in store for Seminole high schoolers. Based “on the excitement and camaraderie” of the school’s faculty and staff, she isn’t the only one who feels this way, she added.
“I can tell this year is going to be amazing,” she said. “We’re going to have unprecedented learning gains for our students. We’re being very targeted about that while continuing to encourage engagement.”