Area schools get new principals

Clewiston Middle School was just one Clewiston public school to hire on a new principal this year.

Clewiston Middle School was just one Clewiston public school to hire on a new principal this year.

As students prepare for the new school year, Clewiston’s public schools have undergone some administration changes, beginning with the replacement of two-term Clewiston Middle School Principal Scott Cooper.

“Principal changes are like a domino effect,” said Superintendent of Schools Paul Puletti, who knew a replacement would be needed after Cooper’s two years on the job.

“Mr. Cooper had retired already and I asked him to come back. He said yes, but only for two years,” said Puletti.

Cooper came out of retirement to help turn around Clewiston Middle School after it received an ‘F’ from the state.
Cooper had retired after 35 years before coming back in 2013 to serve two more years as middle school principal. In 2014, Clewiston Middle once again received an ‘F’ grade; the scores for 2015 have not yet been released.

Cooper stayed true to his word and stepped down as principal at the end of the 2014/15 school year.

That left an open position which Puletti needed to fill before the early start of the new school year.

“I looked for the strongest person and Lori Duckstein’s name kept coming into my head. She has been a phenomenal principal at Eastside, so I asked her,” said Puletti.

Mrs. Duckstein accepted the new challenge and will start the 2015/16 year as principal of Clewiston Middle School.

With Mrs. Duckstein moving up from the elementary level to secondary, she and her husband determined it would put too much stress on their family to have two parents working as secondary principals. George Duckstein, principal at Clewiston High School for several years, stepped down to fill a district position created by the school board two years ago: staff development director.

As staff development director, Mr. Duckstein will determine the necessary training for teachers and employees to ensure they are continuously improving.

As Mr. Duckstein moves to the district offices, Clewiston High School Assistant Principal Roberto Sanchez moves up to fill the role as principal.

Taking care of Clewiston’s secondary schools, Puletti was now charged with the task of filling the void at Eastside Elementary School left by former principal Lori Duckstein.

Puletti asked Clewiston Middle School’s Assistant Principal Kristy Durance to serve as principal at Eastside, not only because she has done a good job at the middle school, but also because she worked as a teacher at Eastside previously and knows the staff well, said Puletti.

Central Elementary School will also see a new principal this school year. Dr. Robert Egley will replace Rosa Perez beginning this year.

Puletti said Perez had done a great job at the elementary school, but as Central has seen its accountability grades slipping in recent years, Puletti said he needed someone who could come in and build curriculum teams, who will determine best practices and identify which parts of the curriculum are working and where revisions could be made.

“Dr. Egley pulled LaBelle Middle School up one letter grade, he lives in Clewiston and has the talents we need,” he said. “He has elementary experience in his background and I asked him to go to Central to build academic curriculum teams.”

Under the new leadership, Central has already filled two of three staff vacancies, and could possibly fill the third within a week or two. Puletti said this was made possible by simply enabling the people working with Dr. Egley to do their jobs.

“The staff at Central has responded in a great way,” he said.

Moving to the magnet offices, Perez will be working with staff development issues, including building curriculum framework and guidelines for the elementary schools. Puletti said the goal is, from a curriculum standpoint, to see less and less of a difference between the district’s six elementary schools.

“I’m looking forward to a very great year. I think the changes that we made are in the best interest of the district. We have a far deeper bench to draw from now than we did three years ago,” said Puletti.

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