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Broward administrator hired as principal of new K-8 school
The School Board has to approve the superintendent's choice.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 28, 2007
Wayne Alexander went outside the district to find a principal for the new K-8 school.
BROOKSVILLE - Superintendent Wayne Alexander has broken with precedent and hired an outsider to lead Hernando County's next school.
Pending School Board approval, Dominick Ferello, an administrator from Broward County, will become the first principal of the new K-8 school opening next August in Spring Hill.
It would be the first time in recent memory in which the district imported a school leader from outside the county, rather than following the regional custom of promoting from within.
But district officials said Ferello was too good to pass up, particularly with a looming statewide principal shortage.
"We really liked him," said professional standards director Barbara Kidder, who chaired the hiring committee. "And we definitely have to begin looking at leadership as a critical shortage area."
Ferello, 53, served for three years as principal of Fellsmere Elementary School in Indian River County, a school with a high population of migrant students. Ninety percent of its largely Hispanic population was learning English for the first time.
"The primary problem was language," Ferello said. "They didn't speak (English) wherever they went, because everyone spoke Spanish. Even on the playground, they spoke Spanish with each other."
Officials say he reached out to that community, hiring a bilingual teacher and developing relationships with the local clergy. He also built a "double dose" program for reading and math, and saw the school's state grade rise from a low D to a high C between 2002 and 2005.
In Broward, Ferello served as a utility player, working as an assistant principal in a middle school, a high-poverty elementary school, and a high-performing elementary school struggling to maintain adequate progress under federal standards. He has also served as a district behavioral specialist, reading teacher and elementary teacher.
Married with two teenage children, Ferello said he was looking forward to joining a smaller school district with a family-friendly atmosphere.
"I'm a very hands-on administrator," he said. "I'm out in the classrooms all day, I'm meeting people, I'm in the car loop in the morning. I do my paperwork after hours."
Those experiences will come in handy at his new school, 2,100-student "Elementary J," which is scheduled to open this August off Northcliffe Boulevard.
Officials say it's likely to be eligible for federal Title 1 anti-poverty aid on the day it opens, due to the percentage of students in the neighborhood who qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. And Hispanic enrollment at nearby Springstead High School has nearly doubled since 2002, from 7.8 to 15 percent of the school's population.
Even one of the internal candidates for the job, West Hernando Middle School principal Joe Clifford, had good things to say about his new colleague after calling him to offer support.
"I really like him," said Clifford. "I have a real good feeling about him. I feel he's going to bring a new voice to our district with some new perspectives."