3 East Manatee principals retiring; Witt Elementary, Nolan Middle, and Lakewood Ranch High will get new leaders

jajones1@bradenton.comMarch 21, 2014 

MANATEE -- Three Manatee County principals whose schools have consistently earned A's on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test are retiring this year.

All three principals lead schools in East Manatee: Linda Nesselhauf of Lakewood Ranch High School, Nancy High of Nolan Middle School and Myra Russell of Witt Elementary.

Nesselhauf, who succeeded Mike Wilder in 2009, is the third principal in the history of Lakewood Ranch High. The school opened in 1998. Nesselhauf wraps up a 38-year career, which also included stints as assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch and Manatee high schools.

When selected to lead Lakewood Ranch, Nesselhauf said she wanted to ensure that the school was a safe inviting place, where learning could flourish.

In her teachers, she valued "enthusiasm, the ability to communicate with students, parents and staff and a thorough grip of the subject matter they will be teaching," she previously told the Herald.

Nancy High joined Nolan as principal in 2006. She replaced Ron Hurst, who opened the school in 2004. High previously served as interim principal and assistant principal at Manatee High School,

During High's tenure, Nolan's Technology Student Association program was the

best in the nation. In April, the school sends its robotics team to national competition in California.

"It's been wonderful. Now I am going to take care of the grandchildren," High said Thursday of closing out her career.

Also on her agenda is plenty of travel.

"I was blessed to be in education. I have loved being a classroom teacher and being in administration," High said.

It's important to listen to the desires of parents and students, and to find teachers who are passionate about giving instruction, High said.

Nolan has an enrollment of 1,095 students.

Myra Russell is only the second principal in the history of Witt Elementary School, where she has served since 1995. She replaced Roy Larson, who opened the school. Witt Elementary, located on Rye Road near Mill Creek, is named after a former Manatee school superintendent.

Russell started her career in 1969 and was a teacher for 22 years in Pennsylvania and Florida. Prior to moving to Witt, she was assistant principal at Abel Elementary for four years.

"I plan to take a European cruise this fall with a friend who is a former assistant principal. We are going to Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. I figure I might as well go while I'm healthy," Russell said.

Also planned: a lot of sleep.

"I'm not going to get up at 5 a.m. anymore. Beyond that I don't know, I'll probably volunteer," she said.

Russell, one of the longest-serving principals in Manatee County, attributed her success to a stellar faculty and staff and wonderful parents.

"It's not one person, absolutely not," she said.

Reflecting on her 44 years in education, and the changes in classroom technology, she said it's time for new blood.

"The people who are coming up now have been in the technology world longer than I have. The kids know more than me," she said.

The school district will post the vacancies and hire new principals in the next few months, according to the district office.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

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