BRADENTON -- The principal of Carlos E. Haile Middle School will retire after a 25-year career with the Manatee County school district.
Janet Kerley, 63, has spent 12 years as the principal of the middle school. During Kerley's administration, the school earned an "A" grade each year.
That makes her the fourth principal of an A school who has announced she will retire at the end of the school year. Haile Middle's "A" designation, says Kerley, stems from her competitive nature and academic drive.
"There's a culture of excellence here," Kerley said of her school, which serves about 1,060 students with 80 to 85 staff members.
Kerley, a former journalist and magazine editor, began her education career teaching English and creative writing at Southeast High School. After nine years, Kerley became the assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch High School, where she worked for four years.
She started the 2002-03 academic year as the assistant principal at Haile and became the principal in the spring of 2003.
Although an administrator, Kerley said she tried to
focus on in-the-classroom experiences with students. One of her favorite parts about working at the middle school is seeing students experience new opportunities and course offerings not available in the elementary schools.
"If you can get them and keep them on track in middle school, you can keep them on track throughout high school," she said.
As she transitioned from the high school to the middle school, Kerley said, she needed to learn a "softer approach" with the younger students. She remembered her first week on the job, when she had a student in her office for a disciplinary issue and the student began to cry.
Kerley said her goal as an administrator was to inspire teachers and staff to set high goals, always keeping the "good of the students" in mind. Kerley, who won two Fulbright Scholars and traveled to Israel and Japan while she was a teacher, said she encouraged her staff to apply for such awards and opportunities.
Ashlie Fulmer, a sixth-grade English Language Arts teacher at Haile who is also a former student of Kerley's from Southeast High School, said she sees similarities in her new relationship with Kerley.
Kerley has gone from a teacher with rigorous expectations of her students to an administrator with equally rigorous expectations of her staff.
"I'm really still learning from her," Fulmer said. Fulmer transitioned to middle school two years ago after teaching elementary school for six years.
After leaving the school, Kerley said she plans to stay active, but will give herself some time to rest. She plans to catch up on her reading list, as well as Netflix viewing.
"I don't believe in retirement," said Kerley, who is active in her church and plans to get more involved in the community.
Kerley's retirement at the end of the academic year will leave the district down four veteran principals, Manatee School District spokesperson Steve Valley said.
Linda Nesselhauf of Lakewood Ranch High School, Nancy High of Nolan Middle School and Myra Russell of Witt Elementary all previously announced their intentions to retire as well.
"You've got to find experienced principals to take their place," Valley said. "We're going to look for the best candidates to maintain and even improve upon their excellence."
The district will post all the principal vacancies at the end of the academic year and will look to fill the openings before the start of the 2014-15 year, Valley said.