LAKEWOOD RANCH -- After four years as an assistant principal, Craig Little has been named principal of Lakewood Ranch High School.
Superintendent Rick Mills nominated Little after a community forum Wednesday night with David Marshall, the other finalist for the job.
"He's a proven leader at Lakewood Ranch and is in a great position to continue the tradition of excellence at the school," Mills said of Little in a statement.
The appointment is not official until Little is confirmed by the Manatee County School Board. The next scheduled school board meeting is July 22.
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Little has been an assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch since 2010. He served as an assistant principal at Johnson Middle School from
2007-10, and was an assistant principal at Haile Middle School from 2005-07. Little was a physical education teacher at Lakewood Ranch from 2001-05.
Marshall joined Horizons Academy as assistant principal in January. He served as an assistant principal at Braden River High from 2009 until the end of 2013 and was an assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch High from 2006-09. Marshall was principal at Palm View Elementary from 2001-06.
During the community forum, Little emphasized taking Lakewood Ranch "to the next level."
"You don't want your staff or students to get complacent," he said.
Little said he plans to close the gap between the achievements of his students. He said there's a 27 percent gap in student proficiency between disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged students in reading and mathematics.
Little said he plans to use data-driven decision-making to help close the gap. But, he said, community data only goes so far and teachers and school officials are responsible for helping improve achievement.
Little lists relationships, student discipline and data-driven instruction as his foundation for leadership.
"As educators, we're in the business of relationships," he said.
Little lives in the Lakewood Ranch community with his wife of seven years, who works at Palmetto High School, and his 6-year-old daughter, who is a graduate of the school's Mini Mustang program.
Little succeeds Linda Nesselhauf, who retired at the end of the school year after a 38-year career. Nesselhauf also previously served as an assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch and Manatee high schools.
The district's first appointment as principal later turned down the position.
In June, Mills appointed Justin Terry, who was director of academic and career connections in the Wylie Independent School District in Wylie, Texas, during the 2013-14 school year, to the Lakewood Ranch job. The school board approved the appointment in June.
Terry notified the district the day after the board approval he would not be taking the job and would stay in his current district, taking a promotion and a pay raise.
On Thursday, the district also announced new principals for Stewart and Blackburn Elementary schools.
Lynne Menard will be principal at Stewart Elementary. She comes from an assistant principal position at Moody Elementary.
Marla Massi-Blackmore will be principal at Blackburn Elementary. She comes from an assistant principal position at Oneco Elementary.
All principal vacancies in the district have been filled pending board approval. The district is still working to fill some assistant principal vacancies, officials said Thursday.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.