BRADENTON — After 34 years in the Manatee County School District, Southeast High School Principal Mike Horne is retiring next month.
Horne was filled with mixed emotions Friday as he recalled memories of successful students and strange stories of bats living in the school’s roof.
Horne, 55, was hired as a math teacher at Palmetto High School in 1976, and later taught at Bayshore and Manatee high schools. In 1991, he was named Manatee High’s assistant principal.
Horne was hired as assistant principal at Southeast in 1998. He was promoted to principal in January 2000.
For Horne, the 2003-04 school year at the International Baccalaureate school on 37th Avenue East in Bradenton was an entertaining one.
Just before the school year began, a colony of 2,500 to 5,000 Mexican free-tail bats made a home in the auditorium’s roof.
It was closed for more than two months until a company evicted the bats.
“Somehow they had gotten into the eaves of the building,” Horne recalled. “At night when it got dark you could see them pour out. But we turned a negative into a positive by making T-shirts and selling them to the faculty and the students.”
“I Survived the Year of the Bat,” they read.
That year, the Southeast marching band even played the theme to the 1960s Batman television show during football games.
“That was pretty fun,” Horne recalled.
His fondest memory is seeing successful students after they graduate.
“It’s all about the kids, working with kids and seeing them grow and having the opportunity to see them after they left school, come back and say thank you,” he said.
Calling Horne a dynamic person with a wonderful sense of humor, Alan Ramos, one of the school’s three assistant principals, said he is sad to see him go.
“He’s probably one of the best principals in the state,” said Ramos, a former director of school improvement for the Florida Department of Education.
Horne’s last day is April 30.
The position is posted on the district’s Web site. A minimum of two years of secondary principal experience is required. Experience with IB schools is preferred.
As of Friday, several out-of-state applicants had put in their applications the job, said district spokeswoman Margi Nanney.
“They’re gonna keep it open until there are enough qualified candidates,” said Nanney.
Horne’s advice to his future replacement?
“Make sure you look at the total overall picture,” he said.
“Make sure you give attention to teachers, students and coworkers.”
In the meantime, he’s gearing up for retirement.
“I’m gonna take a little time off and we’ll see what happens,” he said.