School district names former Lincoln principal to lead charter school

Interim principal shares his favorite thing about Lincoln Memorial Academy

The school district has named Ronnie King as the interim principal of Lincoln Memorial Academy.
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The school district has named Ronnie King as the interim principal of Lincoln Memorial Academy.

Ronnie King is a pastor, a father and the newest principal of Lincoln Memorial Academy.

He will serve on an interim basis, while the school works through troubled finances and this week’s change in leadership. The school board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to terminate Lincoln’s charter and assume control of its operations, pointing to the school’s growing budget deficit and the state sanctions against its former principal, Eddie Hundley.

King is returning to his old post, which was known as Lincoln Memorial Middle School before its conversion to a charter last year. King said he worked as Lincoln’s principal from 2012 to 2014, collaborating with others to raise the school’s grade from an F to a C, and he hoped to do the same going forward.

The plan, he said, is to continue the school’s existing academics and programs, ensuring limited disruption after school begins on Aug. 12.

“If there’s some tweaks that need to be made due to compliance, then we’ll do that, but the goal is to maintain our momentum going forward,” King said.

King also worked as an assistant principal at Harllee Middle School from 2014 to 2017, before he spent two years as the principal of Oneco Elementary School, which had a D grade for three consecutive years before his arrival.

His team achieved a C grade in 2018, but it slipped back to a D grade this past year.

“When you’re working in schools, the projection is not always straight,” he said. “Sometimes you go up, you level off and then you work to go up again.”

King said he was transferred from Oneco to help “in a different area of the school district,” and that he worked to recruit bus drivers for the past two weeks. Superintendent Cynthia Saunders joined other district officials in welcoming King back to Lincoln on Thursday morning.

“We don’t want to miss a beat,” he said. “This is a crucial time. Any time there’s a change of baton, the race can either be won or lost, and we want to handle that baton very carefully during this exchange.”

The change in leadership followed a series of pointed letters from Richard Corcoran, the state’s education commissioner, to Saunders, school board Chairman Dave Miner and members of Lincoln’s governing board.

He admonished the school for its continued employment of Hundley, whose educator certificate was revoked in May, and he called for a solution to Lincoln’s troubled finances.

Hundley responded in a prepared statement on Wednesday, promising to appeal the school board’s decision. That decision included the appointment of an interim principal, and the district announced King’s appointment on Thursday afternoon.

“Mr. King’s prior experience as principal at Lincoln will be an asset as we assist the school in achieving financial solvency,” the superintendent said in a prepared statement.

In an interview on Thursday afternoon, King said he appreciates the sense of community at Lincoln. Everyone — students, employees and families — are invested in the school’s success, he said, vowing to meet their high expectations in the coming school year.

“When you care about children, they know it,” he said.

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Giuseppe Sabella, education reporter for the Bradenton Herald, holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He spent time at the Independent Florida Alligator, the Gainesville Sun and the Florida Times-Union. His coverage of education in Manatee County earned him a first place prize in the Florida Society of News Editors’ 2019 Journalism Contest. Giuseppe also spent one year in Charleston, W.Va., earning a first-place award for investigative reporting.