New School Year And New Leadership At Leesburg H.S.
BY LOUIS C. WARD
Photo Cutline: Principal Mike Randolph
LAKE COUNTY - On first sight, Mr. Mike Randolph, the newly appointed principal of Leesburg High School (LHS) in Lake County, Florida, is not the one you would expect to be chosen to lead Lake County’s LHS.
He’s a young and he’s the first African American male principal since the school was built in 1924. “I am excited to be at LHS, and humbled and honored to serve to rewrite the story of LHS,” said Mr. Randolph, who still looks like the former athlete who played la cross and rugby at the University of Maryland.
Born in Indiana and educated at the University of Maryland, Mr. Randolph thought he wanted to attend law school and become an attorney. That was until 2008 when he got his first teaching job teaching English to high school students in Clay County, Florida.
Teaching became my passion; my calling said the father of two girls, 2 and 5 years old. The rest is history. He went back to school and received his administration degree in 2011, and became an administrator in Clay County in 2012, and now he’s in his first principal ship position at LHS.
“I can’t wait for Thursday to get here (the first day of school),” an enthusiastic Mr. Randolph stated. “We have planned. We have calibrated our thinking and we are on the same page as an administrative team. We’re missing one piece – the students.”
After listening to Mr. Randolph, it was obvious that he’s prepared, he’s focused, and he has a plan for LHS. “I did the research on Lake County, and the Leesburg community and I have a good deal of knowledge about where I’m at, and what’s been happening here,” said the youthful looking, but articulate and experienced Randolph.
The former Clay administrator’s vision includes three important factors he’s confident will make Leesburg a “destination high school”- a school Lake County middle school graduates would be attracted to attend to continue their education.
Perception is Randolph’s first factor. “LHS is not perceived as well as we should be perceived. We did a poor job of letting he community know what’s happening here,” revealed Randolph.
“Great things are happening here; and at a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, the Chamber said, ‘we had no clue’, continued Randolph. We will be transparent, open and honest.”
One of the great things happening at LHS was that “out of 192,000 teachers in Florida, Tammy Jerkins, a LHS educator was named “2018 Teacher of the Year”.
That’s huge, and Mr. Randolph said every opportunity we get, we will be out in the community showing off the positive things about LHS, changing the perception of our school, making it a desirable place for educating Lake County students.
Regarding students there were three posters on the main office’s wall that Mr. Randolph did not put there, but he certainly believes their message is on point. The messages concern “Responsibility – You (student) are responsible for yourself”; “Attitude – It’s a little thing that makes a BIG difference”; and “Respect – You got to give it to get it.”
Incorporating and demanding these characteristic traits should help Randolph’s quest to raise the student’s expectation. “I want our students to strive to be over achievers. This concept,” said Randolph “leaves high achievers out of the equation.”
Consider Randolph’s point: If 1500 students strive to exceed socially, emotionally and athletically, LHS will become a “destination school”, another vision factor for LHS becoming the best school in Lake County, a successful achievement.
“We are intentional and very focused. We want our students to engage complex text, and be able to read difficult text that will be on the Florida State Achievement tests (FSA),” emphasized Mr. Randolph.
“It’s very important that we obtained student feedback and formative assessments on students’ progression towards mastery of standards. This will tell us how we know students understand standard academics,” Randolph explained. And finally, the last part of the equation for inspiring over achievers and making LHS the best destination school in Lake County, Mr. Randolph said” we will encourage student accountable talks with just evidence.
Where do parents fit in Mr. Randolph’s vision? Mr. Randolph values parents’ input in LHS success process just as much as the administration, teachers, and students. “Parents need to be involved in the entire process, but most significantly, parents need to talk with their kids, they must know where their kids are academically, and must hold their kids accountable,” reiterated Randolph.
The most important tool for parents maintaining a “heads-up” on their kids is The Sky Grade Portal, and Mr. Randolph encourages parents to use it frequently, it contains all the information needed about their child.
Dr. Shelia Smalley, an educator and Senior Pastor of Macedonia Church, said Mr. Randolph has some good ideas, and our school and students need a change. I support Mr. Randolph and will assist him any way that I can.
Although Mr. Randolph has received some positive and inspiring evaluations from some Lake County community leaders, and he’s done the research and has a good vision and plan, he knows he’s got to prove himself and Lake County’s Leesburg can be a tough place for a young, gifted, and intelligent Black man.