SJCSD organizes meeting to collect input on Nease’s next principal


St. Johns County School District administrators recently assembled a group of teachers and parents at Nease High School to gather input on the desired characteristics and profile of Nease’s next principal.

Kyle Dresback, Nease’s current principal, has been selected to become associate superintendent of student support services for the district. Dresback will replace Cathy Mittelstadt, who has been selected to serve as the deputy superintendent for operations.

Brennan Asplen, deputy superintendent for academic and student services, and Cathy Hutchins, associate superintendent of human resources, moderated the discussion regarding the ideal qualities for Dressback’s replacement.

“You are the folks that know what’s happening at Nease more than anybody,” said Asplen at the meeting Jan. 11.“You know where the school is going. You know where you want it to go, and you know the characteristics you want to see in your principal. That’s really why we’re here, and we do take that information seriously.”

In general, the meeting attendees said their ideal principal is family friendly, passionate, caring, forward thinking, positive, inspiring, creative and flexible, among many other traits.

Kelly Barrera, St. Johns County School District School Board member representing District 4, specifically said that the community is looking for a principal that is broad ranging.

“He/she has both the ability to run the operational side of the house and the academic side of the house,” said Barrera. “And yet he/she has a heart for the community, with the students and for the teachers. He/she is willing to go to bat for the students and the teachers.”

Parent Lyn Wolfe added that Nease needs someone who is open to working with multiple constituencies.

“Someone that looks around and makes measured decisions after trying to understand why things are the way they are and makes decisions in due course,” she said.

In addition, Asplen and Hutchins gathered input on the challenges and goals that the new principal will need to address at Nease. Mittelstadt, who also attended the meeting, said the community members hit the nail on the head with their feedback.

“It’s about managing the growth and all the pressures that apply to Nease High School,” said Mittelstadt. “The teachers’ voice, the parents’ voice…sharing those concerns is really critical and viable for Mr. Forson to make an informed decision moving forward.”

The teachers and parents also identified issues such as construction, the quality and maintenance of advanced programs and resources for mental health as challenges.

According to the meeting attendees, some of the school’s primary goals include maintaining high performance while keeping high performing teachers, creating more opportunities for professional development for teachers, and maintaining school spirit and pride among students and staff.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Asplen said they would send notes from the session to Superintendent Tim Forson, who is leading the search committee. Forson is reviewing both internal and external candidates for Dresback’s replacement, said Asplen. The exact timeline for the selection of the new principal is unknown.

“I can’t tell you that’ he’s going to make a decision this week or next week,” said Asplen. “He’ll take a lot of time to look at it to make sure he has the right person coming in.”

In the interim, Asplen reiterated that the district is not going to move Dresback into his new role until a new principal is selected for Nease.

“Nease is an awesome school,” he said. “We want to make sure it stays an awesome school. I know all of you as teachers and parents really make it a great school as it is. We want to make sure we get the right fit in here.”