If you ask any of the readers of the Plant City Times & Observer or the citizens of Plant City to name the hardest job in Plant City, I suspect that many will overlook an obvious one.
This job is responsible for providing a service that many consider one of the most important in terms of impact on society.
When there are no problems, the person in this job functions as a leader and cheerleader, putting the spotlight on the accomplishments of others. When there is a problem, it lands squarely on this person’s desk.
The job is the principal of Plant City High School.
This summer, Plant City and PCHS are saying goodbye to the school’s immediate past principal, Colleen Richardson, as she celebrates her retirement. She has led for eight years.
Thank you, Colleen, for providing a complex curriculum to 2,125 students in the 2014-15 school year. Thank you for helping those students be successful in overcoming the many individual problems which challenge learning. Thank you for enriching the educational journey of all those students by providing many choices in 21 athletic teams and 25 student clubs. Thank you for making sure that PCHS school is maintained so the myriad of curricular and co-curricular activities that the school provides can take place. Thank you for hiring and supervising a faculty and staff of 250 employees.
If the job was not big enough, PCHS has to operate while interfacing with a county-wide school district that ranks among the ten largest in the United States, and with the people and other organizations of Plant City.
Read that last paragraph again, because it multiplies the challenge of being PCHS’ principal.
You try to please all the constituencies that our PCHS principal has to satisfy.
Good evidence for the complexity of the job comes from the committee that the Hillsborough County School District put together to help hire Colleen’s successor. Of the eight members of the interview committee, three were PCHS teachers. However, five represented various important constituencies with which the new principal will need to work: a pastor and an assistant basketball coach, a PCHS alumna and parent, a PCHS alumni and president of the Florida Strawberry Festival, a president of the Parent Teacher Student Association, and a migrant advocate.
Pleasing all those constituencies has been a task that Colleen has done so well. That will now be the task of Susan Sullivan, who has recently been named PCHS’ next principal.
Susan will need to draw upon everything in her background, including being a PCHS alumna herself, a former PCHS teacher and a principal of two of PCHS’ primary feeder schools, Tomlin Middle and Marshall Middle schools. Being married to Plant City banker David Sullivan will help, too.
If you see Colleen this summer, be sure to thank her for the fine job she has done over the past eight years as PCHS’ principal and in meeting the challenges of one of the most complex jobs in Plant City.
If you see Susan, give her your congratulations. Wish her good luck as she assumes the big job of shepherding our high school and its students, faculty, and staff.
Felix Haynes is an owner of the Plant City Times & Observer.