NEWTOWN’S OWN TO HEAD EMMA E. BOOKER ELEMENTARY

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Sarasota County School District Superintendent Todd Bowden announced today that the principals of Heron Creek Middle School in North Port and Brookside Middle School in Sarasota will trade positions effective July 1. He also announced principal changes for Oak Park School and Emma E. Booker Elementary School.

Heron Creek Principal Matthew Gruhl will become principal at Brookside. Brookside Principal Kristine Lawrence will move to Heron Creek.

Emma E. Booker Principal Dawn Clayton has accepted a position in the district office as Supervisor of Pupil Support Services, Alternative Programs, Dropout Prevention and Discipline. Oak Park Principal Edwina Oliver will become principal at Emma E. Booker. The Oak Park principal’s position will be advertised beginning next week.

Bowden said the exchange of the middle school principals’ positions will help both principals to be more active in the communities where the schools are located. Gruhl lives in Sarasota and Lawrence lives in North Port. Lawrence served for four years as principal of Woodland Middle School in North Port and five years as an assistant principal at Heron Creek.

Gruhl was principal of Buffalo Creek Middle School in Palmetto before joining the Sarasota district in 2014. He previously was a social studies teacher, coach and high school assistant principal in Manatee and Pasco counties.

He holds an education specialist degree in educational leadership, a master’s degree in social science education from the University of South Florida and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and social studies teaching from Francis Marion University in South Carolina.

Gruhl said, “I have really enjoyed working with the Heron Creek community and will miss them. At the same time, as a Sarasota resident, I am thrilled to be serving the students, faculty, and community at Brookside. Go Cuda Nation!”

Lawrence was appointed to the Brookside position in 2011 after serving as principal of Woodland Middle School in North Port from when the school opened in 2007. She was an assistant principal at Heron Creek from 2002-07

Lawrence holds a bachelor’s degree in German and Spanish, a master’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in school administration and supervision from Indiana University.

She came to Sarasota from Indianapolis, where she was a teacher and served as a middle school assistant principal and three years as a middle school principal.

Lawrence said, “It has been my pleasure and honor to work with the Brookside staff, students and community for the past six years. I will miss this team. As a North Port resident, I look forward to returning to the staff, students and community where I began my career with Sarasota County Schools.”

Oliver is a Sarasota Newtown native and a graduate of Booker High School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in specific learning disabilities and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.

She began her career in 1993 as a special education teacher in Palm Beach County. She was named Boca Raton Rotary Teacher of the Year in 1999.

That same year she returned to Sarasota to teach at Emma E. Booker Elementary School. She was named Teacher of the Year at Booker Elementary in 2001.

In 2002 she joined the Booker Middle School faculty. There she was a resource reading teacher for students with disabilities, an exceptional student education liaison and the coordinator of the after-school program.

She became an assistant principal at Booker High School in 2007. There she supervised the Exceptional Student Education department and led the Positive Behavior Response Intervention team.

She was appointed program director of Phoenix Academy in 2012 and was named principal of Oak Park in 2013. Oak Park School serves students with exceptionalities who cannot be accommodated in a traditional school setting.

While at Oak Park, Oliver focused on strengthening positive collaboration between staff, business partners and parents to provide the best environment for students to be successful academically and socially.

Dawn Clayton has been principal of Emma E. Booker Elementary School since 2008.

She is a cum laude graduate of the City College of New York. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education and a second master’s degree in administration and supervision. She earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016.

She taught elementary school in New York state from 1995-2003. She has conducted research and presented on a variety of educational issues, including culturally responsive teaching, accountability, literacy, teaching students with learning disabilities, school safety and web page design.

She served as the assistant principal at Fruitville Elementary School from 2003 until her appointment to as principal of Emma E. Booker. While at Emma E., she has worked with the district’s Facilities Department to improve the flow of activity in the front office, to reorganize the student services area, to eliminate portables and to expand playground space.

Clayton said she is proud the wide array of successes that have been achieved by students, staff and community at Emma E. “Everyone in the Emma E. family is sharply focused on nurturing children to reach new heights,” she said.

In her new district position, Clayton will be responsible for a variety of duties associated with dropout prevention, alternative schools and behavior. She also will be a key contributor to the district’s efforts to reduce the achievement gap.

Although she will miss the Emma E. students and community, she said, “I am honored to have the opportunity to work with other district-level professionals to build on the strengths of all of the children in the Sarasota County Schools.”

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