Newly promoted principal takes reins at Lennard High School

LOIS KINDLE PHOTO
Denise Savino, the new principal of Earl J. Lennard High School, has initial goals of building a family of teachers, students and staff; making Lennard a true community school; increasing its graduation rate; improving its attendance and school grade; and growing the Collegiate Academy.

By LOIS KINDLE

Denise Savino has a big job ahead of her as the new principal of Lennard High School in Ruskin. She’s now responsible for the educational growth of 2,878 students, a population the size of a small town.

Although this is her first assignment as principal, Savino is no stranger to working with teens. Before coming to Lennard, she was assistant principal for curriculum at Riverview High School, where she worked side by side for three years with its principal Danielle Shotwell.

“Denise did an amazing job here,” Shotwell said. “Her leadership qualities will serve her well at Lennard, which I think is a perfect fit for her. She will find great success as she connects and builds partnerships with the community.

“She is a strong leader, a very kind person,” she added. “She’s my friend and I miss her.”

Savino’s experience also includes three years as Durant High School’s assistant principal for student affairs, five years as its success coach and two years as a ninth-grade science teacher.

Additionally, she opened Randall Middle School as a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher and team leader, working there from 2000 to 2004.

The 58-year-old native of Queens moved to Wayne, N.J., as a child.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher as soon as I could talk,” she recalled. “I played school in our garage with all my neighborhood friends.”

After graduating from DePaul High School in Wayne, she earned a bachelor’s degree in health education from Montclair State University in Upper Montclair, N.J., in 1981 and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Minnesota’s Walden University in 2008.

Savino, who is married and has two grown children, is over the moon about being at Lennard.

“I came here wanting to make this a community school and a family,” she said. “During my first month here, we had health fairs, back-to-school fairs and an open house.”

During the summer, she went around to introduce herself to area businesses. She felt it was important to reach out to folks in the community and let them know who would be leading their high school, she said.

And that’s just for starters.

“I heard from students and teachers that we needed more school spirit,” Savino said, so she started academic and interest clubs that meet twice a month to get teens more involved and give them the opportunity to make connections with other students.

Her goals include increasing Lennard’s graduation and attendance rates; improving its school grade to reflect an increase in student achievement (currently a C); and growing the Collegiate Academy.

With a laser focus on achieving success for her students, Savino will look for every incentive to encourage them to come to school and stay.

“There’s a lot of room for academic growth on this campus,” Savino said. “We have the greatest students in the county. They work very hard and appreciate the school and the opportunities it provides. I’m so proud to be leading them.”

Savino can be reached at denise.savino@sdhc.k12.fl.us or call 813-641-5611.

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