West Orange High School Principal Bill Floyd is heading into retirement after 31 years at Orange County Public Schools.
It’s never easy to walk away from something in which you’ve invested time, love and attention.
And for West Orange High Principal Bill Floyd, it makes it that much harder for him to leave the school family he loves.
Floyd recently announced he is retiring at the end of October after spending four years at the helm for West Orange. It’s a bittersweet milestone for him, especially knowing he currently is Orange County Public Schools’ longest-serving high-school principal.
Although he is stepping away, Floyd is doing so full of pride — and plenty of memories — from his 31-year career with OCPS.
Floyd, an Evans High School graduate, first rose through OCPS as a student. His ties to the community go back to when he was growing up in the West Orange area, and his dedication to changing students’ lives through OCPS dates back three decades.
Floyd began his career as a substitute teacher before transitioning to become a social studies teacher at Colonial High. He served there for a year before transferring to Meadowbrook Middle as a social studies teacher. While there, he rose through the ranks to become a dean and then transferred to Lakeview Middle to serve in the same capacity.
His administrative career continued when he was made an assistant principal at Lakeview Middle before going on to serve as a senior administrator in OCPS’ West Learning Community, overseeing school improvement.
In 2000, however, he came back to serving directly within the schools. Floyd spent four years as the principal at Gotha Middle, followed by six years at Apopka High and then six years at Ocoee High. His tenure at West Orange began in 2016.
At the heart of his career are the students and community he serves.
“Being a principal means that you have an extraordinary amount of influence on the kids, and I’ve always tried to make that influence to be as benevolent as possible, because just being around kids makes my day,” he said. “I made a lot of mistakes when I was a child myself, and I think that’s why I dedicated myself to this career, so I could help guide kids and hopefully get them off to a good future. I love just being with the kids — just interacting with them floats my boat. I just enjoy being with them, interacting with them, goofing with them and helping them with their problems.”
After coming back to his West Orange-area roots years ago, Floyd said he loves serving in this community because of the support and family-like atmosphere.
“West Orange has always had a sterling reputation in the community and enjoys tremendous community support, and I wanted to be a part of that, to be a part of something bigger than myself,” Floyd said. “This is just a great group of people who live in this area. It’s a family atmosphere here. People respect one another. There’s a buy-in to the school by everybody involved, all the stakeholders.
“There’s just a mystique about being a member of the West Orange family,” he said. “You feel like you belong to something. I try to make it as collaborative an atmosphere as possible, just because everybody loves this institution and wants to be a part of it.”
During his tenure at West Orange, Floyd has seen triumphs and challenges. It’s his first school that has earned state championships while he was at the helm, and he credits the school’s coaches, student-athletes and sports programs for their tenacity and dedication to what they do.
West Orange also has risen in the ranks as far as the grading scale. When Floyd arrived four years ago, the school was barely a “C.” Now, he said, it is only a few points away from earning an “A.”
“Being a principal means that you have an extraordinary amount of influence on the kids, and I’ve always tried to make that influence to be as benevolent as possible, because just being around kids makes my day.” — Bill Floyd
One of the biggest challenges he faced was when Windermere High opened. While it relieved the overcrowding issue at West Orange, it also posed the challenge of maintaining student programs amid budgetary restraints. In the last few years, Floyd said, West Orange’s budget went down from about $16 million to $11 million because of the new school.
However, he and his staff were able to make it work.
“You don’t want to give up anything, because every program out there is some sort of pathway to a kid’s future success,” he said. “That was the most challenging. I’m proud to report that we were able to save everything except for TV production, which had a decline in enrollment. Not only did we maintain, we were able to actually add a program or two as we went, construction being a good example. … That’s not always an easy thing, budgetary considering.”
Heading into retirement, Floyd knows he is about to enter a new chapter of life he’ll have to learn to navigate. He said he will miss the students he gets to interact with on a daily basis, but he’s excited to have more time to spend with his grandchildren.
It’s a tough loss for the staff at West Orange. Phyllis Boston, who serves as a program assistant at West Orange, said Floyd is beloved and will be missed at the school. She describes him as a gentle soul who is pro-student, and she added that staff was surprised when he announced his retirement.
A GENTLE SOUL
“The general reaction was jaw dropping,” Boston said. “We are all just excited for him that he’s getting to retire … we’re excited for that journey for him and know that’s important, but for us here at West Orange we are truly going to miss him. He has just been a wonderful principal, and he is very kind-hearted and always willing to help, listen and try to help in any situation. He’s truly going to be missed by everybody here.
“When you get a good one you want to hold onto them,” Boston said. “Between Gotha, Apopka, Ocoee and here, he’s been here his whole career. He’s just been a fixture in this West Orange community for a very long time.”
As Floyd prepares to hand the reins over to new principal Melissa Gordon, he knows his school is in good hands — but saying goodbye is never easy.
“Melissa, I think, is the perfect replacement,” he said. “Her personality is a great match for the school. It’s hard giving up the school, because you spend so much time here. Being able to walk away knowing there’s somebody competent who’s going to give it as a much love and attention (as you have), it’s nice to know.
“My very first memory is riding my tricycle in the streets of Oakland, so I think it’s very fitting that my last career memory are fond thoughts of West Orange High,” he said.