Dillard Street Elementary names new principals

Michelle Thomas will take the helm at the Winter Garden school, while April Crawford will serve as assistant principal.

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  • | 11:15 a.m. July 31, 2016
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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The new principal at Dillard Street Elementary is no stranger to the Winter Garden school.

Michelle Thomas, who brings 16 years of experience, worked five days a week at Dillard Street for the past four months while the former principal, Katie Boyd — who has accepted a position at the OCPS district office — was out on leave. This schedule allowed Thomas to get to know the community, students and teachers better.

Now, as principal, Thomas is confident she can make a “positive impact with a community school where people are striving for excellence.”

“I chose Dillard because I’ve already embedded so much of my (thoughts and time) to initiate (programs)  I’ve already (recommended) that have moved forward,” Thomas said. “When I work for schools, as I did before, I recommend that certain things be put in place. Now, I can be the person who puts those things in place.”

Originally from Dallas, Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lander University in South Carolina, and a master’s degree in education leadership from Nova Southeastern University. 

She started her career with Orange County Public Schools as an elementary teacher at Pine Hills Elementary School while coaching varsity soccer at Dr. Philips High School. In 2004, she decided to go into administration and became an administrative dean at Freedom High School and Southwest Middle School. 

In 2008, she began working for the OCPS district office as a district-level program specialist and then transferred into the role of senior administrator of curriculum and development in 2010.

As the senior administrator, Thomas ensured instruction reached OCPS standards by working with the principals and assistant principals of various schools to evaluate teachers and to give teachers assessment training and instructional coaching. 

Thomas hopes to improve Dillard Street by pushing for several programs and expanding on existing ones. She is working on plans to develop enrichment programs to further prepare students for middle school but especially wants to focus on coaching cycles, a strategy that consults educators on developing differentiated instructional tactics to cater to different students’ needs.

 She also hopes to build upon the existing mentoring program by bringing outside mentors from the community to help support students who might be at risk and launch a new mentoring program called Young Lives Matter. 

The new assistant principal, April Crawford, is particularly enthusiastic about the mentoring program.

“I’m most excited about expanding on the mentoring program because I think that it’s so important for the diverse population that Dillard Street has,” Crawford said. 

Crawford majored in English education at the University of South Florida and received her master’s degree from National Louis University in Tampa. 

Before accepting her role as assistant principal at Dillard Street, she worked as an English teacher at West Orange High School and as the assistant principal at Robinswood Middle School.

While Crawford believes her family inspired her to go into education, Thomas credits her passion for children behind her decision to enter the educational field.

“I’ve always had a passion for children since I was a teenager,” Thomas said. “I loved being around younger children. ... My first career was as a day care director, so I knew by that time I would eventually go into education. My passion is to lead students to a high level of achievement by exposing students to the tools necessary for success. ... I believe all students, with the right opportunity, can learn.”


Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]


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