Hanging on the wall in his Ocoee High School office is a framed photo from many decades ago, a bunch of young FFA boys posing in front of the old Ocoee High building. Bill Floyd, the principal of the new Ocoee High for the last six years, can identify just two of the students: William Floyd, his father, and Scott Vandergrift, former longtime mayor of Ocoee.
Bill Floyd's roots are deep in West Orange County, so he was ecstatic to learn that his new assignment would take him just six short miles to West Orange High School.
Bill Floyd's roots are deep in West Orange County, so he was ecstatic to learn that his new principal assignment would take him just six short miles to West Orange High School.
“I'm excited about it,” he said. “I'm happy to stay with 'family' in the West Orange area. It's where I grew up and I went to school. So, I'm glad to stay in the area.”
Floyd succeeded Mike Armbruster as Ocoee’s principal. During Floyd's leadership, Ocoee — which had received a grade of D from the Florida Department of Education — earned its first two B's. The graduation rate also improved from 85% to 89.7%. And he was able to increase participation in Advanced Placement classes, up to about 49% of the school’s population.
“We were named one of Newsweek's top schools in the country based on AP participation and performance,” Floyd said. “Plus, we were the first digital pilot school, and because of that we had international delegation come visit the school.”
This year, Floyd was named Florida's Innovative Principal of the Year, an honor that recognizes principals who successfully integrate technology into the curriculum.
Six years of memories will be removed from the bookshelves and walls of his Ocoee office: yearbooks, photographs, Knight mementos and more. One of his favorite items is a tall jar full of plastic swords, globe key chains, Jolly Rancher candies, dimes and Advil packets — gifts from each of the graduating classes.
Wendy Cartwright, the Student Government Association adviser, created the keepsake for Floyd, something he said he'll keep forever.
Prior to his six years at OHS, he served as principal at Apopka High for six years and Gotha Middle for four.
In the 1990s, Floyd was the assistant principal of instruction at Lakeview Middle School. His father had attended Lakeview when it was a high school before he transferred to Ocoee High in the 1950s.
Floyd lived in Oakland as a child; one of his neighbors was Orange County Sheriff Dave Starr, who used to let the young Floyd ride his horse. When he was older, his mother packed her four children into the station wagon and took the family to Palm Lake, in what is now known as MetroWest. He recalls snorkeling in the white-sand-bottomed lake.
He graduated from Evans High in 1979. But his heart remained in West Orange County.
His six years at Ocoee have been great, he said, and all of his favorite moments involve the students.
“Being around kids invigorates me,” Floyd said. “I get teased by the superintendent because I tend to talk like them. I would much rather live in the world of kids than adults.”
He admits he could have advanced through Orange County Public Schools and could be working at the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center in downtown Orlando and bringing in a larger salary.
“My passion is kids, and I like to work with them,” he said. “This is where my heart lies. I could have a fancy title and car, but that's not where my heart lies.”
Having that sense of community in a school makes a difference, he said. Ocoee definitely had that atmosphere, and it felt like he was “going home” when he started his job at Ocoee.
“West Orange will be ‘coming home,’ too, because (West Orange County) is one giant community,” he said.