- June 21, 2016
WINTER GARDEN With the departure of former Bridgewater Middle School Principal Lisa James to Lockhart Middle, the Orange County School Board announced the Bobcats’ new principal at its June 13 meeting.
Andrew Jackson, a Winter Garden native, is leaving his position as assistant principal at Kissimmee’s Osceola High to take on the role.
Jackson was born and raised in Winter Garden and graduated from West Orange High. He graduated from Florida State University in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in social science, and in 1997 returned to teach at WOHS.
Four years into teaching social studies and ESE and coaching football at WOHS, Jackson obtained his master’s degree in education leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
“There’s just something about Winter Garden that is family oriented. It’s just a homey, connected big city that’s still a small town. I have a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old daughter, and I couldn’t think of raising them anywhere else.” — Andrew Jackson
“My mentor, who is also a Winter Garden resident, is Mike Armbruster,” Jackson said. “He pulled me out of the classroom and made me an academic dean, and that’s what really transformed my career. If he hadn’t done that I’d probably still be teaching and coaching football.”
After that, Jackson became an assistant principal at WOHS in 2007, where he served until 2014, when he took an assistant principal position at Osceola High.
His interest in becoming Bridgewater’s new principal stemmed from his desire to return to an Orange County school so he could be closer to home. He lives in downtown Winter Garden, along with his wife and two young daughters, the oldest of whom will soon be a kindergartner at Dillard Street Elementary.
“Because I knew my daughter was going to be in kindergarten, I started putting out feelers in Orange County just so I could be closer,” he said. “Nothing really interested me until I saw the Bridgewater job open up, and I decided to go full gusto. There’s just something about Winter Garden that is family oriented. ... I have a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old daughter, and I couldn’t think of raising them anywhere else.”
Now that he’s taken on the role of principal at Bridgewater, one of his first priorities is getting to know the students and parents and ensuring effective, transparent communication.
“My whole career has been built on relationships, so my first priority is understanding both what’s successful at Bridgewater and what’s not working so we can grow what’s successful and make good decisions to fix what’s not working,” he said. “We’re a good school, but there’s always opportunities to grow academically. I do know that the foundation is here, the community is supportive here for us to be successful and it’ll be my job to communicate and build a collaborative culture where we’re focused on academics and have fun doing it.”
And although Bridgewater is expected to grow to around 2,000 students this school year, it’s the smallest school at which Jackson has worked.
“Every year I was at West Orange, we grew, so I’ve never not been at a big, growing school,” he said. “It’s kind of a natural thing for me to be at a big school. Bridgewater is 1,000 students less than I’m used to. I’m going to continue to do exactly what I was taught at West Orange when we grew to (more than) 4,000 kids, and at Osceola — I’m going to ensure an environment of acceptability and of safety.”
With safety as another priority, Jackson plans to ensure that every staff member possible is outside and around the students whenever they are outside the classroom. A key component of ensuring safety and mutual respect, he said, is getting to know the students and earning their trust.
“The kids want a safe environment, and if they hear things and know it’ll be safe to communicate, then that avenue tends to create a climate and culture of safety and respect,” he said. “I’m going to do the best I can to create a culture there of mutual respect, building relationships with the kids, and that will foster an environment that feels smaller than we are.”
And although the school year just ended, Jackson already can’t wait for summer to be over so he can meet the teachers, students and parents.
“I get to serve a community that cares deeply about their students and their school,” Jackson said. “What an awesome asset that is — to have parents who care and a community that can rally around the school. I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to serve this community, to serve the teachers that are here and to serve the students.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected]