Baldwin Park Elementary families will be seeing a new face around school this year.
Principal Nathan Hay has taken the helm following former Principal Anna Ferratusco’s departure at the end of June. Although there are various uncertainties currently surrounding the school year due to COVID-19, he is excited for the opportunity to lead the Bobcats through it.
Hay comes from Rock Springs Elementary in Apopka, where he spent the last four years helping lead the school to success. Under his leadership, the school rose from a “C” to an “A” grade.
The Chicago native graduated from the University of Illinois before moving to Florida, and he’s been with Orange County Public Schools ever since. In his more than 10 years with OCPS, he has taught at Maxey and Wolf Lake elementaries, served as dean at Spring Lake Elementary, and was an assistant principal at both Lake Silver and Lake Weston elementary schools.
“I’ve been to many places and had many roles, so it’s been a really cool learning experience through each place I’ve been at,” he says.
Although he was surprised upon being told he would be moving over to Baldwin Park Elementary this year, Hay has high hopes for his new Bobcat family. He said he loves Baldwin Park Elementary’s enthusiastic, family-oriented atmosphere — similar to the atmosphere at Rock Springs.
“They felt I was a good fit for this school, and I definitely know why they put me at this school, because a lot of the things at my previous school were similar … very similar programs, and it was a somewhat similar population,” he says. “I know I’m going to be a great fit here, so I’m excited. I’ve already met with the PTA president and the Bobcat Fund president and vice president, and they’re super supportive. I have big ideas — I’ve always been someone with big ideas, and I am very driven to accomplish any of the goals I set out for our school — and they’re like, ‘Think big!’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I can do that.’”
It is an honor to be at this school that has a reputation for success and excellence, so my goal for the school is to continue that and … continue to build on that family atmosphere.” — Nathan Hay
Hay’s introduction to his new community and school family has been unconventional — after all, he’s arrived during a global pandemic. But he came with innovative solutions and met staff, students and families over Zoom. He hopes to put the school community at ease and assure them they are in good hands.
“With the pandemic, with COVID happening and then having a big change — I think Anna (Ferratusco) was here for nine years — so when you have your younger children who have been with one person for such a long time and you have a relationship with that person and then mix in a new person that you don’t know, it can be a little scary,” he says. “It was nice to make sure they got to know who I was and who I am as a person and got to learn a little bit about my family and where I come from. I just wanted to set their minds at ease and just let them know that I’m all about kids and making learning fun and doing some neat things for the school.”
Hay wants to continue Baldwin Park Elementary’s constant strive for success, and he wants to ensure his students are always safe, cared for and receiving a quality education. As a father of two sons himself, he hopes to be a role model for his students. It’s why he first got into elementary education.
“I didn’t have a dad growing up, so it’s very important to me to be a positive male role model,” he says. “And when you look at elementary, there’s not a lot of males in elementary education, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to get into elementary education — so I could be that role model for those (kids) that might not have a good role model.”
Hay said one of the most crucial challenges in the time of COVID-19 will be to take directives from OCPS and figure out how school will work this year, as well as implement best practices for keeping both staff and students safe.
“What we do is educate,” he says. “We’re experts at that, but … how do you educate during a pandemic? How do you allow all of these students to come back to school and make sure that you can ensure they’re safe, secure and highly educated? That’s the trick. That’s the plan we’ve got to come up with to make sure that we’ve got those safety procedures in place so not only are parents comfortable with sending their child back to Baldwin Park, but they’re confident that we could do the job. … Know that we have the best intentions at heart. We want to do what’s best for the students, and we want to do what’s best for our staff, too.”
Hay also knows it’s important to gain the trust of his staff. Building trust and relationships with everyone — including students and families — is one of his top priorities because without them, he cannot do his job as a leader.
“They’ve got to be able to trust me, and when I have that trust, I know I can take this school really far,” he says. “I’m really excited to be the principal at Baldwin Park. It is an honor to be at this school that has a reputation for success and excellence, so my goal for the school is to continue that and … continue to build on that family atmosphere. We’re going to have a great year, and I’m excited to start it.”