Melissa Gordon was assigned to West Orange High School to assume the role of acting principal when Bill Floyd retired at the end of October after four years at West Orange and 31 years with Orange County Public Schools.
A relatively new face in West Orange County, this is Gordon’s first time working within OCPS’ West Learning Center. She said she has enjoyed leading WOHS and getting acquainted with the school and the community it serves.
For much of the school year, students could see her standing in the courtyard before school, greeting them before their first class. She shifted recently to the front of the school so she can connect with the parents who drop off and pick up their children.
She wants parents — and community members — to know she has an open-door policy and is available to meet with them if they make an appointment.
“They’re meant to be informal, give them an opportunity to get to know me, ask questions or offer suggestions,” Gordon said.
In the coming weeks, she is setting aside specific days to meet with anyone who wants to talk: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, March 13, and Wednesday, March 25; and 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, March 16, through Wednesday, March 18. To make an appointment, call Phyllis Boston at (407) 905-2400 or email her at [email protected].
Gordon will remain in the position for the remainder of the school year. At that time, OCPS officials will gather feedback from school staff and the community to find out what type of principal they want at West Orange. They then will advertise the position, accept applicants and conduct interviews, said Harold R. Border, chief of high schools for OCPS.
Gordon said she would like the opportunity to stay at West Orange.
“I love being here,” she said. “It’s such a great community and school, and I love how it’s so rich in tradition. … That makes it so unique.”
DEDICATED TO CHILDREN
“From a very young age, I just always knew I would be a teacher,” Gordon said. “I taught Sunday school, I baby sat, I was a lifeguard, I taught swim lessons, I was a swim coach. Every job I had from a very young age was with kids.”
She swam for Shippensburg University, in Pennsylvania, and earned her elementary education degree there. She has two degrees from the University of Central Florida: a master’s in TESOL to teach English to Spanish-speaking students and a specialist degree in education leadership.
Gordon has worked at several high schools — as a teacher at Lake Nona and staffing specialist at Colonial. At Boone High, she was assistant principal of instruction and worked with graduation rate and acceleration; additionally, she was over the guidance department, master scheduling and first-year digital rollout.
This isn’t her first stint as principal, either. When the principal of Blankner Elementary went on maternity leave for three months, Gordon filled in. She also was the assistant principal at Hunter’s Creek Elementary.
During her career in education, she has taught every grade except eighth from kindergarten through 12th.
“It’s really given me that global perspective as to what it’s like in school in all grades, to really see the whole child and where they come from, what they need and where they can leave and move on to,” she said.
She most recently was the senior administrator for the district’s high school office and was in charge of assistant principals at all 20 high schools in the OCPS district.
Border said Gordon was the top choice to replace Floyd because she is a student-centered individual and “she’s always going to be doing what’s best for students.”
GETTING TO KNOW GORDON
Gordon and her husband of six years enjoy riding bikes, and they sometimes can be spotted on the West Orange Trail. She is an avid reader and movie watcher and likes trying new restaurants but is most fond of Italian pasta dishes.
She is a big fan of reality television, but she’d rather be outdoors — especially disconnecting in the mountains — and soaking in the solitude of being surrounded by nature.
Gordon said her favorite part of her job is “getting to know the students on that individual level, building those connections, learning about what they love doing and being there to support them.”
She attends as many school activities as possible, including sporting events, band concerts, theater shows and the recent Warriorthon.
“That’s what they’re excited about, so I want to be excited with them,” she said.
“I’m getting to know the community, and that’s that partnership, and together we have so much we can accomplish, and I look forward to doing that in the future,” Gordon said.