Janet Zweifel Bittick was a student at Windermere Elementary School in the 1970s, she spent a semester there as a teaching intern in the spring of 1988, and she was a Mustang parent when her two children attended WES from 2011 to 2015.
And now she has returned to the school — this time as principal.
“I definitely feel like I won the lottery,” Bittick said. “I’ve been at some great schools, and it’s just great to come back here. This is my community.”
She walked into her new school Aug. 3, the same day as the teachers.
“We were having their ‘welcome back,’ and it was my welcome back, too,” she said.
Bittick is ready to start a series of roundtable forums in which she asks four simple questions, she said: “What do you love about the school? What is something you would change? Are there things you like but want me to rethink them? And, in general, what are things we don’t have that you’d like to see our school move toward?”
She already has held a discussion with her WES team leaders. Next, she wants to meet with teachers, followed by a meeting with parents and then the school’s Student Council members.
She acknowledged Windermere Elementary’s position as a cutting-edge school, and her plan is to keep growing, whether it’s with technology or “whatever is out there that’s the next thing that would be enticing for our children to learn and safe for children,” Bittick said.
“Windermere is always on that cutting edge, and we have such a great Mustang Fund, a great PTO — the school doesn’t want for a lot, and we’re fortunate for that,” she said.
Dr. Diana Greer served as principal prior to Bittick’s arrival.
“She was an icon here; I’m filling big shoes,” Bittick said. “She was an amazing woman, and I … want to continue her amazing legacy and the traditions she started and keep that going forward.”
Bittick is a 1988 graduate of West Orange High School and earned her education degree from the University of Central Florida. She lives in Keene’s Pointe, purposely buying a home in that neighborhood so her son and daughter could attend Windermere Elementary.
This is the seventh principal’s assignment for Bittick. She led three schools in Orange County, California, and has served at four elementary schools in Orange County, Florida: four years at West Creek, four years at Sunset Park, two-and-one-half years at Eccleston and now Windermere.
She spent two years as director of professional leadership and learning for Marion County Public Schools, and while she loved the job, she missed being with students. So she returned “home” to Orange County Public Schools.
During Windermere Elementary’s Meet Your Teacher event at the beginning of this school year, a mom walked up to Bittick and recognized her as her first-grade teacher at Frangus Elementary.
“Her children enjoyed me telling stories about her,” Bittick said. “It’s so great running into all these people. I walked into one of the kindergarten classes — and it was my old kindergarten class.”
Two thoughts keep Bittick grounded in her mission to be a success principal leading a successful school.
“One is ‘keep the main thing the main thing,’ and that’s the kids; it’s putting the kids first,” she said. “(The other is) ‘It’s about kids.’ Is this going to help kids? Everything comes back to what’s best for the kids.”
Bittick considers herself blessed to be serving the Windermere school and community. She praised the students for their manners, good behavior and excellent test scores, and said the parents have been helpful in getting her reacquainted with the school. She said she is grateful for her phenomenal staff, including her new assistant principal, Dr. Sharon Williams.
“We’re both veterans in OCPS but both new at the same time at Windermere Elementary,” Bittick said.
“I come to work every day and realize how good I have it,” Bittick said. “I will continue to work hard to continue the legacy. I was part of that legacy … I have some ownership because it’s my school.