Ocean Breeze’s new principal brings experience on school security issues

New principals have been appointed at Ocean Breeze Elementary and Hoover Middle School, the latest in a series of top administration changes at beachside schools.

Shelley Michaud, an elementary school principal from Connecticut, will take over at Ocean Breeze from Laurie Hering, who resigned and will become a teacher at Anderson Elementary School. Michaud’s appointment is effective July 9.

Buster Burt Clark is moving to Hoover from his position as assistant principal at Bayside High School. Clark was previously assistant principal at Hoover and also an assistant principal at Melbourne High. He will take over July 2 from Hoover’s current principal, Bradley Merrill, who will become principal at Rockledge High School.

Hering’s resignation came after a tumultuous tenure at Ocean Breeze. In March, a sixth-grader at the school compiled a “kill list” in his head of people he wanted to harm. The student had previously said he wanted to be a school shooter when he grew up. Police and the FBI investigated but no charges were filed. Angry parents alleged more should have been done sooner in response to the threat.

Last year Hering was placed on paid leave for a month and then was formally reprimanded for her mishandling of a bullying incident that resulted in a fourth-grader suffering a concussion.

Michaud said in a phone interview Friday that she is aware of the issues at Ocean Breeze.

“That’s something that we will work to address and ensure that those things don’t continue to happen,” she said.

“My philosophy is about relationships with students, staff and families. I am very much a part of all that happens in a school. I attend PTO meetings, I attend events, I go to soccer games. Those are all things that would be part of that. It really is about the community, and keeping kids safe and staff safe is a part of that. And once they’re safe and we have good relationships, students succeed.”

Michaud comes to Ocean Breeze from Brooklyn Elementary School in Brooklyn, Conn. She and her husband have owned a house in Satellite Beach for several years and decided to make the move south to escape the New England winters.

Brooklyn Elementary is in a rural community with only two schools, but it is about the same size as Ocean Breeze. Connecticut’s school performance indicators show the school scored well above the state average on standardized testing in English, math and science.

Patricia Buell, superintendent of Brooklyn Schools, praised Michaud for her connection to students.

“I think she knows every student’s name,” Buell said. “She’s a person that builds real strong relationships with the kids. They just love her.”

Michaud previously worked as a teacher and principal in West Stafford, Conn., less than 90 minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 students and six adults in 2012.

The state of Connecticut underwent a sea change in school security after the Sandy Hook shootings, much like is happening in Florida now in response to the February killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“After Sandy Hook in Connecticut we took a whole new directive in how you even look at your building, your floor plan, your signage, everything was sort of adjusted right down to labeling windows and doors with certain numbers so if first responders were coming in they knew where they were entering or where there might be a concern,” she said. “I have already walked the perimeter with the outgoing principal of Ocean Breeze just to kind of take a look and see what kinds of things need to be moved along.”

Michaud said she was specifically asked during the hiring process here about her experience in school security and crisis response. “That’s a place I’ve been,” she said.

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