While Monroe County students enjoy a break during the summer, some will be greeted by new principals when classes resume.

Schools Superintendent Theresa Axford recently announced Larry Schmiegel will take over as principal at Key West High School Principal, and Darren Pais will assume the role at Key Largo School starting with the 2021-2022 school year.

Schmiegel, who was principal of Poinciana Elementary School, has led various schools pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade in Arizona, New York and in Key West for the past 15 years. He earned his doctorate degree in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher College, where he studied teachers’ perceptions of principal support. His passion, experience and education make him well suited to take the helm of Key West High School, Axford said.

“Dr. Larry Schmiegel is an advocate for students and puts them at the center of his decision-making,” Axford said in a news release. “I know that his management style will impact Key West High School in a positive way and will create a great atmosphere for success for students and staff.”

As a student-centered administrator, Schmiegel said he believes with the power of relationships, significant learning occurs. He proved this throughout his tenure at Poinciana, where the school earned an A rating. Focusing on the student experience of English Language and Exceptional Student Education programs in particular, Schmiegel cultivated a hands-on learning approach including supporting the teachers, families and community of Key West.

Poinciana Elementary earned praise across the state for community and family engagement, as well as learning gains. Schmiegel said he recognizes the importance of the traditions of Key West High School and its importance to the community and is committed to engaging its stakeholders to reimagine schooling, post-pandemic, in a manner that reengages students and accelerates their learning and overall well-being.

“The work ahead may be arduous and challenging at times, but together with the phenomenal KWHS staff, we will create a collaborative, supportive learning environment where students are encouraged to reach past expectations to realize their own potential,” Schmiegel said, adding “The sky’s the limit!”

Pais steps into the principal role at Key Largo School — which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year — vacated by Laura Lietaert, who took over the same role Coral Shores High School.

“Darren Pais’s enthusiasm for being principal at Key Largo School is contagious,” Axford said. “He has boundless energy and knows the staff, students and parents well. I am happy to welcome him to our Principals’ Team in Monroe County Schools. He is definitely ready for the job.”

Pais was the Assistant Principal and Technology Specialist at the school, having started his teaching career there in 1993 after earning his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Florida. His classroom experience spanned elementary and middle school science and math. He began serving in the dual role of Assistant Principal and teacher after receiving his master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Florida International University.

During his tenure, he has spearheaded many initiatives and taken on lead roles including testing coordinator, Exceptional Student Education support facilitator and Positive Behavior Support leader. His involvement on district level teams, presenting at state level conferences and participating in local activities gives Pais a well-rounded perspective on the needs of the school and community.

“I have had the privilege of serving the families of Key Largo School for 28 years and have come to realize what a special and unique school we have,” Pais said. “I feel confident that everyone who has supported me personally and professionally over the years has helped make this opportunity of leading the school a reality, a position I am excited to begin.”