New Wesley Chapel principal Matt McDermott.

Matt McDermott is the new principal at Wesley Chapel High (WCH), replacing Dee Dee Johnson.

Johnson was selected to take over as principal at Pasco Middle School, where former principal Jeff Wolff was removed in September amid concerns about low teacher morale at the middle school in Dade City.

“I’m super excited,” McDermott says. “I’ve lived in the community since about 2000, and I was briefly an assistant principal there from 2009-2010, before I opened Fivay High (in Hudson).”

Some of the young Wildcats approve.

“The kids who live in my neighborhood have been by to say congratulations and tell me they’re excited to have me as their principal,” McDermott says.

McDermott has worked for Pasco County Schools since 1996 and has been a teacher, coach, athletic director and school administrator. He started as an AP environmental science and biology honors teacher and football and wrestling coach, and became the athletic director at Sunlake High in 2007 before a brief stay as assistant principal at WCH in 2009. He helped open Fivay in 2010, and returned to Zephyrhills as an assistant principal in 2015.

This is McDermott’s first appointment as a principal.

“You always think you’re ready to be a principal,” McDermott says. “I have good mentors and people I can reach out to if I need something. I’ve been in the principal pool for a while and prefer the southeast part of the county because that’s where I live. This is one of my dream jobs and I’m excited to be given the opportunity.”

Judy Choinski is a parent of two students at WCH, and a member of its School Advisory Committee (SAC). She says she’s happy for Johnson, the school’s now-former principal. “It’s a huge compliment to her that she was chosen to bring [Pasco Middle] back up to where it needs to be,” Choinski says. “She’s going to turn that school around.”

Choinski acknowledges that there’s disappointment in losing Johnson, and in having yet another new principal. But, she says there is just as much excitement about McDermott.

“His reputation is really good,” she says. “Some parents and teachers I talked to said they were hoping he would be selected, that he would be the perfect fit for Chapel.”

At our press time, McDermott had been recommended as principal by Pasco School Superintendent Kurt Browning and was expected to be approved by the School Board on October 16, with a start date of October 17.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Choinski adds. “Hopefully, everything will stay solid for a while.”

Good As Gold
At a Pasco County School Board meeting on Oct. 2, Browning and members of the Board were presented with the Florida Healthy School District Gold Flag by Florida Action for Healthy Kids.

The county received the Gold Flag “for establishing a culture and climate in which students and staff can reach their personal potential and for continuing to serve as a leader in the state in reducing and eliminating the barriers to learning, resulting in increased academic achievement.”

Pasco County Schools earned the Silver award in 2016, but this year is its first-ever gold. The district will hold the Gold award designation through 2020.

To earn the Gold designation, the district demonstrated high scores in areas like creating a healthy school environment, contributing to employee wellness and excellence in counseling, psychological and social services and health education.

The Florida Partnership for Healthy Schools is a grassroots partnership that advocates for school health issues and recognizes excellence among Florida school districts.

PTAs Honored Nationally
Double Branch Elementary and John Long Middle School have both earned recognition as a National PTA (Parent Teacher Association) “School of Excellence,” with a designation that lasts from 2018-20.
The National PTA School of Excellence recognition program “supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students,” according to the National PTA website.

Schools apply to be recognized, then complete a series of steps designed to improve relationships between schools and families, which are individual to each school. If they meet their goal, they earn the designation.

In addition, the county-wide Pasco County Council of PTAs (PCCPTA) was recognized for having the highest increase of membership in Florida for the 2017-18 school year. PCCPTA representatives Mahalia Surin, Denise Nicholas and Andria Roscart presented the trophy they received to Pasco School Board chair Cynthia Armstrong and Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning (photo above).

Teachers Wanted
Want to work as a teacher in Wesley Chapel? Pasco County Schools will host a fall instructional job fair on Wednesday, November 14, 4 p.m.-6 p.m., at Sunlake High in Land O’Lakes.

The district is looking for teachers in math, science, emotional and behavioral disorders/autism spectrum disorders (EBD/ASD), exceptional student education (ESE) and elementary education. They also have openings for guest teachers, behavioral analysts and school nurses.

All education interns, teachers, student services employees, and those who have a Bachelor’s degree and are interested in becoming certified educators are invited to attend. Applicants can meet with administrators and hiring managers for on-the-spot interviews and job offers.

Anyone interested in attending should register at, visit or contact

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