Dee Evans – Mustangs Ahead Senior Editor

NEWS(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL)- On Dec. 12, LRHS hosted a Principal’s Forum to allow the three principal finalists a chance to meet both the community and faculty at the Ranch.

The finalists introduced themselves, discussed their plans and priorities for the school, and then answered questions the audience had.

Though a date has not been announced for the final decision, this forum did allow members of the public and the school to learn more about what LRHS could look like in the future under each finalists’ leadership.

The three finalists are –

Dustin Dahlquist

Dahlquist is currently the Principal of Buffalo Creek Middle School.

Dahlquist is originally from Lakewood, New York but moved to Florida after getting accepted into the University of Florida, where he got his Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sport Science Physical Education. After this, Dahlquist went on to get his Master of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida.

Dahlquist has been working in Manatee County schools for the past 22 years and has worked in all areas of education. He has worked as a science teacher, a physical education teacher, an athletics and activities director, and an assistant principal before taking on his role as Principal at Buffalo Creek.

Dahlquist said that when this job became available, he needed to apply.

“This is one of the crown jewels in the school district of Manatee County.  I’m a high school administrator. I would not trade my time at Buffalo Creek Middle School, but when this job came open, this is one of the few jobs in Manatee County that I would leave my current job for,” Dahlquist added.

If Dahlquist becomes Principal, he plans to “focus on the maintenance and enhancement of student achievement, continue to build upon the positive school culture, and also ensure the safety of our students here.”

Michael Mullen

Mullen was born and raised in Bradenton, Florida and is more than familiar with the Manatee County school system, having worked at LRHS from 2007 until 2017.

Mullen got his Bachelor of Arts in Social Science Education from Florida Southern College before earning his Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Mullen has had 25 years of experience, with 20 of those years being within the Manatee County schools. During this time, he has worked as a teacher, an athletic director, a testing coordinator, and an assistant principal.

Mullen also had the opportunity to work under two previous LRHS principals, Linda Nesselhauf and Craig Little, who he said taught him many things about working with people, the day to day dealings within a school, and structure.

“This community is where I grew up, I lived here before it was even a community,” Mullen said. “I lived here when it was cow pastures and barbed wire. This is my home, and this is where I belong.”

As principal, Mullen’s priorities would be to continue LRHS traditions while supporting teachers and the different programs offered. He would also update the facilities that are beginning to show their age.

William Harris

Harris is most recently from Virginia Beach but has been in New Hampshire for most of his life. He received his Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and his master’s degree in Educational Administration from Keene State College. He also got his Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Leadership from Plymouth State University.

Harris has worked in various levels of education since 1980. “I have teaching experience, I have administration experience, as an assistant principal, as a principal. I have seen all of the nuances that come with the K through 12 journey, and it is a journey,” added Harris.

Harris has worked at a variety of schools in both New Hampshire and Virginia. He previously served as an assistant principal in Keene High School and a principal in an elementary school, a high school, and a K-8 school.

Harris also believed that this job was an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up. “I did not choose my life path; the path chose me. I have always been happy doing what I was doing but when things pop up as being possible opportunities, I think to myself, would that be fun. If my answer to that is yes, I apply. So, when Lakewood Ranch popped up I thought it would be fun and I would be able to do good things here, so I applied.”

Having never previously worked in Manatee County, Harris does not want to come in with a specific set of goals. When coming to LRHS, he would want to get to know the school environment so he can see what already works, what needs improvement, and how the school can become better than it already is.

Madison Aker and Alexandra Blair assisted on this story.

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