Fleming Island Elementary’s Collins earns top principal honors

By Nick Blank nick@opcfla.com
Posted 11/3/21

FLEMING ISLAND — When Fleming Island Elementary School Principal Jennifer Collins was called to her daughter’s fifth-grade class, she thought something might be wrong, but it was district staff …

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Fleming Island Elementary’s Collins earns top principal honors

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND — When Fleming Island Elementary School Principal Jennifer Collins was called to her daughter’s fifth-grade class, she thought something might be wrong, but it was district staff and Superintendent David Broskie holding a bouquet of flowers.

Now, Collins joins an exclusive club as the Clay County School District’s 2022 Principal of the Year. Collins joked the school staff pulled one over on her. A district video shows Broskie making the announcement on the school’s intercom and applause ringing out through the school.

“It was immediately a mother’s instinct kind of thing,” Collins said of going to her daughter’s class. “They said they need you there now. I was completely caught off guard and surprised.”

Collins has been the principal at Fleming Island for five years after teaching and principal stints in Duval County. She said the award isn’t something she can claim on her own, thanking the staff, students and parents. “It is a complete honor and privilege,” Collins said. “There are so many amazing principals in this county. I’ve learned from each of them.”

Broskie called Collins a top-notch principal who cares about the students and faculty she serves. The elementary has become a high-performing school under Collins, he said. But for the superintendent, the surprise in Collins’ daughter’s classroom was the best part. Where teacher of the year is a large gathering, it’s tradition to surprise the top principal at their school, Broskie said.

“For her daughter to see her mom get the award, that was probably the main thing going through my mind at that moment,” Broskie said.

A principal is a unique role and a balancing act, Collins said. She likes getting to make a difference for the entire school.

“You see all the kids and have an impact on all of their lives,” she added. “You work and build relationships with teachers. It’s brought me a lot of joy over the years.”

It’s hard enough managing a school let alone in the COVID-19 pandemic, but Collins said clear communication and a plan helped Fleming Island mitigate the pandemic for the past two school years.

“There were challenges. There are challenges. Every school year is different,” Collins said. “The plan was top-down, we had a solid plan keeping students safe.”

A principal for 12 total years, Collins said it was a natural transition to come to Clay County. Five years does not feel like five years, she said with a laugh.

“I love this school. I love this community,” Collins said. “The people, the staff, they’re the ones that make the principal I am.”

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