Principal Brady leaving for district job after success at HHS
Waving a sign reading, “Home of a 2020 Hillsborough Senior,” Principal Gary Brady danced to Fifth Harmony and Bruno Mars in the teacher parking lot during the Senior Celebration Thursday. His face mask over his chin, he brought smiles to the seniors who passed through in their cars.
The day before the Senior Celebration, in a voicemail to every student and parent at Hillsborough, Brady announced his departure from his position as principal. “This has been a life-changing experience for me,” he said about his time as principal at Hillsborough during the voicemail. “I will always be a Terrier.”
A change in the school district’s executive board under Superintendent Addison Davis led to Principal Brady receiving a promotion to the new role of Regional Superintendent. Instead of the positions in the district being divided by area, they are now divided by level, so Brady’s new role will involve checking on and visiting high schools and helping out the principals in Hillsborough County.
“I love the idea of being able to help more than one school,” Brady said in an interview with the Red & Black. “I hope that all schools do as well as they possibly can.”
By incorporating tactics that work at other schools that improve graduation rates into schools that don’t have it, the kids at every school will be better off.
For Brady, the decision to switch positions was very difficult.
“[At Hillsborough] we are doing very great and kids are proud of where they go to school,” he said. “I think of Hillsborough as a second home. For a while it was my first home,” he said in a zoom staff meeting. Brady both got married and had a daughter during his time as Principal.
The community and connections made in Seminole Heights are also difficult to leave for Brady. When he first became principal, he wanted to help Hillsborough become a central part of Seminole Heights, somewhere where the residents would be excited and proud to send their kids. His idea was a success. Before the pandemic, members of the community, even those that did not have kids at Hillsborough, were volunteering at the school, some helping to tutor kids.
Principal Brady has made many other achievements during his six years at Hillsborough. The graduation rate has increased 18 percent since Brady first arrived at Hillsborough in 2015.
Before Hillsborough, he worked as an AP for the Magnet program and before that the AP for Traditional Curriculum at Robinson. Prior to Robinson, he was the AP for Student Affairs at Strawberry Crest. His first position in Hillsborough County was teaching English at Plant City High School which he worked for 15 years.
According to Davis’s email announcing the new executive board, in 2017-18 under Principal Brady, Hillsborough’s School Grade increased from a C to B and is now one of only two high schools with a B or higher with a Free and Reduced Lunch rate above 60 percent and a Minority Rate above 63 percent.
According to Brady, he was able to make these gains by making it all about the kids, parents, teachers and community, instead of himself. “This is a reflection of us, not me,” he said during the announcement of his promotion to the teachers and staff in a Zoom meeting.
In the search for a replacement, Brady listed multiple characteristics of what he hopes for Hillsborough’s next principal.
“There must be a certain amount of humility,” he said. “They should ask, ‘What can I do to get the best out of students and teachers?’”
Whoever they choose also must have an appreciation for the teachers and what they do. They must be a “humble servant type leader,” as well as disciplinarian who knows where to draw the line. Finally, they must embrace the entire student body.
“[As principal], you can’t just go to the football games. You also go to band concerts, Latino Success dances,” he explained. “You must know how to let all the students feel important.”
With his dance moves at pep rallies, his quote of the week and his speeches about making gains, Principal Brady will be hard to replace. There are a lot of people interested in the job, however. According to Brady, next week will be the main week to look for a replacement. The new selection will be reviewed and approved by the school board on June 9.