The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

Passing the torch

Fleming introduces Rockledge High’s Burt Clark as new principal
Sophia Fetouh
Principal Rick Fleming introduces Rockledge High School’s current principal Burt Clark to the West Shore faculty Thursday after school.

As Principal Rick Fleming began to pack up the office where he has spent the past 18 years, he was reminded of his impact on the lives of teachers and students. However, he knows it is his time to move on, and Thursday he could not have been more ready to usher in his replacement. 

“I’m excited to introduce the new principal, but I am less excited about breaking this office down,” he said to a full house in the media center. “It makes me get a bit nostalgic. This is one of the very few times in my career I am at a loss for words because if I could have hand-picked somebody to take over the school, it would be the person I’m going to introduce today.”

Faculty and staff gathered together after school Thursday as Fleming presented Rockledge High School Principal Burt Clark as his successor. Advanced Placement history teacher Kirk Murphy, who has been at West Shore since it was established in 1998, said he was impressed by his first interactions with Clark.

“I’ve worked for seven principals in my whole teaching career and Fleming is by far the best one I’ve ever worked with, so there are big shoes to fill and it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “But Clark seems dynamic, he seems interested, he wants to be here, he’s going to have a kid here. And when you have a kid here, it makes you buy into the process. I’m thrilled even though I’m retiring.”

Similarly, AP Spanish teacher Alexandra Stewart expressed enthusiasm after Clark’s introduction.

“I think he is lovely,” she said. “I’ve had a couple of lovely interactions with our new principal in my other position. I think it’s really nice that we are going to have someone that is committed to being a Wildcat, who is going to be a pretty good fit to what we do here and someone who is going to be a fully invested parent in the school.”

During his speech to the faculty, Clark, whose son will enroll at West Shore next year, said he was grateful for being selected as principal and outlined his “people-driven” leadership style. He also made three commitments to the faculty.

“I will continue the tradition of putting the best possible humans on this campus to work with kids,” he said. “I will commit to maintaining the sanctity of your classroom — there are tons of people and entities that are constantly trying to impact that — I will be the barrier between them and you. Finally, I will provide energy and passion every day because teaching is hard. I think people outside these walls somehow think teaching is easy, and that’s just not true.”

Clark attended Palm Bay High School as a student and later earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Central Florida. He also received a master’s degree in education leadership from Nova Southeastern University. 

“I started working in civil engineering but worked my way into education through coaching baseball and football at my alma mater: Palm Bay High,” Clark said. “I started teaching math there. I taught Algebra II Honors and AP Statistics. I have been a dean at Melbourne High School, an assistant principal at Bayside High School and Hoover Middle School and a principal at Hoover. Most recently, for the past five years [I have been] the principal at Rockledge.”

Fleming has played an active role in Clark’s life for decades. 

“Fleming and I go way back to when he was a dean in the district and I was a student,” Clark said. “He’s watched me play sports. He’s known me for a long time. As I got into education leadership, Fleming was actually my mentor. My first mock interview was with him, and as I became a dean, he was always a mentor of mine. I think we are very similar in the way that we view people and the way we view the role of a principal, so he has been vital in my growth.”

Stewart said she has picked up on the similarities between Fleming and Clark.

“I know that their administrative style is very similar because I’ve been told that by my colleagues who work at Rockledge,” she said. “Personally, I do not know [him] yet, but I am looking forward to finding out.”

Clark was a Division 1 college-level baseball player and if not for an injury in his senior year of college, he would have been drafted into Minor League Baseball. Clark said, even today, sports play an important part in his leadership.

“I believe that I have the qualities to make people better or believe they can be better,” he said. “Even as an athlete, I don’t think I was the most talented, but I had the ability to make people believe in themselves and that they could make an impact. I try to lead that way. My job is no more important than anybody else’s. My role is to make teachers believe they can impact the lives of kids and make kids believe they can be anything they want to be.”

Clark said that his plan for his first year at West Shore is to learn as much as possible.

“I want to get in here and meet people,” he said. “I want to meet everyone so that I can learn everything about this faculty, this staff and the students. I want to listen and watch what is happening so I can fulfill my role to make sure every student and staff member has the tools they need to make students be the best version of themselves. My mission is that simple.”

Clark said he feels the gravity of following the man who has held the job for the past 18 years.

“I’ve never been someone who has gotten nervous, but what I respect is the weight of this job and how important it is,” he said. “I will prepare and I will work incredibly hard to keep this school going. I’m not nervous about it, but I am anxious because I understand how important the work that happens here is and how important my role in that is.”

While Clark expressed some anxiety for starting his new job, Stewart said learning who will replace Fleming has helped relieved her concerns about the school’s future.

“It is nice knowing who the next person is going to be because that puts all of us [teachers] at ease,” she said. “When we didn’t know what the future held, so it made all of us very nervous. Now knowing what’s going on, we have a path and we can move forward.”  

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About the Contributors
Aaron Murphy
Aaron Murphy, Sports Editor
Hi. My name is Aaron Murphy. I'm a senior, and this is my second year on the "Roar". I’ve been on the soccer team for five years, and I'm also on varsity track and cross country. I love history and politics, and I strive to bring a unique perspective to the "Roar".
Sophia Fetouh
Sophia Fetouh, Staff Writer

Hi! I’m Sophia and I’m a sophomore. This is my first year on the "Roar" staff, which I am very excited for. I enjoy music, poetry, and traveling.