New VCS administrator 'the right person at the right time'
He wears a lot of hats.
As the new assistant principal at Viera Charter School, Tom Armstrong is charged with watching over and developing out the facilities at the school, which just started its third year serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
He's also the athletic director, making sure students have an opportunity to take part in league activities and any other extracurricular activity.
“It's my first opportunity as an athletic director, but I've been involved in athletics my whole life,” said Armstrong, who coached for 17 years at Palm Bay High School, including varsity basketball, swimming, football and baseball at different times from 1980 to 1997. In 2006, he was the Brevard County School District Assistant Principal of the Year at Eau Gallie High School focusing on facilities, eventually retiring from the school district.
Getting back to “the kids”
Most recently, he was the principal at Melbourne Central Catholic High School until a heart health scare suffered on the tennis court convinced him to resign to focus on his health.
“I missed the kids and I certainly feel like I have a lot to contribute, and this job opened up that was a great opportunity for me,” Armstrong said of the school, which has a focus on STEAM ― science, technology, engineering, arts and math ― and enjoys many partnerships between the space and defense industry and Florida Institute of Technology and other higher education.
VCS administration and school board echoed approval of the match.
“He's just what we need at just the right time,” principal Dr. Julie Cady said, her sweeping hand gestures during a school tour indicating items planned around the grounds. NASA contractor Robert Jordan, VCS board president and former Brevard Public Schools board member, said Armstrong brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the school.
“His genuine desire to become part of our family, his great personality and his can-do attitude will serve our students, parents, teachers and staff well as we continue our quest to be best in the nation.”
Armstrong is in the business of education at home as well. Married to Elizabeth “Betsy,” they have a son, Shaun, 11, entering sixth grade at Ascension Catholic School, James is in 10th grade at Eau Gallie High School and Benjamin starts at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville with sights on becoming a Gator at the University of Florida.
Building the school, community
He's no stranger to the task of fundraising, which helps when you focus on facilities and athletics, since sports is looked upon as a luxury in terms of academics and often must pay its own way. He's excited about the proposed partnership with the YMCA Family Center planned next door.
“You start asking yourself these questions, where do we practice, what do we do with the kids when it rains?” Armstrong said of his shopping list that merely starts with a gymnasium and a swimming pool, just some of the facilities the school and the YMCA hope to share.
Armstrong is in on the ground floor and he's prepared for the long haul.
“I'm all in,” he said.
Freed up to focus on quality
For Cady, a strong right hand man means more time for one-on-one.
“My goal this year is to be in our classrooms more, interacting with our students, having professional conversations with teachers about the curriculum and instruction that is taking place,” Cady said. “My ultimate objective is not only to provide a safe social emotional learning environment, but also to provide an educational environment that maximizes students’ capacity to learn.”
As the school welcomes 200 new students for a expanded capacity of nearly 950 students, facilities inside the school are also rolling out. New this year is the Robotics Lab and a Radio Station and TV/Video Production Studio.
The schools two deans also have their areas of focus in the coming year.
“I'll focus on providing the teachers and students the appropriate curriculum resources needed to meet the instructional rigor facilitated in the classrooms,” said Michelle Norcross, Dean of Curriculum and Assessments. As with public schools, VHS is navigating the Florida education transition in how learning is evaluated.
And while Chenistique Goizueta's title is Dean of Discipline, or Dean of Students, think of the D word more as study skills than punishment.
“My focus is on making sure students are following their progression plan to make sure they are successful for whatever journey they decide to take after middle school.”
For more information, call the school at 321-541-1343.