By STEVE REILLY
ENGLEWOOD — Danielle Hudzina may soon fulfill a childhood dream to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps.
Hudzina, 34, was born and raised in Charlotte County. Her grandfather, Larry Mickler, served as the principal for Charlotte’s East and Neil Armstrong elementary schools.
Hudzina is now Charlotte County School Superintendent Steve Dionisio’s first choice as the new principal for Vineland Elementary School in Rotonda West.
Dionisio will ask the school board to confirm Hudzina as Vineland’s principal at its Sept. 10 meeting, according to a press release Wednesday.
Five other candidates vied for the position. According to the school district’s website, the base salary for Charlotte’s principals is $56.10 per hour.
Hudzina met Vineland faculty and staff Wednesday morning, and said she hopes to start as soon after Labor Day as possible.
“It’s an awesome school,” Hudzina told the Sun Wednesday. She admires how many of the staff live in the Englewood community and how the school garners strong community support.
Her hope is to help the school and its students realize their highest potential and goals.
Hudzina will take over from Vineland principal Laura Blunier, who was chosen as the district’s Director of Professional Development, replacing Mary Leonard, who retired this year. While waiting for her successor, Blunier stayed on as Vineland’s principal, getting the school off to start for the 2018-19 school year.
Blunier became Vineland’s principal in 2006, replacing Barbara Hargrove who retired.
Hudzina brings to Vineland the diversity of her educational experience — having worked in three school districts and four schools that include urban-suburban and rural and rural settings.
She taught science at Punta Gorda Middle School in Charlotte County from 2006-2014, where she also acted as its science department head. From 2014-2017, she went onto DeSoto County school system where she became vice principal for West and Memorial elementary schools.
Since leaving DeSoto County, Hudzina has been working as an assistant principal at Caloosa Elementary in Cape Coral, part of the Lee County public school system. She said Caloosa Elementary and its student body are similar to Vineland.
A graduate of Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Hudzina earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2009, and in December 2018, completed her doctorate program at FGCU.
Among her first tasks, Hudzina may have to tackle Vineland’s grades.
Vineland had received As from the Florida Department of Education for several years, before dropping to a C in the 2018 and 2019 school years. Hudzina may be well equipped to handle the task since in DeSoto she helped one school raise its score from F to C and another from D to C.