Principal retires after helping to turn around failing school
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
After several years as principal of Campbell Middle School in Daytona Beach, Dr. Jerry L. Picott has retired. His last day was Nov. 1.
“I’m retiring. I did it a little early. It’s just something that I needed to do. I’ve spent 30 years in the school system,” he told the Daytona Times.
Picott will start a new job this month as assistant academic dean at Keiser University.
Dr. Cameron Robinson has been named the school’s new principal.
Picott led the school through some turbulent times.
When he took over in December 2016, the school was in danger of being taken over by the Florida Department of Education after four straight “D” grades.
Campbell is now a “C’’ school, a grade it has held for the past three years.
“It doesn’t get any more serious than that. The superintendent asked me twice to serve Campbell at the most critical time in the school’s history. Fortunately, we were able to turn things around,” responded Picott.
Turning the school around and maintaining success was not easy.
“It was a challenge. When I came to the school, we had six months to fix the grade and we were able to do that,” admitted Picott.
Parents noticed the impact that Picott had on the school, students and community.
Nicole Crooms has a 12-year old son who attends Campbell.
Crooms told the Times, “He did more than turn the school around academically. He greeted people, always spoke, and was both happy and cheerful. He picked up trash around the neighborhood and often walked the area making sure kids were OK. He brought down the afterschool fights. He was often at work at 9 p.m.”
Nicole Strope has a 12-year old son who is an honor student at Campbell.
She said, “This is my third child to attend Campbell. I haven’t met Dr. Picott personally, but he showed genuine care for the kids and community. When my youngest came to the school, we had just moved and money was tight.
“The counselor and Picott ended up getting my son brand-new Nikes and socks. My other kids also had issues that the school helped with.”
Campbell is a predominately Black school, has a high number of kids on free to reduced lunch, and is a Tier I school in regards of achievement and behavior.
It is also attended by students from Westside, Palm Terrace and Champion Elementary Schools in Daytona, which are all “D’’ schools and located in predominantly Black communities.
South Daytona Elementary is also a “D’’ school that feeds Campbell.
All four schools like Campbell are either majority Black or have high numbers of minorities.
The only feeder school to Campbell with the same characteristics that has a passing grade is Turie T. Small Elementary on South Street.
Campbell also has a high number of students coming in who haven’t met the requirements to pass the fifth grade.
Picott explained, “That is something that Campbell can’t sustain. We had 100 kids come into the school this year that didn’t meet fifth-grade requirements.
“We had maybe around 350 over the past couple of years. That bubble is about to burst. We must find a way to support those schools and get them turned around.”
Continued support for Campbell is critical.
“The school still needs support. It’s essential that the kids be supported and provided for. They can’t be looked over. Also, everyone needs to support the new principal, Dr. Robinson,’’ he said.
Picott still wants to help youngsters be successful.
“I must still find ways to be involved in the community and help our underserved kids, which needs to be a priority,” noted Picott.
Before Campbell, Picott was principal of Alternative Education for Volusia County Schools, where he oversaw eight different sites.
He served as an assistant principal at both Campbell and Mainland High; principal intern at Ormond Middle, Ormond Elementary and Champion Elementary; and an assistant principal at Creekside Middle in Port Orange.
Band director too
Picott also was a band director at Mainland and Holly Hill Middle.
He has worked as an assistant director of dormitory facilities at Bethune-Cookman University and as an adjunct instructor in Education Leadership and Beginning Teaching at Daytona State College.
He came to Daytona via Smithville, Virginia, after receiving an academic and band scholarship to Bethune-Cookman. He received his bachelor’s degree in music.
Picott received his master’s and doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
At Bethune-Cookman, he was a member of the Marching Wildcats band. He also played the trumpet and was section leader his last two years at the school.
He’s also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.