By Tamas Mondovics

Coleen Bevis Elementary School administration, faculty and staff will begin the new season this fall with a bittersweet change in leadership.

After more than a decade of serving her students in the FishHawk Ranch community as school principal, Tricia Simonsen left Bevis, located at 5720 Osprey Ridge Dr. in Lithia, following her  appointment last month by the Hillsborough County School District as Principal of Valrico Elementary.

“It was an honor to be a part of the Bevis community for 13 years,” Simonsen said. “Watching Bevis students learn and grow in elementary and then move on through the middle and high school years was an incredible experience. I now look forward to repeating those experiences in the Valrico Community as a Valrico Explorer.”

Simonsen has more than 23 years of experience under her belt, along with it a long list of education-related accolades, many of which made her a household name within the FishHawk community and earned her a much-deserved honor and respect by her peers, teachers, students and parents throughout the county.

In 1990 she began her teaching career at Ruskin Elementary, and taught grades two through five before moving on to Mintz Elementary where she served as the Administrative Resource Teacher for two years.

In 2000, she opened Bevis Elementary as the Assistant Principal. Four years later she took the helm as principal and served the school for the next nine years, until her current appointment.

Simonsen’s accolades include Bevis’ 2008 National Recognition as a Blue Ribbon School; State Recognition as a Five Star School 1999-2013.

She received the honor of 2012 Florida PTA Elementary Principal of the Year. In 2005, 2006, 2009 and in 2011 Simonsen was awarded the honor of Hillsborough PTA Elementary Principal of the Year. Also in 2011, she was the Hillsborough County Elementary Math Leader of the Year. In 2012 and 2013 she received the Hillsborough Counseling Association Elementary School Administration of the Year award.

She earned a BS Degree in Elementary Education from St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York, and her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Columbia University in NYC.

Simonsen will be supported this year by Assistant Principal, Troy Smith and said that she is proud of the skills of fourth grade Teacher of the Year, Julie Sparks, Ida S. Baker Award (ELL Resource) recipient, Barbara Jarrett and Domingas Sena who has earned the Instructional Support of the Year (ESE Aide) award.

“I truly thrive on the importance of motivating students to learn and maximizing teacher effectiveness, she said.

While Simonsen will be greatly missed by all in the community, her new assignment opened the way for Bevis assistant principal Melanie Cochrane, 42, to lead the school as principal starting the 2013-2014 season.

Cochrane, a St. Petersburg native, received a B.A. degree in Special Education and an M.A. degree in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida.

She worked for Pinellas County Schools for ten years as a special education teacher and a reading coach.

In 2004 Cochrane transferred to Hillsborough County Schools and accepted a teaching position at Apollo Beach Elementary, before being appointed as Assistant Principal at Colleen Bevis Elementary in November of 2004.

Cochrane currently resides in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and two sons and enjoys spending her free time with family and friends. She will enjoy the support of assistant principal, Becky Thoms.

For more information about Valrico Elementary, located at 609 South Miller Rd., please visit or call the school at 744-6777.


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