Principal Catherine ‘Missy’ Lennard wearing a hard hat during construction in April at Dorothy C. York Innovation Academy in Apollo Beach, a school of choice set to open in August. (Photo courtesy of Linda Chion.)

By Linda Chion

Milestone moments are coming up for both the Hillsborough County School District’s newest school and one of its most endearing and beloved longtime educators, Catherine ‘Missy’ Lennard, who plays a key role as principal in both instances.

School board members at their April 5 meeting approved a mascot for the newly opening Dorothy C. York Innovation Academy after incoming students cast their votes. Its school colors are deep red, navy blue and silver, and York’s students will be known as the ‘Admirals.’

“I’m excited they chose Admirals because there’s a large military population in the area,” Lennard said, “and it reflects the nautical aspect of being in Apollo Beach.”

A school of choice in the Waterset by Newland community, York is built to accommodate 1,600 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, but it will not have an eighth grade class in its first year. The school is at 6440 Tideline Dr. in Apollo Beach.

Lennard is the inaugural principal as well for Dick Stowers Elementary School, which debuted in 2009 in Newland’s FishHawk Ranch community in Lithia. She was set to be at the school on May 7 for the fifth grade clap-out, which by tradition welcomes back in their caps and gowns graduating high school seniors who once attended Stowers.

The clap-out on the last day of school, Friday, May 27, is especially poignant this year, Lennard said, as “this year’s graduating class of high school seniors are our inaugural kindergartners, so we’ve had the chance to see a complete graduating class of Stowers Cowboys come full circle.”

Until her replacement is named, Lennard is running both schools as principal and will be doing so through the end of the school year, according to school spokesperson Tanya Arja.

As for York, Lennard’s tasks include staying abreast of construction and furnishing details, meeting with parents and hiring teachers and staff. York is a school of choice, which means families from throughout Hillsborough can apply for their children to attend. The second choice application period ended in April. A third round will be held in the summer to fill any remaining seats.

For choice and York Innovation Academy updates, visit Hillsborough County Public Schools at and search accordingly.

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