As we look back on Claire Mawhinney’s career, she hopes people feel that she supported and helped us grow. She plans on finding more ways to do that for others while she is in retirement.

As former Principal Claire Mawhinney enjoys retirement, the reins have been passed to another. The newly appointed principal of Randall Middle School is Colin Gerding, age 48, whose new position officially took effect on November 27, 2023.

Gerding has worked for the Hillsborough County school district since 2012 and has been an educator for 26 years. Before taking over as principal of Randall, he had worked there as an assistant principal for the last 10 years. With his experience, Randall will be in good hands.

Original Story Printed November 2023.

After a decade of leadership at Randall Middle School, Claire Mawhinney will complete her career in education this year. 

Claire Mawhinney graduated from the University of Florida (UF) with a degree in social studies education and later went back to UF to complete her master’s degree in educational leadership. Throughout her career, Mawhinney has worked at Fort King, Gaither, Tomlin, Plant City, Durant and Randall. 

“If you had told me when I was 26 that I would choose to leave the classroom, I would have said, ‘No way,’” said Mawhinney. “However, I began to realize that I could offer support to students and teachers outside of the classroom.” 

Mawhinney chaired the School Advisory Council, led numerous school projects, served on district committees and played a key role in promoting cultural awareness. Cultural awareness has continued to be a priority for Mawhinney, and she thanks former colleagues Carl Green and Adriane Sykes, who helped her push through some of the challenges that come with championing diversity. 

Because many parents choose our community for the reputation of the schools and teachers, a lot of pressure is put on the staff at Randall Middle School. While Mawhinney is proud to see the parents in the area expect the best for their children, she has placed importance over the years on assisting the staff with going above and beyond for the students and parents at Randall while maintaining their own families and well-being.  

While Mawhinney values her experience more than the awards she has won, she would like to thank those who nominated her for her many accomplishments. These include Rookie of the Year, 1984 (Fort King Middle School); Teacher of the Year and Social Studies Teacher of the Year, 1997 (Plant City High School); Administrator of the Year, 2019 (Florida PTA); and Cahn Fellows Program Participant, 2021. 

As she reflected on her career, Mawhinney realized that she values the little moments that come with education. 

“Students saying hello to me in the hallway or sharing something fun they did on the weekend, seeing a foster child adopted into a great family or a parent sending me an email to thank me for something that was appreciated,” said Mawhinney, “a boy telling me on multiple occasions that my shoe was untied to see if I would look down (and I often did), a girl giving me a photo of her and friends from the eighth grade dance so that I wouldn’t forget them — these moments all add up and remind me how fortunate and blessed I am.” 

Mawhinney looks forward to having more time to care for the people she loves, including herself. She anticipates spending time with her grandson, taking meals to her mom, enjoying yoga classes and kayaking with her friends and taking the time to be creative by gardening, cooking and more. 

Mawhinney’s impact on both students and staff is immeasurable, leaving a mark on the heart of this school. As she embarks on this new chapter in her life, we thank her for all she has done over the years and celebrate her influence in shaping the future of countless young minds in our community.

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