The Principals of Gulf High School 1922-2019

Theophilus J. McBeath, Edwin Sidney Dew, Alvin Covert, Rev. Walter D. Bremner, James H. Kelly.

W. E. Trottman, Malcolm G. Donaldson, James Monroe Lanier, Arthur H. Stevens, Oswold L. Parker.

Kenneth C. Anderson, W. G. Stephens, John Semago, Tommy Gibbs

W. R. Durden, Robert Marsh, Arthur O’Donnell

James E. Campbell, Larry Robison, Robert Prior, Coy Pigman

Cheryl Renneckar, Thomas E. Imerson, Steve Knobl, Kimberly Davis, Jeff Morgenstein

Acting principals are not pictured, but, if known, are listed below. This page was last revised on Aug. 7, 2019.THEOPHILUS JONES McBEATH (1858-1939) was Principal during the 1922-23 school year. The 1870 and 1880 censuses show him as a farmer in DeKalb County, Missouri. The 1900 census shows him as a school teacher in Haywood, N. C. The 1910 census shows him with no occupation in Clinton County, Missouri. Prof. McBeath had been a teacher in Florida schools for thirty years before becoming Gulf’s first Principal. He was previously in Fort Meade, Fla., before coming to Gulf. The New Port Richey Press reported in August 1922 that McBeath was in town, looking over the new school and looking for a place to live. McBeath died on Sept. 28, 1939, in Fort Meade, Fla. In 1885 he married (1) Mary Virginia Chism. They had a child Mary Virginia McBeath (b. Apr. 20, 1886, in Glasgow, Ky.) About 1894 he married (2) Selma (b. Jan. 1874 in Georgia). Kentucky: A History of the State (1886) has:

THEOPHILUS J. McBEATH, son of Robert C. and Saraepta (Fleming) McBeath, was born August 5, 1858, in Wayne County, Ky. He received a good common school and academic education in youth, and at the age of eighteen began teaching in the public and select schools of the country. In 1880 he removed to Cameron, Clinton Co., Mo., where he followed his profession for two years. In 1883 he accepted a position in the Indianola (Texas) High School, which, later, he resigned to return to his native State. He then took a normal and scientific course at the Glasgow Normal School, and received his degree of B. S. in 1884. He then conducted for one year the Tompkinsville Academy, at the end of which time he resigned to assume the principalship of the Middleburgh Seminary, of which he still has charge. March 5, 1885, Prof. McBeath was united in marriage with Jennie Chism, a daughter of T. T. and Mary A. (Howard) Chism, both natives of Monroe County, where Mrs. McBeath was born December 12, 1865. The Professor and wife are members of the Reformed Church. He is a Republican.

EDWIN SIDNEY DEW (1893-1941) was a member of the original faculty when the school opened in September 1922, serving as the Assistant Principal during the 1922-23 school year. Around 1923, while teaching at Gulf High School, Mr. Dew was the unofficial mayor of New Port Richey. In March 1923 he resigned as a teacher to attend the session of the Florida legislature, having been elected a representative from Pasco County. He was replaced by James St. Clair, who had been Principal of the Elfers grammar school, which had closed. Mr. Dew returned to Gulf for the 1923-24 school year, serving as Principal. He was re-elected as a representative from Pasco County for the 1925 term of the legislature, and he subsequently resided in Tallahassee beginning in June 1926. He was Chairman of the State Educational Survey Commission in 1925-1926 and a member of the Grading Committee for the State Teachers Examinations, also in 1925-1926. He was employed in the Motor Vehicle Department in Tallahassee from 1926 to 1934. Before coming to Gulf, Dew had been a principal at several public schools since 1913, with an interruption for military service in 1918. He was born on Aug. 30, 1893, in Omaha, Nebraska. He died March 3, 1941, in Tallahassee.

James. H. St. Clair served as Acting Principal beginning in March 1923 while Mr. Dew attended the session of the Florida legislature.

ALVIN COVERT was Principal during the 1924-25 and 1925-26 school years. The New Port Richey Press of Aug. 29, 1924, reported: “Prof. Alvin Covert, of Nashville, Tennessee, has been appointed principal for this term. He arrived this week and has been getting acquainted with the town. He impresses one as a man who understands his profession and can be counted upon to take school matters in hand. Mr. Covert is a native of Indiana, but has been a citizen of Tennessee for several years. He was educated in Peabody College at Nashville and at the University of Chicago. He is a man of large experience in school work, having taught at a number of southern states. This is not his first year in Florida either, he having taught in Monticello several years ago.” Covert was at one time on the faculty of Tarpon Springs High School. On Nov. 21, 1930, the New Port Richey Press reported that Covert was currently the Principal of Branford High School but that he and his wife owned considerable property in the New Port Richey area and hoped eventually to make it their permanent home. He is shown as 65 years old in the 1930 census, living in Okaloosa County, Florida. Mrs. Covert died in Madison, Tenn., on Dec. 23, 1933. A newspaper columnist wrote in 1963 that, as far as he knew, Professor Covert was still living, in his 90s.

REV. WALTER DUNNETT BREMNER (1875-1959) had been on the Gulf faculty before becoming Principal at the start of the 1926-27 school year. He remained as Principal during the 1927-28 and 1928-29 school years. He served as pastor of Trilby Baptist Church from Nov. 1, 1926 until July 17, 1927. He was born in Scotland. An article in the New Port Richey Press of Aug. 19, 1927, reported “Prof. W. D. Bremner will be superintendent of both schools [GHS and Pierce Grammar] in addition to his duties as principal of Gulf High School.” According to a 1958 newspaper column by Rev. John W. Parkes, “The older preacher was Walter D. Bremner, a well-known pastor in and around Richmond, Va. He accepted a call as supply pastor at First Baptist Church, New Port Richey. Rev. Bremner would not take a permanent pastorate, as he didn’t feel like he would be around in Florida very long. There was still an urge to return to Virginia, where he owned a farm and a spacious home, and where their children had been born. However, Dr. Bremner was destined to remain in New Port Richey, for the members of the school board had learned that he was an educator, as well as a minister of the Gospel, so he was employed as principal of Gulf High School, a position which he held most ably for several years.” Bremner was pastor of Taylorsville Baptist Church near Richmond, Va., for seventeen years. He was a graduate of Richmond University and worked for a newspaper in New Jersey at one time. On April 23, 1929, Rev. Bremner performed a wedding ceremony on the rostrum of the Gulf High School auditorium, marrying Roy Jasper and Helen Littell. In the 1930 census, he is listed as a preacher living in Henrico County, Virginia. He died in Hanover County, Virginia, on Dec. 2, 1959.

JAMES H. KELLY served as Principal during the 1929-30 and 1930-31 school years. A J. H. Kelly, presumably the same person, was one of several person who incorporated the Monticello Academy in Jasper County, Georgia, in 1889. An article in the New Port Richey Press of Sept. 27, 1929, reports, “Prof. J. H. Kelley of Gainesville will be principal of Gulf high school and patrons are congratulating the school board on being able to secure this outstanding educator as principal of the local high school.” An article in the New Port Richey Press of Oct. 4, 1929, reported that Kelly was highly recommended by the University of Florida. In the 1930 census, he is shown as a resident of Gainesville, 49 years old, born in Florida. School board records show that he was re-appointed principal on Sept. 24, 1931. On Oct. 9, 1931, the Evening Independent reported that at its regular meeting on Monday the county school board unanimously appointed Prof. J. H. Kelly to be principal of Gulf High School for the remainder of the school year. On April 4, 1932, a newspaper article mentioned that Kelly was the Gulf principal.

Deane C. DeFord was Acting Principal of Gulf High School at the start of the 1931-32 school year. The New Port Richey Press reported on Oct. 2, 1931, that “Prof. Deane DeFord is acting principal of the high school, pending supreme court action on the appointment of a permanent faculty head.” DeFord coached the football team. Apparently, the trustees of Gulf High School did not approve of the re-appointment of Kelly and preferred a different principal. It is unclear how long DeFord remained acting principal, but apparently he was succeeded by J. H. Kelly.

WARREN ELLIS TROTTMAN (1896-1985) and his wife Rosemary Wallace Trottman (1901-1990) were on the faculty at the start of the 1925-26 school year, before he became Principal. In January 1932 he announced his candidacy for the position of county schools superintendent. School board records show that he was appointed principal on Aug. 16, 1932. He served as Principal until Jan. 30, 1933, at which time he and the Principal at the school at Trilby switched jobs. The school board made the change because of dissension on the Gulf staff. Three teachers had resigned; they asked to be reinstated after Trottman was replaced. They both taught school in eastern Pasco County and resided in Zephyrhills. In 1944 he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Tax Assessor of Pasco County. Mr. Trottman was born in Charles City, Iowa. He registered for the draft during World War I from Putnam County Florida. Rosemary Wallace Trottman attended Zephyrhills Consolidated schools, graduating in 1919. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Florida Southern University and a master’s degree from Florida State University in 1950. She taught school for 40 years until her retirement in 1965. She is the author of History of Zephyrhills 1821-1921 (1978). A son, Warren E. Trottman Jr., was killed in action during World War II.

MALCOLM G. DONALDSON (1890-1962) became Principal of Gulf High School on January 30, 1933. He had been Principal of the school at Trilby. He remained the Principal through the end of the 1938-39 school year. He received an M. A. degree in education from the University of Florida. His master’s thesis was titled “A Study of the Duties of the Principal of Schools of the Eight-Four Type, employing Ten to Twenty Teachers.” A brief biography of Donaldson has: “Prof. Donaldson brought to the position of Principal of Gulf High School, his genuine interest in seeing that every student had the opportunity to learn. He was their true friend. Whether there was not time at home to study or do homework assignments because of chores the student was required to do, or whether he was simply a slow learner, he had help as long as he was interested in learning. Prof. Donaldson made himself available to answer any questions about what the assignment was, or explain what it meant. At times he went back to the school in the evening and met the student there. At other times he took the student home with him and counseled the student there and saw that he got home safely. Prof. Donaldson was born November 11, 1890, and died May 11, 1962. During the last year of his life, he had the unique experience and surprise of being visited by many of the students he had helped. By then they had gone on to successful careers in their chosen fields. It was a fitting tribute to a man they considered a friend that they found him, by then retired to the small town of Shady Grove, Florida, and that they came to him just to say ‘Thank you.’”

JAMES MONROE LANIER (d. 1967) became Principal at the start of the 1939-40 school year. He was born in Hawkinsville, Ga. He was a member of the Mercer College graduating class of 1915 and was a backfield star during his undergraduate days there. Before coming to Gulf he coached at Fitzgerald and Richland High Schools in Georgia. He came to New Port Richey from Morganton, Georgia. He assisted coach Oliver Daugherty. During his four years at Gulf the football team won two conference titles and had 31 wins, 2 ties, and lost only 7 games. School board minutes of April 5, 1943, indicate that Lanier resigned. After leaving Gulf, Lanier became athletic director and head coach at Florida Military Academy in St. Petersburg and taught mathematics at St. Petersburg High School.

ARTHUR H. “RED” STEVENS (1911-1979) was named as the new Principal in the New Port Richey Press on July 2, 1943. He was formerly Principal at Bushnell. He had been employed in the Florida school system for 16 years, seven of those years at Gulf, where he was a football coach. Minutes of the school board show that at its April 18, 1949, meeting, the board accepted his written resignation. He was then elected as a county commissioner. A 1956 newspaper article reported that he was seeking reelection to the Pasco County Commission. During his term as county commissioner the bridge over the Anclote River at Cedar Boulevard (now Celtic Drive), allowing access to the Anclote River Acres subdivision, was named in his honor. He owned and operated a drive-in theater in western Pasco County from 1950 to 1952 and was in the trucking business from 1952 to 1966. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Pasco County school superintendent in 1968. He served as a county commissioner for 18 years. Stevens earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 1936 and a master’s degree in 1942, both in administration and supervision. He had two children, both teachers. Stevens was born on Nov. 1, 1911, and died in Sept. 1979.

OSWOLD L. PARKER was named Principal at the start of the 1949-50 school year. He was formerly from Dade City and Zephyrhills, and had taught the past two years at Zephyrhills High School. He had been appointed to the faculty of the new Pasco High School in Dade City before the resignation of A. H. Stevens was announced.

KENNETH C. ANDERSON served as Principal during the 1950-51 school year.

W. G. STEPHENS served as Principal in 1951-52, 1952-53, 1953-54, and 1954-55. He resigned to become the supervisor of elementary and high schools of Monticello, Fla.

JOHN SEMAGO (1910-1985) served as Principal during the 1955-56 school year. He is shown as a teacher in the 1953 yearbook. His decision in the spring of 1956 not to reappoint three popular teachers led to a strike by students. He later sold real estate and in August 1960 joined the faculty of Hallandale Junior High School.

TOMMY GIBBS (1916-1990) was named Principal in May 1956 and served in that capacity through the 1961-62 school year. He was from Bushnell. He received a B. S. degree at Jacksonville State College and a M. S. degree at Alabama Polytechnic Institute. He did advanced graduate work at the University of Florida. An article in the New Port Richey Press on Dec. 15, 1960, reported that he had spent 15 years as a classroom teacher, 13 of them as coach, and six years as a high school principal. He was active in community affairs and lived at 222 River Road North. He taught math at Tarpon Springs Junior High School in the mid-1960s and was a guidance counselor and teacher at Dunedin High School. His wife taught at Palm Harbor Junior High School. During retirement he was living in Clearwater.

W. ROSCOE DURDEN (1923-1985) became Principal at the start of the 1962-63 school year. He left in the fall of 1971, after the school year had begun, to go to Richey Elementary School. An article in the New Port Richey Press on June 14, 1962, reported that Pasco County School Superintendent Chester W. Taylor had announced the appointment of Durden, who was 39 years old. He held a B. S. degree from Troy State College in Alabama and an M. A. degree in administration from the University of Alabama. Before coming to Gulf, Durden had 13 years of teaching experience, including eight years as a principal. He was Principal of Carrabelle High School in Florida for six years. Mr. Durden was born on Dec. 8, 1923, and died in October 1985. Durden’s wife, Ruth, was a media specialist at Gulf Junior High School. After Mr. Durden died, she returned to Alabama, taking a position at Auburn University.

Dr. ROBERT J. MARSH (1920-1990) became Gulf’s Principal in the fall of 1971, remaining in that position until May 1974. Marsh described himself as a “reluctant administrator,” preferring to remain in the classroom. Marsh was born in Detroit. He earned B. S. and M. A. degrees from Central Michigan University, and a doctorate from Michigan State University. Marsh taught for two years in a two-room country school with 58 students in grades K-8; at that school he started a hot lunch program. He became Assistant Superintendent for all Ludington schools, and then headed the teacher education program at the University of Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant from 1960 to 1961. He was then hired to be the Dean of the College at St. Leo. According to information provided by his son, the attempt by Dr. Marsh to raise academic standards at St. Leo resulted in his contract being terminated, whereupon he took a position as an English teacher at Pasco High School, where he taught before coming to Gulf. Marsh resigned at the end of the 1973-74 year after being hospitalized in February 1974 because of exhaustion. He said his job had become “extremely difficult” and “physically exhausting.” He asked to return to teaching, and became an English teacher at Land O’ Lakes High School, where he retired in 1986. Marsh was a candidate for Pasco County Schools Superintendent in 1972. A son, Robert Marsh, was a teacher at Land O’ Lakes High School in 2006 and a granddaughter was recently a student at Gulf High School.

Dr. ARTHUR O’DONNELL (1946-2014) became Principal officially on July 1, 1974, although he began the duties of the office in May 1974 after Dr. Robert Marsh resigned for health reasons. He held the position until November 1975. In 1968 O’Donnell began is teaching career in Pasco County as a math teacher at Gulf Middle School. He later became a math teacher at Gulf High School. After serving as Principal at Gulf, he served as Principal at Hudson High School and Ridgewood High School until he retired at the end of the 2002-2003 school year. He was born in South Amboy, N. J., and held a B.A. from Wagner College in New York City and a master’s degree from USF. O’Donnell was well-liked by students and faculty. Shortly after being transferred to Gulf Middle School, he returned to Gulf High to attend the homecoming pep rally. Students gave him a standing ovation when he was introduced.

JAMES E. “ED” CAMPBELL (1936-2012) became a teacher and coach at Gulf Junior High School in January 1964. He taught American history and coached several sports there. In 1972 he became the Dean of Boys and in September 1972 he became an assistant principal. In February 1973 he became Principal of Gulf Junior High School, replacing Thomas Weightman, who became the Schools Superintendent of Pasco County. In November 1975 he and the Gulf High School Principal traded positions. While he was Principal at Gulf High School, the school moved from the Louisiana Avenue site to the current location on what is now School Road. He served as Gulf High School’s principal until August 1978, at which time he became Supervisor of Student Services at he district office. In a 2007 email, Ed Campbell recalled that his time at Gulf was the most enjoyable of his working career. He and Assistant Principal Arthur (Art) F. Engle organized a Stadium Committee, which worked diligently to build Des Little Stadium. Mr. Campbell said he regrets not putting up a plaque at the stadium naming the committee members and recognizing their outstanding contribution. Mr. Campbell was born in Madison, Florida. He received a B. S. degree in Social Studies Education from FSU and a Master of Education with Major in Administration and Supervision from Northeast Louisiana University. Mr. Campbell died in 2012. His death was being investigated as a homicide.

LARRY ROBISON served as Principal of Gulf High School from 1978 to 1980. Mr. Robison was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He received B. S. and M. S. degrees from Western Kentucky University and also attended the University of South Florida. He taught three years in Kentucky and one year at Hudson Elementary School before becoming a Principal. He opened Schrader Elementary School in 1973 and Richey Fundamental Elementary School in 1977. He transferred to Gulf High School in 1978 and remained Principal until 1980 when he moved to Zephyrhills High School. In 1993 he became principal of Saddlebrook Academy, where was still the principal in 2005.

ROBERT G. PRIOR became an assistant principal of Gulf High School at the start of the 1979-80 school year. He served as Principal from 1980 to 1986. After leaving Gulf, he served as an administrator at the District Office and at Zephyrhills High School. He also served as Director of Guidance at Saddlebrook Preparatory School. Mr. Prior was the Mayor of New Port Richey from 1986 to 1989. He received B.A., M.A., and Ed. S. degrees at USF and FSU.

COY WESLEY PIGMAN (1942- ) had been a math teacher, a guidance counselor at Gulf, an assistant principal and Principal at Hudson High School, and a Principal at Bayonet Point Middle School before being named Principal at Gulf High School. He was the Principal of Hudson High School when its first graduation ceremony took place, on June 27, 1974, in the Gulf High School gymnasium. In 1983 he was Principal of Schwettman Adult Education Center. His first year as Principal at Gulf was 1986-87; he served in that capacity until the end of the 1990-91 school year. His wife Gladys was an English teacher at Gulf Junior High and Ridgewood. In 1989 Mr. Pigman asked the school board to change the name of the school back to the simpler Gulf High School, rather than Gulf Comprehensive High School. He also made the school colors green and white for all teams; previously, the school colors were green and gold, with JV teams in green and white. After leaving Gulf, Pigman an administrator at the newly-opened River Ridge Middle/High School. He was the Democratic nominee for Pasco County Schools Superintendent in 1992, but lost the general election. He grew up in Whitesburg, Kentucky. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in administration from Eastern Kentucky University. He was employed as a math teacher in Pasco County before becoming an administrator.

CHERYL RENNECKAR (1946- ) became Principal at the start of the 1991-92 school year and held the position until June 30, 2002. She previously served as an Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction at Ridgewood High School for six years and as Dean and then Assistant Principal at Springstead High School in Hernando County for eight years. She was selected by the Department of Education as one of the top five Principals in the State of Florida and was honored with the “Commissioner’s Outstanding Principal Leadership Award” in 1996. She started her education career in 1969 as a physical education teacher in Illinois. She came to Pasco County in 1972 and worked as a physical education teacher at schools in Zephyrhills. She coached varsity sports at Saint Leo College from 1973 to 1976. Renneckar transferred to the Hernando County schools in 1975, working for 10 years as a teacher, dean and assistant principal at Springstead High School. In 1985 she came back to Pasco to take a job as assistant principal at Ridgewood. She is originally from Ohio where she earned a B. S. degree from Bowling Green State University. She also holds an M. S. degree from Illinois State University. She was the longest-serving Principal in Gulf’s history.

THOMAS E. IMERSON (1945- ) became Principal on July 1, 2002. He had been the Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction at Gulf High School from 1991 to 2001, but left Gulf to become Principal of Hudson Middle School on February 7, 2001. He returned to Gulf upon the retirement of Cheryl Renneckar. He was named the Pasco County High School Assistant Principal of the Year in February 2000. He has given workshops to SCATT students at USF and at various other meetings, including, most recently, the American Vocational Association national conventions in Cincinnati and Las Vegas. He serves on various district committees, including High School Guidance, Staff Development, and High School Design. Among his interests is improving student performance through the development of Learning Communities. Mr. Imerson is from Ohio, where he was a principal and assistant principal at various public and private high schools for fourteen years. He has a B. S. degree in English and an M. Ed. degree in Administration/Supervision, both from Xavier University in Cincinnati. He began his career in Ohio and worked in assistant principal and principal positions in public and private schools there from 1969 to 1982. He moved to Florida in 1982 and served as an assistant principal at Clearwater Central Catholic High School for four years. He then came to Pasco County, working as an assistant principal at Ridgewood High School from 1986 to 1991. Mr. Imerson served as principal through the end of the 2007-08 school year. He then worked briefly at school district headquarters before retiring.

DR. STEVE KNOBL (1972- ) became the principal of Gulf High School on June 9, 2008. He was previously the principal of Bayonet Point Middle School. Mr. Knobl was born and raised in Long Island, N. Y. He earned a full scholarship from St. Leo and played baseball. After a series of injuries, he ended his playing career and transferred to the University of Central Florida, from which he earned a degree in elementary education. He began his teaching career at Richey Elementary School in 1994. In 1998 he accepted a teaching position at River Ridge Middle School, where he taught critical thinking. He moved to River Ridge High School the following year and taught driver’s education and PE. While at River Ridge he coached girl’s golf, football, girl’s basketball, and baseball. In 2000 he accepted a position at Mitchell High School as a driver’s education teacher and a department head. He coached girl’s golf and girl’s basketball. He was also the school’s business manager. He completed his master’s degree from St. Leo in 2000. In August 2002 he became the Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction at Land O’ Lakes High School. In 2005 he transferred to Gulf Middle for a year as an assistant principal and in 2006 he was promoted to principal of Bayonet Point Middle School. On December 11, 2010, he was formally hooded and recognized at the USF Graduate School Commencement Ceremony. He earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Florida. While at Gulf he was also an adjunct professor at Saint Leo University, teaching graduate level courses to teachers pursuing careers in school administration. Dr. Knobl resigned in April 2012 to become a dean at Rasmussen College. Dr. Knobl and his wife Laura have two boys, Drew and Nathan.

Gwen Gideon became Acting Principal in April 2012 following the resignation of Dr. Steve Knobl.

KIMBERLY DAVIS became Principal of Gulf High School on May 7, 2012. She had been in education for over 20 years, beginning her career in south Georgia. In 1998, her family relocated to Pasco County, where she was hired as a science teacher at Zephyrhills High School. In 2002, she moved to the district office, where she worked as an Instructional Trainer Coach for science education. In 2004, she became the Pasco County Science Supervisor. She worked with science curriculum and the environmental education centers. In 2006, she opened SLHS as an assistant principal and worked there until moving to Anclote High School. She retired at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

JEFF MORGENSTEIN was appointed principal of Gulf High School in June 2019, capping a career of nearly 30 years in education. Beginning as a teacher of English Language Arts, Spanish, French, and ESOL, Mr. Morgenstein has served on the faculties of Hudson and Land O’ Lakes High Schools. He helped establish Pasco County Schools’ first International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) and taught Spanish and Theory of Knowledge courses. After several years in district administration as a supervisor for World Languages and ESOL, Communications and Government Relations, and Leadership Development, he returned to Land O’ Lakes as assistant principal for IB. He was Teacher of the Year at Hudson and Land O’ Lakes, recipient of the 2005 Milken National Educator Award, and the Governor’s Shine Award in 2016. Mr. Morgenstein grew up in New York City and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) and a Master of Education from the University of Florida in Gainesville. [Biography provided by Gulf High School.]

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