Park Trails Principal Charles McCanna

By: Sharon Aron Baron

Nova Blanche Foreman Elementary Principal Charles McCanna has accepted a position to become the newest principal at Park Trails Elementary School.

In an interesting twist, McCanna is switching positions with the current principal of Park Trails, Russell Schwartz, who will be taking his job at Nova Blanche Foreman. 

McCanna said that this new position will be closer to his home in western Boca Raton.

“I wasn’t expecting Park Trails.  It was a really wonderful surprise.  I went and met staff the other day and they’re just a bunch of great people and we hit it off right away,” he said.

After getting acclimated with his new school, McCanna will have to provide some continuity for the staff and parents who haven’t had a long-term principal since Thomas Redshaw was asked to become the principal of Eagle Ridge Elementary in 2016.  Last fall, Russell Schwartz became Park Trail’s principal – but only for one year.

McCanna said wants to bring some security and reassure the staff and the community that the next thing he does is retire –  and he doesn’t plan on doing that anytime soon.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I know there has been some tough situations in the last few years, and I have an understanding of that.”

McCanna introducing himself to the Educational Advisory Board in Parkland

He’s currently working with Schwartz and getting prepared for the new school year, but decided not discuss staff because he didn’t want to have any preconceived notions about any one teacher he’s speaking too.

McCanna, 59, graduated from Clarion University with a bachelor of science in elementary education in 1983. He continued his education there and graduated from with a master’s degree in science education in 1985.

That year, he accepted a position with Broward County Public Schools as a sixth grade science teacher at Silver Lakes Middle School. After one year, he realized that his heart belonged in elementary education, and transferred to Oriole Elementary School the next year. In 1990, McCanna was promoted to a mathematics supervisor at the district office. This position entailed traveling to different schools where he worked directly with teachers in the classroom as well as presenting creative math strategies to teachers, assistant principals and principals.

In 1993, McCanna was offered a position he couldn’t resist: Principal John Cevetini was opening a brand new school and offered McCanna a fourth grade position. That school was Riverglades Elementary School in Parkland. McCanna’s year and a half tenure at Riverglades proved to be some of the best times in his teaching career. School administration, however, was calling McCanna and he accepted an assistant principal position at Charles Drew Elementary school and later at Welleby Elementary.

Finally, in 2002, McCanna was offered the position as principal at Nova Blanche Foreman Elementary school, where he has been for the last 15 years. Throughout those years, McCanna has enjoyed receiving many accolades and awards including being nominated as Finalist for Florida’s Most Innovative Principal of the Year for 2008-2009 and an Apple Computers Distinguished Program Award in 2012 and 2013.

Speaking with one of Park Trails fifth grade teachers, they proposed that next year’s theme was “Let’s change the world with kindness.” He said he tells his fifth grade students who are moving up to middle school that kindness is one of the most important things.

“You need to be kind to people,” he said.  “It’s really easy to lash out at someone, but it really takes a lot of strength to be kind all the time.”