ST. PETERSBURG – The life of a high school administrator is a unique experience that requires unique skills.
There are times when they have to sympathize with a student’s family dynamics that causes uneasiness in the school day. At the same time, one has to be the disciplinarian who holds students accountable for their actions, thus developing youth into responsible adults. An administrator must be a protector who is responsible for keeping law and order in the school for the safety of students and the faculty.
Counselors are the school’s greatest cheerleaders, having to market the school to the community on the outside and encouraging students to excel beyond the school. It takes a special educator to be equally effective, proficient and accepted.
Meet Carlisa Mills.
“The focus is always on the kids,” explained Mills, currently an administrator at Northeast High School.
She believes that the school cannot lose focus on helping to develop its students within their walls because outside of school is where their real purpose begins.
“We have the opportunity to impact the lives of our youth in big ways. Reflection begins with the end in mind.”
Mills is aware that the child they are struggling to get on the right path today is not necessarily the child you’ll see in the future. Therefore, she feels, it is imperative to provide an opportunity to restore them while holding them accountable.
Despite several childhood challenges, including being a teenage mother, growing up in a low-income household and her own mother passing as she entered high school, Mills graduated from Pinellas Park High in 1982.
She went on to receive an associate’s degree from St. Petersburg Junior College, a bachelor’s degree in early elementary from the University of North Florida and later a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.
Mills began her road as an educator in 1991, starting as an elementary classroom teacher in Duval County before transferring to Pinellas.
She worked as a classroom teacher, district trainer, Title I staff developer, facilitator/curriculum specialist and a high school administrator. Through all of her experience, she’s came to the realization that older students are simply little kids in bigger bodies, all just wanting to be cared about.
“I discovered early in my career that I’ve been graced by God with the ‘it factor,’ [a] belief in myself that I have what it takes to make a positive difference in the lives of students and their families,” she said, adding that she also came to the realization that the child’s grade or social level does not matter either.
The “it factor” she equates to her genuine care for students, which works for and with all children. She continues to forge ahead by finding out what her charges want in life, helping them to reflect on where they currently are and supporting them in getting to where they want to be.
Mills’ two children have also benefited from her caring ways. Her son, Lamar Mills and his wife Yeneka, are the newly appointed pastors of Revealing Truth Ministries, St. Petersburg campus, having studied under the late Pastor Greg Powe. He is also the behavior coach at Woodlawn Elementary.
Her daughter, LaQuelle Mills, is a graduate of Gibbs High School’s Pinellas County Center for the Arts program and is now residing in Los Angeles. She is a professional dancer pursuing a course in commercial dance.
“Because of my own upbringing and life experiences, I believe we can really do what we set our minds to do. Although my mom passed when I was 14 years old, my parents had instilled enough in me that I believed I could overcome those odds, and I did,” said Mills, who feels that same way about each and every one of her students, especially those who have made “knucklehead” decisions.
Since she feels that the child in front of her today is not the person of the future, she supports the district’s restorative practice initiative.
“Every day is a new day full of hope and positive possibilities. Every day and every chance I get, my objective is to speak life and future into the students I encounter.”
Quoting her pastor, Mills finished by saying: “I want to paint on the canvas of their imagination.”