As one familiar face enters as the next Coral Shores High School principal, another recognizable face steps in as the successor at Key Largo School. 

With Blake Fry retiring as Coral Shores principal last school year, the Monroe County School District announced that Laura Lietart would be leaving Key Largo School to assume the position at the high school. She grew up in the Upper Keys and graduated from Coral Shores. 

Lietart’s departure resulted in an opening at the home of the Tornadoes. The decision was clear for the district, as they chose longtime assistant principal Darren Pais as Lietart’s successor. 

Starting his teaching career at KLS in 1993, Pais taught science and math at the elementary and middle school. He spearheaded many initiatives and took on lead roles, including testing coordinator, exceptional student education support facilitator and positive behavior support leader. Along with assistant principal, Pais also served as the school’s technology specialist.

Here’s more from the incoming principal, who will assume his new position during KLS’ 50th anniversary. 

I worked very hard for an awfully long time. And I’ve worked under a lot of great principals. It’s kind of surreal I’m finally in that position. Now, it’s my time. 

It’s not often that administrators change in the Upper Keys. I’ve been an assistant principal for 20 years, and I know a lot of people wondering if I was ever going to retire. 

My wife was a student at KLS and Coral Shores. We met when she was student teaching. I was already a teacher. Then 10 years down the road we have a kid. He went to KLS and he’s now at Coral Shores. 

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Working at KLS, it’s a huge family. I know all of the people from the past. We just don’t leave. We want to be there at KLS. 

I enjoy the kids and I enjoy the parents. I’ve been there for so long, there’s students at KLS where their parents were my students. Actually I have a few teachers at my school who were my students. 

I have this reputation where parents are like, ‘If anything happens, don’t make me call Mr. Pais.’ Their kids know I was their parents’ teacher or administrator. It’s a family environment. I love the kids and the families. And of course I love the staff as well. 

It’s treating everybody like they are your family. I can’t say it enough. You have to know your staff. You have to know your families. You have to be involved, and you have to build those relationships. I’ve had 29 years of learning how to build relationships with people. 

First and foremost I want to do this year, it’s KLS’ 50th anniversary. January 19 is the date we turn 50, and my goal is to reconnect the school with our community.

We are planning for a year’s worth of activities to get the families back in touch with the school. That’s one of the visions I have in keeping with the tradition of what Dr. (Edward) Caputo started in 1971 — we are going to be at the forefront of any instructional happenings here. 

We’re going to have as many school dances as we can. We’re going to have basketball games. There will be fish fries. We are the cornerstone of Key Largo and we’re going to make sure that happens again. 

We’ve gone from Hurricane Irma to Parkland and now to the pandemic, where it’s been basically four years of trauma for Key Largo and pretty much everybody. 

I cannot be more excited to finally be the principal at Key Largo School. I look forward to reconnecting with everybody. I have a good relationship with the majority of the families, but I plan on making bigger and wider connections with the community, families and definitely with the students. 

I love Key Largo School. It’s the only job I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t want to have any other job. 

Pais’ wife, Myndie, is a staffing specialist at Coral Shores High School (CSHS) and Plantation Key School. His son Aidan, is a senior at CSHS,

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