Clay County’s newest public school will be led by a veteran educator when it welcomes up to 868 elementary students to its classrooms when it opens this fall.


Tracy McLaughlin becomes the inaugural principal of Discovery Oaks Elementary School, 950 Oakleaf Plantation Parkway, in the county’s Oakleaf community near Orange Park.

Clay schools Superintendent Addison Davis selected McLaughlin, currently principal of Ridgeview Elementary School in Orange Park, to take the helm of Discovery Oaks.

Davis also selected Heather Roche, another experienced educator who currently serves as assistant principal at Coppergate Elementary School to succeed McLaughlin as principal at Ridgeview Elementary.

At a projected cost of about $25 million, Discovery Oaks is a kindergarten through sixth grade elementary being built on school district land. The new school is intended to relieve overcrowding at neighboring schools in that rapidly growing section of the county near Orange Park.

Davis described McLaughlin and Roche as education leaders who will positively impact the communtiy in their their new roles.

“These are proven educational leaders who have the ability and skill set to improve teaching and learning,” Davis said. “I look forward to their transitions and how they will grow professionally in these new positions.”

Regarded as an experienced and talented school administrator, McLaughlin has been an educator nearly 26 years. She’s served as a Clay County school administrator 11 years including the past four as Ridgeview Elementary principal.

About 70 percent of Ridgeview Elementary’s students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

Under McLaughlin’s leadership the elementary earned an “A” grade from the state for the 2016-17 school year - moving up from a “B,” which is the annual rating it held since 2013, state data show.

The elementary increased 134 points on the state accountability system, which is the greatest improvement by points from the previous year by a Clay school. And a total of 79 percent of Ridgeview’s third grade students passed the Florida Standards Assessment for English Language Arts, a 24 percentage point increase.

McLaughlin was honored as the county’s Principal of the Year for 2017. She holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from University of Maine. She and her husband have lived in the county since 2006, and their two children attended district schools.

Roche, a graduate of the University of Florida, began her teaching career in Central Florida before moving to Clay County in 2006. During the past 16 years, Roche has served as assistant principal at Coppergate as well as Tynes Elementary School, and as English/Language Arts and Intensive Reading teacher, reading coach and intervention.

Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075