It could be said that the new principal of John F. Kennedy Middle School knows his way around the building. Back in 1979, when it was J.F.K. Junior High School, Bernie Osborn was a 9th grader, about to graduate to high school.
“It was a time warp, like I’d never left, the hallways still looked the same, it smelled the same,” Osborn said, describing his first day on the job as principal.
Across town at Miami Jackson High School, the new commanding General has that same déjà vu feeling.
“It is definitely surreal,” said the school’s new principal, Rennina Turner.
Their histories give these principals built-in credibility with their students.
“I told them I went to school here, which I think kind of endears me more to them, that I have credibility, I’m here and I’m glad to be here,” Osborn said.
That line works for Turner, too.
“As I tell the students, this is home for me, and being home makes it personal, so the work that I’m doing is personal work, it’s not, I’m just the principal of a high school,” Turner explained.
Watching Turner high-five with students, seeing her walk into classrooms with a grin on her face, it’s clear that she can’t hide her excitement about working at her alma mater. Part of that exuberance comes from knowing that she’s perhaps the ultimate role model at Jackson High.
“For them to know that I grew up in a community very much like them, I grew up in Liberty City, that if I can do it, certainly they can, too.” Turner said.
Both of these principals claim to have been excellent students who were never called to their current offices when they were kids.
“I was an angel,” Turner said, giggling as she said it.
She met her husband of 20 years at Jackson. Turner married her high school sweetheart and her oldest son graduated from Jackson High in 2015.
So what about Osborn, any interesting tales from his junior high years?
“I got my first kiss out there by the tree after school one day so that was interesting,” Osborn said with a grin.
Does he tell his students that story?
“Uh, no, but I guess they'll know now!” said the principal.
Osborn says his mission at his old/new school is to improve community perceptions about J.F.K. Middle. The school’s Biomedical Engineering program is one of only 55 certified magnet programs in the nation. They’re reinstating the PTA after a three-year absence, and after narrowly missing a “B” grade last year, J.F.K. is shooting for an “A” this year.
“I want the kids to feel good about coming here,” Osborn said.
Turner is raising spirits and expectations among the Jackson High student body.
“When I say to them, this is your school, but apart from it being your school it’s also my school, they feel that,” Turner said.