BAKER — As one era ends, another begins at Baker School.
Thomas Shipp's retirement as principal this year allowed alumnus Mike Martello to take the reins.
Martello, who had been Baker's assistant principal, said he could not feel more at home.
His father, Gerald, was the school's assistant principal for more than 20 years.
The class of 1988 alumnus is the youngest of four siblings to graduate from Baker.
They all wore the No. 30 jersey, now retired — to honor Vince, Mike's late older brother, a star Gator basketball player — but still on display in one of the school's hallways.
"We have a proud family tradition here," Martello said.
It's just one reason he anticipates his first full school year as principal. Shipp retired effective last month.
"This really is my dream job," Martello said. "I love the community and the atmosphere here."
Martello wants to continue community involvement initiatives and add more CHOICE — Community High Okaloosa Institutes Career Education — curricula.
"I would to see us expand on (CHOICE) more and tailor that to the demographics in our area; I think forestry would be a good fit for the culture in our area," he said.
He might get some advice from his wife, Lee, Laurel Hill School's principal.
"She has more experience than I do, so I get to bounce ideas off her," he said.
Martello also received insight from his predecessor Shipp, the school's principal since 2002.
"The three principles, which left an impression with me (from Shipp) is be fair, be consistent and always put kids first," he said.
Martello will do "a great job" as principal, Shipp said.
"He considers every decisions he makes and he is sensitive to the decision facing students and parents," Shipp said.
As for Shipp, he'll miss watching students become adults.
"It's just neat to watch them grow up and become mature young men and women," he said. "Watching them grow was the main reason I got into education."