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Leaving his mark

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Retiring psychologist was instrumental in formation of Renaissance Center

By Mike Wright

CITRUS SPRINGS — Sometimes Dr. Andy Nott enters a classroom, sits off to the side and observes.

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He’s there to watch a child who is struggling in school. Nott is looking for signs, for answers.

Nott takes a look around the room to see how other children interact with their teacher. He wants to know how the child he is watching acts differently.

Is the child paying attention? Do her eyes wander? Does she understand the teacher’s instructions? Does her mind appear elsewhere?

Students usually look up when Nott enters the classroom. His presence normally causes no more than a casual curiosity.

“I try to be obscure,” he said.

He usually spends about 45 minutes to an hour at a time. He then meets with teachers and the student and begins formulating a plan Nott hopes will transform a struggling student into a successful one.

Nott is a school psychologist. He retires Dec. 21 after 34 years with the Citrus County School District. When he was first employed, Roger Weaver was superintendent of schools.

Nott, who played a significant part in the formation of the Renaissance Center program, is one of nine district psychologists. His home schools are Central Ridge Elementary, Inverness Middle and Citrus High.

His wife, Michele, recently retired as a math teacher at Inverness Middle. And his daughter, Marli Pollard, is a first-grade teacher at Central Ridge.

“It’s all I’ve ever known,” Pollard said, referring to growing up with educators as parents.

Central Ridge Principal Nancy Simon said teachers appreciate Nott’s assistance.

“He brings a deep knowledge of children — what makes them tick,” Simon said. “He’s very pragmatic. He relates so well to children.”

Nott didn’t plan on a career in the schools. At 24 years old and with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, he answered an ad for an educational diagnostician in the Citrus County School District. Basically, the job was to test students in achievement and learning.

“I thought I’d try it for a year,” Nott said. “I really liked it.”

That was 1978 and Nott hasn’t left. He continued his education with a master’s degree in educational sciences and became the school district psychologist.

Along the way, educators started to focus on the way individual schools handled students with behavioral issues. Most schools provided one “alternative education” classroom with one teacher, but there was no cohesiveness in the school district for educating disruptive students.

Educators led by Jimmy Hughes, a former superintendent of schools, led the effort to create a centralized alternative school. The Renaissance Center was born in a group of portable classrooms near Citrus High School.

Students with behavioral issues began receiving specialized curriculum, along with a strict level system that rewarded progress.

Many students were eventually returned to their home schools where they thrived, Nott said.

“Kids who made it through the program and graduated, the majority have done very well,” he said. “A lot of kids have done very well.”

Nott said he has enjoyed his run in the school district and will miss the students.

“It’s been really gratifying,” he said, “knowing I had impact in their lives.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.