Story by Deborah Welky | Photos by Denise Fleischman
Wellington Landings Middle School opened in 1987 as the second public school and first middle school serving the fledgling community of Wellington. Since then, it has become a thriving academic home to generations of Wellington youth and has consistently ranked among the county’s top middle schools.
The school is currently led by Lindsay Ingersoll, who took over the role of principal not quite one year ago. Before that, she served as an assistant principal at Wellington Landings since 2012.
Ingersoll recalls having a difficult time in middle school, and that’s what led her to becoming a middle school principal.
“Elementary school was fine and dandy, and by high school, I’d found myself a little bit, but middle school was a tough time for me, as it is for many kids,” Ingersoll said. “There are so many changes in a child who comes in as an 11-year-old and leaves as a 14-year-old. They need extra love and support to get through that stage of life. When my career choices led me to education, I found myself wanting to impact as many middle school students as possible.”
Today, the students at Wellington Landings are the beneficiaries of Ingersoll’s love and support.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to become a psychologist, and I pursued that degree,” Ingersoll said. “I’m really thankful I did that because it helps me every day in my current role as principal. In the beginning, I knew I wanted to work with kids, but I was not sure where I wanted to go. A special education teaching opportunity arose at Lantana Middle School and, even though it was not my original plan, that’s where I ended up.”
Helping this unique population of students had a deep impact on her.
“As I learned more and saw that I had leadership qualities in me that were growing and becoming more expansive, I became the special education coordinator,” Ingersoll recalled. “During that period of time, I went to school to get my master’s degree, and shortly thereafter, I was offered the position of assistant principal at Wellington Landings.”
Although her entire teaching career has been in Florida, Ingersoll’s youth was spent in California.
“I grew up in Calabasas — a suburb of Los Angeles — in what resembled an old west kind of town,” she said. “It had a small-town feel, nothing like it is today. Today, it is a very different place, but it’s still fun to go back there.”
Ingersoll got her bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University-Northridge before making the move to Florida, where she later earned her master’s degree in educational leadership from Florida Atlantic University.
“I was brought up in a house that, luckily, valued education,” she said. “My mother was a former elementary school teacher, so when I began looking at entering the field of teaching, she was excited and supportive.”
There were other key mentors along the way.
“In my career, the person who has mentored me the most is the former principal here, Blake Bennett. We were actually teachers together, so we have known each other going on 20 years,” Ingersoll said. “Blake had faith in those leadership skills I had, and when I was able to come here to work underneath her, she always challenged me to go out of my comfort zone, to garner those skills to become a better leader.”
When Bennett was named the new principal at the A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Ingersoll took over the top job at Wellington Landings in March 2021.
The past two years have been challenging times for educators, trying to balance safety with the academic needs of students.
“The challenges I come across every day are just molehills to be navigated and climbed over, but I always give challenges to myself as well,” Ingersoll said. “Like making sure I’m always a step ahead, looking outside the box, being ahead of the game, being creative and innovative in order to support our students and our staff. For the last two years, almost all of that was technology-related, but now we are trying to find a balance — a combination of what we learned during distance-learning and how we want to teach now that all our students are back on campus.”
And Ingersoll is glad the students are back — all 1,300 of them. A great many of them spent all of the last school year working remotely.
“There’s nothing to compare to having the students here in school,” she said. “Some students have the ability to be successful online, but they have to be intrinsically motivated. I’m so happy to have all our students back here.”
Wellington Landings is home to several choice academies, such as its fine arts and pre-information technology programs. It has consistently been ranked as the highest-performing non-magnet middle school in Palm Beach County for years.
“We’re very proud of that,” Ingersoll said. “Our kids continue to perform at a very high level. We’re also a Florida Five-Star School, which means that the Florida Department of Education recognizes that we continue to show evidence of exemplary community involvement. I think it’s important that I’m part of the community. Wellington is a really unique community, particularly in the support it gives our schools. The Keely Spinelli grants, for instance, help us support students who are struggling. We are able to purchase supplemental instructional tools to help those students.”
Also offering sometimes unexpected insights are Ingersoll’s own children — ages 6, 13 and 17 — who have attended Wellington schools. “It gives me a little extra insight on everything,” she laughed.
Looking back on her own middle school years, Ingersoll doesn’t think the children have changed, but some of their needs have, and the school must be sensitive to that.
“As a school, we have several problem-solving teams. We meet regularly to adjust, based on student needs. Sometimes, things in the world change. We need to make changes at that point in time,” she said. “We do that a lot through our positive behavior support (PBS) — a whole school approach to setting expectations, encouraging positivity and focusing on using those expectations to help students reach their highest potential.”
Yet the thing Ingersoll is the proudest of is the level of collaboration at Wellington Landings.
“The students, teachers, non-instructional staff, custodians, PTO and SAC all help us be successful,” she said. “We’re always collaborating together. Everybody puts their heart and their soul into making our campus what I consider to be the best place. I would like to see us continue on our tradition of excellence, making sure that we’re always creating innovative opportunities for our students. We don’t ever want to be stagnant. I am so happy to be staying here for a while. I feel like I am where I belong, and I want to put all of my focus on making sure that Wellington Landings continues to be the wonderful school that it is.”