Find Your TRUE NORTH at North Tampa Christian Academy
President of School
NTCA President Orton Varona has a strong background in business and educational administration. Equipped with a unique history, diverse skill set, and a heart for education, Varona seeks to serve God in a role and environment where he can contribute the greatest amount of value.
Varona recently immersed himself in the growth and development of a small private school, North Dallas Adventist Academy. Under his leadership, the school experienced 10 years of consecutive enrollment growth, acquired and developed a new 5 million dollar school property, and greatly expanded their offerings.
Most appropriately described as a “builder,” Varona’s greatest professional accomplishments have occurred in start-up and change environments. He has served as an entrepreneur and has helped to grow multiple businesses from concept to disposition. He has also been a strategic consultant on commercial development projects with a combined asset value in excess of $25 billion. Varona knows what it means to take a project from vision to reality and is dedicated to putting that knowledge toward the growth, relevancy, and success of NTCA’s future.
Sandra F. Doran, Ed.D.
Founding Head of School
Prior to accepting the challenge as Founding Head of NTCA, Dr. Sandra Doran served for 15 years as an Associate Superintendent for the Florida Region of the Seventh-day Adventist Educational System helping to oversee 32 schools in the state. She has taught on every level from pre-school through college and has served as Head of School for the Montessori School of East Providence, Rhode Island and principal of Cedar Brook School in Rehoboth, MA and Browning Elementary/South Lancaster Academy in MA. She has enjoyed supervising student teachers and serving as an adjunct instructor at numerous colleges including Boston University, Tufts University, Lesley University, Providence College and University of Central Florida. As an independent consultant, she has spoken to hundreds of audiences, ranging from church groups, schools, and parent organizations to educational conventions and conferences across the United States.
Dr. Doran holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and English from Atlantic Union College, a master’s degree in Religion and Communication from Andrews University, and a doctoral degree in special education from Boston University. She has served as a columnist for the Adventist Review, Signs of the Times and ParentTalk magazines; and has published hundreds of articles and five books. Her most recent title, Smart Kid, Can’t Read, with primary author Lorna Kaufman, was released in 2016. Her greatest joy comes from transforming environments and energizing people through meaningful connections and motivating communication.
Stephen Herr, MA
Associate Head of School
Before joining the NTCA team as the Associate Head of School, Mr. Stephen Herr spent eight years as the principal of East Pasco Adventist Academy in Dade City, FL where he was able to see a 220% increase in enrollment through developing relationships with the church and community, helping the school become a Creation Health School, developing a stronger partnership with Florida Hospital and community organizations, and adopting and hosting an after school athletic program. Before working at EPAA, Mr. Herr was an administrator and teacher at Highland View Academy in MD from 2001-2009. Mr. Herr holds a bachelor’s degree in Religious Education from Southern Adventist University, a master’s degree in Religious Education from Andrews University, and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Andrews University.
Stephen and his wife Jamie have four children and live in the Wesley Chapel area. Stephen stated, “Children deserve the best education possible, and I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to this next phase of Adventist education at NTCA.”
Dawn McLendon, M.Ed.
Marketing & Enrollment Director
Dawn McLendon’s background includes extensive experience in education and marketing, with roles in teaching, administrative, and recruitment/enrollment at schools within the Adventist education system.
Prior to her previous position as Marketing Director at Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida, Ms. McLendon served in the role of Vice President, Marketing and Enrollment Services at Adventist University of Health Sciences (formerly Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences), where she was also a member of the Adventist Enrollment Association and FHCHS Admissions Committee.
Before joining Adventist University, she held positions as Associate Superintendent of Education and Classroom Educator with the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Ms. McLendon began her career as a Classroom Educator with the Chesapeake Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists and holds a degree in Elementary Education from Washington Adventist University, as well as a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida.
Merili Wyatte, MA
Director of Early Childhood and Lower School
Before joining the NTCA team as the Director of Early Childhood and Lower School, Mrs. Merili Wyatte served the past eight years as a kindergarten teacher, Special Needs Coordinator and VPK director at Tampa Adventist Academy. She has been teaching for 20 years, twelve of which were in the Hillsborough County Public Schools, teaching preschool special needs.
Mrs. Wyatte has a bachelor’s degree in Specific Learning Disabilities from the University of South Florida and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction with a major in Special Education from Florida State University. She is also certified in Pre-K through Primary and held a National Board Certification in special needs.
Mrs. Wyatte is Cuban-American and is fluent in Spanish. Some of her hobbies include cooking, running, reading, and laughing. While she loves teaching, her most valuable role has been as a parent to her 2 beautiful children! As a parent and an educator, she values commitment to creating a sense of family among staff and students, embracing diversity, sharing Jesus and maintaining a developmental and holistic approach to education.
Early Childhood Program Coordinator
Before joining the NTCA team as the Early Childhood Program Coordinator, Mrs. Luz Gutierrez started her career at Meadows Academy at Spring Meadows Church as a teacher and quickly advanced to assistant director. After a year of service, she relocated and worked as an assistant director and then Interim director at Kid’s Safari Preschool at New Port Richey SDA Church.
Mrs. Luz Gutierrez received her undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida in the field of Sociology with a concentration in Early Childhood education. She has been working with young children all of her life and believes that God has called her to minister children and families in the early childhood setting.
Among Mrs. Luz Gutierrez favorite things are exercise and spending time in the great outdoors. She is proud to say that her family is her greatest accomplishment. She has a wonderful husband of four years, two wonderful boys ages three and 18 months and a rambunctious puppy named Chipper.