By Matt Wiley

Despite a recent FCAT score scare at some public schools in Hillsborough County, several New Tampa schools are being recognized for their excellence in education.

For example, Paul R. Wharton High’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) was recently recognized as the best in the Hillsborough County School District at the annual Hillsborough County Council PTA/PTSA Awards Luncheon on May 30 at Lowry Park Zoo. And, Wharton principal Bradley Woods was recognized as Hillsborough’s High School Principal of the Year — for the second year in a row!

“It’s quite an honor to be selected,” says Woods of his second consecutive Principal’s award. “It’s both overwhelming and humbling. I feel like I just show up every day and try to do what’s right for the kids. I’ll be here at 6:45 tomorrow morning to do it all over again.”

Woods says he wasn’t fazed by the recent FCAT results, which claimed that several schools in Hillsborough County were performing at unacceptably sub-par levels.

“From a testing standpoint, we just need to keep challenging our students,” Woods said. “We’ve got to take a step back and look at all the information from the test results to see what the numbers really say.”

The Wharton High PTSA also was recognized as the District’s High School PTSA of the year. The group also was honored with the “Local Unit Achievement Award,” as well as numerous other awards, including the “Outstanding Program Award” for its “5K & One Mile Family Fun Run” that helps raise money for “Wishes for Wharton,” a program in which teachers submit requests for things that would benefit their classroom and the learning experience their students receive.

“We raised enough money to meet all of the wishes that were submitted by our teachers this year,” says Wharton PTSA president Eileen Dellecese. “It goes to show what can be accomplished when everyone works together.”

Dellecese is finishing up her third and final year as Wharton’s PTSA president. She is excited for the next group of Board members who will run the PTSA next year.

“We have had a great group of Board members,” she says. “It’s been a great experience and I’m proud of everyone.”

She says that Wharton’s PTSA tries to do a lot with the students.

“We try to reach out to wherever the ‘need’ is,” she says. For instance, the PTSA was able to provide seven $500 scholarships to students this past year, as well as provide yearbooks to Wharton seniors who could not afford to purchase one.

Wharton also was recognized for the work of Amy French, who received “Instructional Support Person of the Year.” The school also received awards for “Communications Excellence” and “High School PTSA Student Involvement.”

But, Wharton wasn’t the only school in the spotlight at the awards ceremony, as Benito Middle School principal John Sanders was named Hillsborough County’s Middle School Principal of the Year. “I feel blessed to have the PTA, teachers and community that I do here at Benito,” Sanders says. “Without them, this award would mean nothing.”

Benito also was recognized for the work of Brandie Villano, who was honored as Hillsborough County’s “Middle School PTSA Person of the Year.” The school also received awards for “Communications Excellence” and “School Volunteering Excellence.”

Hunter’s Green Elementary (HGE) also was honored with several awards this year, including the prestigious “Hillsborough County Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of the Year.” The school also received recognition for “Communications Excellence,” “School Volunteering Excellence” and for its newsletter.


Congrats, Gabrielle!

In addition, HGE also is home to a National Award of Merit winner of the 2011-12 PTA Reflections Program for film from the National PTA. Gabrielle Meyers, a ten-year-old fourth grader who won at both the state and national level for her two-minute short film entitled “Comet Zoo,” about zoo animals that can’t seem to get along.

She put together a short “stop animation” film using small “squishy” animals in diorama backgrounds, one of which featured an arctic scene with animals floating on icebergs. She also recorded a song for the opening and closing credits in which she both sang and played the guitar.

“It took at least a day to film it,” she says. “It took about fifteen minutes to write (the script).”

Meyers says that she had to click the shutter on a still-shot camera each time she moved the animals and then put the photos in order on the computer to make them appear to be moving. The film is made up of 120 still shots.

“It wasn’t about winning,” says Meyers, humbly. “But it is something I’ll always remember.”

Appropriately, Meyers received her award at Tampa’s renowned Lowry Park Zoo. Her film is currently on display this summer in Washington, D.C.

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