BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
ORLANDO - This new Parramore based school has been a longtime dream of one school board member. This school has been a longtime goal of District 5 Board Member Kathleen “Kat” Gordon. It was something she has made known to other board members and to former Superintendent Ronald Blocker for many years.
“Mr. Blocker asked me and each of the other board members what we wanted our legacy to be. I said: ‘Put a school in Parramore. A K-through-8.’ Everybody laughed, but nobody thought it would happen,” Gordon said. “And here we are today. This school will be the pride of the community.”
Clergy and school staff members convened at the OCPS Academic Center for Excellence on Thursday, August 10, to lay hands on the school for which the Parramore community has laid claim. The school, which covers grades Pre-K to 8th grade, opened on Monday, August 14, 2017, to coincide with the 2017-2018 Orange County Public Schools Calendar year.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility occurred in Jan.2015. It’s classified as a unique Community Partnership School, meaning, it’s reliant on four core community partners – a school district, university or college, nonprofit, and health care provider – to secure resources that support student success and community well-being.
Orange County Public Schools formed partnerships with the University of Central Florida, Valencia College, Children’s Home Society of Florida, Orange Blossom Family Health, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, and Rosen Foundation.
“What differentiate this school from others in Orange County are the partnerships.” Said Lauren Roth, Senior Facilities and Communications Director for Orange County Public Schools.
“This school was made state of the art, especially for students who may not be privy to such technology based opportunities. This brings those technologies to them.” She said.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation visited OCPS ACE while it was under construction to explore the possibility of partnering.
School Board Chairman Bill Sublette said that what goes on inside the school walls will have effects for years to come.
“This unique partnership will transform the lives of hundreds of children attending the new Preschool K8 each year,” he said.
The new facility’s principal is Dr. Andrew Rollins, formerly of Princeton Elementary School. Shannon Currie is the school’s Community Partnership School Director.
“The school board in 2001, led at the time by Bert Carrier, made the courageous decision to ask voters to approve a half-penny sales tax for school construction after voters had rejected several previous measures. That approval set the stage for the 2014 sales tax renewal that helped to fund this and many other District 5 schools.” Said Dr. Rollins
Through the Harris Rosen Foundation, every student who attended OCPS ACE and graduates from Jones High School will receive a scholarship to attend a two or four-year public college or university or technical/vocational school in Florida.
The scholarship includes room, board, tuition, books and travel. This mirrors the successful program Rosen started in Orlando’s Tangelo Park neighborhood more than 25 years ago. The Rosen foundation has worked to help furnish this facility in the Parramore community to combat the underemployment and increase the graduation ratio in Parramore.
“We are grateful to the community for making this a reality,” said Dr. Barbara Jenkins, OCPS superintendent. “From the voters who approved the half-cent sales tax to build this school, to the community philanthropists whose donations will provide valuable experiences on this campus, we are so lucky to live in a community that truly values and supports public education.”
Dr. Robert M. Spooney, Chair for the school’s Community Council, will convene meetings once a month at the school, where community residents can meet with elected officials and appointed staff within the school system.
“Bless their hearts and minds as these students learn in a new environment.” Spooney said. Spooney pastors Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Institutional Church, located in the heart of the Parramore community.
What students can expect at the New Campus:
-Collaborate work classrooms, all equipped with smartboards.
-A full medical facility which will tend to any medical needs, be it dental, or physical that students or the community require.
-A music department.
-Two gymnasiums. One of which belongs to the Boys and Girls Club on the campus, which provides a haven for students afterschool.
-A parking garage for parents and staff.
-On-site counseling for students encountering issues.
Other members of the clergy included longtime Central Florida pastors, Dr. Annette Stubbs, Pastor of Freewill Deliverance Center in Parramore, Pastor Rollie Murray of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Devin Heflin of Divine Purpose Life Changing Ministries, Bishop G. Christopher Clark of Greater Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in Tangerine, FL, Pastor Michael Sikes of City Church and Pastor Glendy Hamilton of Harvest Baptist Church.
These men and women of God prayed over the facility, laying hands on each door and took the time to speak with staff members.
“This is a blessing. This school will provide an alternative measure to reach our children early.” Said Loretta Robinson-Banks, the director for the Boys and Girls club facility located on the school’s campus.
Parramore, once regarded as the defacto Black entertainment and nightlife district in Orange County, has a historic past, but a new school, which will ensure a historic future.