Our mission is to preserve memories of the 100 year history of education in Zephyrhills and we love sharing anecdotes and milestones of the past. Coinciding with the 100 year educational history and certainly embedded within it is the golden anniversary of West Zephyrhills Elementary School. This weekend, the school is honoring the 50 years of service to the community with a bash on campus. Clereen will be there representing our duo since Madonna will be in Louisville, Kentucky as a mom of her daughter, Rachel who is competing in a speech competition. We both send our congratulations and deepest gratitude to all who have served West over time!
As you might imagine, we dug up some Zephyrhills News articles over time to give you a flavor of this elementary school. Recently, we attended the inspirational memorial ceremony of the second principal of West, Ferdinand Renninger. Randall Belcher gave a moving tribute to this fine gentleman and asked that Ferd’s family, colleagues and friends share their recollections. There were moving tributes and one of the stories was particularly charming and we believe captures the spirit of Ferd as well as West. Zephyrhills businessman, Brant Blessing, a ZHS alumni of 1965, related that he was the Assistant Principal at West and was recruited by Mr. Renninger. He said that Ferd was a true inspiration but also a person who knew how to seize the moment and have some fun. To inspire the students in the 1960’s, Ferd proposed that Brant dress up in a superman costume and frolic across the campus, waving his cape to inspire the students to do their best. Brant’s wife, Beth, sewed the costume and Brant made his rounds across the campus. Brant related that customers at his State Farm Insurance office to this day, remember his superman flight at West Zephyrhills Elementary School. Can you imagine how many other stories could be told by the walls of West Zephyrhills Elementary?
It holds laughter, tears, triumphs, and inspiration that have undoubtedly impacted many generations. To the hundreds of students, teachers, staff and parents who have walked the halls of West, we say, thank you for your contributions.
Here are some glimpses of Zephyrhills News coverage over time to help you recall some milestones:
1959: First Principal! Stewart Brown has been reappointed principal of ZHS. The Pasco County Board of Public Instruction on Tuesday also appointed Arleis E. Ross principal of the new Zephyrhills Elementary School and Thomas McCree of Volusia County, to the principalship of the on-the-campus Junior-High-Elementary School.
March 18 1960: Zephyrhills West Elementary School was dedicated during Zephyrhills Founders’ Days in ceremonies at which Chester Taylor, Pasco County School Superintendent, officiated in the new cafetorium. John T.V. Clark, Jr. directed the ZHS Band in a program of music.
Taylor told how the new school was planned and financed. The plant proper, exclusive of walkways, embraces 13,655 square feet built at a cost of $11.95 per square foot, the entire amount for the cafetorium and eight classrooms totaling $181,000. The school has a capacity for 24 classrooms when completed it its entirety. Mrs. Pauline Boggs sold the 43-acre site to school officials for $21,192 and Taylor said eventually the campus may include a junior high school plant. Zephyrhills West Elementary is probably the only school in Pasco County with maximum plans for expansion, he stated.
Superintendent Taylor said:
“We dedicate this school building, providing parents of the community with a plant in which teachers can pridefully instruct, with the thought in mind, however, that no school can offset the evil influence not merely of a bad home but of a home with low disciplinary and moral standards.
If fathers and mothers offer their children no more intellectual fare than comic books, a television set and picture magazines; if they make a home merely a place to sleep, drink and eat, and not the center of life then they have no right to complain of schools.”
Arleis E. Ross, principal, officially accepted the school keys from I.A. DeMinicis, Architect. Platform guests included Zephyrhills city officials, Pasco County board members and school trustees. A 49-star American flag for use in the auditorium and another for the outdoor flagpole were presented to the school by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, with Mrs. Robert Sibley, assisted by Mrs. Jack Selzer.
1962: Elementary Graduation–Special ceremonies for graduation of 6th grade pupils into junior high will be held Monday, June 4, at West Elementary School. Miss Alice Zimmerman is in charge of planning both programs.
1963: Teacher assignments at Zephyrhills schools for the school year beginning in the fall have been announced by Chester Taylor, Jr. At ZHS, where Charles A. Henderson is principal the faculty will include: Lamar Calhoun, John F. Clements, John T.V. Clark, John D. Geiger, Mrs. Alpha S. Gill, Mrs. Betty Jane Hall, Mrs. Constance C. Kaylor, S.B. Kendricks, Ernest Kretschmar, Jr., Mrs. Marjorie Parantha, Earl Reitz, Mrs. Katharine Swing, W.A. Worthington, Lewis K. Wynne, William R. Jeffries, D. Hobson, Laird Jr., Miss Marion J. Ditter, Mrs. Lillian B. Johnson, William R. Kustes, Charles W. McKinney, Will H. McRaney, Clyde R. Mills, Green Napier and Mrs. Georgia H. Skyles.
West Elementary School, with Arleis E. Ross as principal, will have these faculty members: Mrs. Celia Anderson, Mrs. Vianna Gall, Miss Peggy Padgett, Mrs. Beulah Flynn, Mrs. Hettie Jane Price, Mrs. Anne Tipton, Mrs. Dorothy Rhodes, Mrs. Dorothy D. Turner and Mrs. Constance A. Ronnick and Mrs. Marguerite Goetz.
October 26, 1967: Zephyrhills News, ‘Memorial to Principal Arleis E. Ross’ – A colored photographic portrait of Arleis E. Ross, Principal of West Elementary School from its founding in 1959 until his death earlier this year, was unveiled in a ceremony in the school lobby. Mrs. Ross, Dade City, was on hand for the unveiling ceremony
May 4, 1967: Arleis Edward Ross, 51, principal of Zephyrhills West Elementary School since it was opened eight years ago, died Tuesday morning at Lakeland General Hospital. He had been in ill health for several months, suffering from a brain tumor. Services are to be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Sanctuary of the first Methodist Church in Dade City with the Rev. James R. Crook, pastor of the First Methodist Church of Dade City, officiating. All three Zephyrhills schools will be closed Friday morning during the funeral. Students will not report to homerooms until 11 a.m., it was announced Wednesday morning by Ferd Renninger, principal of East and acting principal at West during Mr. Ross’s illness. Mr. Ross was born August 17, 1915 in Whitley County, Kentucky of Frank Ross and Mary Ellen Davenport Ross. He came to Pasco County 13 years ago from Pine Knot, Kentucky, where he taught after receiving both the Bachelor of Arts and masters degrees in education from Eastern Kentucky State College. Mr. Ross served as Assistant Principal at ZHS prior to assuming the principalship of West Elementary.
He was a Methodist, a member of the National Educational Association, Florida Education Association, and the Principal’s Association of Pasco County. Survivors include his wife, Mrs. Verna H. Ross of Dade City; a son, Ralph E. of Melbourne.
1967: Almost 9000 students are expected to enroll in Pasco County schools, and a share of this increase is expected in Zephyrhills. At West Elementary enrollment topped 425 last year (it had been only 330 in 1965-66) and is conservatively estimated at 470 this year and at East Elementary, where the average daily attendance was 341 last year, about 360 are expected to enroll.
At all three centers some additional transferring in of African American students is expected, although crowded conditions will somewhat limit a total “freedom of choice” operation in the county. Although to any school of their choice, the school board has reserved the right to limit such changes in accordance with available space.
1968:Zephyrhills’ three public schools had a combined opening day enrollment of 1,636 students as classes for the 1968-69 term began Friday. Of this number 721 were enrolled at ZHS, 435 at East Elementary School and 480 at West Elementary. School Principals Raymond B. Stewart, James Walker and Ferd Renninger of the three schools, respectively; anticipate an appreciable increase in the enrollment figures as students return from vacation trips.
1971: West Elementary School’s opening day enrollment of 600 had been predicted and school closed Wednesday with 618 enrolled. This is an increase of 89 over last year. Double Sessions went off well. Except for some wrinkles to be ironed out in bus schedules to bring all of the buses into the schools at about the same time, everything went smoothly “all things considered,” on opening day Tuesday.
1975: Leland Brant Blessing, former ZHS basketball star, will return to this community in the fall as the new assistant principal of West Zephyrhills Elementary School, Principal Ferd E. Renninger has announced. West Elementary has 900 students on double sessions; the school has a rated capacity of about 600 students, Principal Renninger has never had a full-time assistant.
A 1965 graduate of ZHS, he was a member of the ZHS state championship basketball team.
1976: New instructors are Miss Susan Sullivan, Mrs. Christine Cole, and Mrs. Evelyn Hilton, a 1975 graduate of ZHS.
1978: West Zephyrhills Elementary School Principal Reinninger will be the first principal for the new elementary school now being built west of ZHS, Woodland Elementary. The new principal for West Zephyrhills Elementary will be Louis Freijo. Freijo is certified in elementary administration and has been employed by the Pasco County system for the past seven years.
1993: In 1993, Principal Jeanette Lovelace chaired the district-level committee for the development of the new elementary report card. She worked with representatives from all groups to develop a new assessment system that was researched-based and aligned to the needs of children and stakeholders.
1996: Principal Jeanette Lovelace oversaw the renovation of the West Zephyrhills Elementary campus. It received a new facelift with the addition of a new administrative building and several new classrooms. Having served as the principal since 1987, Mrs. Lovelace was delighted to unveil the beautiful newly remodeled school site.
1998: In 1998, six Florida Educators were chosen as Fulbright Scholars and were hosted by the Government of Japan to a visit to Japanese schools and homes. The representatives included Madonna Jervis Wise, Principal from West Zephyrhills who forged a partnership between her school and the elementary school in Nara, Japan. This grew into an international partnership which was initiated by Dr. Mary Giella, Assistant Superintendent who tapped Wise to be part of the USF initiative. Ing-Britt Pousette, principal from Sweden, nodded approvingly as a parent at West described how she volunteers twice a week to help children at the school learn to read.”It is better when the teachers are not always the experts,” said Pousette, 46, of St. Olofsskolan School in Sundsvall, Sweden. Pousette concluded that Swedish and U.S. schools face many of the same challenges. West and Sundsvall, Sweden students compared notes on weather and climate conditions throughout the year.
1999: Nancy Massey Perkins was named Pasco County’s outstanding social studies teacher in 1999. Nancy, a 1970 graduate of ZHS, attended West Zephyrhills elementary as a student and is proud of the fact that her mother has served the school for many years as a bus driver as well. She was nominated by Kathy Steiner, District Social Studies Supervisor, because of her innovative interdisciplinary units on Native Americans and The Wild West. Perkins arranged for the entire school to visit Spunk Sasser’s Rodeo and much to everyone’s surprise, Perkins and Principal Wise rode their quarter horses for the kids!
2003: West Zephyrhills Elementary jumped two letter grades, from a C to an A – the largest improvement of any of the schools in the county.
“We are all in shock,” said a gleeful Emily Keene, principal at West Zephyrhills. Keene said that when she saw the grades on the State Department of Education’s Web site, she announced it over the intercom for the enjoyment of teachers working during the summer. Keene credited the school’s teachers for their focus on reading and writing instruction last year. An after-school program that attracted about 60 students also helped, she said. “It was just a lot of hard work,” Keene said. “I’m really proud of everyone.”
From Clereen and Madonna, we second that Emily! We are very proud of all who have served West!
All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise