My three years at Apopka High School were special. I enjoyed working with the community where I call home--I like seeing students and parents in the grocery stores, at restaurants, and at the local parks. I also enjoyed working at a school where I could see my daughter every day as she attended Apopka High School and benefitted from the great teachers and programs. Every school is different, and as I grew as an administrator, I naturally saw things a little differently than I did during my earlier years in administration. But, in many ways, I still saw things the same--always looking for the great things that created a positive learning environment that students and staff would look forward to being a part of. This is the 3rd school that I spent some time reflecting on in order to remember all the great times, things, and people that made the school great...this is an incomplete list, limited by my experience and memory. More than anything, the students and staff are what make a school great...I wish I could list everyone...with that in mind, here's Mr. Fitz's Top 101 for Apopka HS.
The Top 101 Things and Memories that I Love about Apopka High School (In no particular order…just as it comes to me as I reflect…)
The high quality AHS teachers, staff members, and administrators who are the heart and soul of what makes Apopka High School a great place for students to learn and adults to work.
The Mascots—Dewey and Daisy—two mascots. What other school has so much spirit that they have two mascots? And Paul Phillip Peters , SGA Sponsor, a.k.a Mr. Excitement—the guy that makes sure the mascots are clean, have water and food, and that they make it to almost every event on the books without even being asked.
The “Are You Smarter Than A Darter” contest sponsored by the Junior Class and Marc Anchel …thanks for throwing a majority of the questions to my Social Studies Wheel-House the first year…
Agri-Science with Lawrence Fisher …thanks for all the plants, strawberries, blueberries, and all the plants for special ceremonies. AG Day – Opportunity to see some cool animals and AG students share their passion.
Senior Kickoff with Sue Bissell Beechum and the Senior Class. Selling Lockers with Mr. Peters.
Senior Week, Senior Olympics, and Senior Karaoke….
Special Olympics…Steve Schwartz leading the way…helping all kids have fun and succeed…winning championships almost every season.
The Voice of the Blue Darters – Steve Schwartz…”Another 1st and 10 BLUE DARTERS!”
The Apopka Chief… John Peery …all the coverage and pictures of the Blue Darter Nation.
The Blue Darter Band…GO BIG BLUE…200+ Strong…and Christopher Cannon and Mr. Pariss
Chorus…Bel Canto…Linda Boot …visiting FOX 35 Orlando singing Santa Baby
Cool School of the Week for two years straight…on live TV talking about why our school is cool.
The News from the Nest weekly newsletter…I loved promoting all the great things happening around campus…I also liked Demetria JaQuae and now Sarah McLeod carrying the torch.
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Teacher of the Week…I loved hearing about all of the great teachers on campus. Thanks Edward F. Conlan
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Student Athlete of the Week…I loved finding out more about some of our great student athletes on campus.
McDonald’s Senior of the Week – Senior Class and Mrs. Beechum…
Rita’s Support Person of the Week…so many people playing a role on campus to make Apopka High School a special place to learn and work.
Homecoming Parade…One of the best in the area…with support from all Apopka.
The Dance Team and the Step Team…so much dedication and spirit.
Computer Graphics class with legend John Hauser and Todd Hauser…biggest, best classroom on campus…with the best computers on campus. I could get lost in that classroom.
Ceramics class…pure fun and therapy for the data-driven world. Dylan Cox is a legend…I wish I could spend more time at the Potter’s Wheel…
Staff Lounge…the best staff lounge in the county…I wish I were here when the ping pong table makes its debut.
The Media Center…Ann Mixson, Connie Maise…and now Kelly Williams. I loved the Oasis Book Talks, The Hunger Games, and all the emphasis on helping kids fall in love with reading…and the pizza, of course…
The Darter Starter Child Development program…and Santa Claus Rick Darlington’s visit last Christmas.
The 900 Weight room…inspirational thoughts…keys to a successful program.
The Cheerleaders…so much spirit at football games, basketball games, and pep rallies.
The Color Guard…winning championships…and the Guard Buddies…inspiring! Cichele Sutton Fields
The Medical Magnet… Carol Benefield Tingley Mollie Swann
Engineering and Robotics…Mike MacWithey
Passionate World Language Teachers…making the learning of a foreign language fun.
Candlelight with Linda Boot and Chorus.
Darter Success Teachers—finding ways to help kids succeed.
The Drawing program…inspiring to visit…so much talent… James Fowler and Matt Houvouras…awesome!!! Face-painting, Chalk Art in the courtyard.
The Art and Jazz Festival…
The Insight…Newspaper and now Online Newspaper
The AHS Golf Tournament with Donald Cary and company
Student Services Department—Most will never know all that you guys do for the students…I can’t even count how many days you guys stayed until 5 and 6 PM just to get work done in order to give kids the help they need. I liked the idea of Counselor Corner in the cafeteria…and I loved the addition of Jodie Rolston-Cary, Pamela Raulerson Catron Lisa Langevin Munyon, Abby Azucey, Takia Chiles, Denise Adams Palmer, Ashlie Noles, and Tiffany--you guys are special, and there’s a place for all of you in my heart...thanks for being patient with me. With the addition of Kenya Nelson-Warren, the department should be dynamite this year.
ESE Department…I love and appreciate every one of you. Thanks for caring about our neediest of students. These kids were not only the neediest of students, but they were also among the happiest of students. Janet, Le Rhea, and Nicole. Dr. Sisler, Carl, Jackie, and Mrs. Doward. Mr. Sauers, Erin, Adriana, Rebekah, Chantel, Bixler, “One-of-a-kind” James Delgado, Rhonda, Tanya, Krista, Steve, Simon, Melody Wright, Bonnie, and Susan…I appreciate all of you…all the hard work on behalf of our students—Thanks!!!
Top Quality CBVE program—giving our students job experience. Great job Steve, Simon, and Erin Hebert.
Baseball Games under the lights…the envy of almost the entire county.
Senior Talent Show and SGA Talent Show
The Math Department…working so hard…and then amazing results…great job! I knew I saw some great teaching this past year…innovative teaching!!! Keep up the good work! Sally Lanier, Christy Goss West, etc...
NHS…Pam Montague and Jamie Durham …the ideals of Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character are my goals for developing students and preparing them for life.
Freshman Orientation…so much participation from so many people, to show off what it means to be a Blue Darter. Mr. Peters and SGA, Mr. Cannon and the Band, Major Teet, Ms. Richard, all of the counselors, Fred Priest, and the cheerleaders.
Senior Awards Ceremony – Too many to thank…Mrs. Sims (Helms), Mrs. Crea, Sara Farmer, Mrs. Williams, the Emcees W C Mike Mellon and Mr. Peters, Ms.
Beechum, and all the staff members that give out awards and make the evening a memorable event.
Chick-fil-A fundraising and sponsoring Academy Students of the Month
Coach Darlington’s talks in the center of the field after games.
Unbelievable State Championship Runs….with the whole community behind the team…
The Blue Darter Band marching in the Macy’s Parade in Chicago…even if the announcers did say a Blue Darter was a snake.
Career Academy Day…over 100 speakers from all walks of life…and tasty vendor food…surviving the crowd that first year was a miracle.
Teacher appreciation week…and all of the support and treats from our partners…Papa Johns, Jason’s Deli, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Rita’s, SGA, and PTSA. I will remember for the rest of my career to never promise Donuts to a teacher until they are on site.
Spontaneous Pep-Rallies in the courtyard by the Band and the Cheerleaders in the morning.
Eating with the Admin team at lunch every day.
Football team playing on ESPN…multiple times…
Supervising the Senior Section at Football games…
Photo-finish Powder Puff football games…decided by an extra-point sudden death battle. Great job Mr. Peters and Mr. Mellon.
Girls’ Soccer and their Final Four Run in 2011-12. We’ve had one of the best programs in the area and the state over the last few years. Doug Matthews
All the Drama Productions…especially the Wizard of OZ…when I played a small role…I learned from the best— Linda Matthews . Erin Miner.
The Legendary Wrestling Hauser Family…District Champions in Wrestling, all the cool shirts: Don’t Feed the Wrestlers, Save the Beard, and my favorite, WWMD - “What Would Marzano Do?”
Senior Parking Spot painting day.
AHS tailgating before football games…especially down at the Citrus Bowl.
Basketball Team – District Champions
DNN – Darter News Network with Thomas Scahill
Christmas Staff Party in the Cafeteria…Mr. Scahill and Mrs. Boot entertainment. That one song about Fitz’s Word…lol…paybacks are still in order…
The Insight – going online with Ms. McLeod
Yearbook with Heather Springer…Such a great staff of students…great themes, great pictures…always capturing the excitement of each school year.
AVID with Dr. Kendall …helping kids reach their dreams.
MLK Parade with the Blue Darter Band
Homecoming week…Mr. Peters and SGA…students and staff, almost everyone, dressing up and showing spirit.
Prom by the Mr. Anchel and the Junior Class….always classy, always fun.
Ford Drive one for your school…The people at Ford were always so nice and helpful—never pushy, and eating a hotdog was never so much fun…thanks to everyone for coming out.
The Athletic Office with Fred and Doug…thanks for letting me be part of the marketing department for a lot of the goods you were selling and the drinks you were chilling.
Thanks to all the hard working custodians…helping me move four times in one year, and chasing me out almost every night at 10 PM. Thanks for doing all the things people don’t always see, and thanks for dropping what you were doing, many times, to help out in emergencies.
The Data/Training Specialists Team of Iris, Kelly, Jodi, Brook and now Myra, Jen Korkes and Kenya…what a team…best in the business, best in the county. Vegas and RTI…the two were meant to go together.
The hard-working cafeteria workers… always finding a way to make some of my favorites meals despite all the rules…Taco-salad, Chicken/Corn/Mashed Potato Bowls, and Baked Chicken…mmmm good…and always willing to mix up some coffee for special occasions.
All the cool SGA and Senior Class posters in the cafeteria…
The Blue Darter Statue…I loved using that as a backdrop.
OT…Officer Tarver… Always ready to help—after school, with parking decals, or just to give a ride to the 1600 building.
All the clerks, bookkeepers, and counselors with candy dishes…it’s obvious who was visiting a little too often over the last 3 years.
Project Graduation at Universal with Ms. Beechum and all the other staff members who like to stay out until 5 AM—lots of fun, food, rides, concerts, and memories…mostly just sitting in restaurants talking and enjoying the AC.
Coaches’ Meetings…great group of people…and always great food.
Wall of Pride Bricks…I hope it gets finished one day.
The Admin Team…Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Coffie, Ms. Fitzgerald, Mr. Hall, Mr. Vitulli, Mrs. Bradshaw-Phillips, Mrs. Santana, Mr. Mahoney, Mr. Jenkins, Ernest Swift, Dan Thompson, Dr. Grubbs, Ryan Barth, and Officer Anderson , Officer Wiggins…what a great group of people to work with…I’m going to miss all the friendship and fun. What a great team to be a part of…
The Biggest Loser Contest…although, it seemed like Todd Hauser always lost 20 pounds on the last day to win…you can’t beat a wrestler in a weight-loss contest. He was “fishing in the barrel” when it came to winning the contest.
Football team participating in Clean-Up Orange County…picking up trash on a Saturday morning…even if we did pick up a lot of cigarette-butts.
Giant Outdoor Chess at lunchtime…
Senior Slideshow and Senior Breakfast.
Green-Up Apopka Day…Mr. Fisher, Mr. Guthrie, Ms. Moore, and all the kids who came out to make AHS look great.
Family Feud with SGA and Mr. Scahill…and Mr. Swirsky…he made it fun with his answers that never seemed to agree with the survey…
The Freshman Academy…I’ll never forget when I was the guest speaker, giving a motivational speech to 950 freshmen in the cafeteria, many seated with their backs to me, with a bad sound system, and I was the only thing standing between them and promised ice cream…wow…at least the ice cream was good. Thanks to all those freshmen teachers that took kids under their wings and work with the Darter Success teachers to produce amazing results.
Mr. Parris and the Pep Band at basketball games.
PLC group of Mrs. Pagan, Mrs. Parra, and Mrs. Azucey…with our Migrant families…doing an incredible job…I love the passion and compassion.
Mr. Houvouras…Mixing beats at basketball games, organizing Career Academy Day, providing his dynamic voice for Powder Puff, Talent Shows, and Graduation.
Ken Keister and Gjerome Mogol…two of the best trainers in the county…They know their stuff, and they care about kids. There was always a certain peace when they were around because you knew they could handle just about anything.
Ray Mahoney…every school needs a Ray Mahoney. Ray is great with kids, and he is always cool-headed under all circumstances. Always willing to help out, and he was always there to support kids in their many events. Full of wisdom.
Cher Douglas, Carol Smith, Charlene Raulerson and Axa R. Jimenez …keeping me inline, putting up with my shortcomings, and keeping me out of trouble.
Sally Burkhart , MaryK Buranosky…always helpful in crunch time with tough situations…the SAFE and School Nurse combination…Carolyn Seifertblazed a trail that was easy to follow.
The special cooking of Jackie Pledge…always looking for a reason to teach the kids about cooking something or celebrating something. Tasty is the word that comes to mind. You had a special touch with our special students.
Deanie Halverson and Lynda Touchton…handling parents and students in a professional manner…even if the office is packed and stress is overflowing.
The 4X Boys Bowling State Champions...
Mr. Guthrie…one of the most organized, disciplined, and prepared leaders I have had the joy of working with. No one arrived to school earlier than Mr. Guthrie. Mr. Guthrie was a no-nonsense kind of leader when it came to providing a safe, orderly, learning environment for students, but he also had a tender side that genuinely wanted all students to succeed. This tender side often showed itself at graduation as he saw students succeeding and moving on in life. He is the type of leader that doesn’t seek the limelight and doesn’t need to hear himself speak, preferring to surround himself with great people and setting them free to shine. He created an environment of great success at Apopka HS…academically, athletically, and in the arts. He was constantly thinking of how he could make the craziest of mandates work, much like a chess player plotting his next move. We made a good team simply because I liked doing a lot of things he didn’t like doing, and vice-versa…that was one thing I remember his late, precious wife, Melanie Clelland Guthrie, telling me. Thanks, Doug, for the opportunity to work with you at Apopka High School and enjoy 3 of the best years of my career. I know you'll do great at the new school!
I’m sure there are so many more people and things that I can’t think of right now…Feel free to add to my list…Great memories with great people...I hope to bring my school experience to the School Board...vote Fitz...