For some Temple Terrace families, accepting for their 11 or 12-year-old child is a risky proposition. Greco is the public middle school for exiting fifth grade students from , , and schools. A designated Title One school, Greco has earned a grade of “C” for the last three years and has a school improvement plan in place mandated for struggling schools. Add to that, the low academic ratings.
But there are attentive parents who insist that Greco with its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and Pre-KAPS (Advanced Placement Scholars Program) programs is a fine choice for their prospective middle-schoolers.
Laura Runge, USF professor of English, and husband Mark Gordon, director at National Center for Advanced Technologies, say they are pleased with the way their son has transitioned into his sixth grade year at Greco.
“Middle school is a scary transition. The school made it easy by providing a lot of information about the classes, teachers and the set-up. Spencer did the shadow day at Greco when he was in his last year at Lewis. He was paired with a student in the STEM program and went class to class with him. It was a very good experience for him,” says Runge.
The open house Thursday night was an upbeat affair organized by the PTSA. Margie Ferrategennaro, vice president of membership, was enthusiastic about the school’s potential.
“We want parents to come out and see what’s available, to talk with teachers leading the clubs, so they can get some general information and learn about the great programs and people we have at this school,” says Ferrategennaro.
The school principal, Tim Binder, points out that the clubs are designed to take student interests and use that interest to engage them academically. For example, “members of the Fantasy Football club will use their knowledge of college and professional football teams to study mathematics and statistics,” says Binder.
The Well-Red Fashionistas, led by teacher Simone Brookins, spend their club time creating a fashion magazine. To prepare, club members read and write articles about the fashion industry, study current designers, and analyze the economic impact of the fashion industry.
Kindra Sheppard leads the Drama Club, using the “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” style of improvisation.
“We keep it fun and quirky. I give the students defined topics and encourage them to use their brains and bodies in their performances,” says Sheppard.
Julie Ford leads the Greco Student Council. She says it is a great organization for kids interested in politics and government.
“We do so many activities. Last year, we held a very successful canned food drive for Metropolitan Ministries, put on an ice-cream social for teachers, and held fundraisers to support the eighth-grade activities and much, much more,” says Ford.
Kelsey Oberbroeckling graduated from the STEM program at Greco last year and now attends King High in the IB program. “I had a lot of fun at Greco. STEM was a good fit for me. I found my core group; we started together and stayed together. The teachers are very dedicated,” she says.
Her parents, Russ and Deanna, are so satisfied with the school and Kelsey’s experience in the STEM program that they’ve sent their youngest daughter, Hannah, to the school with complete confidence.
“I feel comfortable at Greco. Our team is working on a water tower project,” says Hannah Oberbroeckling.
In spite of its "C" rating, the evidence is that Greco is beloved by many parents and students. As Runge says about her son Spencer, “He is so excited about learning that I have to put aside any of my academic-parent worries to see how this unfolds. He comes home every day and tells me school was 'Awesome. Even the classes I don't like are awesome.'"