HISTORY OF ZEPHYRHILLS HIGH SCHOOL

Introduction

In 2006 after retiring from Pasco County Schools as a Principal and Florida Virtual School as Director of Instruction, I returned to education in Polk County. I was enthralled by the work which had been done at Lakeland High School by Mark Thomas, Principal, on their 100th anniversary. LHS published a book and created an extensive office display of the history of LHS. Their strong sense of heritage and the belief that every stakeholder shaped the school was quite evident. In addition, Mark liked to always remind students that there was a strong sense of heritage—their parents may have attended the school as well as their grandparents.

From this wonderful model, I was intrigued about developing a similar comprehensive history of the first school that I worked at in the State of Florida—Zephyrhills High School. As faculty members of ZHS, my husband, Ernie, and I see our former students each and everyday in the community and we are always touched when a former student says, “Mr. Wise, Do you remember me?” or “Mrs. Wise—Remember when?” The school is an important institution in the life of the community and Zephyrhills also has a very strong sense of history.  Many students have relatives who attended ZHS and take enormous pride in the heritage. With that idea at the forefront, I have collected and developed the history of Zephyrhills High Schools which encompasses the history of formal education in the town of Zephyrhills.

My research has included careful analysis of every microfilm copy of the Zephyrhills News (previously known as the Pasco Free Press and Zephyrhills Colonist). My thanks to the Zephyrhills Library for allowing me to spend nearly every Saturday morning of the calendar year of 2007 in this endeavor. As I reviewed the newspapers, I felt a need to share the many vignettes and stories. I often found myself chuckling aloud or wiping a tear as I read about the victories, the successes, the changes, the growth and the tragedies that shaped the life of the school and its community.

I made excursions to the Pioneer Museum in Dade City where Carolyn Falls assisted me in reviewing all of their archives. Margaret Seppanen allowed me access to the complete Zephyrhills Depot Museum collection on the schools. Archives of the St. Petersburg Times also were invaluable. Rosemary Wallace Trottman’s Book, The History of Zephyrhills, tied many pieces together as did the continual consultation of historian, Jeff Miller, from the fivay project. I reviewed every available ZHS yearbook (first published in 1946).

I am touched by the many people who shaped this school. As a new teacher in 1974 at ZHS, I remember that Gail Reynolds and I were quite unique on the faculty in our youth and were enthralled with the many role models at ZHS. I can recall Mr. Ernest Kretschmar officially checking out my textbooks to me as a new teacher. Betty Hall took care of all of us as the ZHS librarian. The wisdom of James E. Davis, Raymond Stewart, and the phenomenal teachers—Jim Bailey, Don Woods, Dale Palmer, Caroline Marlette, Dave Camper, Stan Kendrick, Cathy Micheau Rapp, Terry Turner, Idel Lane, Judy Mason, Betty Jo Hyder, and so many more—literally shaped my life and continue daily to serve as inspirations to me. My mentor, Dr. Mary Giella, was also a guiding force and although not a faculty member of ZHS (rather a leader of Pasco) and always a keeper of history and tradition, she had a profound affect upon its growth and development. Thanks to the following who answered questions and contributed information along the way:

Celia Anderson
Dedi Anderson
Joan Arnot
Clereen Brunty
Irene Dobson
Owen Gall
Jeff Miller
June Moss
George Neukom, Jr.
Nancy Perkins
Jerry Pricher
Margaret Seppanen

Disclaimer: My goal in compiling the history was to capture key events within the context of the time. I did not graduate form Zephyrhills High but taught there for seven years and in the surrounding schools and district office for another 23 years. I also worked in each of the Zephyrhills schools—a distinction that I don’t believe anyone else possesses. My husband’s tenure at ZHS is for 35 years and 2 of our children graduated from there. Our tenure collectively is 73 years so I hope this qualifies me to comment. My attempt has been to be as inclusive as possible—to capture student life, parent involvement, activities and sports, to give the reader a snippet of life in each decade. I have also tried to be objective and include what I found. The school is a sum of all its stakeholders and I believe all of the thousands of students have contributed to what it has become today.

Madonna Wise
December 2007

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