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Monday, Oct 15, 2018
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New East County High School Will Be Strawberry Crest

TAMPA - The strawberry won. After 20 speakers saluted the fruit, its history, its economic impact and the east Hillsborough families that have farmed it for generations, four Hillsborough school board members voted Thursday to name the new high school opening in August near Plant City "Strawberry Crest." Despite impassioned tributes from friends and family, no votes were cast to name the school for the late Osburn M. Griffin, who farmed some of the land where the it is being built. The community can deal with repercussions after experience with Plant City High's former mascot, the Planters, and the old Turkey Creek High's "Gobblers," said Sandee Sytsma, daughter of the late strawberry farmer Roy Parke.
"I was a majorette in that Gobbler band," Sytsma said. Her husband was the Planters football coach: "It is hard to make a Planter look ferocious." Still, Sytsma and others, including former school board member Joe Newsome, pushed for Strawberry Crest to honor all families involved in the strawberry business. Voting for Strawberry Crest were Chairwoman Jennifer Faliero, Carol Kurdell, Candy Olson and Jack Lamb. April Griffin and Susan Valdes voted for Strawberry High and Doretha Edgecomb voted for Dover High. The other schools named Tuesday night and opening in August: An elementary school on the same campus as Strawberry Crest High will be David E. Bailey Jr. Elementary, honoring a former educator and Plant City historian. A middle school in south Hillsborough near the Lake Hutto subdivision will honor the late Glenn Barrington, long-time educator and school board member. Former Gov. Bob Martinez was among those who speaking to honor him. An elementary school on that same campus near Lake Hutto will honor Richard "Dick" Stowers, a Plant city businessman. In other action, the board approved naming Walt Shaffner, principal at Progress Village Middle School, as director of nontraditional programs. Richard Kemper Jr., 50, a sixth-grade teacher at Randall Middle School, was suspended without pay, pending the outcome of an investigation. He was arrested Oct. 18 for soliciting and battery as part of a prostitution sting in Polk County. John R. Ring Jr., 38, an assistant teacher at Memorial Middle School, was also suspended without pay, pending the outcome of an investigation. He was arrested Sept. 25 and charged with two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and two counts of using computer to solicit illegal activity.

Reporter Marilyn Brown can be reached at (813) 259-8069.

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