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Principal's message is all about Freedom

The leader of Tampa Palms' newest high school is talking to potential students and rounding up faculty.

By MELIA BOWIE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 10, 2002


NEW TAMPA -- It was barely 9 a.m. when students surrounded Richard Bartels inside the Wharton High School auditorium. They shook his hand, tapped his shoulder and fired a non-stop volley of questions:

Are you going to have football? Who'll be on the team?

What about orchestra? Do you have an orchestra director yet?

Do we have to take study hall?

What about TV production?

How many AP classes?

Bartels, the new principal of Freedom High School -- scheduled to open this August in Tampa Palms -- answered them all before heading back to King High on Wednesday, where he is still serving as principal.

"They had a lot of questions," Bartels said. "I'm glad they're excited."

So is the veteran educator, who is starting the 255,900 square-foot high school from scratch.

The talk with 500 Wharton freshman and sophomores last week -- some of whom will constitute Freedom's first graduating class -- was the third leg of a four-day tour to the north Tampa schools Freedom will pull from. (He also visited Benito and Buchanan middle schools as well as Gaither High School.)

The assemblies were important for the students who have peppered administrators with questions about school boundaries, which teachers will follow them and what classes will be offered, said Denny Oest, Wharton's assistant principal for curriculum.

"Some of them have concerns about going to a new school after being established here," Oest added.

For Bartels, who this month will trade his office at King High for a trailer at Freedom's construction site, the visits are essential to a successful opening. So are a slew of other tasks -- from hiring teachers and finalizing course selections to ordering school furniture.

"I don't even have a phone number yet for Freedom," he said. "I've made a call to set up phone hook-ups in the trailer."

From there he will continue interviewing faculty for an estimated 1,300 students at the school. So far only a handful of hires have been made; among them a secretary and a data processor.

East Bay High assistant principal David Brown was named assistant principal of curriculum for Freedom on Tuesday. He is scheduled to move into a trailer on the lot on Feb. 18.

"Once we are in our trailer and I'm working at Freedom full time, we plan on holding a series of workshops with parents in the three communities," Bartels said. "Later I'd like to take some of the key personnel and introduce them to students and parents."

On Monday, the double-duty principal will meet with architects and project managers for the new high school. Frank Coons with Hardin Construction Group in Tampa said both Tampa Palms campuses (Freedom and Liberty Middle School) are expected to be completed on July 11.

Until then, Bartels said he is feeling much like his future students: "eager to start this new adventure. I believe we're going to have an outstanding school."

* * *

The following are some topics Freedom High School principal Richard Bartels discussed:

SPORTS -- Athletic offerings will include football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, cross country, golf and swimming; there will be varsity and junior varsity teams as needed.

MUSIC -- There will be orchestra, band and chorus.

CLASSES -- There will be seven, 50-minute periods but no study hall. The start time for school has not been determined.

AP COURSES -- Freedom will offer AP courses. Initially, students may take AP English, biology, chemistry, physics, world history, U.S. history, psychology, European history, Spanish, French, Latin and art. Next year, AP courses will be offered in English literature, Calculus, American government, comparative politics and macro-economics.

MASCOT/SCHOOL COLORS -- To be announced. Students submitted ideas to Bartels last week.

TEACHERS -- Per school board policy and teacher contracts, educators at Wharton and Gaither with seniority will have the option of transferring to Freedom. Others may apply to Bartels.

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