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School has much more than his name

Published February 21, 2007

[Getty Images]
Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks has big plans for a new school that bears his name.

The Gradebook blog: Get inside the world of Florida education

The name is key.

It opens doors, enables partnerships and draws media attention. But if you think Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks is just lending his name to the new Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, think again.

"When I'm on the field, I'm motivated to be the best, and some of that carries over in my community work," Brooks said Monday at an open house for the charter school, scheduled to open in August.

"I want to make sure I'm giving my best, that it's coming from the heart and that it's pure. The staff that works with me, they see me making the same grind they're making to get this done. That's why I know they're going to give their all."

Brooks is partnering with Lisa DeBartolo, executive director of the DeBartolo Foundation and daughter of developer Eddie DeBartolo. He sees the school as a natural extension of his work with the Brooks Bunch, children from Tampa-area Boys & Girls Clubs who have blossomed in his education-based program. The vision is to help students develop into top-flight college prospects with a rigorous curriculum that will include advance-placement and dual-enrollment classes.

They expect to have 300 students in grades 9-11 in a former Circuit City building on Fowler Avenue. The school eventually plans to expand to four grades and 500 students.

Brooks has used his cache to create relationships with the University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College and Saint Leo University. At Monday's open house at the University Area Community Center, school principal Phildra J. Swagger touted a relationship the Brooks-DeBartolo school will have with USF's medical school.

Swagger, who traveled with the Brooks Bunch to South Africa in 2005, left as the school district's supervisor of academic programs for this more intimate setting.

Brooks focused on that intimacy as well, emphasizing that small class sizes and personal relationships with teachers will be a hallmark. In fact, each student will have the same homeroom teacher for all four years.

And, for now, there are no competitive sports. Brooks scoffed at the notion that the school was about creating a football powerhouse and finding the next Joe Montana or Derrick Brooks.

But really, it is about finding the next Brooks. Not Brooks, the football player, but Brooks the philanthropist, Brooks the citizen and Brooks the leader.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at

[Last modified February 21, 2007, 10:25:56]

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