Forums introduce community to new school

Brooks-DeBartolo charter school will open in August with 30 employees and 300 students.

Published March 23, 2007

TAMPA - Kacie Tumbleson was scared.

The idea of leaving Learning Gate Community School, a small charter school, for Sickles High School and its nearly 3,000 students was "more than scary," said the eighth-grader.

Then she found out about Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School.

Scheduled to open in August, the college preparatory charter school expects to offer 23 Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment at the University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College.

Most important to Kacie is the size of the school's initial enrollment: 300 students.

Kacie and her parents were among nearly 200 people who attended the first of three community forums about the school this week.

For many, Brooks-DeBartolo seemed the perfect alternative to their crowded home schools or expensive private schools.

"Smaller classes are usually better because teachers pay more attention to the kids," said Carlos Garcia, whose 13-year-old son is interested in the school. "If he doesn't go (to Brooks-DeBartolo), we're looking at Tampa Catholic and that's a lot of money."

Brooks-DeBartolo is the product of a partnership between Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and Lisa DeBartolo, executive director of the DeBartolo Foundation and the daughter of prominent developer Eddie DeBartolo.

The school is open to students throughout Hillsborough County. Applicants must have completed eighth grade, have at least a 2.5 grade point average and "demonstrate potential," said Phildra J. Swagger, the school's principal.

"We want to take these kids and let them know they're special," said Swagger, who said the school's size will be key.

"I, as the principal, will be able to know every student's name," she said.

The school will be at 11602 N 15th Street, in a former Circuit City off Fowler Avenue. Because it is a charter school, it will receive tax money but will not be bound by many of the rules that county schools follow.

At the forum, Brooks encouraged students and parents to "be excited and take a chance" with the school, telling them to expect success and a lot of hard work.

Brooks-DeBartolo will have about 30 employees. Classes will run on a collegiate block schedule. The first senior class will select a mascot, but, at least for now, the school will have no sports teams.

Early registration continues until March 31. Registration and tuition are free.

Brooks is scheduled to host the second community forum on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Hillsborough County Children's Board, 1002 E Palm Ave.

Another community forum will be held at the Children's Board on Monday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Visit the school's Web site at www.bdchs.org for more information.

Amber Mobley can be reached at amobley@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.