Gulf High earns IB status
By JEFFERY S. SOLOCHEK
Published April 26, 2007
NEW PORT RICHEY - When Kirsten Winship learned of the challenge that International Baccalaureate could offer, she didn't hesitate to apply.
At the time, Kirsten, a freshman, didn't even know if her school - Gulf High - would even get approval to offer the program. It had a pre-IB sequence in place, and that was good enough for her.
She just assumed that the school would win the blessing of International Baccalaureate foundation, based in Switzerland, to offer the rigorous diploma program. Kirsten did not intend to go to Land O'Lakes High, the only other school in Pasco to offer the curriculum.
"I live two minutes from here," she said, as if that were explanation enough.
It turns out Kirsten and her classmates won't have to travel to Land O'Lakes for IB courses. Gulf High has gained permission to become the first school on Pasco's west side to offer the program. The first group of juniors, who have been in the pre-IB sequence since 2005, will begin in the fall.
"It actually is a very big deal," said Sandy Ramos, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "The program was growing so much in Land O'Lakes, where there are about 200 IB students. ... It's a long way for the kids to come over" from the west side.
Already, Gulf has about 40 sophomores, 60 freshmen and more than 100 incoming students entered in the system, which to this point had not been affiliated with International Baccalaureate.
Students and teachers affiliated with the program understood the day might come when they would not be able to continue.
"I was dreading it," said sophomore Joseph Kanaan, who lives near River Ridge and didn't look forward to a lengthy bus ride to Land O'Lakes.
But the announcement that IB would officially come to Gulf High didn't surprise them. Not after all the work the teachers put into it. It took two years for the school to put together its application.
"I think with the preparation we had, the boat was sort of tipping way over into, 'Yeah, we're going to jump into IB any day now,'" said De Winslow, an English teacher and coordinator of the project.
Gulf needs the impetus that IB provides, she said.
"Students in this school need to see that being smart is cool," Winslow said. "So many of them think the opposite. And that's disheartening, because many of them are very smart. It's the attitude that gets their grades."
IB has "refreshed my educator soul," she added.
Anatomy and biology teacher Douglas Stobbs said it was worth all the extra hours writing curriculum and preparing the application to get the program approved.
"I wish we would have had it 10 or 15 years ago, because I have had some dynamite students who would have really benefitted from the program," he said. "These kids aren't just competing with other students in Florida and the United States. They're competing with students in Europe and Brazil. ... What I like about IB is it trains them on a global scale."
The kids like that too. They appreciate having to study to make good grades. They enjoy having teachers who know a lot and urge the students to use what they learn. They even like having each other around.
"I actually met people who were intellectual and not stupid," said sophomore Wesley Hussey.
"I didn't expect to be friends with anyone from River Ridge," added sophomore Sierra Mision. "All stereotypes aside, it doesn't matter. I've made the best friends at this school."
And now they'll get to spend two more years together, without the long ride to Land O'Lakes. Because, as the sign says outside the school, Gulf High is now officially IB.
The school district has not yet established any attendance zones from which the two IB programs will draw from. Assistant principal Deborah Lepley figured most Gulf IB students would come from the west side, and she said families still can apply at the school office.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com (813) 909-4614 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505 ext. 4614. For more education news, visit The Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.
About the program
International Baccalaureate is a two-year program that focuses on three core requirements: extended essay, theory of knowledge, and creativity, service and action. Its six key areas of study are two languages, individuals and society, math and computer science, the arts and experimental sciences. For information, visit the International Baccalaureate Web site at www.ibo.org.