Mr. Fundamental has died
Bud Zimmer, the one-man army who pushed for the creation and expansion of fundamental schools in Pinellas County, died Sunday. Zimmer was admitted into Countryside Mease Hospital on Saturday, Aug. 7, according to his wife Jane Zimmer.
A retired Army officer, Mr. Zimmer became known as Mr. Fundamental for his passionate devotion to unique-to-Pinellas schools that stress parental involvement. He enrolled his daughter in kindergarten at Curtis Fundamental Elementary in Clearwater soon after its conversion to a fundamental in 1976. He was so impressed with the concept that he soon became its loudest advocate.
The district now has more than 7,000 students in nine fundamental schools. They boast some of the highest test scores and lowest disciplinary rates in Pinellas.
"We are saddened to hear the news of Bud Zimmer’s passing," superintendent Julie Janssen said in a statement. "He was a good friend of Pinellas County Schools and was a passionate advocate for children and education."
Last fall, the Fundamental Schools Advocacy Network, or FAN, gave him its first annual "Bud Light" award.
"Bud motivates, encourages and when necessary, prods parents, teachers, administrators and school board members alike in his advocacy for our students and our fundamental school program," fundamental parent and FAN member Jean Willingham said at the time. "He is a researcher, statistician, reporter and advocate."
Zimmer kept close tabs on all things school-related in Pinellas, especially FCAT scores and suspension rates, and offered frequent critiques of the St. Petersburg Times' education coverage.
His last one came Aug. 8. After a Times story on the latest round of school grades, Zimmer's wife sent this note to the Gradebook: Bud "wanted you to know that today was a good article. He's concerned that the citizens, parents, students, etc. need to know each school's current grade and that it would be very helpful to know last year's grade for comparison. So, he's begging you to print this for the public's information."
Read more on Zimmer's passing here.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this post credited Zimmer with pushing to convert Curtis Elementary to become a fundamental school in 1976. In fact, the school was already a fundamental school when he enrolled his daughter there as a kindergartner a year later. It was at that point that he became an advocate of the fundamental concept.