SEFFNER — As elementary school teachers in Hillsborough County, Erlie Bazile and Sasha McDonald-Brown have seen the successes and shortcomings of students, especially those in their fifth-grade classes at Miles Elementary School where both were team leaders.
At the end of this school year, they decided it was time to do something more to prepare children for elementary school.
Together, with Yveline Francois-Kelly, the three friends and University of South Florida graduates opened Precious Gems Academy on June 13. They are hosting an open house June 29th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 736 Martin Luther King Blvd.
"I wanted to do this for a while," Bazile said. "Sasha and I have been talking about it for years. We see how the (education) system is working. Kindergarteners with no foundation, it's hard for them."
The trio considered opening a home day care first but didn't have enough backyard space to make it work. After nearly a year of searching for a location, Precious Gems Academy will serve up to 85 children ranging from six-weeks old through 5 years old for the full day care program and 6-12 for the drop-in program.
"I wasn't fond of the direction the school system was going," McDonald-Brown said. "I still like working with children and this is another opportunity to do it on my own terms."
While Bazile and McDonald-Brown will be tasked with leading a team of seven teachers, Francois-Kelly will employ her business degree, banking background and 10 years of experience owning and operating her own companies to manage the finances of the 4,531 square-foot preschool. The owners don't call it a daycare because they want to lay the foundation for their children's future.
The goal is to send children to elementary school prepared for what they are about to encounter. How? Their philosophy includes a hands-on approach with activities such as growing plants and caring for a live pet. Music instruction, creative lesson plans and dramatic plays also will be applied to promote creative thinking.
They also plan to explore multiple cultures. Bazile, a mother of two, and Francois-Kelly, who has three children, trace their roots to Haiti and speak fluent Creole while McDonald-Brown has Canadian dual citizenship and parents from Grenada.
At Precious Gems Academy, all the rooms are appropriately named: Sapphire, for the infants, Emerald (1 year olds), Ruby (2 year olds), Topaz (the largest room for up to 36 3-4 year olds) and the Diamond room for older part-time school age children.
The academy is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (813) 324-8950 for more information.
Pegasus Paints flies into the Brandon area
Pegasus Paints is adding some color to the area, opening the first of at least four planned privately-owned stores June 3 at 1335 W Brandon Blvd. Offering selections from Porter Paints and Benjamin Moore, the store covers commercial, industrial and residential needs.
"Corporate stores are not treating their customers good," said Benan Sanlier, a Valrico resident who operates the store as a Pegasus Paints board member. "People should not stand there like it's a funeral house."
Pegasus Paints offers its customers free beverages and has three flat screen televisions — one always has soccer playing, the others show whatever you request. If you have children who need to be entertained while you pick out and mix colors on some of the latest technologically advanced machines, Disney Junior is just a remote control away.
Sanlier, who also owns M Tech and ships pressurized paint machines internationally, says customers will be happy with lower prices on many items as well.
"We don't mark things up 600 percent," said Sanlier, who has 20 years of experience in the industry.
Pegasus Paints plans to host a grand opening July 24. The store is open during the week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and starts Saturday hours this weekend from 8 a.m. to noon.
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