Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Blanton Elementary to mark 50th birthday

Alisa Robinson started teaching at Blanton Elementary in 1979.

In those days, the school had more than 1,000 students, lots of school buses and "beaucoup" portables, she said. So many that the staff came up with street names for the lanes connecting them. Robinson was hired by Blanton's first principal, Mary Jenkins, and has worked under six principals.

"I have seen a lot of things as time has progressed," she said.

As the school gets ready to celebrate its 50th birthday on May 4, the early childhood education teacher said she looks forward to reminiscing about how far the school has come.

"It's going to be interesting to see some of the people from way back when come here," she said.

Established on Jan. 21, 1963, Blanton started out as a school with 12 teachers and 329 students. Out front, 54th Avenue N was a "sleepy two-lane road with drainage ditches along each side," according to the school district's official history book. The campus had only four buildings.

Enrollment shot up to more than 1,170 students in the 1990s and then slimmed down to about 598 this year because of changes in school zoning policies, said Debi Turner, Blanton's longtime principal. Today, 54th Avenue N is a major four-lane thoroughfare. The campus now houses 10 buildings and seven portables.

When Turner started working at Blanton as an assistant principal in 1996, the school did not have much in the way of greenery.

Now, there is a vegetable garden where students can plant something for their birthdays. Turner had Blanton's buildings painted blue and added wind chimes.

"I want a school that looks like a park," she said. "This community may not be as safe as other communities, so I want children to have a sanctuary."

Blanton's population has changed over the years, too. Students from low-income households have increased from 62 percent, when Turner started, to 86 percent.

The staff also has noticed that the economic downturn has caused a high instance of what educators call "mobility" among Blanton families: Out of nearly 600 students, more than 200 came and went last school year, Turner said.

But staffers worked hard over the years, and Blanton became a model for other high-poverty schools — even after a dark chapter in 2002 when the school became one of the first in Pinellas to earn an F in the state's then-new grading system.

Turner couldn't believe it until the TV trucks rolled up. The news had her wiping away tears. But a day later, teachers and staffers threw her a surprise party in the library. They got her to show up by telling her that the library was on fire. That day, Turner recalled, teachers signed a contract to never let the school's grade slip again. The following year, Blanton was an A school. And the year after.

That attitude continues, Turner said. "It is a hard school, but we have fun."

In a recent "climate survey" conducted by Pinellas schools, 90 percent of Blanton's staff say the school has high morale and 97 percent say they look forward to coming to work every day — among the highest ratings in the district.

Lori Plomatos, a secretary and bookkeeper who started working at Blanton in 1999, will be the first to say that everyone's like a family.

All three of her daughters attended Blanton, and her oldest teaches at the school.

"It's a warm and cozy place to be," Plomatos said. "It's a pleasure to come to work. You know you are going to be supported because everybody supports everybody."

fast facts



50 years of educating

Blanton Elementary is one of two St. Petersburg schools celebrating the half-century mark. The other is Bay Point Middle School. At right is information on each school's anniversary events, both on Saturdays.

Blanton Elementary, at 6400 54th Ave. N, will welcome anyone who has ever worked at or attended Blanton, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 4. The event will include burying a time capsule and commemorating a water feature the school calls the "Pound the Rock Waterfall," which symbolizes Blanton's dedication to boosting student achievement. Birthday cake will be served, and local restaurants will sell food.

Bay Point Middle, at 2151 62nd Ave. S, invites alumni, current students and their families, and community members to a party May 11. Welcome and opening presentations begin at 11 a.m. The celebration continues until 2:30 p.m. with a school showcase; performances by the school band, drum line and cheerleaders; a time line and slide show created by students; campus tours; an alumni-student basketball game; and a silent auction. Food from local restaurants and businesses will be sold, and proceeds will go to a fund for student activities and incentives.

Blanton Elementary to mark 50th birthday 04/13/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 10:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo in Parkshore Plaza on the market for $1.5 million. {Courtesy of Amy Lamb/Native House Photography]
  2. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor's race has been making headlines for nearly two months as Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have been making speeches, pressing the flesh at fundraisers and gathering their ground forces for an election battle that has already broken fundraising records.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  3. Tampa moves to pause permits for 5G wireless equipment to assess impact of new Florida law

    Blogs

    To business groups, the bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed Friday will clear the way for superfast 5G wireless communications and give Florida an edge in attracting high-tech companies.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have worried that a new state law aimed at facilitating the installation of 5G wireless technology could clutter scenic corridors like Tampa's Riverwalk.
  4. Trump takes another swipe at CNN after resignations over retracted Russia story

    National

    NEW YORK — President Donald Trump used the resignations of three CNN journalists involved in a retracted Russia-related story to resume his attack on the network's credibility Tuesday.

    Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. [Associated Press]
  5. Clearwater woman dies after losing control of SUV, flipping in Palm Harbor

    Accidents

    A Clearwater woman died early Tuesday morning when she lost control of her SUV and crashed in Palm Harbor, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.