HILL 'N DALE — Eastside Elementary School has undergone numerous changes since it received Hernando County's first F grade from the state last summer.
It got a new administration, a revived media center and spruced-up grounds. School officials placed more emphasis on student data. They launched a host of initiatives and measures to turn around the school, including writing boot camps on weekends and a new mentoring program.
They're trying to change the culture.
Now they're taking the overhaul one step further: changing the school's colors and longtime mascot.
The teal and tan panther is out; the purple and gold leopard is in.
On Tuesday, Hernando County School Board members voted unanimously to allow the school to make the changes after hearing a brief presentation from Eastside principal Mary LeDoux. In a survey, LeDoux told the board, the students, staff and parents overwhelmingly supported the move.
Such a change might seem silly, unimportant — a minor adjustment.
"Eastside wanted to take on a new persona that we're not the F school that we are currently," she said.
She compared the change to a phoenix rising from the ashes.
There are already a number of purple and gold leopards on the east side of Hernando, including at Parrott Middle School and Hernando High School, which most Eastside students eventually will attend. LeDoux thinks the new mascot and school colors will help Eastside — one of the district's most geographically isolated schools — feel part of a larger community.
She sees the changes as a way to connect with students who are not academically inclined. She believes some students, for example, will see a football player running up the field in purple and gold and more closely relate to him, wanting to be that person, wear that uniform.
"It means something," LeDoux said. "It's about finding the hook to keep those kids turned on in the classroom."
Fourth-grader Daqyguen Williams, 10, was excited when he heard that Eastside was changing its colors.
"I would really love to change," he said. "They represent almost every school inside Brooksville."
Fifth-grader Tabatha Bingaman, 12, liked that students wouldn't have to change colors when they move to a new school. Fifth-grader Zayne Barry, 12, and fourth-grader Tyler Receveur, 10, said they too liked the change because they now will match their older siblings.
Tyler Williams, a 9-year-old third-grader, had a simple explanation for his enthusiasm: "I really like gold."
But not all of the students support the change.
Fifth-grader Audrey Wallen, 11, said she thought the tan and teal made the school unique.
"Some people want to just be the same as everyone else," she said.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes on Twitter.