Ask Bridget Bohnet how she feels about the fact that her school is closing after 14 years and she'll respond with a question of her own: Why does everybody think Coachman is closing?
"We're simply moving," Bohnet insists.
The school district's 2009 Outstanding Educator ticks off the reasons why Coachman's relocation 2 miles west and its merger with Kennedy Middle School is a good thing.
"We haven't lost many kids. We've lost only five staff members. And we're very excited about the opportunity to share what has worked so well at Coachman with so many more students."
Bohnet was in on the ground floor of a massive lobbying effort by north Pinellas parents in 1995 to create a fundamental middle school in Clearwater. She recalls the early days when 115 sixth-graders became Coachman's inaugural class, learning in six portables on the grounds of Curtis Fundamental Elementary.
"We called it 'Trailer Coachman,' " Bohnet said. "We made things up as we went along, which allowed us to be creative. It was one of those opportunities you could never re-create."
Along with five other teachers, two of whom are still at Coachman, Bohnet worked hard to make the school a destination. The school's FCAT scores have consistently been among the highest in the district. In February, 100 percent of Coachman's eighth grade students performed at grade level or above on the writing portion of the standardized test.
With the move to Kennedy, Coachman is intent on keeping its "brand," Bohnet says. One way to do that would be to keep the name, but that's a decision the School Board will make.
More important, Bohnet says, is staying true to the fidelity of a fundamental school as the student body grows from 550 to 850.
She's convinced that the Coachman team — staff, students and parents — will rise to the challenge.