BROOKSVILLE — New assistant principal Lisa Piesik walked across the campus of Eastside Elementary School on Wednesday morning, overwhelmed by what she saw all around her.
Inside a portable classroom, volunteers sorted boxes of books that needed to be shipped away. In the cafeteria, a team placed thousands of bar codes on new instructional materials. In the media center, a crew organized a room that had seen better days.
"It's been incredible," Piesik said, pausing. "Goose bumps."
The volunteers were all there for a single purpose: to show that Hernando County's most troubled school — the first in Hernando to get an F grade from the state — was not alone.
This week, dozens of volunteers — mostly educators and former educators from across the school district — have traveled to the remote school in eastern Hernando to lend a hand.
"It sent a message clearly to the staff," said principal Mary LeDoux, who was appointed last week after the school received its failing grade. "We're not forgotten. We're not forgotten by other staff — not by other teachers.
"It's been a really great, motivational week for my teachers," she added.
The volunteers first showed up on Monday after Jo Ann Hartge, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, sent an email. Nearly 20 responded.
Without a media specialist at the school for the past two years, the media center was in bad shape. Books were shelved incorrectly, and some were in piles on the floor.
"Everything needed to be put back in its right place," she said. "We needed it to look like a media center."
The group cleaned all day.
On Tuesday, a group of custodians came to lend their services. On Wednesday, media specialists showed up to help with the barcodes.
Volunteers have unboxed textbooks, cleaned out storage rooms, moved furniture. They've packed up items needing to be sent away for public sale. And they are not finished.
"Everybody is calling and saying, 'What do you need?' " said LeDoux. "My teachers and staff needed to hear that."
She said Eastside teachers have been busy setting up for the 2013-14 school year, even though they're not required to report to work until next week.
Hartge said she wanted the Eastside teachers to know that the district is behind them — that Hernando is a family.
"When you knock one of us down," she said, "we're all going to fight back."
Contact Danny Valentine at email@example.com or (352) 848-1432.