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Kids say the 'darndest' things at Hillsborough School Board meeting

John David Thompson of Lewis Elementary School and Mackenzie Anderson of FishHawk Creek Elementary School read their contest-winning speeches on Tuesday.

Marlene Sokol | Times

John David Thompson of Lewis Elementary School and Mackenzie Anderson of FishHawk Creek Elementary School read their contest-winning speeches on Tuesday.

If they gave an exam for humor, Mackenzie Anderson would ace it.

Her speech, "Being Small," touched on the humiliation of PE basketball and the indignity of having to change seats in the movie theater.

But it was the FishHawk Creek fourth-grader's delivery that had Hillsborough County School Board members grinning and applauding Tuesday evening.

"My mom is short and people think she's a lot younger than she really is," Mackenzie said. Pause, lower the voice. "And trust me, she isn't that young!"

Mackenzie, who won her age category in this year's 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking contest, was among dozens of athletes, educators and administrators recognized by the board in its awards meeting Tuesday.

She was followed by fifth-grade winner John David Thompson of Lewis Elementary School, who made his father the foil of his speech about a family vacation.

The family had wanted to see the Grand Canyon, he said, and Dad found the least expensive route was to fly into Las Vegas.

"Now, most of you parents out there are probably thinking, 'What kind of parent would take their 10-year-old boy to Las Vegas?' " John said, breaking into a devilish grin. "I just told you, a cheap one."

The board also honored elementary science contest winners, middle and high school sports teams, teen artists who produced posters about college readiness, and a group of newly named National Board Certified Teachers.

Recognition meetings happen about once a month, providing a break from the usual fare of budget discussions and policy debates. Recent meetings have been especially tense, with the public offering opposing views on whether an Islamic advocacy group should be allowed to lecture high school students.

Tuesday, by contrast, was all about accomplishment.

Congratulations went to high schools with graduation rates over 90 percent: Newsome, Steinbrenner, Riverview, Plant, Tampa Bay Technical, Durant, Alonso, Bloomingdale, Sickles, Plant City, Lennard, Wharton and Chamberlain.

And an entire school — Orange Grove Middle Magnet — was recognized for being named an exemplary school by the Arts Schools Network, one of only four schools nationwide to receive that distinction this year.

Orange Grove is working with artists on a ceramic mural for the school, and principal Scott Rudes acknowledged the school is still raising money to cover the $12,000 cost.

"Send those checks in now," board member Jack Lamb said.

The board's next scheduled recognition meeting is April 3.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or

Excerpts from more 4-H Tropicana speeches

• "If it weren't for the fact that the TV and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all. It's sad, really sad.

"I am a basketball junkie and I cannot get enough of the sport. The more I play, the more I want to! As much as I would like to be on TV, playing in the NBA, I would not want to be on it for all the wrong reasons, especially not on a show like The Biggest Loser."

Varun Ajjarapu, Chiles Elementary School, New Tampa

• "Clowns, clowns, clowns. They freak me out! Their ugly clothes and makeup are so out of style. Well, really they never were in style! Another thing that bothers me is their beady eyes — nonstop staring. In your dreams — staring. I know I'm beautiful and all but why stare at me?"

Keyonna Swanigan, Cimino Elementary School, Valrico

• "There is this pop star, who I'm sure you've all heard of, named Justin Bieber. . .

"In his song Baby, he says the word baby a total of 56 times! Who wants to listen to someone sing the same word over and over again? Plus, in his song Never Say Never he says the word never 53 times! Way to never say never! Can you imagine if we used the same word 56 times in one of Hillsborough Writes? We wouldn't even get a (score of) one, yet he makes millions of dollars off it."

Lilly Martin, MacFarlane Park Elementary Magnet, West Tampa

• "Are you 23, and is your life going nowhere? Do you sleep on your mother's couch? Do you drive a beat-up red car to endless jobs and have to borrow money JUST to get gas? My brother Mikey was ALL of these things. He had a very important decision to make, a life changing decision: either live in a box under a bridge OR join the United States Marines.

"Talk about ALL or NOTHING! This is so outrageous. Why would he ever choose the Marines? What about college or at least a hot dog vendor?"

Jacob Haight, Hammond Elementary School, Odessa

• "Why do people not vote? Well, they say they're 'busy' but what could they possibly be doing? ... Did you know that people die for the freedom of this country? Like the old saying goes: The dead pay the debt of the living.

"Some people don't vote because the line is too long. I agree with them but if we had online voting from your phone, I think more people would vote. You just pull out your phone and send a text to the government and they will take care of the rest. It's a process that could be improved by both sides — government works harder, more people vote, more people vote, the harder the government works."

Ty Schnelker, Lithia Springs Elementary School

Kids say the 'darndest' things at Hillsborough School Board meeting 03/10/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 10, 2012 3:31am]
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