Thank you, Springstead High School.
Thanks for giving my boy a good education.
Thanks for being an institution that stacks up well against other schools in the state and the nation.
And thanks for making our county a little less of a hick county.
My son won't graduate for another two weeks, but he's done with classes and exams and has nothing more on his plate than sleeping until noon.
I would tell you about how proud I am and how strange it feels, after all those years of waking up early to make breakfast, to find that my services are no longer needed.
I would tell you a whole lot about the mixed-up feeling surrounding graduation — except that I have something much more worthwhile to talk about: my impressions, as someone whose kid has been through them, of the quality of our schools.
Mostly, I've found them to be pretty good. That goes for Chocachatti Elementary School, for Gulf Coast Academy, for Springstead.
With an International Baccalaureate program and many Advance Placement classes, students there have the same opportunities as they would in bigger, richer school districts.
This is a big deal not only for students and parents, but also for Hernando County.
Like it or not, we have to fight the perception that this is a backwater.
We don't want that perception because smart, ambitious people — the people who run businesses, who build stuff, who buy and maintain nice houses — don't like backwaters. And what they like least about them, if they are parents, is bad schools.
Nothing else a county can offer — not good deals on housing or industrial properties, not natural beauty — can make up for the feeling that moving here dooms your kid to a second-rate education, a second-rate life.
Harsh as it sounds, graduation can sort kids into winners and losers. And for too long even Hernando's winners didn't take advantage of their gains.
Every year, I'd look at the Times' lists of top graduating seniors. Every year a depressingly large number of them headed to community colleges and commuter schools.
Springstead helped change this. It started its AP academy in 2000 and became a full-fledged IB school in 2009.
More of its kids take and pass AP classes than at any other school in Hernando. It has appeared on the Washington Post's list of the country's "most challenging" high schools, a simplistic ranking based on the percentage of kids taking AP and IB tests.
But those tests allow colleges to see how our students compare with those from, say, the suburbs of New York and Boston. They are a big reason Springstead is sending seniors to Ivy League schools such as Harvard and, in much larger numbers, to the University of Florida.
If this sounds like one more symptom of the county's two-tier school system, it is. As the parent of another son in another county high school, it sure feels as if Springstead has siphoned off a lot of good students and teachers.
But I think there's also truth to the idea that ambition can be contagious — that our other high schools offer more AP courses and send their top students to better colleges partly because of Springstead's example.
And if Springstead is elitist, guess what? That's what they say about Harvard.