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School principal finds some signs of support

(ran EO edition)

When Dave Schmitt was a little boy wiling away hot summer days in his grandparents' yard across the street from R.E. Olds Park, Oldsmar was still in its Rip Van Winkle-like slumber.

Tucked between larger cities in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Schmitt remembers that his grandparents and their neighbors had to negotiate bumpy, dusty dirt streets that could eat car suspensions for lunch.

Schmitt was a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and traveled to Florida for vacations when school let out.

The years passed and he grew up, graduated from the University of South Florida and landed his first teaching position at Oldsmar Elementary in 1977, a short walk from his grandparents' house.

At that time, he estimated the school population was less than 400 students (now it is near 800). But the facility was anonymous to strangers because there was no sign to identify it.

Eventually, Schmitt moved on, and before he returned to serve as principal in 1995, a monumental change took place: A local sign operation, Heath and Co., had donated an unused steel and plastic sign that had been lying around at the warehouse, so the school got its first free-standing sign with a marquee.

It was painted blue and white in keeping with the school colors.

It was adorned with the face of the school mascot, a little blue owl. The footers were 4-feet-deep and it was reinforced by steel rods to withstand high winds.

Heath and Co.'s specialty is creating signs for fast-food restaurants. The sign they donated to Oldsmar Elementary was originally destined to become a Wendy's restaurant sign, advertising foods like the 99-cent lunch specials.

The blueprints still have the word "Wendy's" on them.

For almost a decade, the sign stood there on St. Petersburg Drive like a little billboard announcing current school activities, PTA functions, dates of school vacations _ anything relevant to the students' education.

That information adorns one side. The other side usually has a tribute to an adopt-a-class business sponsor.

Then progress came to Oldsmar in the form of State Road 580. People no longer saw the sign or its messages because it was hidden at the back of the school. Schmitt sensed a problem that could easily be remedied: just move the sign to a spot in front of the school parking lot along State Road 580.

He brought up the subject at a Student Advisory Council meeting and found there were no funds available to complete the project.

He and others approached Heath and Co. He also asked Rita Diehl, an involved parent of Oldsmar Elementary fourth-grader Travis, for help.

"When funds aren't available, I go out and find them," Diehl said. "I called Mark Schaefer, he's the gatekeeper for all the (company's) community funds. We had a meeting and he told me what the costs would be _ $1,600. I told him I was having a difficult time trying to get money required to do this. He told me that if I could come up with someone who could donate half they could do it. So I asked the Noon Optimist Club. They went for it. They didn't even hesitate. Asking us who to make the check out to _ that was the only question they had."

City officials helped by giving the school information needed to make the project a reality.

Schmitt said he has all of the ducks in a row to get the sign moved. Yet there is no timetable.

"We're just waiting for the School Board to approve it."

City wants to spread around some green stuff

It's no fun to play, cook out or just hang out in an area so barren that only the ants and raccoons feel comfortable using it.

So last year, the Oldsmar City Council earmarked $1,000 to help beautify common areas of subdivisions, adding a little color and making them greener, brighter and more environmentally appealing.

Property associations will be required to pony up some money for the landscaping projects. Matching funds of up to $250 will be made available after receipts for materials are submitted.

The projects must be approved by the city.

The Parks and Recreation Department invites association representatives to fill out an application form describing what they plan to do with the money.

The idea for the greenery funds came from council member Brian Michaels. The subdivision he lives in, Forest Lakes, was the first to apply for the money.

The plan is to beautify the clubhouse and picnic common areas.

For more information, contact Lynn Rives, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, at (813) 855-4211.

Wild dance production puts kids in the jungle

Miss Suda Yantiss' dancers will showcase their talents, and one of the dancers will demonstrate his vine-swinging abilities today at the Oldsmar Arts Centre during a production of Tarzan.

In front of a wild jungle scene complete with a dramatic 8-foot waterfall, 45 dancers ages 4 to 18 and several adult and child Oldsmar Performing Artists League actors will perform a variation of the famous Disney production called Radio Disney Dancin'. The first half of the show will be dedicated to the Mouseketeers.

The show begins at 2 p.m. and runs for about 40 minutes at the center, 402 St. Petersburg Drive. It is free, but donations are accepted.

The performers have been practicing since January for the production.

"It's recreational dance. It's on the fun side," Yantiss said.

Three kids mentored by Optimists treated to lunch

Three "bright and wonderful young people" who are mentored by Noon Optimist Club of Oldsmar members were treated to lunch at a meeting May 11 at Hillstown Diner, club spokeswoman the Rev. Raina Hamill said.

For years Optimist Club vice president Don Klinger and president Holly Harms have taken time to offer personal assistance to a trio of Oldsmar Elementary School students, Korryn Cowell, 10, Jessy Welch, 9, and Vickie Maurio, 11.

The students attended the luncheon with Oldsmar Elementary community involvement assistant Carmen Laracuente and teacher Phyllis Kinnison.

The Noon Optimist Club meets at Hillstown Diner every Thursday. Hamill said she would like to see new faces at the meetings. If you are interested in joining the club, or you would rather simply sit in on the meetings and listen to the speakers, call (813) 271-8648.

School fetes volunteers, donors at special luncheon

On May 16, three outstanding volunteers were honored at an Oldsmar Elementary School celebration luncheon called "Thanks a Millennium."

Jerry Robeson, Lisa Alchin and David Laracuente were recognized in front of about 150 fellow unpaid recruits from all walks of life. Business partners who have donated money toward school supplies also were in attendance.

_ We need news for this Oldsmar column. If you have news about Oldsmar organizations, churches, schools, neighborhoods or residents, please contact Eileen Schulte at the North Pinellas Times. You may call her at (727) 445-4229, fax material to her at (727) 445-4206, e-mail it to, or mail it to the North Pinellas Times, 34342 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684.