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Photo by: Isaac Babcock - A banner in front of The Master's Academy coyly advertises a secret the school will reveal Monday.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Mar. 4, 2011 6 years ago

Keeping a secret

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What is this school hiding?
by: Isaac Babcock Managing Editor

The idea was already in the works a year ago, as far as Dr. Bill Harris recalls. The Master's Academy, a growing private school in Oviedo, was going to do something big. On March 7, 2011, everybody will be talking about the school, he mused.

It would take the school into the 21st century. It would catapult the school ahead of the competition. It would baffle parents on how the school could afford it, yet it would cost them nothing. There was only one catch: It had to stay a secret.

In some ways, the secrecy eerily mirrors the campaign launched by the creators of the Segway personal transporter before it was revealed in 2001. Spokespeople wouldn't say what it was; only vague hints at what it would do.

The school quietly placed banners along its fence near the road with the words "What is coming to TMA?" stretching 10-feet wide.

The Master's Academy's secret even has a bit of a code name.

"When students ask teachers what it is, they say they're 'doing research,'" The Master's Academy High School Principal Mitchell Salerno said.

Monday night, Harris, the school's superintendent, and Salerno will reveal what's been building on rumor for months.

"The talk on Tuesday is going to be out of control," Harris said.

So far, it already has been. Once students heard that the school was making a big announcement, speculation went wild.

"Our boys basketball team needed a new coach," Harris, who's filling in as the boys coach, said. So they started a rumor that the new coach might be a former NBA superstar.

Then there were more. The school was changing its colors to mimic the Pittsburg Steelers, or maybe the UCF Knights. It was getting a new mascot to replace the bouncing inflatable Eagle who pumped up the crowd during football games. Maybe some high-tech gadget. Maybe a landmark new program.

That last one isn't without precedent. In 2009 The Master's Academy introduced an innovative program for its high schoolers: college credit for classes taken inside their own school. Rather than having to travel to a nearby college to take dual-enrollment classes, they could stay in their class, avoid paying college tuition, and still get the credit. Six of the school's teachers became certified as college professors, and students leapt ahead, earning up to 40 college credit hours before they even left high school.

"Schools are cutting back everywhere," Harris said. "We're always looking for ways to add value."

Adding value, he said, is the point of the school's newest big secret. At 6:45 p.m. Monday, students and parents will find out what that means when the duo takes the stage with teachers and some special guests in the Master's Academy's gymnasium.

"It's exciting," Salerno said. "I'd love to see what they write on Facebook about it the next morning."

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