WINTER GARDEN—Independence Elementary School is set to start off strong, with its teachers and students to be led by a principal who has been awarded for her leadership abilities and was even recognized at the state level this year.
Angela Osborne, who previously was principal of Palmetto Elementary School for two years and Spring Lake Elementary for 10, was named the 2015 Principal of the Year by the Florida Department of Education. She was also awarded this honor among Orange County Public Schools, both this year and in 2012.
“To see the children each morning and to see them grow academically and socially — that’s the love of it,” Osborne said.
Osborne’s success story at Palmetto Elementary contributed to these honors. When she arrived, the state grading system had classified Palmetto as an “F” school. But she brought it up to an “A.”
“It’s an economically challenged school, but the kids are absolutely wonderful,” Osborne said. “There is a high homeless rate there. The population probably is about 700 to 800 students for which English is their second language.”
She attributes the accomplishment to having a great staff.
“We hired many new employees; we worked with the employees that were currently there; we worked on making sure we were teaching to the standards,” Osborne said.
She also added a staff member to help children who needed a boost in reading or math, implemented after-school tutoring multiple times each week and started offering class on Saturdays. Incentives were offered for participation in these programs and daily class, such as pizza parties, school dances and a trip to Legoland.
A core team of teachers and instructors has moved with Osborne from Spring Lake to Palmetto and, now, onto Independence. One of these personnel is Allison Olszewski, a reading and writing coach.
When Osborne said one of her leadership mantras is “Never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself,” Olszewski said she had seen Osborne follow her own advice many times.
“I’ve seen her scrub the floor; I’ve seen her clean cafeteria tables; I’ve even seen her mow the lawn,” Olszewski said. “She had on her suit jacket and gym shorts, and there she went. One of the kids said, ‘I’ve never seen a principal mow the lawn before,’ and I said, ‘You won’t see it anywhere else.’”
Independence Elementary’s dean, curriculum resource teacher and bookkeeper also have worked with Osborne for years and will stay by her side at Independence Elementary.
Independence Elementary will be opening this August at 6255 New Independence Parkway, as a relief school for Sunset Park and Keene’s Crossing elementary schools. It is expected to have about 900 students in attendance during the 2015-16 school year.
Osborne said one of the great features of the campus is the large parking lot, which will make pick-up and drop-off times less stressful and alleviate traffic.
The school will be equipped with the latest technology and also will be set up in a way that will allow it to adapt to advancements.
“As technology improves and increases, we’re wired to meet that need,” Olszewski said.
There is no indoor gym, but there are an outdoor pavilion and athletic field for P.E. and sports. County staff are also installing a park, New Independence Park, directly adjacent to the school grounds.
West Orange has been home for Osborne for more than 20 years, and she has been involved with the planning process for the new school for about four years.
“It’s been a lifelong dream to open up this school,” Osborne said. “I’m very honored that I was chosen to represent this community, because I believe the sky’s the limit.”
Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].