Bender named principal of Summerlake-area relief school

Delaine Bender has been principal of Citrus Elementary School, in Ocoee, for 10 years. Former Freedom High principal Robert Walker is her replacement.

Delaine Bender is working out of the West Learning Community office until her new school is built.
Delaine Bender is working out of the West Learning Community office until her new school is built.
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After 10 years as principal of Citrus Elementary in Ocoee, Delaine Bender has been hired to lead the relief school for Independence, Keene’s Crossing and Water Spring elementaries. The school is being built in the Horizon West community of Summerlake on Porter Road in Winter Garden.

The newest Orange County elementary school, currently named Site 85-E-W-4, soon will have an official name, too — either Summerlake, Lake Hancock or Hamlin. These three names were the finalists in a community vote.

After the Orange County School Board approves the final name, the selection process begins for the school colors and mascot.

Construction has passed the 40% mark. The walls are up, the roof is on, and painting has begun. Permanent power and the heating/air-conditioning system should be operational next month, and the playfields are expected to be finished.

Substantial completion is targeted for June; and teachers, faculty and staff should move in sometime in July — well before the August start of the 2020-21 school year.

Until her school is finished, Bender is reporting to work at the West Learning Community office off Windermere Road. Robert Walker, the former Freedom High principal, is moving to Citrus to replace Bender, who also spent one year there as assistant principal.

“I’ve been working with Mr. Walker on all the things that are currently in place and making sure he knows the status of everything and instruction continues and all the events that have been planned continue,” Bender said.

She has begun the hiring process for the new school, and she said a few teachers from Citrus have applied.

“The secretary and registrar are coming with me,” Bender said. “They have 20 years of experience each at Citrus. They’re very well versed in policies and procedures and customer service skills, and they are going to be a great asset to me.”

When the school year begins, Bender wants to incorporate several clubs that were popular at Citrus: Chess, Art, Music, STEM and Books.

Bender is eager to continue the positive work she did at her previous school. She is proud of the relationships and trust she built with the parents, families, students and community members.

Other accomplishments at Citrus include updating technology throughout the campus by creating three computer labs, providing laptops for teachers and additional laptops for students to use in classrooms, and providing teachers with projectors, document cameras and iPads. In addition to building a strong and supportive PTA and SAC, Bender saw the 2018-19 school grade increase by three percentage points, including learning gains for all students and the lowest 25%. 

Before becoming a principal, Bender spent 10 years as a teacher with Orange County Public Schools.

The new 92,000-square-foot school will have a capacity of 837, but it is expected to open with an enrollment of more than 1,000 students. Fourteen portable classrooms will be set up on the campus. The 14.8-acre property is located on the south side of Porter Road, north of Wood Sage Drive and west of Bluejack Oak Drive. 

The school will have enhanced classroom technology, including new computers and interactive touch-screen panels, as well as art and music lab spaces. An updated design increased the size of the proposed parking lot from 120 to 174 vehicles. The campus will be secure with fencing, cameras and one public entrance.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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