HISTORY OF EDUCATION IN PASCO COUNTY
Sanders Memorial Elementary School
A resolution passed by the school board on Aug. 16, 1948, named the school the James Wilton Sanders Memorial School. Sanders, a Pasco County judge, served as principal of the Zephyrhills school before becoming school superintendent from 1913 until 1920.
Citrus, Sawmills, Critters, & Crackers: Life in Early Lutz and Central Pasco County (1998) by Elizabeth Riegler MacManus and Susan A. MacManus has: “Sanders Memorial School, on School Road, was officially dedicated in 1948. Built to replace smaller, wooden schools at Myrtle-Denham, Tucker, and Drexel, it was named after County Judge Wilton Sanders who owned a grove in Land O’ Lakes when he retired. The new school building, a concrete block structure, had five classrooms, an auditorium, principal’s office, and teachers’ lounge. The old two-room Drexel school building, located behind the new school, was converted to a lunchroom. When it opened, 114 students in grades 1-8 were in attendance. The first two students to register were Mary Wilson and Glenn Kirkland.”
Sanders Memorial School was built with a $50,000.00 bond issue.
In a Sept. 19, 1972, newspaper article, school superintendent Fred Marchman said that Sanders Memorial was the most crowded school in the district, with 1442 students, well over double its single session capacity.
The school closed at the end of the 2009-10 school year, with students transferring to the new Connerton Elementary School. Originally, plans called for renovating Sanders and reopening it later, but because the expected increase in student population did not materialize, plans for renovating Sanders were put on hold.
In July 2014 the school board approved a nearly $21 million construction contract with Ajax Building Corp. of Oldsmar to rebuild the school. The contract calls for the construction of an administration building with a media center; a two-story classroom building with 28 classrooms; a cafeteria and auditorium with music and art classrooms; and a covered play area with physical education storage and restrooms. In addition, four existing single-story classroom buildings will be renovated.
Sanders Memorial Elementary Magnet School, with a focus on science and technology, opened in August 2015 for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. It was built for 762 students.
Beginnings of Sanders Memorial P. T. A.
This is transcribed from a typewritten document, author unknown.
Years ago there were three separate schools in this area – Myrtle Denham, Drexel, and Tucker – all without any modern conveniences. The people began to realize the need for a larger and better school in the most suitable location. In October 1938, a bond issue of $43,000 was voted upon with a total of 95 votes for and 17 against. The Second World War brought further progress to a standstill, but the needs were not forgotten. In 1947, a new bond issue of $50,000 was carried and from the results of more meetings and a special election the location of the new school was to be at the Drexel school site. A new building of five classrooms was completed in time for the opening of school in September 1948 with 114 pupils enrolled. The two-roomed school which had been in use for several years was converted into an attractive and up-to-date lunch room with all new equipment and was also ready for service that first day of school. The new school was named in honor of Judge James Wilton Sanders, former Pasco County School Supt. and one of the first advocates of a new school.
The first P. T. A.. meeting was held on September 10, 1948, with 52 present and with Mrs. M. E. Godwin as president. That first year the Sanders Memorial School P. T. A. had 103 members – of whom 50 had children in school and 53 did not. Some of the activities of that first year included the Building Dedication on December 10 to which about 500 people came and a Christmas program presented to the parents by the children and teachers. In January the by-laws were approved as well as the purchasing of library books for the various rooms with which the P. T. A helped. Other activities included fund raising for stage curtains and the making of plans for a 40 x 80 foot concrete slab to be placed on the grounds for play equipment. In May, a set of encyclopedias was presented to the school.
To close out the year, on June 8, 1949, the first Commencement of Sanders Memorial School was held with eleven students graduating.
Planting To Honor Teaching Veteran Sunday
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on June 11, 1999.
By LORIE JEWELL
LAND O’ LAKES – The area’s golden anniversary and a longtime teacher will be celebrated Sunday.
When old-timers reminisce about the days of one-room schoolhouses, talk invariably turns to Gertrude Godwin.
Her teaching career started and ended in the Land O’ Lakes area, back when communities were known as Ehren, Denham, Drexel and Myrtle. Not many schoolchildren in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s didn’t have Godwin for a teacher.
Her 40-plus years in education will be honored Sunday with a tree planting at Sanders Elementary, where she spent her last years in the classroom.
Dedication of a magnolia tree in Godwin’s name is a highlight of a daylong celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of a vote to name the area “Land O’ Lakes.”
The Denham-Drexel Civic Association called a town meeting June 13, 1949, to decide on a name for the area.
“The old Denham-Drexel community has grown so fast that it was deemed expedient to select a new name more descriptive and appropriate for this prosperous and progressive community,” reads an explanation of the vote in a June 1949 Lutz Civic Review newsletter.
Sunday’s festivities will start at noon at the community center on U.S. 41, just north of Hale Road. The free event is open to the public. Folks are encouraged to dress as people did 50 years ago.
Entertainment, children’s games and a fish fry also are on tap. The advance cost of a dinner, served from 1 to 5 p.m., is $5 for adults and $2 for children. Tickets at the event are $6 for adults and $3 for children. Call the chamber of commerce at (813) 996-5522 for information.
A pie- and cake-baking contest will be another highlight. Entries will be accepted in the front room of the community center from 12:30 to 1 p.m., with judging at 1:30 p.m. Winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m., just before a big birthday cake is cut.
Elizabeth MacManus plans to be at the community center, too, selling the book she wrote with her daughter, Susan. It’s called “Citrus, Sawmills, Critters & Crackers; Life in Early Lutz and Central Pasco County.”
“It’s going to be a good old-fashioned picnic and fun,” says Karla Turcotte, Land O’ Lakes’ honorary mayor. “We’re hoping for a good turnout and good weather.”
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Heritage Park Foundation, a nonprofit group formed last year to create a historical museum and park on the property surrounding the community center.
State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, tried to secure state funding this year to give the group a boost, but the project didn’t make the governor’s final cut.
Foundation members are hoping for another shot next year.
“It was disappointing. We were looking for that money to be a springboard to the start of a major fundraising drive,” said Tim Hayes, vice president of the foundation. “I think a lot of people are waiting to see if this is really going to happen before they contribute. Getting state money will show that this is going to happen.”
Plans call for a man-made pond in the park, surrounded by a walkway and small historic buildings. Inside the buildings, Hayes hopes to see memorabilia.
THE TREE DEDICATION will be at 5 p.m. at Sanders Elementary, on School Road behind the community center. Godwin’s daughter, Ginny McCumber of Deltona, plans to attend. So does Godwin’s nephew, Melt, a native of the area, and his wife, Alice Joy.
McCumber, 73, was one of hundreds of students her mother taught throughout the decades.
Before Sanders was built in 1948, the area had three schools: Tucker, just south of State Road 52 and U.S. 41; Drexel, off U.S. 41 just north of Ehren Cutoff; and Denham, also called Myrtle-Denham, at State Road 54 and U.S. 41.
At one time or another, Godwin taught at all three schools.
“She was a disciplinarian,” McCumber recalls. “And she was always cool. Everyone could be hot and sweaty, but mother always looked like she just stepped out of Vogue” magazine.
Ted Williams, a former county property appraiser, was another student. He eulogized Godwin at her funeral three years ago. She died just a few months before her 90th birthday.
“All her life, she was very prim, very proper,” Williams says. “She was just one of those old-fashioned teachers.”
Godwin was known for the plays and pageants her students performed, especially the annual Christmas production. Williams remembers spending at least a half of each school day, for two to three weeks before the holiday, practicing for the play.
“People came from far and wide,” says Williams. “They were that good.”
If anyone deserves recognition for contributing to the early development of the Land O’ Lakes area, it’s Godwin, many believe.
“There aren’t too many lives here she didn’t touch,” says Melt Godwin.
A RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION OF PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA, NAMING AND DESIGNATING THE PUBLIC SCHOOL LOCATED AT DREXEL, FLORIDA, AS THE JAMES WILTON SANDERS MEMORIAL SCHOOL.
WHEREAS, the construction of a new five-room elementary school has been completed at Drexel, Florida, in Pasco County, and
WHEREAS, the erection of this public school building will prove of great benefit to the citizens of Drexel and to all of Pasco County, Florida, and
WHEREAS, the erection of such consolidated public school at Drexel, Florida was initiated by and through the unselfish and untiring effort and foresight of Judge James Wilton Sanders, one of the leading educators and outstanding citizens of Pasco County, Florida, and
WHEREAS, this Board deems it a fitting and proper tribute to the memory of the said James Wilton Sanders to name said public school located at Drexel, Florida, the JAMES WILTON SANDERS MEMORIAL SCHOOL in respect to the memory of this splendid citizen of our County,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION OF PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA:
That the public school at Drexel, Florida, shall from henceforth be known and designated as the JAMES WILTON SANDERS MEMORIAL SCHOOL in respectful tribute to the memory of the said James Wilton Sanders.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this Resolution be spread upon the permanent minutes of this Board.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution be read at the dedication ceremonies upon the occasion of the opening of the said James Wilton Sanders memorial School and that a suitable plaque with the name and designation of said school, as herein provided, be placed in or upon said school so as to permanently confirm the name and designation of said school.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be certified by the Secretary of this Board and delivered to the Principal of the said James Wilton Sanders Memorial School. with the instruction that said copy of said Resolution be retained among the records of said school.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this Resolution be certified by the Secretary of this Board under the seal of this Board, and by him forwarded to the members of the family of the said James Wilton Sanders.
DONE AND RESOLVED in Regular Meeting this 16th day of August, A. D. 1948.
BOARD OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION OF PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA
By JAS. F. CROLEY,
The above and foregoing Resolution was introduced by Board Member P. S. Tyson who moved its adoption and the said motion was seconded by Board Member E. H. Kirkland. Upon vote the said motion was duly carried and declared passed and adopted by the Chairman.