By B.C. Manion
When Weightman Middle School opened two decades ago, there wasn’t a whole lot happening nearby.
There were a few cows and a couple of houses on Wells Road, and the road, which was dirt before the middle school opened, was only paved to the edge of the school’s parking lot, Freda Abercrombie.recalled.
In those days, the area now occupied by the Bridgewater subdivision was just pasture, Abertcrombie said.
Those were the days before the school’s enrollment peaked – at more than 2,000 students – because of Wesley Chapel’s building boom. During those days, before John Long Middle School opened, Weightman had 32 portables to accommodate the crowd.
Over the years, the middle school has had its share of accomplishments. The trophy case in the front office is filled with trophies, a championship basketball and other mementos of glory days.
The school, at 30649 Wells Road, has the distinction of being the first professional development school affiliated with the University of South Florida.
Weightman still enjoys the status of having the longest running relationship in this capacity with USF and is the only middle school currently operating in that role for USF, Abercrombie said.
The school, which bears the name of former Pasco County Schools Superintendent Thomas E. Weightman, resulted from collaboration between the public school district and educational leaders at USF.
The idea was to use the school as a training ground for future teachers and a place where experienced teachers could experience professional growth.
The school continues to serve those needs today, Abercrombie said. It has played a part in preparing thousands of classroom teachers, Abercrombie said.
Aspiring teachers have spent time at Weightman doing everything from observing classrooms to serving as intern teachers. There have been times when as many as 10 interns have been on the school’s campus at once, Abercrombie said.
The middle school provides an excellent venue for student teachers and university personnel to see what it takes to teach today’s student, Abercrombie said. They deal with “real kids, real issues,” she said.
Over the years, Weightman’s students have come from as far away as Dade City, but now they come primarily from Wesley Chapel.
The school has about 1,100 students made up of a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds.
It also has had the distinction of winning athletic championships over the years, in sports such as basketball, football and volleyball, Abercrombie said.
Abercrombie isn’t the only school employee with long-time ties to Weightman.
Cinthia Holton Wolden, a secretary in the front office, attended seventh-grade at the school in 1991, its inaugural year.
Sharon Morris, one of the school’s guidance counselors, interned as a language arts teacher at the school.
When Morris graduated, there weren’t any language arts openings, but she had some experience in marketing and landed a job teaching that.
She later became a language arts teacher and while doing that, she encountered students writing about some very dark themes. “I didn’t know what to do,” she said, so she decided to pursue a master’s degree to learn more. She later became the school’s behavior specialist before assuming her current position.
Morris, who is helping to organize the school’s 20th anniversary celebrations, said the first event was a football game held two weeks ago. School alumni were encouraged to attend, she said.
Next, the school will be inviting USF staff, former principals and administrators and the school’s charter staff members and current staff members to an event on Thursday, Nov. 10.
Displays will be set up around the perimeter of the cafeteria to showcase the school’s history and refreshments will be served.
Rob Aguis, director of the school district’s Community, Career and Technical Education department, is one of Weightman’s former principals.
He has fond memories of his tenure there.
“It was one of my very favorite stops along my professional development. There was a lot going on at the school. It was very much the hub of the community,” Aguis said. “The community did nothing but support the school.”
In addition to its other celebrations, the school will have an event on Thursday, Nov. 17 for students achieving the school honor roll and their parents. Former superintendent Weightman will be on hand to offer a few remarks.
The sixth-graders and their parents will assemble at 6 p.m., followed by the seventh- and eighth-graders and their parents at 7 p.m.
The school also is initiating a new award at the end of the school year. The award will be called “The Spirit of Weightman Award” in honor of the man who had the vision for creating a school where educators and students labor together in a quest to deepen their knowledge.
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