Bloomingdale High: 25 Years and Going Strong
Principal Mark West reflects on the school's beginnings and its successes today.
It was 1987, and everything at Bloomingdale High School was new, including the school's physics and chemistry teacher, Mark West.
A photograph of the charter staff shows West, with a full head of hair, seated next to the school's first principal, Charley Harris.
With the area's only other high school, Brandon High School, on double session, the opening of the new high school at 1700 E. Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico, had been highly anticipated by the community.
"It was a great time for the community," said West, reflecting on the school's 25-year history. "We opened with 1,000 kids in this beautiful new building."
West is only the third principal in the school's 25-year history, following in the footsteps of Harris and B.J. Stelter.
He served as a teacher at the school from 1987-92 and then moved on to Middleton Middle School, where he served first as a department head and later as assistant principal. He subsequently served as principal for Turkey Creek Middle School for seven years before returning to Bloomingdale in 2005.
"I think the school has held up pretty well over the years," said West. Nevertheless, the years have started to take their toll on the 25-year-old building. So this year the school district launched a 2 1/2-year project to renovate the school.
"It's mostly an upgrade to the aesthetics of the building," said West. "They're doing the renovations in phases with the bulk of the work taking place this summer in the gym, cafeteria and auditorium."
When students return to school next fall, they'll find new flooring, paint and lighting.
"But it's not the building that makes this such a great school," said West. "It's the students and staff. We have some great kids here at Bloomingdale, and our parents are very involved with the school."
In the mid-'90s, the school overflowed with 2,800 students after adding a ninth grade. As a result, Bloomingdale went on double sessions. However, in the years since, the school's population has stabilized at the current 2,400 students.
Over the years, the school has seen successes and challenges, said West. Personal highlights for the principal include the marching band and chorus' trip to London in January 2011 and the national recognition the school received for a YouTube lip dub video students created in March 2010.
"We have a nationally acclaimed yearbook and exceptional music, arts, drama and sports programs," he said. "While maintaining an academic focus, we've been able to experience a lot of extracurricular success, allowing the kids to do extraordinary things, the kind of things that make high school memorable for kids."
At the same time, the A-rated school has implemented an Advanced Placement curriculum that allows its students to go onto some of the best colleges in the country, said West.
"We've got a 92 percent graduation rate and the highest AP passing rate in the district at 63 percent," said West.
An anticipated 580 students will graduate June 4 at 4:30 p.m. at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall. The class valedictorian, Noah Stebbins, with an 8.03 grade point average, will go on to Columbia University, while the salutatorian, Grant Sprow, with a 7.36 grade point average, is headed to Harvard.
West is also proud of the ties with the surrounding community, noting that the students are involved in a number of community service projects outside the walls of the school.
"Our school is definitely the hub of the community," he said.
Some Bloomingdale Highlights
May 1989 — Bloomingdale High School holds its first graduation
August 1992 — B.J. Stelter takes over as principal of Bloomingdale High School, replacing retiring principal, Charley Harris
1993 — Boys' soccer team voted the best team in the history of high school sports by ESPN, USA Today and Florida Sports Hall of Fame
1998 — Bloomingdale became the first high school in the county to earn an "A" on the state's FCAT report card
December 2005 — B.J. Stelter retires after 14 years as principal of Bloomingdale High School. New principal, Mark West, takes charge.
December 2007 — 125 members of the Bloomingdale High School Orchestra perform at the Olympic Games in Beijing
2007-2008 — cheerleading squad wins first place at state competition
July 2008 — The 400-pound bronze bull that graces the school's main hallway was stolen. The $8,000 life-sized mascot was found at a storage facility at 1922 59th St. N. in Tampa, about 12 miles from the school. Five teens were subsequently charged with grand theft for what they called "a prank."
February 2009 — John Booth hired as football coach
2010-11 — Bloomingdale High wins sheriff's office Battle of the Belts
March 2010 — Bloomingdale High School students gain fame with lip dub video
January 2011 — the Bloomingdale High School Marching Band performs at the New Year's Eve parade in London while the chorus performs at the London International Choral Festival
April 2011 — the Crimson Guard wins the championship for the Florida Federation of Color Guard
July 2011 — renovations on the school begin
December 2011 — an electrical fire on Christmas morning damages the school's media center