LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — Teachers and students greeted Gwynetta Gittens with bigs hugs and gratitude at Lehigh Acres Middle School Wednesday.
Students said they felt inspired when she got elected as the first black school board member in 2018.
“It makes me feel like I can do great stuff, too,” said John Lindsay.
For the first time since the election she sat down with Fox 4 to talk about the long road ahead, focusing particularly on helping schools in the east zone like Lehigh Middle.
“If we’re looking at becoming a world-class school system, and becoming an A. Well, if this area’s a B and this one’s a B, and this one’s a C. Where do you think we need to put our efforts?” she asked.
She said LAMS needs her attention especially because of the overcrowding, which is evident by packed halls during passing periods and 18 portable classrooms outside.
There are also 13 teachers who rotate from classroom to classroom because they don’t have one of their own.
“If we built two middle schools tomorrow, and opened them, one would be totally full. And another one would be at least half or two-thirds full,” she said.
But she said she needs help from parents and taxpayers in the east zone to brainstorm ways to ease the overcrowding.
She said her efforts don’t stop there. She’s also pushing to help all schools throughout the east zone like Sunshine Elementary. They could receive federal funding simply by parents filling out the 2020 Census in surrounding neighborhoods. She said 2500 people in the east zone failed to do that back in 2010.
“With 2500 people, we lost out on like $35,000,000 in ten years,” said Gittens. “That would’ve helped those kids get to preschool. That would’ve helped us provide before and after school care. That would’ve helped with transportation and roads and sidewalks, and safety for kids.”
As a board member she hopes to leave a footprint not just for students in the east zone, but all students.
“I hope my epitaph at the end is that I did good for all children, for the community, for the school district. And that I made a difference in somebody’s life,” she said.
Check your mail the second week of march for information on how you can fill out the census.