By CARL MARIO NUDI
Although three years in the future, Principal Craig Little is looking forward to the first graduation ceremony of Parrish Community High School.
After more than two years of being under construction, the new high school at Erie and Fort Hammer roads will be opening its doors on Aug. 12 to ninth- and 10th-grade students.
Craig, who was appointed principal of the new high school in November, said it was important to provide the incoming freshmen and sophomores a great education experience.
“This is where they’ll build connections and relationships,” he said. “High school creates opportunities for growth and is a place where you try to figure out what you want to be.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony to give the community a chance to see the new high school will take place in the school cafeteria at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 6.
“The opening of Parrish Community High School will be a memorable milestone for the people who live in northern Manatee County and for our entire school district,” Manatee County School District Superintendent Cynthia Saunders said in an email. “Our high schools are sources of pride and tradition in the communities they serve, so we all look forward to cheering and supporting generations of PCHS Bulls.” The Bull was picked to be the school mascot through a poll of the community.
The campus of two classroom buildings, a media center, administration office building, cafeteria, gym and health center, auditorium with music and choral rooms, and an automotive mechanics classroom garage surrounds an open courtyard. South of the buildings are several sports fields.
The $90 million facility was built for about 2,150 students but only ninth and 10th graders will start this school year. The 11th grade will be added for the 2020-21 school year and 12th grade for 2021-22 as the students are promoted.
The Manatee County School Board decided to build the new high school to relieve overcrowding at Braden River, Lakewood Ranch and Palmetto high schools and to accommodate the planned development in the Parrish area.
Little said there will be about 500 freshmen and sophomores starting the school year. The new principal has hired 28 instructors and 32 classroom aides and administrative staff.
“I know that the greatest asset we will offer will be our professional, dedicated, and talented staff that will do whatever it takes to help our students succeed,” he wrote in his welcome letter on the high school’s website.
The former principal of Lakewood Ranch High School called his new place of employment a state-of-the-art facility. There are high-tech classrooms with computer interactive screens, an up-to-date media center plugged into the newest technology, a showplace auditorium, and multi-purpose athletic fields.
Along with the traditional academic courses, the curriculum at the new high school will also provide pathway courses in health science, agriculture, automotive, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes, such as robotics and engineering.
“Our focus will be on our college and career pathways, which will allow students to gain employability skills while exploring potential careers,” Little wrote on the school’s website.
During class registration students choose core academic classes in English, math, science, and social sciences. For those on the college track, there are honors courses, advanced placement and dual enrollment classes. Students taking the health science, agriculture, or automotive pathways have several course choices, along with their core academic classes.
The new high school will have an automotive repair shop for the automotive mechanic classes, the only such facility in the Manatee County School District system.
To fill out a student’s class schedule, more than 35 other elective courses, such as applied engineering, commercial art technology, foundations of robotics, theatre, concert band and orchestra, leadership skill development, chorus, Spanish and yearbook are offered.
The new high school will have a Reserve Officer Training Corps program on campus and a sports program, starting with a junior varsity football team. Little said extra-curricular activities, such as student government, sports, and school clubs are planned.
“Extra curricular activities are essential,” he said. “They connect students to the school and teachers.This is something we want to get up and running in a hurry,” Little said.
Little lives in Bradenton with his wife, Jennifer, who is a teacher at Palmetto High School, and daughter, Alyssa, a sixth grader at Haile Middle School.
He was born and raised in Vernon Township, N.J., and went to Vernon Township High School. “I had an enjoyable high school experience,” Little said. “I played sports — basketball and cross country.”
He earned a bachelor of arts in physical education from Saint Leo University near San Antonio, Fla., and a masters in education leadership in 2003 from the same institution.
“I have 21 years in education, starting in 1999 as a physical education teacher in Hillsborough County for about 1 1/2 years,” Little said. He then moved to the Manatee County School District where he started as a physical education teacher at Lakewood Ranch High School for three years, before he moved into administration positions.
“Craig Little is a proven school leader, having served in our school district as principal at Lakewood Ranch from 2014 to 2018 and as an assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch from 2010 to 2014,” Superintendent Saunders wrote in her email. “During that time period, Lakewood Ranch High received an A grade from the state seven of the last eight years.
“In addition, Mr. Little has experience in our district as a teacher and as an assistant principal at Haile Middle and Johnson Middle,” she continued. “His background and knowledge of our district and community will serve him well in his new role.”
Little said his teaching and administration experience will help him develop a team at Parrish Community High School. “We call it a family,” he said.
The department heads helped develop a mission statement and expectations for teachers. “We got a lot of input from the community and staff,” Little said. “We did a survey, and it showed what is important to them.”
In his welcome letter on the school website, Little wrote “The hallmark of Parrish Community High School will be open and honest communication, where parents and community involvement will be welcomed.”
For more information on Parrish Community High School, visit its website at www.manateeschools.net/parrish.