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Eastside Elementary & Popsicles with the Principal

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By Christina Ottersbach

On Saturday, July 30th, while most students and school staff were enjoying their final days of summer, Eastside Elementary started the school year in full swing – in the hot sun and in such a cool way.

Principals Mike Lastra and Eric Schwartz, along with many of their staff met with over 50 families at three different locations: Sherman Hills, Winn Dixie in Ridge Manor, and Eastside Elementary. At Winn Dixie, every staff member was greeted by Ridge Manor Nutrition with 25 hydrating drinks. At their third stop, Security Resource Officer Jeff McDougal and his wife surprised everyone with their ice and popsicle stand J & L Freeze Treats.
On their bus excursion, they gave out spirit shirts, popsicles, scooters, helmets, and backpacks filled with school supplies to eagerly awaiting students. Principal Lastra gave a speech at each location, letting the parents know that they are badly needed to help improve Eastside’s school from a “D” school grade to an “A” and to help students succeed. Each speech ended with an enormous applause, loud cheers, and promises to work together to achieve this goal. The high energy was contagious and could be felt everywhere.

Michelle Barnes from Hernando’s Parent Academy excitedly proclaimed, “I believe in our teachers and students at Eastside Elementary! We’re igniting the energy at Eastside, and we’re going to get the job done! Eastside will rise again!”

On Eastside Elementary School’s Facebook page, Principal Lastra stated, “We’re ‘All In’ for Eastside Elementary School because we want to see it reach its full potential! Our students deserve the very best and they WILL accomplish great things because we BELIEVE in them! We did it before and we will do it again! We’re going all the way to an A!!!” Principal Lastra also added, “Thank you to the staff that came out to make this event a success! I was truly humbled to see a bus full of staff show up… on their last Saturday of summer. Thank you to Eric Schwartz, Michelle and Dell Barnes and Yami Figueroa for your help planning and organizing this event. Thank you to our board members Kay Hatch and Gus Guadagnino for coming out!”

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Although this is Mike Lastra’s first year as principal at Eastside Elementary, this is not his first time working at the school. Lastra recalls fond memories of the school thriving in years past. Thanks in part to funds he received from the Unified School Improvement Grant (UniSIG), a $44 million grant provided by the Florida Department of Education to support 149 schools in 29 school districts, Lastra has been able to fill teacher vacancies – a growing concern for many schools all around the country.

While extra money can always help bolster any atmosphere, it can only take you so far. It is the personal outreach, engagement, and connection that will drive their success home – right into the hearts of all the students and families they work with. The energy and enthusiasm felt by Eastside’s staff and administrators is extremely contagious, one can’t help but be moved by their positive vibes. All eyes are on Eastside – let’s watch them knock it out of the park!

Eastside’s next event, Back-To-School Backyard BBQ, will be next Saturday from 5:00-7:00 P.M. at Eastside Elementary. There will be food, games, chances to win laptops, and dancing. More information on upcoming events can be found on their Facebook page.

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