Hundreds of people, some from across the country, packed The Warren Hope Dawson Elementary School cafeteria for the school’s dedication.
The school’s namesake, school board members, district leaders, students, staff, families and honored guests joined the celebration as Superintendent Jeff Eakins dedicated Hillsborough County Public Schools’ only new traditional school to open in the 2017-2018 school year.
“It my honor to officially dedicate The Warren Hope Dawson Elementary School this 28th day of April 2018,” said Superintendent Jeff Eakins.
Dawson, a Tampa civil rights attorney, worked for more than two decades to help desegregate public schools in the county.
“I’m so happy that you’re here to share in this occasion,” said he said. “The pride that I take in all of this is that I, through my legal work, contributed to them coming together – and aren’t they beautiful? Had they come along in my day, they would not be assembled as they are right here. That’s a change,” Dawson said.
“It’s my honor to be here to dedicate an amazing school, but also to honor an icon in our community. I hope everyone appreciates, students, someday you will say that you heard Warren Hope Dawson speak,” Superintendent Eakins said.
The School Board appointed Derrick McLaughlin as the principal of the new school before it even had a name.
“The key to this process is a leader who is dedicated, who has a clear vision for the school’s role in the community, who works tirelessly to assemble a staff of excellence, and who provides leadership to all stakeholders. Derrick McLaughlin is that leader for The Warren Hope Dawson Elementary School,” said HCPS Area 8 Superintendent Shaylia McRae.
“My hope was that we would meet or exceed everyone’s expectation of what it was like to open a new elementary school,” McLaughlin said. “Thank you to all of our families for the humbling amount of trust that you have in us as a faculty. With your support, we are providing hope for our future with your child in mind,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin, along with Assistant Principal Ashley Wiese, wanted to instill a feeling of family for students and staff at the new school. It’s something that the leaders believe they’ve accomplished.
“I especially want to thank these wonderful people right here in front of me, the staff of Warren Hope Dawson Elementary School, for your unwavering support of our vision and mission to give the best of ourselves, every day, even so,” McLaughlin said.
Tears were shed as third-grade teacher Tiffany Latimore and The Dawson Singers gave a powerful performance of the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day.
“I truly hope that today has met or hopefully exceeded all of your expectations, because that is after all, the Dawson way,” McLaughlin said.
“We’ll be Dragons forever more,” chanted the Dawson staff. Mr. Dawson cheered along.
“I could go on and on about all of those big and little moments that I’ve collected this year and put in my pocket for safekeeping,” Wiese said as she shared a video highlighting some of the memories from the inaugural year.
The school has further honored its namesake, by focusing on Mr. Dawson’s middle name, Hope. Their motto is “Building HOPE for our future, one child at a time.”
“Hope means to me, well, this is a new school and it’s like a new hope to everyone, and I think that is amazing,” said Braden, a fifth grader.
“That’s our job as educators, is to provide hope for students, to provide hope for our future, and so that became our vision,” McLaughlin said.
“From seeing our building before it had a roof, to having dirt floors, just to see it all come to fruition has been really powerful,” Wiese said.
“I think the first day of school was the best ‘first.’ The fact that Mr. Dawson got to come around and walk into every single classroom, meet every single student, meet all of our staff members, it was everything you ever want a first day of school to be, and for it to be our first, first day of school made it even better,” said McLaughlin.
“My favorite memories are like the first day of school, because I was so excited. I thought it would be cool – and it is,” said Aubree, a kindergartener.
“It was brand new. It was nice, and shiny and clean. I loved it,” said Braden.
“It was a brand new school. All of the teachers are so nice. Everyone respects one another,” said Kai, a fifth-grade student.
“The feeling that the people on this campus big and small care about one another, it’s something that you can’t always describe but you know it when you feel it, when you see it. I think you see it in every interaction on this campus. I love Dawson,” Wiese said.
The new school also prides itself on its 21st century classrooms with flexible learning with flexible seating. Staff members painted the letters H, O, P, E and have them displayed around the school.
“It’s a place where you want to come to learn every day. A place where students want to have fun, and they want to enjoy their friends and enjoy their school family, but shouldn’t be that way for adults too,” McLaughlin said.
Students have combined the words “Dawson” and “Awesome” to coin the word: “Dawsome.”
“Every single person in this school deserves a medal for how Dawsome they are,” said second-grader Alexis.
"We really do get to work in the best school, and it’s exciting to come to work every single day and know we get to work with great students, with great people, with great families. It makes it worthwhile every single day,” said McLaughlin.
To see the latest events happening at Dawson Elementary, follow the school on Twitter at @HCPSDawson.
For more information about The Warren Hope Dawson Elementary School: http://dawson.mysdhc.org/View Full Album