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New elementary to open in Lehigh

By Staff | May 15, 2009

The school year is coming to an end and that is good news for Scott LeMaster, the new principal at G. Weaver Hipps Elementary School — Lehigh Acres’ newest institution.
The school will take over the former staging school on Homestead Road, which this year has housed Lehigh Elementary School students while a building off of Richmond Avenue is being constructed.
LeMaster has been working in the building, which several years ago was a K-Mart store. The school board renovated the building to become a temporary high school for East Lee County High School while construction of the school was under way on Thomas Sherwin Avenue.
Designated as a staging school for the East Zone, next came students for the new Treeline Elementary school while they waited for their new school to be completed.
But come June, the building becomes G. Weaver Hipps Elementary — no longer a staging school.
It becomes Lehigh’s fifth elementary school. Others include Lehigh, Sunshine, Mirror Lakes and Harns Marsh elementary schools. According to LeMaster, G. Weaver Hipps is a former assistant superintendent who the school system wanted to recognize for his outstanding work.
LeMaster is trying to locate Hipps’ widow to invite her to the school when it is opened.
LeMaster and his secretary, Earthine Caldwell, have been working on hiring a staff for the new school, including teachers, assistants and office, cafeteria and maintenance personnel. As of last week, he had 15 teachers and had some 205 students enrolled.
While the building as Lehigh Elementary has some 802 students, the Hipps Elementary has a planned capacity for its first year of 486 students.
LeMaster, who loves teaching and being an educator, credits to the principal of the North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, Dr. Doug Santini.
“He’s my mentor. I have learned so much from him. This man brought a school up from D to an A school when he became principal. I admire the way he administers his school and his insight into the educational process,” he said.
LeMaster moved from Washington Courthouse, Ohio, to Lee County in 1987 at the age of 16. He has degrees from the University of South Florida and Nova University. In addition to a postgraduate degree in education, LeMaster has a master’s degree and a doctorate.
LeMaster said he loves challenging students in their academics. He has coached for high school and elementary, and has taught on the middle school level for 15 years.
He believes in Positive Behavior Support by teaching students with rewards. That can mean dances, a Friday night move and other things they would enjoy for doing a good job and getting good grades.
“We also want this to be family school, and we plan on doing things to bring them to school, to involve them,” LeMaster said of the parents. “They are welcome to come to any classroom at anytime of the school day.
“When I am out on the parking lot and meet a parent I don’t know, I plan to get to know them and to shake their hands and invited them to become involved in our school,” he added.
Teachers will follow the Kagan Cooperative Learning method of teaching, a program that LeMaster admires and says works well in other schools. The program is based on cooperative learning where students work together toward a learning goal.
He said it has been the most heavily studied cooperative learning program and continues to show success because of its set structures, which rely on individual accountability in the learning groups.
“I’m really excited at G. Weaver Hipps Elementary School, and I think our students will be, too,” LeMaster said. “We plan to be an important part of the Lehigh community.”