BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Turie T. Small Elementary, at 800 South Street, was built in 1954. It’s the oldest school in
Volusia County. Four generations of Volusians, most of them Black, have been taught there.
It’s now a “C” school in the heart of Daytona’s Black community with a student population of 500 students, 96 percent of whom are African-American. The Title I school also has most of its kids on free or reduced lunch.
For decades, issues of general decay have plagued the school affectionately known as “Turie T.” Those problems include mold, faulty electrical wiring, aging plumbing, leaky roofs over classrooms, and overcrowding.
Dr. Betty Powers, a well-known local educator, spent 41 years with the Volusia school district, including 16 years as Turie T.’s principal. During her tenure there, the school almost always earned ‘A’ grades on its state evaluation.
She has long advocated for a new physical structure.
Powers told the Daytona Times, “It’s time for a new school for Turie T. It’s old and deteriorating.
“The only new school in our community that has been built is Campbell (Middle School), because the old one flooded. Why can’t we have a new school for our students, teachers and community?”
Oldest school building
Keith Brooks, the longtime Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president at Turie T., is also advocating for a new school.
Brooks said, “We’re doing a movement. We don’t know how we’re going to do it. It’s the oldest school in the district. We need a 21st Century school for our children.
“Our current elected officials, especially those representing the area, haven’t done anything to help,” he said.Powers has met with school officials.
She noted, “I spoke with the former interim superintendent (Tim Egnor) and the new one (Dr. Scott Fritz). I told him we need a need a new school.”
Turie T.’s small size may not have it prepared to deal with school during COVID-19.
“The classrooms are small and with social distancing guidelines, you can probably just fit about seven to eight kids in a class. The teacher’s lounge can only fit about three teachers for lunch. The office only holds about two people comfortably. The clinic is small too. It’s ridiculous,” explained Powers.
Volusia School Board members discussed building a new K-8 school on the beach side to combine Ortona and Osceola Elementary schools, as compared to building two new K-5 schools. The school district is looking at a $16 million budget shortfall for the upcoming year.
Osceola, Ortona and Turie T. are all on the radar.
“We’ll discuss it on Aug. 4. Turie T. is now higher on the list than ever before. A new school is needed,” said Volusia County School Board Chairman Ida Dun-can-Wright. Wright also represents District 2, where Turie T. sits.
Turie T. proponents are fearful that it could be overlooked.
‘Get what they want’
“What’s going to happen is the people in Ormond will always get what they want. They always have. The people in Port Orange do, too. I grew up in Ormond and came through this school system. We’re hoping Turie T. isn’t passed over,” Powers exclaimed.
Brooks echoed, “They first mentioned Turie T. Now, I am hearing that they said they’re not going to. That’s not right. No new school is needed more than Turie T.”
Nobody sees a need for a new school than Turie T.’s latest principal, Dr. Melani Johnson.
“Not much has changed since the original infrastructure. The school was built for less than 300 kids. We’ve got kids who aren’t zoned for us.
“We have our issues. We’ve been patching things up, but it’s time for a new school,” said Johnson, who remains hopeful.
“We’re excited about the possibility. There has been a push for 20 years. A new school could be the jewel of the community. We could host community events and help the community as well,” she said.
Community must fight
Wright says it’s a matter of the community fighting for it.
She explained, “I spoke with Mrs. Powers. Just saying ‘You promised’ isn’t going to change the mind of my colleagues.”
Wright says a survey was done showing a need for a new school by showing how many kids were being bused from the 32114 zip code to other schools.
The survey found that 12 buses take kids between International Speedway Boulevard and Beville Road to schools, including Ortona and Osceola, that are relatively far away. Twelve buses also take kids from International Speedway Boulevard and Mason Avenue to other schools.
Making the case
“I had to convince my colleagues and show them mathematically. We found we would add 500 students (to Turie T). They said, “Build a new wing,” but no. We found we need to build a school for 800 kids.
“The argument is having diversity in schools. Why bus children from this neighborhood to other schools versus the other way around?
“No data supports that children perform better by being bused to other schools. Why not educate them in their community and attract good teachers? But we need the resources,” said Wright.