Golden Grove Elementary School celebrates 25 years

Principal Linda Edgecomb with teachers Tanya Wesley and Marlyne Youmans.

Teachers and administrators at Golden Grove Elementary School have worked to build a strong bridge between school and home, said Principal Linda Edgecomb. It’s a bridge that spans decades, administrations and demographic shifts, as well as 9/11 and COVID-19. Now, 25 years later, Wednesday, November 16 will be celebrated with music and more.

“This is really a special place,” said Edgecomb, who has been principal at Golden Grove since 2018. “Parents respect us because we respect them. A lot of it has to do with how we we hold our own.”

“There’s a great tradition of excellence here,” agreed Tanya Wesley, who was among a group of teachers who came from Acreage Pines Elementary School in 1997.

Wesley, who teaches second grade English, and second grade math/science/social studies teacher Marlyne Youmans have been at Golden Grove ever since.

Golden Grove soon became so well regarded that few of the teachers ended up leaving, Youmans said. “The only way people would leave was if they retired,” she explained.

Located on 140th Avenue North near Western Pines Middle School, Golden Grove now has 56 teachers and about 80 staff members overseeing 765 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Loyalty and dedication to the school is unchanged. “There are no vacancies,” Edgecomb said.

The same is true of electronic games in the school’s well-regarded technology elective program. Although technically available through the lottery to students throughout the district, seats are rarely available.

On Nov. 16, however, there will be seats for Palm Beach County school district officials and former Golden Grove principals and teachers for a silver anniversary celebration that will include a performance by the school choir and a film made inside the house that captures the history of the school.

An all class photo will be taken outside and a slippery tree will be planted to mark the anniversary. Classroom doors will be decorated with memorabilia from the 1990s and students and teachers will be dressed in period clothing.

A time capsule buried in 1997 is now on display in the school lobby and will be opened during Spirit Week November 14-18.

What will students find inside? No one really remembers. But today’s students may be shocked when they don’t see iPhones or references to social media. A guy named Bill Clinton can be called Mr. President. Something called a Walkman can be described as the latest technology to listen to Backstreet Boys, Jewel and the Spice Girls songs. Any Golden Grove student who grew up watching the Marlins on a flat-screen TV or smartphone app might find it hard to believe that when school opened, the South Florida team was on its way to winning the World Series.

After being emptied of treasures from the 1990s, the capsule will be filled with items from today selected by students. It will be reburied so that perhaps their children will smile and wonder about the equipment of 2022 when the school’s 50th anniversary arrives in 2047.

In all of this, the school’s founding principal, Barbara Altman, will be well remembered. Before her death from cancer in 2006, she laid the foundation for the school-parent bridge that now spans decades.

“Her dream was this school,” Wesley said. “She made it so much fun.”

Altman was the “heart and soul” of the school in its early years, Youmans agreed. “She was all about her people.”

Long before Edgecomb graduated from Glades Central School, she knew Altman in another way — as her physical education teacher growing up in Belle Glade. But Altman moved on and Edgecomb grew up, getting her bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of South Florida and her master’s degree in leadership at Lynn University. After working as a teacher, she took her first administrative job at Golden Grove in 2005.

“I consider it an honor to have served as assistant principal when my former teacher was principal here,” said Edgecomb, who stayed at Golden Grove for five years before serving as principal at Glade View Elementary in Belle Glade from 2010 to in 2018.

Since Edgecomb’s first stay in Golden Grove, the thousands of acres of orange groves that were behind the school have been transformed into the suburban streets of the city of Westlake.

Golden Grove is now a melting pot in which 45 percent of students are Caucasian, 37 percent are Hispanic and 10 percent are black. Many of the signs at the school are in English, Spanish and Creole, reflecting a growing Haitian community in the area.

“We have grown up. We’re more different,” Edgecomb said. “Through diversity, we are learning about each other for the betterment of all.”

Perhaps more than ever today, technology is being fully embraced by students and educators, especially in the wake of the pandemic, which has made distance learning a necessity for students and teachers.

“We had teachers training teachers” in the technology needed to continue their work during the pandemic, Wesley said.

“Our staff has always been cooperative,” Edgecomb said. But during the pandemic, “Our experienced teachers really stepped up. It was an opportunity for us to expand our thinking. Let’s grow and learn together.”

Back when the orange groves were still standing, when it all began for Golden Grove and the late Barbara Altman, the school’s theme was “Dream a Dream.” Much of that dream has come true in the past 25 years, Edgecomb, Wesley and Youmans agree. But there is always more to do. Now, their 2022 theme is RISE — Ready and Inspired Flight to Excellence. It certainly points to the future, proclaiming that in Golden Grove, the sky is the limit, Edgecomb said.

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