GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -- Call them the saviors of Steinhatchee School. Students got the ride of a lifetime as they celebrated in style their remarkable turnaround from an "F" rated school to an "A" rated school.
Here's how an incentive set at the beginning of last school year turned into a stretch limousine reality for students.
Steinhatchee is in the middle of its busiest tourism season but the limo driving around town wasn't full of wealthy celebrities trying to go scalloping, it was full of kids, who in their own right Thursday were treated to a celebrity experience.
Steinhatchee School's principal Jimmy Bray explained how big of a jump was made from last to a year to this year. "Last year we were a 28 F and this year we're a 92 A which is one of the top scores not only in our area but the state."
The 64 point turnaround means the murmurs heard last year of the school having to close have officially been silenced.
Jim Hunt who owns multiple local businesses spoke about how proud the community is of their school. "The community if you remember last year all came out and everybody was in the streets and was very upset about talking about closing our school. It's very important that our school stays open and these children have someplace to go to school because bussing these kids would take them 45 minutes one way and these kids would have to get up too early and be out too late."
The administration took on the challenge to turn the school around and promised students a stretch limousine ride if they could show significant learning gains on the FSA tests.
Rachel Russell who will be going into 6th grade said, "they started talking about it and at first I was like I don't think it's really going to happen and then towards the end of the year I was thinking more it would happen."
Principal Bray added, "there's no magic pill, no magic wand it's a lot of hard work and to borrow a phrase from coach Dan Mullen, just relentless effort. That's the approach I took, I pushed my students and had high expectations and they definitely rose to the challenge. The day they took the FSA math test I actually pulled up pictures of a stretch limo and showed them."
The students rode around town for about 30 minutes and then were treated to dinner at a restaurant, then they hopped back into the limo to take one more lap around.
Hunt said, "they're having a blast and that is the longest limousine I've ever seen in my life. I didn't know it could hold I don't know how many kids there are, there's 22 of them I think and I didn't know there was a limo that could hold that many kids."
Principal Bray says they haven't come up with an incentive idea for next year but he says it will have to be different and even bigger because getting the "A" was only the first step. Maintaining that score for years to come is an even greater challenge he's excited to be a part of.