History of Tech High

  • It was 1961 and a Seminole resident by the name of William (Bill) E. Moore was walking a rugged swatch of pines, palmettos and swamp in Seminole. This area of rural Pinellas County was recommended to be the site for a fledgling agriculture center which would give interested high school students a chance to experience a hands-on agriculture based education. With one acre of property purchased and approximately 42 acres leased from Pinellas County for a mere one dollar a year, Moore alone opened the school and was the only teacher for the first year.

    The Largo-Seminole Agriculture Center opened its doors in 1961 and in the early years, the “Ag Farm” (as it was then nick-named), was attended by students from Largo and Seminole high schools. It was these first groups of students and their teacher and volunteers who cleared the land and help continue to build the labs, classrooms and shops.

    Many local residents and business people were responsible for expanding and supporting the school including Seminole High School principal, Stanley Moore, Largo High School principal, Francis Pfost and Director of vocational education, Joe Mills. Oren Douglas and Leo Traylor came to the Ag Farm during its second year.

    Douglas lived on the farm property and was full-time instructor of carpentry and masonry while Traylor taught cabinet making. These teachers were soon followed by Fred Body and Reed Franz, agriculture instructors and Arthur Ward, who was hired to provide farm tours for elementary school children.

    Seeing the effect this hands-on approach to education had on its students, instructors and Director Moore were eager to expand the Ag Farm. It wasn’t long before the approximately 60 students had built a poultry house, a beef cattle barn, a large main building with two classrooms, a workshop, office rest rooms and a shower. Land was cleared for vegetable farming and citrus and a pond was stocked with bass and brim. Fences were built to separate pastures. Progress, however, did have some interruptions. As the Ag Farm was being carved out of the wilderness, it was necessary to rid the area of some of its natural inhabitants… rattlesnakes and alligators were sent to quieter resting places.

    But it wasn’t only the wildlife that discouraged development. For years, the current SVEC campus had been a favorite spot for dove hunters. “You built on our hunting grounds”, the sportsmen said. Fences were cut to provide the needed access for the sport.

    Fortunately, there were far more advocates of the Ag Farm than dissenters.  Jesse Johnson, a prominent Seminole nursery operator and recognized today as the “Father of Seminole”, was not only influential in enlisting community support but also gave freely of his time and resources, donating much of the landscaping, including varieties of plants and palms, and even a mule named “Bud”.

    “The Community support was contagious” Moore recollected. “Individuals and organizations were enthusiastic in their efforts to assist.” Ambition in fact was a characteristic of all persons involved with the Ag Farm. Students in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization were so diligent in an early campaign to sell Florida wildlife magazine subscriptions that not only did they win a tractor and a Brahma bull for their school, but also a trip to Mexico.

    The FFA organization was also quick to earn recognition from the state. In 1964, FFA Advisor Fred Body traveled with his officers to the annual state meeting. Among his delegation was Haddie Belle Timberlake, the first female member of SVEC’s FFA. When Body and his students walked into the meeting place, ”the president about swallowed his gavel” said Body, “and I about got thrown out of the state.” Never before had there been a female in the Florida Organization.

    The school has seen continued expansion, growth and change. Spurred on by years of successful vocational education, the late 1970’s saw SVEC introduce more hands-on courses in diesel mechanics and small-gas engine classes. Still known affectionately by some as the Ag Farm, the school’s name was first changed to the Pinellas Vocational Agriculture Center and, in the late 1970's was renamed the Seminole Vocational Education Center. The name isn’t all that’s changed.

    In 1977 the Pinellas County School Board acquired the full 42 acres of property for the Center and by 1985, SVEC was expanded again with construction of a facility which housed state-of-the-art classes and labs in electrical wiring, carpentry, floral marketing, cabinet making and commercial arts. An administrative suite and conference room were also a part of the addition.

    In 1989 expansion occurred once again as SVEC became home to the TEAM program, which facilitated a drop-out prevention program. These English, science and math courses were specifically designed to help at-risk students catch up on credits missed and help them graduate on time. For over fifteen years, SVEC staff helped hundreds of students stay in school and earn their degrees.

    2007 saw the exit of the drop out prevention TEAM program and a return to a focus on trade courses. The 2010 – 2011 school year saw SVEC students win more gold and silver medals in regional, state and National SkillsUSA competitions than ever before. SVEC also had a National first place winner in t-shirt design. FFA students also took top honors in the Florida State Fair livestock competitions and regularly place in top spots during State FFA competitions.
    In February of 2013, the Seminole Vocational Education Center name ended its almost 40 year run and the school was renamed as Career Academies of Seminole to reflect the importance of career and vocational education and training for the 21st century workforce.
    In August 2015 Career Academies of Seminole (CAS) once again revised its offerings, replacing Carpentry with Building Construction Technologies and offering Gaming and Simulation Programming.
    In 2017, two new classes opened - Design For Gaming and a Nursing course. Several years of planning finally came to fruition in regard to the future of the school and once again, the school changed with the times as they ushered in a new name - Pinellas Technical high School at Seminole -- the first technical high school in Pinellas County.
    In 2018 Tech High welcomed a new name- Richard O. Jacobson Technical High School at Seminole.
    Tech High is geared towards the serious, career-focused student who often remains in programs at our school over the course of their high school education and will offer full academic courses that support the trade courses of study in a new, state-of-the-art school. Offering personalized learning, a rigorous and fun curriculum, industry certification in all of its programs, and participation in the FFA and SkillsUSA student organization, Tech High promises to set the precedent for what high schools could be like in the future.

    Courses offered through the years
    • Agriculture  1961 - 1982 (Became Horticulture / Environmental Tech)
    • Masonry  1961 – 1982
    • Office Skills  1970’s (Adult Night School)
    • Cabinetmaking  1961 – 1989
    • Criminal Justice (Adult Night School) - Mid 1970's - Late 1980's
    • Small Gas Engines   1977 – 2007
    • Diesel Mechanics   1977 – 2008
    • Horticulture / Landscape Management 1977 – 2015
    • Carpentry 1983 – 2014
    • Floral Marketing  1984 – 2010
    • Environmental Technology 1986 – 2014
    • Computer Electronics  1997 - 2006
    • Entrepreneurship   2005 – 2007
    • Electrical Wiring  Mid 1970’s  - Present
    • Veterinary Sciences 1983 – Present
    • Commercial & Digital Arts   1984 – Present
    • Gaming and Programming 2015 – Present
    • Building Construction Technology 2017 - Present
    • Nursing  2017 – Present
    • Marine Mechanics  2020 - present
    From 1962 – 1969, principals at Seminole High School and Largo High School served a dual role as directors of what was then the Ag Farm. These principals included Stanley Moore, Francis Pfost, Nicholas G. Mangin and Scott Rose.
    John Hill                   1969 – 1973               
    Richard Sanders       1973 – 1978  
    Donald Bitting          1978 – 1988    
    Chip Snare               1988 – 1999  
    Mathias Fischer         2000 – 2010
    Peter D. Berry           2010 – 2011
    Barbara Clare           2011 – 2017
    Martha Giancola       2017 – 2018
    Joshua Wolfenden    2019 - present
    Vocational Agricultural Center Hold Open House (November 1964)

    Old MacDonald Should See This Farm (December 1964)

    Farm serves two purposes (December 1964)

    Students from Vocational Center Win FFA contests (1964)

    Boat Building booms at the ag farm (April 1966)

    School Reaps Farm Products (May 1967)

    Future Farmers honored (May 1967)

    Ag Farm Report Wins Award (August 1968)

    Pinellas County Fair is no bum steer (1969)

    Ag Farm’s first colt (Oct 1970)

    Center is haven for animals (Aug 1971)

    Growing and building, people and things (Mar 1972)

    Students Taking Practical Courses (Mar 1972)

    Vocational Center has visitors (Jan. 1973)

    Agriculture grows on you (May 1974)

    In Pinellas, students can sow an agriculture career (June 1977)

    Ag Farm Center reflects years of student growth (April 1978)

    Agriculture Students Steers For Pinellas County Fair (1979)

    Students learn what it’s like to work on a farm (Oct 1979)

    Students Learn Skills Without Benefit of A Cow  (March 1980)

    Farm life beckons 12 students (July 1980)