History of Largo High School
Halls of Largo
Oh, we love the halls of LargoThat surround us here todayAnd we will not forgetTho’ we be far, far away.To thee hallow’d halls of LargoEvery voice will bid farewell,And shimmer off in twilightLike the old vesper bell.One day a hush will fall,The footsteps of us all will echoDown the hall and disappear.But as we sadly start, our journeys farApart, a part of every heart will lingerHere in the sacred halls of Largo,Where we’ve lived and learnedTo know that through the yearsWe’ll see you in the sweet afterglow.
Lunch was out of the ordinary that day. Mrs. Brook had invited all Largo School students to her house. She felt obligated to do so because her hogs had invaded the cloakroom of Largo's first school and eaten the food out of the students' lunch pails. The year was 1890.
Largo's first school, called Largo School No. 1, was a red, two-story building located on the site that is now Largo's Ulmer Park on West Bay Drive. The school was surrounded by a wire fence with a stile, which allowed students to enter but kept the livestock out. The entire building was moved half a block away to the corner of First Avenue South and K Street in 1908.
The first floor housed grades 1-4, the second floor was used by Charles Phillips, who taught the upper grades. Phillips cut bamboo switches on his way to school every morning. Mr. Phillips generally wore his switches out by the end of each day.
According to the Golden Anniversary of Pinellas Schools, the students and staff moved in 1908 to Largo School No. 2. This was a two-story, four-room house built by Duncan Dewar. Almost immediately, this building became crowded so an annex was built.
Try to picture in the center of Largo a 20-acre farm with modern appliances -- a dipping vat, a curing house and a silo. All this was part of the new, modern brick building that opened its doors to Largo students in 1914 and housed the Largo student population until 1924. This school housed 240 students and 11 teachers in 14 classrooms. By 1918, it was definitely overcrowded. In 1924 the first separate Largo High School building was erected on Fourth Street. The new structure was a two-story, Spanish-style stucco building that offered classes to grades 10-12.
In the early 1900s, teachers were unmarried people who lived in a boarding house just down the street from the school. Room and board were included with their small salary.
Many names from Largo High School’s past are streets and schools we see every day. McMullen, Belcher, Fuguitt, and Ulmer (Ulmerton Road) all attended school here in Largo. Morgan Fitzgerald was a teacher at Largo High School too. See image of the 1937 LHS diploma for Curtis Ulmer which is signed by Superintendent Fuguitt and trustee Lillian Belcher.
The present campus on Missouri Avenue was opened in 1957. Built on 37 acres of land at a cost of $624,000, it opened with a staff of 37 teachers and a student body of 707. The original build consisted of a cafeteria, industrial arts wing, gymnasium, A-wing and B-wing. The administrative offices of the school were in the front half of A-wing.
Since 1957, we doubled the size of LHS with the addition of several wings and media center. The old LHS went through several transitions through the years. It became the junior high school, Seminole’s junior high school, Bauder Elementary, Largo Alternative School and the school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Center. The old Largo High School was razed in 1984.
In the early years, horses were almost as common as bicycles. "They (students) would tie their horses to orange trees, which used to be where the auditorium is now. The custodian would check on them and give them water." -- remembered Tamara Badders (Class of 1959). Allen Mortham, a 1969 graduate, said school spirit was a big part of campus life then. "For example, there would be bonfires before homecoming with competition between classes."
Young ladies took Home Economics which included the skills of sewing and cooking while young men studied agriculture sciences. Before Largo Central Elementary School was built, its grounds housed the agriculture buildings of Largo High School. Young men took courses that included tractor repair, wood shop and animal sciences. A well beaten pathway to the vocational center from the school can be seen and the first of several buildings for the vocational program. Back in the early years Largo was a farming community and Clearwater was the city section of the county. Annually when we play against Clearwater during the football season we celebrate our farming heritage with “Farmer’s Day.” LHS students wear overalls and dress like old farmers for the day.
Largo High School's band contributed to the school's history too. The first Largo High School band was created by a coronet player from John Phillip Sousa’s famous band. In 1955 under the direction of Eddie Edwards, the band appeared on the cover of National Musician Magazine. In 1978 the Largo Band of Gold returned from Europe as winner of an international competition. This band was directed by Robert Cotter.
According to former coach and retired Assistant Principal, Len Koutney, back in 1974 he was assisting with coaching. The linemen of the time were big and tough. Their cleats kept tearing up the turf and he nicknamed them his "hogs." Shortly thereafter a razorback hog decorated their helmets to acknowledge their well-deserved name. In 1986, the Student Council polled the students to determine the school's official mascot and the razorback hog won by a huge margin.
The Largo High School Packer student body enjoyed an exemption from the dress code when the Academic and Attendance Incentive Program, developed by the Packer Advisory Committee (PAC) and ratified by teachers and parents and was approved by the School Board. When students attained specific academic, attendance and discipline criteria within a grading period, they were issued an Honor Card that allowed them to wear acceptable shorts for the subsequent six weeks period. In addition to newspaper and television coverage, the May edition of Seventeen Magazine brought the incentive program to national attention. Our piloted program changed the dress code in Pinellas County to include wearing shorts as proper attire.
In 1991, Largo High School opened its doors to its own 7-Eleven Convenience Store. This modified store sold food items and school supplies and was run by both the business education department and GOALS, dropout prevention department. Students ran the operations and acted as clerks to the store which was open before school and during lunch. Slurpees, hotdogs, nachos and chips were popular items. This store remained open for four years before state regulations caused its closing.
Before "90210" and before "High School the Musical," there was "South of Heaven." In 1992, Thomas French, a St. Petersburg Times reporter spent a year at LHS. LHS was selected as the typical school in Pinellas County. Mr. French spent time with our students during school and after school hours. The Times published a special pull-out section that was printed weekly over a six-week period entitled, “South of Heaven, Welcome to a high school at the end of the 20th century.” His articles highlighted the lives of eight students who were typical students in any school - the prom queen, the star football player, the slacker and geek. The articles turned into a book which was published by Doubleday.
In 1993 the 21st Century Learning Center was established with a $300,000 grant by the same name. The first students needed a Special Attendance Permit to attend the magnet program. In 1995 the School Board added “& Teaching Arts Academy” to the magnet name to encourage tomorrow’s teachers.
Also in 1995 Largo High was selected to represent 50 schools in the United States as being “Safe and Drug Free.” Student, and school valedictorian, Jaime Chambron accepted the award representing those 50 schools from then President Clinton in a Rose Garden ceremony.
In 1997 the 4 x 4 block schedule was introduced to three Pinellas County high schools – Tarpon Springs, Boca Ciega and Largo. The block schedule consisted of four classes per day and grades were finalized each eight week period. Several schools in Pinellas County adopted the block schedule after our pilot. We had the block schedule for 10 years and were stopped due to budget issues.
Starting in 2005, our football team has earned nine (9) district titles (eight in a row), two regional titles, and two state semi-finals. Coach Rick Rodriguez has been honored as the quickest Tampa Bay High School Coach to win 100 games (in 12 seasons). Four former Largo High School football players went on to NFL careers – Keif Bryant with the Seattle Seahawks, Marcus Paschal with the Baltimore Ravens, Dexter McCluster with the Kansas City Chiefs and Leonard Johnson with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Largo’s Packer Football Team has become the team to beat in Pinellas County with 9 district championships. Accolades went to other athletes too. We went to state competition in swimming, cross-country, track and wrestling. Our award-winning artists had work displayed in many local venues, bringing in many prestigious prizes. Our Band of Gold, Madrigals and Thespians were recognized for superior performances in local, regional and state competitions.
In July 2008, after an extended period of stakeholder input and district level assistance, the magnet program was renamed in an effort to better describe their objectives. Many alternative names were considered and one, created by students, won by vote. The new name Exploring Careers and Education in Leadership, ExCEL was formally adopted. ExCEL students also designed our logo. That same year Largo Central Elementary School was closed and the facilities were turned over to Largo High School. The building contained the ExCEL offices, ExCEL classrooms and a small section of students with EBD until the summer of 2014 when the construction of the new Largo High School started.
2009 saw a facelift for our facility: lighting, auditorium renovation, painting and landscaping projects were completed. We celebrated academic excellence as our Valedictorian Kristen Eberts and Salutatorian Jennifer Shelby were National Merit Scholar finalists and were accepted to Harvard and Yale, respectively. Largo added the district’s first SAVE Club (Students Against Violence Everywhere) which worked to create portable exhibits that spoke out against abuse and violence in teens. We also added a Geographical Information System (GIS) program which focuses on data collection and data display on layered mapping.
During the 2011-2012 school year Largo High School welcomed the first group of ninth grade students in the Honors Option programs. Mr. Adam Lane is appointed the Administrative Coordinator for Honors Option. In 2014, the review process for implementing the International Baccalaureate Programme was complete and Largo High School was awarded IB status.
In 2012, Pinellas County Schools announced Largo’s priority for a new school. The construction process started in January 2014 and the new campus opened in August of 2016.
Principals of Largo High School since 1957:
1957 to 1959 H. Bentley Lawson
1959 to 1963 Francis M. Pfost
1963 to 1968 Nick Mangin
1968 to 1986 Gene Chiizik
1986 to 1990 Judith Westfall
1990 to 2004 Barbara C. Thornton
2004 to 2008 Jeffrey Haynes
2008 to 2012 Marjorie Sundstrom
2012 to present Bradley W. Finkbiner