Several of the charter year teachers and administrative personnel returned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of FishHawk Creek Elementary School, including (front row, left to right): Ginger Elea, charter assistant principal; Pam Bush, charter principal; and Barbara Franques, charter area director.

Among those celebrating the 20th anniversary of FishHawk Creek Elementary School in Lithia are the seven teachers who have been at the school since its opening, an achievement that gives testament to the school’s stature.

So applauds Jim Hamilton, former deputy superintendent of schools, who oversaw the school construction boom that marked the final years of Earl Lennard’s term as superintendent of schools. According to Hamilton, from 1998 through Lennard’s retirement in 2005, the Hillsborough County School District constructed, renovated and/or added space to nearly 100 schools.

Among the more than 70 schools built from scratch to accommodate new growth and relieve overcrowded schools were Randall Middle, Newsome High and Bevis and Stowers elementary schools in Lithia.

As for the seven teachers at work at FishHawk Elementary for 20 years, “that’s really a testimony to the quality of the school and the community,” Hamilton said. “Teachers don’t stay for that length of time in places that are not great places to teach. When I see teachers who have been in the same place for 20 years, I know the principals at that school were great principals and that the parents at those schools were great school supporters.”

In a break from teaching her fourth grade class at FishHawk Creek, Melissa Patterson Frigo discussed her 20 years at the school and the long-serving principal who opened the school in 2004. Principal Pam Bush stayed until Steven Sims, the current principal, succeeded her in 2019.

“Pam was always very understanding about people who had children,” Frigo said. “She was always there for us when we had problems in the classroom, offering suggestions to help us in our teaching. She knew everybody by first name.”

In a conference room at the school, Frigo referred to the plaque on the wall that marks the 2004 establishment of the school. It notes the school’s falcon mascot and its founding motto, “Soaring to excellence in academic achievement and character education.” It notes also the charter staff, including assistant principal Ginger Elea and the seven teachers who continue to work there today: Frigo, Amanda Johnson, Jason Judd, Megan McGreevy, Elizabeth Duckworth Sierra, Tina Trombley and Rebecca Vercher.

At the anniversary ceremony in April, Bush gave a “beautiful speech,” as did Barbara Franques, Bush’s area director, Frigo said, as the community joined together to remember a special school at a special time taking root in a burgeoning community.

“I’m blessed to have been here this many years,” Frigo said, noting that when she started there were four fourth grade classrooms. Now there are nine, and nine likewise for just about every grade level. She gave high marks to Sims, noting that while his style differs from Bush’s, he “makes it fun” and also is “very understanding and always checking in on us in our classrooms.”

While change is ever-constant in education, including changes in curriculum, staff, testing and the ever-evolving use of technology, one thing remains constant.

“The FishHawk family, that’s how I refer to this school,” Frigo said. “I love my staff, I love my grade level and I love the community. Anything we need, the parents are very supportive.”

FishHawk Creek Elementary is located at 16815 Dorman Rd. in Lithia. For more information, visit

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