From Highlands Today
By Gary Pinnell
SEBRING — Three dozen Memorial Elementary students chatted with Rick Scott, but Friday morning was even more special to Aalexis Knight, who achieved perfect scores on the FCAT.
“Do you go to the White House?” Scott asked outside the school after Florida’s gubernatorial caravan rolled up in front of 26 people, including all five school board members and five media reporters and photographers.
Aalexis is a role model for the school, said her mother, Katrina Thomas, who runs the Highlands County Jail food service. The fifth-grader was perfect in reading and math, and scored a 5.5 in writing. Six is perfect.
Scott appeared along with Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Christie Bassett, a K-12 art teacher at Highlands Grove Elementary School in Polk County, who was the 2015 Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year.
The governor took center stage in two classrooms, Heather Esquibel’s advanced students, and Katina Kramer’s science lab.
“Do you go to the White House?” the governor asked the first group, and then launched into a what-it’s-like-to-be-governor routine.
“Who wants to be governor?”
Only a few raised their hands. “I’ve met the president and Michelle Obama. I live in a mansion with a chef. Does anybody like pizza?”
This time nearly every hand shot up. “You can have pizza for any meal you want.” They giggled.
A map of the world was on the carpet below the governor’s feet, and he toed each country he’s been in. “Canada, Brazil, Peru, Chili, Israel, France, England, Japan… Before I was governor, I was in Africa. I saw wild lions and elephants.”
Nearly every pupil raised a hand and asked questions, which Scott answered with adult seriousness.
What’s the governor’s mansion like? It has silver and a bar of gold from a Spanish shipwreck that’s worth about $150,000.
Where has he lived? “I was born in Bloomington, Ill., but I’ve lived in Missouri and Kentucky and Tennessee and Rhode Island and Florida.”
Which state does he like the best?
“Florida,” he answered with quick, comedic timing. “If I said another answer, it would be a mistake. When you’re the governor, you’d better like all the football teams and all the baseball teams.”
He’s up at 5 every morning to take and make phone calls, takes meetings at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and by 9 a.m. he’s on the road.
“I visit three or four cities every day,” he said. On Friday, it was Sebring, Orlando, Melbourne and Miami.
After 30 minutes in Esquibel’s classroom, Scott went down the hall to Kramer’s science lab, where boys wore neckties as part of the Dress for Success program.
“Do you go to the White House?”