QB Shaun King stepped through a time warp Saturday when he donned his old Gibbs High School blue-and-gold
Had you strolled onto the campus of St. Petersburg's Gibbs High School on Saturday, you might have thought you'd passed through a time warp. There was local hero Shaun King tossing passes on the Gibbs' gridiron and nailing three-pointers in the gymnasium, just like in 1994 or '95. With the Gladiators' blue and gold on his back, King's star turns with Tulane and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed like moments yet to come.
There was no time warp, of course. The Bucs' passer was back on his old stamping grounds Saturday in order to film two public service announcements, sharing a message to parents with children who are in or are entering the Pinellas County school system about the new choices they will have to make.
This stroll down memory lane was part of a long but satisfying day for King, who also participated in a bowling event for the team later in the day.
Proudly wearing his Gladiators jersey, in which he earned All-America honors as a prep quarterback, King filmed two different PSAs about the new 'Choice Plan' that will begin in the fall of the 2003-2004 school year. The first PSA took place behind the Gladiator football field and the second was shot in the school gym.
Andrea Zahn, the communications and marketing coordinator for the Choice Plan, explained the purpose of the commercials.
"Our big targets are parents with children who are already in the Pinellas County school system, but more importantly the parents who have kindergartners coming into the school system in fall 2003," said Zahn. "For the first time, they have to choose a school from an attendance area and they need to do that between September 16 and December 13, 2002. So, a lot of information has to get out and they have a big decision to make in picking schools within their attendance area. Shaun is going to help us get the word out."
The Choice Plan is part of a settlement to a 1964 federal court case that resulted in a 1971 order requiring busing to maintain racial balance. The Choice Plan gives parents a much greater selection of schools from which to choose. However, if the parents don't make the decision then the district makes the decision for them.
King, who was excited about filming the spots at his alma mater, believed television spots would be more effective than other methods of getting the information to the parents.
"Sending flyers home isn't always the best way to communicate information, because a lot of times those flyers don't make it home," said King, remembering his own high school days at Gibbs. "This is just another way to get the message out."
King, was joined in his efforts by teenagers Anthony Bittler, Dylan Crane, Kim Gaesser and Emily Kaebler of Perkins Elementary and Justin Hires, Will Lacker, Katie Machol, Monica Parkin and Celena Walton of Gibbs. The students interacted easily with King during the filming, particularly Gaesser, who played the part of an angry wide receiver. Shortly after demanding that King let her "play her game," Gaesser caught a touchdown pass from the Bucs' QB.
The atmosphere on the set may have been relaxed, but the message King and the students were making is considered very important.
"I grew up in the Pinellas County school system and I thought it was important that someone who has been through the system help communicate the Choice Plan's message," said King. "I wish we had this program when I was a student. A lot of your neighbors didn't get the opportunity to go to school with you and be a part of that experience when I was a kid. With the old system, sometimes the kids that were in your neighborhood were forced to go elsewhere and you lost some of the camaraderie that you normally would have had."
Zahn felt that King's sentiments echoed those she has heard from parents and students for years. She reminded everyone that providing choice for the parents and students is what the plan is all about.
"The wonderful thing about the choice plan is that parents have a say and they can voice their opinion on where their child will go to school," said Zahn. "It's an important decision for any family and they should have a voice in the decision-making process. Now we provide that."
Hires, who participated in the PSAs and is zoned for a different school than the one he attends, agreed that giving the students a choice is a great thing.
"I am for the Choice Plan," he said. "I think kids should be allowed to choose where they want to go. The Choice Plan also gives kids a chance to interact with other races. You learn how to work with people that have different backgrounds from you and you also learn about other people's cultures."
Television shoots can be a lengthy process, but King's day wasn't over when the PSAs wrapped. After shedding his Gibbs jersey and leaving campus, King donned a snappy black and red bowling shirt and he joined the Buccaneers marketing department at Crown Lanes in Tampa. The Bucs were hosting a gathering of the team's Pewter Partners at Crown Lanes and King was a featured guest.
"Every quarter we get together with our Pewter Partners and talk about what went on the past quarter and things that we're working on for the future," said George Woods, the Buccaneers' director of marketing. "It's a chance for everybody to interact and have some fun, too."
Fun was the name of the game during the three-hour bowling affair, with Amy Chown (Tampa Tribune) winning the high game with a 252 and Jay Campbell (WQYK), Denny Dingledine (Checkers), Hunt James (Raymond James) and Jeff Ryan (WQYK) taking the high series with a 758.
It seemed to take King a little while to shake off the rust after a long day, however. After starting with scores of 84 and 115, King found his groove and threw a 184 to close out the day.
"I think it was really fun and everybody had a good time," said Hope Eckenrode of Hess. "We do a lot of business with the people here, so it's good to see them and make sure everything is still online for next year. And we always have a great time with the Pewter Partners and the Bucs."
The Buccaneers' Pewter Partners are Bank of America, Budweiser, Checkers, Coca-Cola, Dodge, Eckerd, Hess, The Home Depot, Miller Lite, Publix, Raymond James Financial, Red Lobster, Tampa Tribune, TECO Energy, University Community Health, Verizon Wireless and WQYK.
For more information on the Pinellas County schools system Choice Plan, log on to www.pinellas.k12.fl.us or call 727-588-1272.