Gainesville's Brentwood Elementary marks its 40th anniversary

Bob Schackow, director at Brentwood School, watches as kindergarden students work on math problems on Thursday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 8:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 8:24 p.m.

Bob Schackow started teaching at Brentwood Elementary School, an area private school, more than three decades ago.

One year after working there, he bought the school.

"It's been a dream come true," he said.

Brentwood recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, while Schackow celebrated his 30th year as the school's director.

Brentwood, located just north of Newberry Road east of The Oaks Mall, houses more than 240 students from age 2 to fifth grade. The school itself sits on six wooded acres with forts in the woods for children to play in. Each classroom is staffed with two teachers.

"What you'll see at Brentwood is a lot of individual activity under our guidance," Schackow said as kindergartners played in one group while a teacher worked with other students. "We value individuality, confidence, creativity and problem solving."

Schackow graduated from the University of Florida in 1969, going on to teach in Cincinnati and Vermont. It was in Vermont that he found his appreciation for elementary education.

"Elementary school is the foundation for learning," he said. "It's the most important time in a learner's life."

It's not all fun and games though, he said.

"We don't color in preschool," he said. "We do actual stuff. We do reading, writing, math and social studies every day."

Schackow said he held certain reservations about private schools before joining Brentwood.

"I thought they were snobby and exclusive," he said. "And then I found out they can be whatever you want them to be. There's no status here, and people come for that."

Janet Davies, a kindergarten teacher, said she started more than 20 years ago at the school, just trying it out for size.

"Twenty-one years later, I'm still here, and I still love coming to work each day," she said.

While her late husband battled with cancer, Davies said the school was supportive, allowing her to take time to drive him to chemotherapy and providing a hot meal when needed.

"This community sustained me," she said. "This community made sure whatever I needed, I got."

Since the school is private, students are not administered the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a test Schackow calls "politically motivated." Instead, students take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

"We don't talk about it. We don't teach it," Schackow said. "We get it off of the shelf one day, take it and put it back."

That leads to more freedom in the classroom, he said.

"We run the school on a community basis," he said. "It's all about letting teachers do what they love to do and are trained to do."

Davies agreed.

"Bob actually lets us develop the curriculum and follow through with it," she said. "That's why I teach."

Schackow said he has no plans to retire any time soon.

"I'm exactly where I want to be," he said.

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