Golden Grove Elementary School Celebrating 25 Years

Principal Linda Edgecomb with teachers Tanya Wesley and Marlyne Youmans.

The teachers and administrators at Golden Grove Elementary School have been working to build a strong bridge between school and home, Principal Linda Edgecomb said. It’s a bridge that spans decades, administrations and demographic changes, as well as 9/11 and COVID-19. Now 25 years later, it will be celebrated Wednesday, Nov. 16 with music and more.

“This really is a special place,” said Edgecomb, who has been principal at Golden Grove since 2018. “The parents respect us because we respect them. A lot of it has to do with the way we carry ourselves.”

“There’s a great tradition of excellence here,” agreed Tanya Wesley, who was among a group of teachers who came over from Acreage Pines Elementary School in 1997.

Wesley, who teaches second grade English, and second grade math/science/social studies teacher Marlyne Youmans have been at Golden Grove ever since.

Golden Grove quickly became so well regarded that few of the teachers ended up leaving, Youmans said. “The only way people left was if they were retiring,” she explained.

Located on 140th Avenue North near Western Pines Middle School, Golden Grove now has 56 teachers and some 80 staff members overseeing 765 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The loyalty and dedication to the school is unchanged. “There are no vacancies,” Edgecomb said.

The same is true for slots in the school’s well-regarded technology choice program. Though technically available via lottery to students throughout the district, seats rarely are available.

On Nov. 16, however, there will be seats for Palm Beach County School District officials and former Golden Grove principals and teachers for a silver anniversary celebration that will include a performance by the school chorus and a film made in-house capturing the school’s history.

An all-classes photo will be taken outside, and a gumbo limbo tree will be planted to mark the anniversary. Classroom doors will be decorated with 1990s memorabilia, and students and teachers will dress in clothes from the era.

A time capsule buried in 1997 is now displayed in the school lobby and will be opened during Spirit Week Nov. 14-18.

What will the students find inside? No one really remembers. But today’s students may be shocked not to see iPhones or references to social media. A guy named Bill Clinton may be referred to as Mr. President. Something called a Walkman may be hailed as cutting-edge technology for listening to the Backstreet Boys, Jewel and the Spice Girls. Any Golden Grove student who has grown up watching the Marlins on a flat-screen TV or smartphone app may find it hard to believe that when the school opened, South Florida’s team was on its way to winning the World Series.

Once emptied of its 1990s treasures, the capsule will be filled with items from today selected by students. It will be reburied so that perhaps their children will smile and wonder about 2022 gadgets when the school’s 50th anniversary rolls around in 2047.

In all this, well remembered will be the school’s founding Principal Barbara Altman. Before her death from cancer in 2006, she lay the foundation for the school-to-parent bridge that now spans decades.

“Her dream was this school,” Wesley said. “She made it so much fun.”

Altman was the “heart and soul” of the school in its early years, Youmans agreed. “She was all about her people.”

Long before Edgecomb graduated from Glades Central High School, she knew Altman in a different way — as her physical education teacher growing up in Belle Glade. But Altman moved on and Edgecomb grew up, got her bachelor’s degree in mass communications at the University of South Florida and her master’s degree in leadership at Lynn University. After working as a teacher, she got her first job in administration at Golden Grove in 2005.

“I count it as an honor to have served as an assistant principal when my former teacher was principal here,” said Edgecomb, who remained at Golden Grove for five years before serving as principal at Glade View Elementary in Belle Glade from 2010 to 2018.

Since Edgecomb’s first stint at Golden Grove, the thousands of acres of orange groves that were behind the school have been transformed into the suburban streets of the City of Westlake.

Golden Grove now is a melting pot in which 45 percent of the students are Caucasian, 37 percent are Hispanic and 10 percent are Black. Many of the signs in the school are in English, Spanish and Creole, reflective of a growing Haitian community in the area.

“We’ve grown. We’re more diverse,” Edgecomb said. “Through diversity, we’re learning about each other to the betterment of all.”

Perhaps more today than ever, technology is being fully embraced by students and faculty, especially in the wake of the pandemic, which made distance learning a necessity for students and teachers.

“We had teachers training teachers” in the technology required to continue their work during the pandemic, Wesley said.

“Our staff has always been collaborative,” Edgecomb said. But during the pandemic, “Our seasoned teachers really stepped up. It was an opportunity for us to stretch our thinking. To grow and learn together.”

Back when the orange groves were still standing, back when it all began for Golden Grove and the late Barbara Altman, the school’s theme was “Dream a Dream.” Much of that dream has been fulfilled in the last 25 years, agree Edgecomb, Wesley and Youmans. But there is always more to do. Now, their 2022 theme is RISE — Ready and Inspired Soaring to Excellence. It confidently points to the future, proclaiming that at Golden Grove, the sky’s the limit, Edgecomb said.