School Mission

"At Oscar J. Pope Elementary, we believe that all can and will learn.  We expect everyone to work together, respect themselves and each other and to become lifelong learners."

School Vision

"Oscar J. Pope Elementary School has support from the staff, parents, and the community.  Our students are successful and actively engaged in active, purposeful, hands on activities.  Our teachers are enthusiastic and all classrooms present a warm and inviting atmosphere where the love of reading and writing is consistently encouraged.  Learning experiences that involve critical thinking and problem solving are evident.  Technology is used to help students access knowledge and to practice the skills necessary for success in the workforce.  Our campus provides a safe and orderly environment for all.  All students demonstrate respect for school rules.  Staff members and transportation staff reinforce those rules in a positive manner."

School History


Initial Development

Oscar J. Pope Elementary School is named in honor of the late Oscar Josiah Pope, an early Lakeland citizen who advocated for education and Polk County students.  Mr. Pope moved to Lakeland from Sanibel Island in 1902 and established a homestead in town.  For several years, Mr. Pope was an active member of what would become the Lakeland City Commission and the Lakeland City School Board.  Mr. Pope was born in 1871 and passed away in 1948.  Seventeen years after his passing, the Polk County School Board honored Mr. Pope by naming the school in his honor.  Mr. Pope's great niece, Liz Colbert Midzalkowski, taught fourth grade at the school from 1970 to 2002 and is an active member of the alumni association.

Oscar J. Pope Elementary School is proud to be a federally funded Title One school located in the Eaton Park suburb of the greater Lakeland metropolitan community.  Built on a previous air field in 1965, Oscar J. Pope Elementary School has provided excellence in education to all students for fifty years.  Oscar J. Pope Elementary School prides itself on being a neighborhood school that services students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through Fifth with an approximate enrollment of 530 students.

From its beginning, Oscar J. Pope Elementary School has provided education to students in both regular and exceptional education programs.  Currently, Oscar J. Pope Elementary School provides exceptional education services in exceptionalities including but not limited to orthopedically impaired, physically impaired, developmentally delayed, deaf/hard of hearing, emotional/behavioral disorders, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and students included in the Autism spectrum.

Recent History

Recently, the former West Polk County Child Training Center portion of Oscar J. Pope Elementary School underwent an extensive renovation.  This center, built as an addition to the main structure in 1972, formerly housed exceptional education classrooms and, at one time, the guidance offices.  After months of hard work, the renovations performed have provided our students, parents, faculty, and community members with a new computer lab, science lab, music facility, art studio, and offices for the reading resource teacher, ESE and Title One facilitators.

Administrative History

The first principal of Oscar J. Pope Elementary was John Lovelace in 1965.  Mr. Lovelace supervised the construction of the property.  Shortly after the school was completed, Ralph McCullough was named principal.  In 1970, Jay W. Erwin was named principal, a position he held until his death in 1998.  At the time of his passing, Mr. Erwin was the last tenured principal in the Polk County School District.  Janel Barber, a former assistant principal at OJP, returned to the school in 1998 following the death of Mr. Erwin.  Mrs. Barber was principal from 1998 to 2009.  Mrs. Barber championed the renovation of the child training center and oversaw the beginning of it's overhaul before retiring.  In 2009, Angela Gordon became the principal during a time of great change.  Mrs. Gordon led OJP until 2012 when she moved to Bartow Middle School.  In the summer of 2012, Qvonda Birdsong, a former assistant principal at OJP, became the principal.

The first assistant principal of the school was William S. Brophy, a former school librarian.  Mr. Brophy held the position of assistant principal from 1973 to 2000 when he retired.  Following Mr. Brophy's retirement, Sheila Dyer (now principal at Floral Avenue Elementary) became assistant principal, a position she held until 2006.  In 2006, Samantha Sitek joined the school as assistant principal following Ms. Dyer's promotion to Floral Avenue Elementary.  In 2009, Qvonda Birdsong was named assistant principal, a position she held until 2012 when she was promoted to acting principal at OJP.  In the summer of 2012, Charlie Huntley became assistant principal.  Mr. Huntley is an OJP alumnus and is proud to continue to the history and traditions of the school.

Mr. Jay W. Erwin (1930-1998)

Mr. William S. Brophy (1938-2014)

21st Century Learning

Oscar J. Pope Elementary School provides all students with access to cutting edge technology.  Each classroom is equipped with a SMART interactive white board, Lightspeed Surround Sound System, LCD projector, and multiple Internet-capable computers, laptops, and/or tablets.  Teachers have the ability to access laptop carts and Kindles to provide students with the opportunities to further their learning through technology.  Teachers also use SMART Airliners to maximize learning and classroom management. 

Oscar J. Pope Elementary teachers utilize the gradual release model of instruction, differentiate instruction for all learning levels and modalities, and integrate best instructional strategies each day to maximize student success. 

Through the award winning Instructional Television program "Stallion Quest News" at Oscar J. Pope Elementary, all members of the Stallion family are engaged with school events and building school spirit.  Students especially enjoy the "Fabulous Friday Gold Ticket Drawing" as well as the monthly "Student of the Month" shows.

Teacher and Employee of the Year

Teacher and School Related Employee of the Year

Congratulations to Tiffany Ricco and Cindy Cusmano for being named the Teacher and School Related Employee of the Year! 

Tiffany Ricco currently teaches fifth grade and has worked at OJP for ten years.  During her time here, she has taught second, third, and fifth grade.  Ms. Ricco has a passion for science, and she loves engaging students in thought provoking science experiments.  Ms. Ricco also supports the school through extracurricular activities.  She is the chairperson of the school's Lakeland Christmas Parade committee, has been the sponsor of the school's "Green Recycling Team", and is co-sponsoring the fifth grade safety patrol this year.  Congratulations Ms. Ricco!

Cindy Cusmano has been a school bus driver for more than ten years.  This year, Ms. Cusmano serves students in both the general and exceptional student education programs.  Ms. Cusmano can often be found assisting students with equipment, providing a cheerful hello to staff members in the morning, and serving as a resource to fellow bus drivers and bus attendants.  Congratulations Ms. Cusmano!

Action 100

"Action 100 is a 12-step Response to Intervention (RtI) school transformation model designed to aggressively transform school cultures for sustainable student achievement.  This framework, built on the architecture of the Common Core Standards, jump-starts low-performing schools in their move toward accelerated and continuous reading improvement."  (Source:  American Reading Company Web Site;

The Action 100 system delivers these key benefits:

  • Every K-2 student to grade level proficiency
  • Every 3rd-8th grade student to gain 30 points on state tests
  • Keyed to Common Core Standards

Click here for more information on Action 100.

Code of Conduct & Other School Policy

Enrolling at Oscar J. Pope Elementary School

In order to enroll at our school, you must live within our geographic attendance zone boundary or your child must have an IEP designating OJP as his/her flow school.  To check to see if you are zoned for our school, please go to and search your address.

If you are zoned or flow to our school, your child will need birth date verification, immunization record, a physical dated within one year, and two proofs of residence.  Your child will not be enrolled or assigned to a homeroom class until all paperwork is received and verified by school personnel.  If you have questions about this paperwork, please call the school and speak with Gladys Delabastide.

Code of Conduct

Oscar J. Pope Elementary adheres to the Polk County Public Schools Code of Conduct.  Each child receives a copy of the current Code of Conduct Handbook during the first week of school in August.  Parents are requested to sign the forms and return them to school as soon as possible.

Polk County Schools Dress Code Policy

Oscar J. Pope Elementary School follows the Polk County Schools dress code policy.  The school shirt colors are hunter green, navy blue, and white.

Show your Stallion pride by purchasing the official O.J. Pope Stallions t-shirt.  T-shirts are available for $6.00 in the office.

Please click here for the Polk County Schools dress code policy.

Show Your Stallion Pride!

Click here to download the instrumental version (MP3 format) of our alma mater.

Click here to download the lyrics.