Suntree school festival marks the end of an era


Suntree Elementary School principal Mecheall Giombetti, who will retire at the end of the year, shows off the new school sign, designed by a group of parents in an improvement project who wish to remain unnamed, with cleanup donated by Pressure Washing by Mike Schwab.

photo by Linda Wiggins

As families and their children are enjoying the annual Suntree Elementary Community Fall Festival from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, it will also be a final chance for families and former students to say a last goodbye to principal Mecheall Giombetti, who retires after seven years at the helm in June. 

“She is the only principal I have ever known in my whole time here,” said Emerson Casteel, for whom as a sixth grader this will also be his last year at the school. 

Like Emerson, many students have younger siblings remaining at the school as well as older siblings who are Suntree alumni. Many grads return each year as festival volunteers. 

Festival-goers will also get to see newly unveiled artistic sign designs out front and enjoy a rock climbing wall, popular dodge ball-like gaga pits, Angry Birds, game booths, bounce houses, cake walk, bake sale, face painting, clowns making balloon animals, DJ, carnival snacks, food vendors, a used book sale and a silent auction with a reputation for its wide collection of valuable items, to include Disney and Universal tickets. 

Most of the money raised goes to the teachers in each classroom so that they may enhance learning or cover the cost for field trips and other extras for students whose families cannot afford it. The remaining funds raised go toward enhancing technology equipment and software so that students maintain an edge in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics applications. 

Suntree, with its rich surrounding tax base, families who both prize education and have the resources and time to enhance it for their children, and who devote time at home and at school as volunteers to benefit others, would seem to make it a dream assignment for a principal. 

“This has been a great experience, no question,” said Giombetti. who is retiring after 35 years in education as called for in the special DROP retirement path. But the eight years previous to Suntree spent at the poorest school in the district — Endeavour Elementary in Cocoa — were also great, but in a different way. 

“That was by far the most rewarding experience,” Giombetti said. That school attracted the most federal funds, but those resources were met with extreme low levels of income from families in the community immediately surrounding the school, with few volunteer hours and low capacity for parents to be involved in their children's education. 

What's next for Giombetti, who is well below the age for traditional retirement? DROP requires she not work for the next year, which is fine with her as she figures out what's next. 

“I'll leave it in God's hands, and I have faith that whatever comes next will be the next right thing for me.” 

For more information on the festival, call the school at 321-242-6480.