"This school has grown far beyond its founders' wildest dreams."Corbett Prep, originally known as Independent Day School, grew out of a dream Marilyn Gatlin and Betty Anderson had to create an educational environment of unlimited possibilities that promoted the gifts and talents of every student.
Marilyn Gatlin, co-founder
Founded in 1968 as an independent, nonsectarian school, Corbett Prep now serves more than 500 college-bound students in PreK3 through 8th grade. Gatlin and Anderson had been studying gifted education under Dr. Dorothy Sisk in the University of South Florida's first Gifted Education Masters Degree Program. They were seeking an educational program that combined excellence in academics, innovative learning techniques, and the nurturing of a positive self-concept. While the school has evolved through the years, its dedication to a hands-on, child-centered philosophy has prevailed and is now based on best practices in education and knowledge gained from leading-edge brain research to accelerate learning.
How Did We Get Here?
In 2012, Independent Day School – Corbett Campus became Corbett Preparatory School of IDS to honor two of Tampa’s most highly regarded community and civic leaders, Cornelia and Dick Corbett. Mrs. Corbett has been a longtime leader, visionary, and generous supporter of Independent Day School. In addition to changing the school name, the Board of Trustees honored IDS founders. Corbett Hall was renamed Gatlin Hall, in honor of of the leadership of co-founder Marilyn Gatlin, and the training facility inside the Farish Center was named The Anderson Room, in memory of co-founder Betty Anderson. Both women represent the leadership and vision that champions giftedness in all learners. Hundreds of students have benefited from their combined passion to make a difference.
Back to About Corbett Prep
Marilyn Gatlin and Betty Anderson were graduate students in the first Gifted Education Masters Degree program at the University of South Florida. They studied under Dr. Dorothy Sisk, a pioneer and leader in Gifted Education, who hoped her students would go into public education to help develop what has become the traditional gifted “pull-out” program. These two wise women had a different idea. They believed that gifted education should be for all learners, and Independent Day School (IDS) was founded in 1968 on that premise.
The school began with a child-centered focus. With the help of Dr. Sisk, the founders were committed to the ideal that happy children who are respected as unique persons and who are allowed to fulfill their needs to investigate and be themselves will show an excitement about school and an eagerness to learn.
In the two years after IDS opened, the number of grade levels doubled and the student body tripled, causing the school to grow out of its temporary Temple Terrace church facilities. The founders moved the school to its present day campus where it has always been a place designed with and for children.
When IDS moved to the first eight acres of the campus in 1970, the school continued to grow. During the 1972-73 school year, faculty, students, and parents built the Dome to provide a special place for middle school students, who then became known as “Domies.” The geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller housed four open classrooms, where students and teachers bonded and learned together.
As Marilyn Gatlin wrote in the 1976 IDS yearbook, “We held our classes in five rustic, rounded wooden buildings which arrived on the property just before the school year began. For the first month, students and teachers shared the adventure of using portable bathrooms, drinking bottled water,and holding many classes outside in the grass by the lake.”
By 1978, IDS had earned accreditation from the Florida Council of Independent Schools. The school also gained a reputation among parents for high academic standards. Children loved it because teachers made learning fun.
Under the leadership of Dr. Bernie Haake, the school’s exciting, inquiry-based curriculum continued to attract new students and by the 1980s, planning began for new construction to permit further growth. The goal was to expand to two classes per grade level, kindergarten through eighth grade, and to showcase the unique character of IDS.
The children contributed ideas and helped choose colors for the new design, which reflects the school’s hands-on philosophy. Architect Gerry Curts placed windows with a child’s eye view, and at the request of children and teachers, designed individual buildings for each grade level, maintaining the pride of ownership and sense of belonging that had given the original classrooms their special appeal.
After six months of planning, construction began in 1986. Wearing hard hats and carrying shovels, children and teachers broke ground together. It was an exciting time, as the children watched and learned from every phase of the building process. Full of interesting shapes, captivating colors and inspiring views, the new buildings captured the IDS spirit of creativity and community.
Since 1990, we have experienced a period of extraordinary progress. In 1997, Corbett Hall, a multi-purpose room and full-scale gymnasium, was built to accommodate basketball and volleyball games, special events, fine arts events, and school assemblies.
Over the years, many things have changed. Attractive, welcoming classrooms replaced the original rustic structures; curriculum was keyed to national and state standards; classrooms were equipped with state of the art technology; and the staff grew from a few to many – but always the fundamental principles of child-centered, hands-on, active learning have prevailed.
In 1996, Dr. Joyce Burick Swarzman became the new Head, ushering in a era of dynamic possibilities. A strong leader, energetic teacher and experienced trainer, Dr. Swarzman was Director of the University of South Florida’s Suncoast Area Teacher Training (SCATT) program and former Associate Director of Clinical Education.
For fifteen years prior to joining IDS, Dr. Swarzman trained more than 10,000 teachers and education students in communication and effective teaching skills. With a solid background in research-based teaching techniques and enthusiasm which the IDS faculty described as “contagious,” Dr. Swarzman took on the task of building upon Independent Day School’s foundation. Under her leadership, she worked to combine tradition with innovation. Soon after, IDS became a private school with a public purpose and generously opened its doors to share best practices and exemplary education with over 7,000 visiting educators.
The campus expanded to the west side of Orange Grove Drive, where the Middle School facility opened in January 2001, making the campus 15 acres. With state of the art, 21st century classrooms and equipment, this expansion allowed for three classes per grade level and in 2005, PreK3 was added.
In 2002, the school was renamed Independent Day School-Corbett Campus (IDS-CC) to proudly honor community leader Cornelia Corbett. Mrs. Corbett first arrived as a parent, then a volunteer, and soon became a dedicated Board Member. She held the position of President of the Board of Trustees for 10 years, charting a path of strength, growth, and excellence. She modeled exemplary leadership in her commitment to make a huge difference in the lives of children.
The school went a step further in 2012 when the Board of Trustees announced that Independent Day School would be renamed Corbett Preparatory School of IDS. School leaders wanted to honor the civic mindedness, vision and generosity of Cornelia and Dick Corbett and their family.
“Forty-four years since our founding, the decision to rename our school Corbett Preparatory School of IDS represents our profound appreciation for Cornelia and Dick Corbett and their family’s ardent support for IDS over the past 32 years,” said Corbett Prep Headmaster Dr. Joyce Burick Swarzman.
The school remains devoted to Gatlin and Anderson’s original 1968 philosophy of education; the words are almost identical. Their lofty goals are age-proof. The marked difference is that with modern technology, extensive information about how the brain learns, and a wealth of proven research-based best practices, Corbett Prep teachers learn to accelerate the learning process while creating an environment that is both joyful and rigorous with extraordinary results. This is far beyond what the founders could have envisioned, even a decade ago.
What remains essential is the growth of future healthy citizens who value life-long learning, create relationships based on dignity and respect, develop compassion and understanding for themselves and others, and who trust that a positive can-do attitude will produce powerful results. This extraordinary legacy built by our founders began in 1968 and continues today.