Quote Of The Week by Raleigh Hagood

"Practice giving yourself the same love you give others"


Principal's Message 3/11

Greetings Orlando Gifted Academy Families,

I wanted to let everyone know that we had a great learning week at OGA. Students in Algebra, Civics, Earth/Space Science & 5th grade science finished their PMAs this week. We also have some students who have artwork virtually displayed at the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center. You can see their artwork on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Mrs. Faubel has also shared pictures and links via ClassDojo.

Tomorrow, Friday, March 11, is a student holiday. Spring Break is March 15th through March 19th. School will resume on Monday, March 22nd.

Middle School students have Character Lab on Monday, March 22nd. Middle school students will be on a modified schedule. The schedule is posted on the calendar of our school website. I will send out a Connect message to middle school families on Sunday, March 21st.

Beginning Monday, March 22nd we will begin using the entrance on Oregon street for our single car rider for arrival and dismissal. Siblings, Carpool, and After School Programs such as Martial Arts World, will continue to use the car loop for arrival and dismissal. Please remember to have your car tag visible when you arrive for pick-up/dismissal. A traffic flow map has been posted on our school website and across social media.

Make note that our Virtual Science Night is scheduled for March 25th. Our SAC Meeting is also scheduled for March 25th

We have received several emails regarding LaunchED and state testing. We hope to have additional information available for parents after we return from break.

I hope everyone has a wonderful spring break.

"Go where the wifi is weak and the sun is strong." — Unknown

Mrs. Despenza

Principal's Message 3/1

Hello OGA families! It is hard to believe it is already March! March will be a short, but busy month here at OGA. We are excited to have more and more students return face-to-face each week. As students become more comfortable with friends, please remind them of the below:

Wear face mask so it covers the nose and mouth

Frequently wash/sanitize hands

Maintain a safe distance

Teachers will be posting grades for the 3rd marking period next week. Please be sure to check Skyward and Canvas and remind your child to turn in their work on time.

Remember, there is no early release this Wednesday, March 3. Students will dismiss at their regular time, 3:00p.m.

Our PTA has a virtual meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 4. The link is posted on our official social media pages and on ClassDojo. I encourage you to attend to help collaborate ways to strengthen the school-home relationship as it is just as important as ever.

Our middle school students will participate in the final Mental Health Course on Tuesday, March 9. They will also participate in Character Lab on Monday, March 22. Students will be on a modified schedule both days in order to accommodate these courses.

OGA teachers continue to work extraordinarily hard to provide the best possible instruction within the confines of our hybrid instructional model. Thank you to those families who have sent heartfelt words of encouragement throughout this semester. We appreciate the kind words and thank you for entrusting us with your child and for adapting with us as we’ve navigated a difficult year.

Finally, spring is around the corner! Spring break is scheduled from Monday, March 15-Friday, March 19. Friday, March 12 is a student holiday/teacher workday. I am optimistic that this time will bring a renewal and brightness that is needed to help us power through the remainder of the school year.


Mrs. Despenza

Principal's Message 2/16

Greetings Orlando Gifted Academy families,

Happy Mardi Gras! I hope everyone had a great extended weekend and had a chance to enjoy the weather before the rain came through. I won’t complain about the rain, seeing how most of the country is below 50 degrees and dealing with ice and/or snow. That is just one of the many reminders why I choose to live in Florida.

I want to thank all families that have completed the survey for Orlando Gifted Academy. OCPS values your feedback! We are currently surveying our families to learn what you think about the many aspects of our school. It should only take a few minutes. Your responses are confidential and your privacy is guaranteed. The link is posted on our school’s website and social media accounts. Please help us improve by sharing your thoughts today! If you have any questions about the survey, please don’t hesitate to contact us. The Family Survey can be accessed using the following anonymous link: bit.ly/ocpsfamily. Thank you!

I wanted to remind all of our Middle School parents to please take the time to review your student’s grades with your child. Many of our students are taking high school level/credit classes. Remember, Algebra Honors and Earth Space Science Honors are high school courses and will be on your child’s high school transcript.

Additionally, we had several 7th grade students selected to participate in the spring SAT sponsored by Orange Tip. These students will receive virtual tutoring to prepare for their assessment.

--“There is no substitute for hard work.”

--Thomas Edison

Have a great week.

Mrs. Despenza

Principal's Message 2/1

Greetings Orlando Gifted Academy Families!

Welcome to February! Today marks the beginning of Black History Month. Throughout the month, students will be engaged in projects that highlight the many contributions of African-Americans. Students will have the opportunity to participate in our Virtual Black History Program at the end of the month.

It is hard to believe that the 100th day of school was January 22nd! We are quickly approaching the mid -point of the 3rd nine-weeks grading period. Please use this time to remind your child to fully engage in their learning and take their work seriously as we continue to challenge them academically! Progress reports for the 3rd nine-weeks will be available in Skyward on Thursday, February 11th.

February 1st through February 5 is National School Counseling week. Please help me recognize Ms. Brown for all of her efforts in supporting the well-being of our students.

We received awesome feedback regarding our Virtual Literacy Night. Students can access the virtual event by going to the Student Body Canvas course. It will be accessible through this Friday, February 5th.

As a reminder, Friday, February 5th is Football Friday Spirit Day. Wear your favorite football or sports attire to support your favorite team. If you are a football fan like me, you will be excited to know that “OWL” be wearing colors that support the Who Dat Nation!

The OCPS School Choice Magnet Application window is open until February 15. If you know anyone with a child that is interested in attending OGA for the 2021-2022 school year, please spread the word. We have a Magnet Information page under the School Information page on our school website that includes a virtual tour and additional information about our school.

Strawbridge Pictures will be on campus on Wednesday, February 3, for picture retakes and make-ups. Face-to-face students will have their picture taken during the school day. If interested, LaunchED students will be able to come after school to have their picture taken (make sure to sign up for a time slot using the link https://tinyurl.com/OGAPictureRetakes2021).

Finally, let your voice be heard! The OCPS Annual Stakeholder Survey opened on January 14th. We want feedback from our school community. Please make sure you complete the survey. http://bit.ly/ocpsfamily

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Have a wonderful week,

Mrs. Despenza

Principal's message 1/19

Greetings Orlando Gifted Academy Families, Staff, and Students,

I have some exciting news to share! OGA is partnering with Charity Recycling Service. They have placed a recycling bin near the end of our parking lot (the bin can hold up to 700lbs of donations). They accept clothing, shoes, and other textiles. If you are starting 2021 by cleaning out closets or bedrooms, I encourage you to bring your items to OGA and place them in the bin. OGA does receive funds based on the weight of our donations.

Many of you are looking for a way to be informed and to advocate for your child. I encourage you to join our PTA as this will give you an opportunity to meet other families, and if interested, volunteer. They currently have a Contact Info and Interest Survey on their website (http://www.OGAPTA.com) to gauge parent interest in volunteering.

Next week is Literacy Week. We will have a virtual book fair, as well as a Virtual Literacy Night that will be accessible to everyone on Canvas.

Picture Make-Up Day is coming up on Wednesday, February 3. Information on packages available to order have been shared on ClassDojo, Facebook, and our school website. Please see one of these platforms for additional information.

**Rising 5th grade through 8th grade families**

Ms. Brown and Ms. Scheid will be meeting with students next week to review the course selection forms for middle school grades 6-8. Descriptions of available courses are available on our website (Academics OGA Course Progression). I encourage you to talk with your child and determine what classes they are interested in taking next year. Please know that we will try to provide students with their first or second elective choice; however, based on their core class schedule, it may not always be possible. While you are talking with your child about courses, please review the Schedule Change policy available on our Guidance webpage.

In close, please know that I continue to appreciate all of your kind words, support, feedback, and flexibility. I am so fortunate to work for a school community that supports, encourages, and celebrates each another. This is what truly makes Orlando Gifted Academy a special place.

Have a great week

Ms. Despenza

Principal's Message January 11

Greetings Orlando Gifted Academy Families, Staff and Students,

Welcome to 2021! I hope everyone had a chance to mentally relax and enjoy quality virtual time with friends and family over the winter break. It was definitely a different holiday for our family. However, we made the best of it and tried to stay as appreciative and grateful as possible. Our OGA staff definitely feels rejuvenated and ready to provide innovative learning experiences to ALL of our students. One of our goals this second semester is to make our LaunchED students and families feel more inclusive. The New Year has brought a renewed sense of focus, energy and dedication to all of our families.

Great News...we have had an amazing start to our second semester. It was great to see our students return and we actually welcomed 27 new F2F students on campus who were previously LaunchED. Our teachers have reviewed OGA and OCPS rules and procedures and all students are on board.

As we move into the second semester, please reach out to your students’ teachers or our office if you have concerns or need assistance. We value each of you and want to make sure we are supporting our Owls’ educational, as well as social and emotional growth.

Congratulations to our new PTA Board

President: Jacquelyn Nystrom

Secretary: Sarah Courtney

Treasurer: Melissa Vaughan

Senior consultant and media specialist: Sara Alexander

We are excited to welcome our new PTA Board and participate in activities that will bring all of our OGA families together virtually and promote inclusiveness.

I want to let all of our students, staff and families know that I appreciate all of your kind words, support, feedback and flexibility. From making phone calls to families regarding remote learning and information surrounding COVID-19 cases, each of you have been extremely understanding during this time. Just know…I appreciate each and every one of you.

**Middle School Families

At OCPS, student social and emotional well-being is a pillar of the district-wide 2025 Strategic Plan. To support this objective, OCPS has partnered with Character Lab since 2017, a nonprofit co-founded and led by Dr. Angela Duckworth, scientist, author, and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Character Lab connects schools to leading researchers with shared interests to generate insights about developing the character strengths (like gratitude, curiosity, and growth mindset) that help all children thrive.

On January 11, 2021, our middle school students will participate in 30 minutes of research activities. Students complete these online, interactive activities individually on their school laptops, with a teacher available to support them. Orlando Gifted Academy will use data from these activities to identify and support the social, emotional, academic, and physical needs of our students. Participation in Character Lab activities is voluntary, and families may choose to opt their child out of participating. To learn more, visit ocps.net/clab.

Have a great week

Ms. Despenza

Principal's Message December 14

Greetings Orlando Gifted Academy Families,

The end of the marking period is rapidly approaching. I know holiday decorations are everywhere; however, I urge all families to take time to review their child’s Skyward and Canvas to determine missing assignments and due dates.

Winter Break is also around the corner. Schools will be closed from Monday, December 21st -Monday, January 4th. Students will return to school on Tuesday, January 5th. Based on our second semester student return survey, we have approximately 28 additional students returning for second semester. Teachers have been informed of how many students they will receive upon our return in order to have ample time to appropriately prepare their classrooms.

We will provide new families a car rider tag on Tuesday, January 5th. Please review the traffic flow map on the school website for directions on how to access the drop-off and pick-up area. There is still construction taking place in front of the school, so the front of the school (on Oregon St.) is not accessible. A.M and P.M arrival only takes place in the car loop.

Our OGA Winter Spirit Week will begin on Monday, 12/14/20. Information has been shared with students and families. We have also posted a link for families to share how their LaunchED student is participating. We will be using some of these pictures in our yearbook.

Great news…our new P.E. Para started on December 8! Coach Blount will be working with our students and Ms. Sharpe! Also, Ms. Panther is our new Permanent Substitute. She will be on campus five days a week.

I encourage students to continue reading, by accessing MYON, over the winter break. Students can also practice their writing about a memorable event from 2020 or by writing out some resolutions to ring in 2021.

Parents, you are important to your children. As we enter the holiday season, I encourage you to give your child and family the gifted of time. Take time to walk around your neighborhood, virtually visit a family member, play a favorite board game, or cook a meal together. Years from now, you and your child will remember these wonderful times spent together.

Have a great winter break.

Ms. Despenza

Principal's Message 12/7

Greeting Orlando Gifted Academy families! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break and took time to be grateful throughout November. This week started off a little chilly, but ended with a couple of nice fall days.

If you have not reviewed Le Spectacle de Poésie (The French Poetry Show), please take some time to see what our amazing students and Ms. Cuomo have done. The students were extremely creative by adding their own personal touches to the poems. You can access the show by going to https://flipgrid.com/+frenchpoetryshow I am so proud of their hard work!

Please mark your calendars for Individual School Picture Day on Friday, December 11, and Saturday, December 12. Students who come Face-to-Face will have their pictures taken on Friday, December 11. LaunchED@Home students are able to sign up to come to OGA for pictures on Saturday, December 12. LaunchED families can sign up for a time slot at https://tinyurl.com/OGALaunchEDPictureDay If you are unable to attend, please know that make-up picture days will be scheduled in the spring.

We will be having a schoolwide Spirit Week the week of December 14. Stay tuned for more information on the daily themes and activities!

With the winter holidays and end of the semester rapidly approaching, I encourage you to review Canvas and Skyward to ensure students complete all assignments. Please reach out to your child’s teacher if you have any questions about assignments or grades.


Ms. Despenza

Principal's Message 11/30

Hello OGA families! By now you have had an opportunity to look at your child’s Progress Report 2 on Skyward. If you have had technical difficulties, please email Ms Scheid so she can look into the issue. If you have questions regarding your child’s grades, please reach out to their teacher(s).

Our teachers have continued doing amazing things in the classroom. Check out our Facebook and Twitter page for pictures. I love seeing the excitement in our scholars’ eyes as they use what they are learning to make meaningful projects.

Please note a change in date/time for our next SAC meeting- December 17 @330p in the cafeteria. A link to join via Teams will be posted on the SAC website on the 17th.

Remember, students are off next week. Current face-to-face students will return to campus on November 30. LaunchED students will resume instruction via BBB or Teams on November 30. I hope everyone takes time to be thankful next week. Please remember to use social distancing and wash your hands.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Ms. Despenza.

Principal's Message 11/16

Greeting OGA!

I hope everyone enjoyed Virtual Family Math Night! Students have not stopped talking about all of the fun activities. If you took pictures, remember to send them in to your child’s teacher so we can post them.

I want to thank all the students, staff and families for all the birthday wishes. Celebrating birthdays during this time is very different, so I appreciate the extra time and effort everyone put in to making this year memorable.

“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.” — John Lennon

Information is posted on Class Dojo and Facebook regarding our Virtual Multicultural Event that will be available on December 10. There are many ways for families to showcase countries and participate. If you are interested, please contact Mrs. Tame (Kristen.Tame@ocps.net).

As positive covid-19 cases continue to rise throughout the county, I wanted to remind everyone to continue to wear their masks, wash their hands and maintain social distance. We are doing our best at school to ensure we follow all OCPS and CDC guidelines. If you have questions, I encourage you to refer to the Covid-19 Health and Safety Procedures Manuel 11.0 available on the OCPS website.

Many of you have asked what options are available in January. OCPS will let all schools and families know what instructional models will be available for second semester. Please stay tuned for that information.

I am asking all interested families to join our amazing OGA PTA! They will be holding a Zoom meeting on Tuesday November 17 at 6:30pm. PTA is seeking new leadership for the PTA board this year. There is a link available on our school website’s PTA page, as well as on Facebook and ClassDojo.

As a reminder, Friday, November 20, is the last day of school before Thanksgiving Break. Schools will be closed from November 23 - November 27. Current Face-to-Face students will return on Monday, November 30. All LaunchED students will resume virtual classes on Monday, November 30.

Remember, for the month of November we are continuing to celebrate being Thankful and “creating an attitude of gratitude.”

Ms. Despenza, Principal

Principal's Message 11/9


We are officially in November! Wow! It is a wonderful feeling not to dismiss students in the rain! Teachers and students are taking advantage of the temperature change (ever so slight) by having lunch and reading books outside. It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. November is National Gratitude Month. “Gratitude is more than simply saying “thank you.” Gratitude’s amazing powers have the ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives.”


OGA will participate in National Gratitude Month by having students work with Ms. Brown to create a Gratitude Wall in the cafeteria. We will make sure to upload pictures by the end of the month. J At home, I encourage you to talk to your children about gratitude. Studies have shown that children who show more gratitude also give more support to others. Having more gratitude will help our scholars in a big way, and will help them grow into caring, empathetic adults. The website above includes activities that your family can participate in to show gratitude toward others.

This being my second year at Orlando Gifted Academy, I am grateful to have the support of my staff and the entire OGA family. I am grateful to work with a committed group of educators and staff that are constantly formulating innovative ways to engage our students. I am grateful that OGA families support our OGA staff, students, and teachers and always do what it takes to make OGA successful!

“Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

Mrs. Despenza

Principal's Message 10/26

Greetings Orlando Gifted Academy Families,

It is really hard to believe that this is the last week of October. Our students are participating in Red Ribbon Week and Ms. Brown (OGA School Counselor), has some interesting theme days selected. Feel free to upload pictures of your child participating in Red Ribbon Week theme: Be happy. Be Brave. Be Drug Free. You can upload your pics at https://tinyurl.com/OGARedRibbonWeek

Report cards went home on Wednesday, October 21, with all Face-to-Face students. Report cards were mailed to all LaunchED students also on Wednesday. This is a great time to have meaningful conversations regarding their progress. We understand that our students are learning in unconventional methods, however, it is imperative that students complete their assignments to receive credit. For the LaunchED families, please know the current learning conditions promote many challenges and require additional adult monitoring and support. Many of our teachers are parents and understand and empathize with our families. I also deal with these challenges daily with my son at home J However, we must work together to ensure our students are successful and flourishing.

I want to thank all of our families for working with their child with their multiplication facts. We delivered grade level trophies for the week to the first set of class winners. There will be another challenge this week. I will announce the winning homerooms next week.

Week of 10/19-10/23

2nd Grade-Ms. Newry’s homeroom

3rd Grade-Ms. Fosky’s homeroom

4th Grade-Ms. Mullen’s homeroom

5th Grade-Ms. Handley’s homeroom

6th Grade- Mr. Menna’s 1st period math class

On Thursday, October 30th, F2F students will be able to dress as their favorite book character. A cloth mask must still be worn. Please note, students are unable to wear a costume mask over their cloth face covering. I cannot wait to see all of the creativity as students celebrate the last day of Red Ribbon Week! We will share pictures on our school Facebook and Twitter pages.

As a reminder, there is no school for students on Friday, October 30th.

Have a great week.

Mrs. Despenza

Principal's Message 10/19

Greeting Orlando Gifted Academy Families,

This week started with us welcoming back 32 Face to Face students. It was exciting to see the students interact with their peers and teachers. We are still able to maintain social distance in classrooms and the cafeteria effectively. All students wore their masks and continued to adhere to hallway and classroom transitions. Thank you to everyone for making sure we implement OCPS/OGA Covid-19 protocols and procedures effectively. I want to remind everyone of some helpful tips:

-Avoid touching your mask, face, mouth, nose and eyes as much as possible

-Remember to wash your hands often

-Wear your mask at all times-covering your mouth and nose (except at lunch)

-Please stay home when you are feeling sick!

With the addition of the new students, comes an addition of cars in our car rider loop (school parking lot). I want like to thank all of our families for being flexible the first couple of days. We do need your help with both arrival and dismissal. In order to continue to have an efficient morning drop off car line, it is extremely helpful for students to be ready to exit their vehicles with their backpacks and masks on when parents pull up to the exit area where our staff members are located. In addition, it is equally important that parents follow the traffic flow map to drop off and pick up students.

Magnet Fairs for this school year will be virtual. Our Video Production students and OGA staff put together a very creative video, which interested families will be able to view. We will also share the finished product with our current OGA families on Monday.

On behalf of all OGA staff members, I want to thank the OGA Foundation for providing lunch for all staff members this week. The Foundation provided this lunch to celebrate the teachers and staff for a job well done first quarter. Thank You!

Ms. Tame will be hosting virtual parent meetings this year! The umbrella topic will be creating greater harmony within your family. She will touch on how to build GRIT and connect with your child while providing firm and friendly boundaries. Please be on the lookout for the flyer.

Parents, I want to personally thank all of you for your continued support during these challenging times.

“The same boiling water that softens the potato, hardens the egg. It’s what you’re made of. Not the circumstances.”


~ Mrs. Despenza

Principal's Message 10/5

Greetings OGA Families,

September was an extremely busy yet fantastic month. Students made a lot of progress with navigating their classes, adjusting to instruction using technology, dealing with technology concerns, and remembering to breathe when presented with an issue. Everyone has settled in and embraced the routines in their classes. Our teachers are providing wonderful learning experiences for all of our students and have embraced the “new way of teaching.”

It is hard to believe that it is now October. October is a time of change and anticipation. We welcome the change in seasons, starting of school clubs (stay tuned) and to delving into challenging, yet fun learning activities. We are also welcoming 35 of our LaunchED students who are switching to Face to Face on October 13. It is extremely important that we all continue to wear our masks with fidelity, practice social distancing, wash our hands, use sanitizer and stay home when feeling ill. This is a reminder that any student who exhibits two or more symptoms will have to be picked up and taken home. Our staff will continue to use signage and social distance seating in the cafeteria, during arrival and dismissal, and when in the classrooms.

To keep everyone abreast of the great things we are doing at OGA, we are embarking on a new professional development journey with the district. Teachers are learning about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). The strategies we are learning will be incorporated into instruction and will eventually permeate throughout the school. This will have a positive impact on our school culture.

October is also Red Ribbon Month. The end of October formally became Red Ribbon Week in 1988 by a proclamation of the United States Congress. It was inspired by the tragic death in 1985 of an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration Agent at the hands of Mexican drug traffickers. Red Ribbon Week activities are organized each October by tens of thousands of schools, government agencies, and social service organizations. The main purpose of Red Ribbon Week is to celebrate and promote positive choices and healthy, drug free lifestyles for young people and adults in the United States. Orlando Gifted Academy will be celebrating Red Ribbon Week this year in late October. Ms. Brown will be forwarding details to all students as to what she has planned. Stay tuned.

Parents, we need your assistance. Math was an instructional focus for OGA last year and it is one of our main focuses this year. Our students need to practice their multiplication facts. We will start biweekly math challenges beginning next week. As you know, math concepts continue to build upon each other as students’ progress to the next year. Math fluency is vital for students’ continued success. Take some time throughout the week to rattle off multiplication problems, addition, and subtraction problems to your child. We like to say “students should respond in a snap.” When you ask the question, snap your finger, and your child should be able to respond. It makes a fun game.

Thank you to everyone who expressed interest in becoming a SAC member. The Orlando Gifted Academy School Advisory Council parent members for the 2020-2021 school year are as follows:

Sarah Courtney, Jenn Mandelion Chrisman, Martha McCormick-Watson, Melonie Sexton, Jeremy Siegel, Reagan Smythe,Jami Valentine Miller, Melissa Vaughan, Jennifer Vose

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. `Mahatma Ghandi

Have a great week!

~Mrs. Despenza

This is The Owl Post, OGA's School Newsletter

This is the newsletter that is created by our Journalism 1 class. Our authors are: Yael Alfonso, Urshitaa Goel, Charleigh Gonzalez, Raleigh Hagood, Cary McCaghren, Terrence Miller, Gabby Powell, Anna Russo, Mackenzie Smoley, Sarah Thompson, and is run by Mrs. Kristen Tame