About PEP

PEP is a volunteer driven non-profit organization supporting quality and collaborative programs for Winter Haven’s public schools, teachers and students. Programs and initiatives range from providing opportunities to students and families with limited resources to encouraging innovative curriculum and connections to challenge Winter Haven’s brightest.  PEP seeks to facilitate the innovation and connections necessary to make Winter Haven’s public school system one that effectively serves all students and is viewed as a benchmark for public school systems.

Want to learn more? Explore our What is PEP? page!

Out of concern for the quality of Winter Haven’s public schools, The Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce (“The Chamber”) formed the Educational Outcomes Steering Committee (“The Committee”) in early 2011. These members selected by the Chamber to serve on the Committee were Eileen Holden, the President of Polk State College; Dr. Samuel Bennett, the Dean of the College of Education at Southeastern University; the Honorable Jeff Potter, the Mayor of Winter Haven; Dr. Sherrie Nickell, the Superintendent of the Polk County School District; Seretha Tinsley, an owner of PenGeo, Inc. and related business entities; and Douglas A Lockwood, III, an attorney with Peterson & Myers, P.A. Also involved in the Committee’s efforts to assess the current situation in the schools were Dr. Sharon Miller, Nat West, Suzanne Threadgill, Dr. John Stewart, Thomas Costello, Honorable Edward Threadgill, Charles McPherson, Tom Oldt, Bob Gernert, the Executive Director of the Chamber, and Cindy Price, President of the Chamber, not to mention many others who contributed to the initiative. The Committee’s task was to survey Winter Haven’s public schools and recommend strategies to improve the schools through the involvement of every sector of the community. Months of interviews, research, presentations, meetings, and discussions with enumerable educators, businessmen and women, students, and concerned citizens ensued. In May of 2011, The Report of the Educational Outcomes Steering Committee was published and presented to The Chamber.

On an important note, although we have reason for concern over the quality of our schools, the many successes of our schools are impressive and should motivate us all to engage in the work of helping our children achieve their best. The passion of many of the teachers and administrators interviewed by members of the Committee was evident, sincere, and compelling. Good teachers teach because they love teaching; this despite the difficult challenges facing their profession. These educators deserve respect, recognition, and support.

Creating a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support Winter Haven’s public schools was one of the fourteen recommendations spawned from the Committee. The development of The Public Education Partnership of Winter Haven, Inc. (‘PEP’) has fulfilled that bullet point. PEP has taken on the task of refining and implementing the Committees other recommendations, which can be accessed under the Initiative tab of this website. The dream is that every citizen in our community from every walk of life will join in PEP’s vision to get involved in our public schools and make Winter Haven’s public school system the ‘hallmark’ of education in the United States.

PEP Board of Directors

Douglas A. Lockwood, III - Board of Directors President, Winter Haven Public Education PartnershipDouglas A. Lockwood, III – President
Doug Lockwood was born in Winter Haven.  He graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1971 and later received a B.S. in 1975 from Duke University.  He earned his law degree from Stetson University in 1979.  Since then, he has practiced law and is currently a partner of the law firm of Peterson & Myers, P.A., in its Winter Haven offices.

Doug is Board Certified by The Florida Bar as a specialist in both civil trial law and business litigation law.  He was also Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy  with the National Board of Trial Advocacy.  He has served as the president of Auburndale/Lake Alfred/Winter Haven Bar Association, and as a Master with the Willison Association.

Doug served on the board of Directors for Good Shepherd Hospice of Mid-Florida, Inc. and Habitat for Humanity of Winter Haven, Inc.  He is a past member of the Winter Haven Planning Board, chairman of the Polk County Affordable Housing Task Force, and a past President of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce.  He is on the Board of the Ridge Art Association, and serves as a special magistrate of the Code Enforcement Divisions for the cities of Winter Haven, Auburndale, Lake Alfred, and Eagle Lake.  He is a member of the board of directors of Christ Community Church in Winter Haven.

Doug practices in Peterson & Myers, P.A.’s Winter Haven office, concentrating in the area of civil litigation, including contractual and commercial disputes, insurance claims, eminent domain, discrimination, collections, foreclosures, and complex corporate and partnership litigation.  Since 1995, he has served as a has served as a certified mediator in civil circuit mediation by the Florida Supreme Court.  He has mediated many civil disputes involving commercial, construction, employment, probate, personal injury, and business related matters throughout Central Florida.

Doug is president of The Public Education Partnership for Winter Haven, Inc. (“PEP”), and is passionate about improving the quality of education within the greater Winter Haven community.

Rick DantzlerRick Dantzler
A third-generation Floridian, Rick grew up in Winter Haven, Florida. He received his K-12 education in the Polk County Public School system, and his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida.

In 1982, at the age of 26, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. He was re-elected three times without opposition and served there until 1990 when he was elected to the Florida Senate. In 1998, Rick resigned from the Senate to run for the office of Governor of Florida, ultimately becoming the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor.

Now out of public office, he is an attorney with the Business Trial Group section of Morgan & Morgan. He is also a Supreme Court certified mediator with Central Florida Mediation Group in Lakeland, and is licensed to mediate Civil Court Circuit, Family Law and Appellate matters.

He lives in Winter Haven, is an avid outdoorsman and has written three books. Rick is married to Julie Pope. They have two daughters, of whom they are very proud.

Dr. Eileen Holden photo

Eileen Holden, Ed.D.
Eileen Holden became President of Polk State College in February 2006 and brought to Polk State and Polk County 23 years of higher education experience as an instructor and administrator. She was inaugurated as Polk State College’s fourth president on September 7, 2007.

Prior to her appointment at Polk State, Dr. Holden served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Dean for Academic Affairs at Palm Beach State College. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Education and a doctorate in Higher Education Administration.

Dr. Holden currently serves on the Board of Directors for numerous chambers, economic development, non-profit, and business organizations in Polk County. On the statewide level, she served as the chair of the Council of Presidents for the Florida College System and is active in legislative advocacy efforts for higher education in Florida.

John Small

John Small
John Small began his career with Polk County Schools in 1986 as an Industrial Arts Teacher at Bartow High School.  From 1990-1992, he served as Dean at Lake Alfred Career Development Center and served as Assistant Principal at Lake Alfred Career Development Center from 1992-1993.

He transferred to Bartow Middle School in 1993 where he served as Assistant Principal until 1995.  Mr. Small was appointed Assistant Principal at Lakeland Middle Academy in 1995 where he served until 1997.  From 1997-2002, he was Assistant Director at Traviss Career Center.

Mr. Small’s previous position was Dean of Secondary Education and Director of Polk Community College Collegiate High School where he served from May 2002 to June 2006.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Technology Education from California University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Nova University.

John serves on numerous county and state boards. Recently, Rod Duckworth, Chancellor for the Division of Career and Adult Education in Florida, requested John to be a member of the State Advisory Committee for Career and Technical Education.

Currently, he is Senior Director of Workforce Education with the School Board of Polk County and is instrumental in establishing numerous academies in our high schools – leading students to think about a career after graduation, or an educational path to follow in college.  He has broadened the horizon of countless young people in our area.

John continues to serve, diligently and tirelessly, the students of Polk County Florida.

T. Michael 2010

T. Michael Stavres
T. Michael Stavres is the Director of Community Services for the City of Winter Haven, Florida, which includes oversight of Leisure Services, Libraries, Natural Resources and Public Services.  He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Leisure Services & Studies and Master of Science Degree in Recreation & Leisure Services Administration, both from Florida State University.  He is a Certified Parks & Recreation Professional through the National Recreation & Park Association and is a former President and current Vice President of the Florida Recreation & Park Association.  Prior to joining the City of Winter Haven in 2001, Mr. Stavres worked with the cities of Temple Terrace, Lakeland and St. Petersburg and Orange County.

His community involvement includes serving as a Board Member and former President of Girls Inc. of Winter Haven, Board Member for the Public Education Partnership of Winter Haven, Development and Advisory Committee Chair for the Agribusiness & Sciences Career Academy for Winter Haven High School, Advisory Board Member for the Humane Society of Polk County, Board Member for the Polk State College Alumni Association and Deacon for First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven.


Nat West
Nat has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and a Masters in Hospital Administration from Trinity University. (San Antonio) He served as Vice President of Winter Haven Hospital for 20 years and is currently retired.

He has been involved with a variety of community enhancement initiatives including, Polk State College’s Workforce Education Council and the Collegiate High School, the Polk Healthcare Alliance, the County’s Citizen Oversight Committee (half cent sales tax for healthcare), Building a Healthier Polk, the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber Foundation, Polk Vision, the Library Advisory Board, United Way’s Health Steering Committee, the 211 Committee, and Success by 6, the Haley Center (free healthcare for low income people), The Public Education Partnership of Winter Haven, a mentor at Denison Middle School, Reading Pals at Lake Shipp Elementary school, the School Advisory Council at Garner Elementary School, Polk Businesses for World Class Education,

He and his wife have received the Banker’s Cup and he has received the Junior League of Greater Winter Haven’s Community Service Award and the United Way of Central Florida’s Citizen of the Year Award. He enjoys music and coordinates free music in Winter Haven’s Central Park every Friday night. He has two children and two grandchildren, all residing in Winter Haven.


Steven S. Warner, Ed.D.

A native of Winter Haven, Florida, Steve Warner began his career with the University in 1991 as the interim Head Men’s Soccer Coach. In the fall of 1992, Warner became the fulltime Head Coach for Men’s soccer and manager of the university bookstore. From 1992-2003 he served WIU in other roles including: student activities director, Dean of Men, and the President’s Executive Committee. In 1998, he took over as Director of the Soccer program, which included being the Head Coach for both the Men’s and Women’s team. Under Warner’s guidance, the Warrior’s garnered over 60 post season academic awards including honors on the Florida Sun Conference all-academic team, NAIA and NSCAA all-region academic teams, and the NAIA and NSCAA all-American scholar athletes’ team. In 2002, both teams earned the prestigious NSCAA All-American Academic Team Awards, Coach Warner was one of only 6 coaches in the United States among all soccer teams from NCAA Division I, II, III and the NAIA to earn the honor.

Based on his dedication and guidance of the soccer program, Then, President Rex R. Yentes appointed Warner as Dean of Students in the fall of 2002, with the responsibility of guiding and enhancing all WIU student experiences outside the classroom. In the fall of 2006, President Yentes and the Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Warner to Vice President of Student Life. Warner also, serves as an adjunct professor for the undergraduate program, teaching the Introduction to Business course.

In his current role as Vice President of Advancement, Dr. Warner is responsible for developing internal and external relationships that support the university’s goals and mission. Areas of leadership include the office of alumni relations, university development, annual fund, and community relations and outreach programs.

Dr. Warner is very active in the local community. He serves as the Vice President of the Public Education Partnership of Greater Winter Haven, Board member of the Polk Education Foundation, is a member of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, member of Lake Wales Economic Development Partnership, president-elect for Lake Wales Lunch Rotary, Member of the Polk Vision-Education Task Force and serves the Humane Society of Polk County as a board member. He is a graduate of Leadership Winter Haven Class XXVI and was chairman of Leadership Winter Haven Class XXVIII.

His is a member of, or has volunteered with the National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation, the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the U.S. Soccer Federation, the Winter Haven Youth Soccer Association, Adopt-A-Highway, the American Cancer Society, the Central Florida BASS Anglers and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Polk County. Warner currently serves as Head Coach for the Winter Haven Youth Soccer KICKS U-15 girl’s competitive soccer team.

Dr. Warner earned his Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Argosy University in 2012, a Master of Business Administration from WIU in 2004, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business with a concentration in Management from Webber International University in 1994. He and his wife of 18 years Tresa, have two children Lexi, 15 years old and Carson, 12 years old. In his spare time, Warner can be found in the woods hunting for deer and turkey or on the water fishing for Snook and Bass. He is a member of BASS and FLW and is an avid tournament fisherman.

Paula Orcutt

Bonnie Parker

Cindy Price

Bill Sands

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