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Donald Leonetti Elementary School Opens


Donald Leonetti Elementary School opened this fall in Sienna Plantation. | Leonetti Elementary School’s mascot is a lion named Leon that resembles Donald Leonetti.

Donald Leonetti Elementary School opened this fall in Sienna Plantation. | Leonetti Elementary School’s mascot is a lion named Leon that resembles Donald Leonetti.

 

 

Leonetti Elementary School’s mascot is a lion named Leon that resembles Donald Leonetti.

Leonetti Elementary School’s mascot is a lion named Leon that resembles Donald Leonetti.

FBISD School Namesake Was Great Supporter Of Local Education
By
Judy Latta

The late Fort Bend businessman and philanthropist, Donald Leonetti.

The late Fort Bend businessman and philanthropist, Donald Leonetti.

The newest elementary school in Sienna Plantation opened its doors on Aug. 22, welcoming 421 students, grades K through 6. Leonetti Elementary School holds a very special place in the hearts of many Sienna residents because it is named after a beloved late community member. Donald Leo­netti, founder of Leonetti Graphics in Missouri City and a 1988 graduate of Dulles High School, was well known around town as a fun-loving, generous spirit who enjoyed telling jokes and playing pranks. But in July 2014, Donald was killed during a robbery at a friend’s place of business in Stafford. He left behind a legacy of quietly giving back to his community and church in a myriad of ways.

Donald Leonetti

A devoted father to his children, Mat­thew and Lauren, Donald was a prominent supporter in both time and treasure of Fort Bend ISD. Among many other contributions to local public education, he mentored students and was one of the founders and most generous and devoted volunteers for Young Life, a nondenominational Christian-based support club for youths. Donald and his wife, Jenni, started the Ridge Point chapter, hosting the club’s meetings in their home. According to Jenni, “We started with 24 kids and by the end of the year we had 94 kids meeting in our living room.”

Jenni says that her husband probably would have been embarrassed by this attention, but she thinks there could be no more apt tribute.

“Donald was a big kid at heart, so having an elementary school named after him is very fitting,” she says with a smile. Jenni still can’t believe that what started as a letter writing campaign among friends ended with her late husband’s name being selected out of 2,400 names submitted for consideration for one of the four Fort Bend ISD schools opening this fall. “It was very special and emotional,” she says.

Matthew also thinks that such an honor would have astounded his unassuming father. “I think my dad would think it was funny that they decided to name a school after him,” he says. “He wouldn’t have believed it.”

The Greatest Place to be a Kid

Tucked back in the Village of Sawmill Lake, Leonetti is a state-of-the-art primary school; one of the first in Texas to be built with environmentally sustainable construction materials and designed to be an environmentally responsible facility. The interior of the building is adorned with beautiful, hand-painted murals and the school is staffed with a team of top-notch educators working to fulfill the school’s motto by making Leonetti “the greatest place to be a kid.”

Principal Joy Schwinger has set the priorities of the school, which are to establish high expectations, instill a growth mindset that encourages effort and learning from mistakes, facilitate student leadership, and foster an environment that encourages positive relationships and student service in both the school and community.

A veteran administrator with a wealth of experience in public education, Schwinger began her career as a teacher in 1996 in an Alief Independent School District classroom. Her first administrative position was with Fort Bend ISD as an assistant principal at Lexington Creek Elementary, and she also served as principal of both Oyster Creek Elementary and Walker Station Ele­mentary. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Inter­disciplinary Studies from the University of Houston and Master of Educational Leadership from Stephen F. Austin University, and she is a graduate of The Rice Educational Entrepreneurship Program (REEP) and The Harvard Leader­ship Institute.

A Fitting Namesake

Schwinger strives to run the school in the spirit of its namesake. “After I was named principal of Leonetti Elementary, many people reached out to me to share stories about [Donald] and how he either helped them directly or someone else in the community. It has been inspiring learning about Donald through others,” she says. “Everything I have heard about him shows that he had the biggest, most generous heart.”

She also has consulted with Jenni to learn about Donald’s passions, thoughts and beliefs so that she can develop the school and its staff in ways that honor his memory. “Donald Leonetti had such a powerful impact on this community,” the principal says. Even the school’s cheer, which is chanted by the entire student body daily, “The Heart of a Lion,” was inspired by Donald:

“We are the Leonetti Lions

We are strong and we are smart

We are the Leonetti Lions

The strength of our pride is our heart”

 

The mascot for Donald Leonetti Ele­mentary School is a lion named Leon, and the logo was designed by the creative team at Leonetti Graphics. If you look at it closely, you just might notice that Leon resembles his burly namesake. Jenni says, “It’s funny when people who knew him see the logo. They say, ‘Hey, that’s Donald!’ ”

 

A Legacy Continues

In addition to Donald’s other volunteerism and philanthropy and continuing under Jenni, Leonetti Graphics has generously donated shirts, uniforms, signs and other printed objects to numerous schools, teams and organizations in the Fort Bend area. Recently, Jenni sponsored a fundraiser to support victims of Hurricane Harvey. She recruited sponsors and printed and sold 1,800 t-shirts emblazoned with the words “Sienna Strong.” The approximately $40,000 in proceeds from the sale went to Hope Advocates, a nonprofit agency that supports those in need in the community.

And, of course, the team at Leonetti Graphics worked with the staff at Donald Leonetti Elementary School to design the school’s inaugural spirit shirt, which Jenni generously donated to all the school’s students and staff.

 

Official Dedication of Leonetti Elementary School

On Sunday, Oct. 22 at 2 p.m., a dedication ceremony will be held at Donald Leonetti Elementary, located at 1757 Waters Lake Blvd. in Missouri City. This event will be attended by Dr. Charles Dupre, the superintendent of FBISD; the School Board; the school’s administration, staff and students; and Donald Leonetti’s family and friends. The community is invited to come out to participate in this celebration and to hear Jenni speak about the school and her husband’s legacy.

 

The entry mural at Leonetti Elementary.

The entry mural at Leonetti Elementary.

 

The school is adorned with whimsical hand-painted murals created by Jeff Szymanski. (jeffsartstudio.com)

The school is adorned with whimsical hand-painted murals created by Jeff Szymanski. (jeffsartstudio.com)


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