Destin High School has a big yellow bus, thanks to the Phillips family

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

“If you build it, they will come.” 

The build-out and renovations for the new Destin High School are just days away from being complete and the students are enrolled. 

But how will students get there? 

Destin High School now has its own school bus, courtesy of DeeDee and Allen Phillips.

On the big new yellow Destin High School bus. 

Destin’s Allen and DeeDee Phillips bought a school bus and donated it to the Destin High School, set to open its doors Aug. 10. The big yellow bus, marked 21-01, is already parked behind the school and waiting to roll. 

Why a school bus? 

The Phillipses, who are very supportive of the new high school, said they initially donated it just to “get things rolling.” 

The school’s governing board didn’t come right out and ask for a bus, DeeDee said. 

“They just told me all the things they needed … building painted, bus, flooring in the fellowship hall and a sign,” she said. 

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“Whatever it takes,” DeeDee said, noting she had her own money to put toward the school. 

Destin High School now has its own school bus, thanks the Phillips. Standing from left are DeeDee Phillips, Allen Phillips and Destin High Principal Christine Cruickshank.

“It didn’t just come out of my pocket; most of it came out of DeeDee’s pocket. She’s committed,” Allen said. 

But both agreed it’s “absolutely” a joint effort. 

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As for the bus, Destin High Principal Christine Cruickshank said as part of the school's charter it agreed with the Okaloosa County School District to transport students in Destin. 

“We were looking at options, whether it be charter or lease, and it just came up that it would be nice to have our own bus,” Cruickshank said. 

The bus will be used for field trips, to transport athletes and students who are taking a bowling class to the bowling alley. 

“It’s going to be used multi-purpose,” Cruickshank said. 

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“It’s just another good way to serve our students … in where they are going and what they need,” Cruickshank said. 

“It’s going to be wonderful,” DeeDee added. 

The cost of the “brand-spanking new” bus was $88,865 and was purchased from Sun State out of Tampa. The company has a location in Pensacola as well, which will make for easy maintenance. 

Allen Phillips checks out the dash of the new school bus for Destin High. Phillips and his wife DeeDee made a donation to pay for the bus.

Not only will the bus be used to transport students to games and field trips, but to bring the students to school and back home. 

“I’d love to have an east and west route,” said Cruickshank, who noted the school could use a second bus. 

It’s more than just a bus 

For the Phillipses, it's not just about the bus, but the entire high school experience for the youths of Destin. 

"I’ve been wanting one for 30 years,” DeeDee said of the high school. “I love this town. I’ve always loved this town."

DeeDee feels very fortunate that she grew up in Brewton, Alabama, and went to school, kindergarten through 12th grade, and graduated from T.R. Miller High School. 

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“I was a Tiger the entire time. ... We all bled red and white and we loved it,” she said. “There was nothing to do in Brewton, and that’s what we did on Friday nights … go to the ball game. 

“I just want to have the same hometown feeling for everybody here, so they can have Friday night lights and be involved in all the athletics, and just enjoy having a school here,” DeeDee added. 

DeeDee Phillips checks out the new Destin High School bus. She and husband Allen Phillips made the donation to buy the bus for the school.

And putting up the money to buy a bus was just one way to show support for the school. 

“We’ve been behind it since the beginning, even when it was going to be at Destin United Methodist Church,” Allen said. 

The governing board of Destin High had originally tried to purchase the Methodist Church to house the school, but plans fell through. So they purchased the Grace Lutheran facility on Commons Drive. 

“Deedee has always wanted a high school here,” Allen said. “We’ve always had a fantastic elementary school and then we’ve got the middle school. (The high school) is just going to be icing on the cake.”

"I just want to give back … and for this school to have what we were able to have when we were young. I want the Destin students to have the same thing,” DeeDee added. 

Destin High Principal Christine Cruickshank (left) and DeeDee and Allen Phillips check out the school's new bus.

“I was hoping maybe my children would have a high school here, but now maybe my grandchildren will. And all my other friends in Destin will have a really, really nice school for their kids,” DeeDee said. 

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After the Phillipses first saw the bus a few days ago with the “Destin High School” name painted in black block letters on the side, Allen admitted he never thought he’d see a school bus in Destin that said Destin High School. 

“But I tell you, these ladies and the board that have worked on this school project, worked tirelessly,” he said. 

“I thought when we lost that deal at Destin United Methodist, I thought we were done. But they stuck with it and persevered and made it happen," Allen added. "You’ve got to give it to them; they worked hard. Many sleepless nights I’m sure to try to make it happen. But they got it done, and we are so blessed to have them.” 

Allen and DeeDee Phillips of Destin donated money to buy a bus for Destin High School.

"They did the work. Our part is easy,” DeeDee added. 

“But we couldn’t do it without your part,” Cruickshank told the Phillipses. 

Members of the executive board of Destin High are Prebble Ramswell, president; Denise Fountain, vice-president; Myra Williams, secretary; Sarah Stone, treasurer; Heidi LoCicero; Jim Luttrell; Dr. Mitchell Silver; Drew Palmer; and Chris Harris.