Sarasota County Schools News

New principal appointed for Riverview High School

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Paul Burns 2

Paul Burns

SARASOTA – Sarasota County Superintendent of Schools Lori White has appointed Riverview High School Assistant Principal Paul Burns as principal of the school effective July 11. Burns succeeds Eric Jackson, who served as RHS principal for the 2015-16 school year and has been appointed principal at Venice High School.

Burns holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and French from the University of Arkansas, a master’s degree in Educational administration from Lindenwood University in St. Louis and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of St. Louis. He was a Fulbright Scholar and a National African-American Scholar.

He taught for 11 years and has served in school administration for eight years. He began his career as a French teacher in the St. Louis Public Schools and taught French and math for five years at a private high school in St. Louis before moving into school administration.

He was an assistant principal at Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis for two years, and assistant and associate principal at Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Mo., for four years. He was named Assistant Principal of the Year in St. Louis in the spring of 2014. 

He accepted a position as an assistant principal at Venice High School for the 2014-15 school year. He was assigned as an AP at RHS in 2015.

Burns said he is pleased to have joined the Sarasota County Schools and looks forward to serving in a leadership role at RHS. “I am proud to have the opportunity to serve as principal of Riverview High School,” he said. “RHS is an outstanding school community with a long tradition of academic excellence. I'm looking forward to continuing the tradition of academic excellence at Riverview while working with our students, families and teachers.”

Sarasota Executive Director of High Schools Steve Cantees said Burns is an outstanding administrator and a perfect fit for RHS. “We are excited to have Dr. Burns as the next principal at Riverview,” he said. “It’s important to have an accomplished academic leader at a high-performing school.”

Cantees said the field of applicants for the RHS job was strong, but Burns stood out. “He is a top five-percenter,” Cantees said. “He is a natural-born leader and relationship builder. He is highly motivated and constantly learning about teaching and learning. He is always studying and applying the latest educational research.”

Although Burns will begin work on July 11, his appointment must be approved by the School Board. The appointment will be submitted for approval at the July 19 Board meeting.

Suncoast Technical College graduates 21 certified precision machinists

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, June 23, 2016 –The third class to complete the Suncoast Technical College precision machining and computerized numerical control automation program will graduate at 6 p.m. Thursday (June 23) in the STC Conference Room.

Twenty-one students are graduating from the year-long program, which brings the total number of graduates to 57 since the program started in 2013. A fourth class of 18 students is set to begin in August.

Students graduate with certification from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills. Instructor Ed Doherty said STC has earned more NIMS certifications than any school in Florida for the past two years.

All 21 graduates are starting jobs or continuing their education. Wages for graduates average $30,000-$42,000.

The precision machining program was created by a joint effort of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, CareerSource Suncoast, Sarasota County Government, the Sarasota County School Board, STC, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and CareerEdge, a privately funded workforce-development group.

 In 2013, a skills-gap study conducted by CareerEdge showed that despite high unemployment in the Sarasota County area, manufacturers still had trouble finding skilled workers necessary to grow their businesses.

STC Director Todd Bowden said, “Part of the impetus behind the CareerEdge study was to provide the school district with the data needed to support the manufacturing training. The study was definitive that the jobs were here in this community.”

In June 2013, the Sarasota County Commission approved $343,500 to buy the machining equipment for the program. The Sarasota County School Board also approved $655,000 to support the program over five years.

Doherty said the program has served manufacturers and the local economy well. It also has had a major impact on the lives of the students who have completed it. He noted that many of his best students were people who had no previous experience to predict that they would be successful machinists, but they all had the courage and commitment to give their best effort to finding a new career path.


Sarasota students maintain high achievement in state tests

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, June 10, 2016 – The percentage of Sarasota County School District students scoring as proficient in the Florida Standards Assessment remains higher than state averages at all grade levels in mathematics, and English Language Arts, according to results released June 10 by the Florida Department of Education. The results were announced for grades four-10 in English Language Arts and grades three-eight in mathematics.

The third-grade English Language Arts results released in May are reported again with the grades released today, in order to provide a comprehensive review of student performance.  Results are based on all students tested, including charter school students, English-language learners and students with disabilities.

“The spring 2016 FSA and end-of-course results represent the hard work of students, parents, teachers and administrators in Sarasota County,” Superintendent Lori White said. White said she is proud of results the students have achieved and of the district teachers and support staff for maintaining their focus on student achievement. Nevertheless, she realizes there is more to be accomplished. “We will continue to strive toward the goal of all students meeting the rigorous proficiency levels in all subjects,” she said. 

The State Board of Education established new achievement level standards for the FSA in English Language Arts and mathematics in the winter of 2016. This is the first time results are being reported according to these new standards. Because the FSA is based on more demanding content standards and the achievement standards are more rigorous, scores may appear lower on the new scale than on the previous scale for certain grades and subjects.

Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said “I commend our state’s students, educators, parents and school administrators for their hard work throughout the 2015-16 school year,” “Even with a higher bar, Florida students continued the overall trend of increased performance year over year.

An FLDOE news release noted that Sarasota County students had increased eight percentage points in Algebra 2, with 60 percent of students scoring at the proficient level or higher; improved six percentage points in civics for 77 percent of students scoring proficient or higher; and moved up three percentage points for high school students in Algebra 1.

Some highlights of the test results are as follows:

FSA English Language Arts:

  • District English Language Arts proficiency rates are 11 to 14 points higher than state rates across all grades.
  • The percent of district students scoring in English Language Arts achievement levels 3-5 (levels indicating proficiency) increased or remained the same in grades three, eight, nine and ten.  Percentages declined slightly in the other grade levels.

FSA mathematics:

  • Sarasota County students’ proficiency rates in mathematics are 11 to 24 points higher than state averages at all grades.
  • The 2016 district mathematics proficiency rates improved at grades three, four, six, and eight and remained consistent at grades five and seven.  Scores did not decline at any grade level from 2015 to 2016.

End-of-Course Results:

End of Course results were released for biology, US History, and civics. FDOE also released the Florida Standards Assessment Results in Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2. 

  • District total average Biology EOC scores are eight points higher than the state average in 2016 for first-time test takers and all students. 
  • District total average US History EOC scores are five points higher than the state average in 2016 for first time test takers and six points higher for all students.  District first-time test takers as well as all students are nine percentage points higher than the state.
  • District total and first-time test takers average Algebra 1 EOC scores are 11 points higher than the state average in 2016 for all students. 
  • District total and first-time test taker passing rates are 14 percentage points higher than the state passing rate. 
  • District total average Geometry 1 EOC scores are 10 points higher than the state average in 2016 for all students. District first-time test takers scores are 11 points higher than the state first-time test takers average.
  • District total average Algebra 2 EOC scores are 13 points higher than the state average in 2016 for all students. District first-time test takers scores are 14 points higher than the state first-time test takers average.
  • District total Algebra 2 EOC passing rates are 19 percentage points higher than the state passing rate.  First-time test takers passing rates are 20 percentage points higher that the state.
  • District total average Civics EOC scores are 9 points higher than the state average in 2016 for all students and first-time test takers. 
  • District total Civic EOC passing rates are 10 percentage points higher than the state passing rate for first-time test takers and all students

The links below are to tables showing the district results compared between 2015 and 1016 as well as the differences between district results and state results from those same years. Last year’s FSA ELA, Mathematics and EOC scores needed to be converted, or retrofitted, in order to make valid comparisons with this year’s scores.

Florida Standards Assessments

FSA English Language Arts and Math
FCAT science


End of Course Exams

US History
Algebra 1
Algebra 2


Suncoast Polytechnical grad to attend US Naval Academy

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Connor Weber

BOUND FOR ANNAPOLIS – US Navy Petty Officer First Class Connor Weber, center, holds a plaque created in his honor as the first Suncoast Polytechnical High School graduate to be accepted to a US service academy. Todd Bowden, left, the Sarasota County Schools executive director of career, technical and adult education, presented the plaque to School Board Chairwoman Shirley Brown, right, at the June 7 School Board meeting.

SARASOTA COUNTY, June 8, 2016 – Connor Weber is a living example of how much career and technical education has advanced since the days when vocational training was meant for students who wanted to get jobs in garages and factories right out of high school.

Weber graduated from Suncoast Polytechnical High School in 2013. This summer he is scheduled to begin classes at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, one of the most exclusive and academically prestigious universities in the country.

Weber was recognized at the June 7 Sarasota County School Board meeting by Todd Bowden, the Sarasota County Schools executive director of career, technical and adult education. Bowden presented the School Board with a plaque that will displayed in the SPHS office commemorating students who attend US service academies. Connor Weber is the first name on the plaque. 

Weber enrolled in SPHS soon after it opened in 2008. SPHS was a technology magnet high school built on the campus of the Sarasota County Technical Institute with the expectation that it would attract a student body of highly-motivated, academically talented students who could compete for acceptance and success at the best universities.

Although that expectation has been realized, it was far from certain in 2008 that college-bound students would be attracted to a “tech” school. Many SPHS students have gone on to excellent post-secondary and careers, but Weber’s achievement as the first SPHS graduate to be accepted to a US service academy is a special milestone.

As part of his SPHS program, he earned a credential as a Certified Nursing Assistant at SCTI concurrently with earning his high school diploma. He was accepted to the US Navy Nuclear Power School in 2013.

He was such a standout there that his commanding officer offered him an appointment to the Naval Academy. Weber gladly accepted the offer and attended the Naval Academy Preparatory School upon completion of his Nuclear Power School course.

His CNA credential helped him earn a position as an athletic trainer at NAPS. He has parlayed that experience into a trainer position on the Navy football team.



Booker Middle teacher wins wilderness study scholarship

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, June 8, 2016 – Booker Middle School language arts teacher Joanna Fox has been selected as a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar to attend an NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop in New York State this summer. The NEH is a federal agency that supports summer study opportunities for teachers to work with experts in humanities disciplines.

Fox will participate in a workshop titled “Forever Wild: The Adirondacks in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.” The one-week program will be conducted in at Camp Huntington, the first “Great Camp” of the Adirondacks. The Great Camps were wilderness estates where wealthy families could spend their summers in the wild and still enjoy all of creature comforts of home.

Camp Huntington is now owned and operated by State University of New York at Cortland. The program will be directed by faculty members of the SUNY Cortland History Department.

Fox has established a three-year creative writing program at Booker Middle School that develops students writing skills in poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. The poetry her students perform in the school’s Dragonfly Café has received international acclaim.

Her application for the NEH program required that she write an essay on her professional goals. The focus of her work in recent years has been the culture of wilderness, which is the connection between one’s purpose for going into nature and the resulting experience.

She has adapted that cultural concept into a theme for her seventh-grade classes: “The World Around You.” She also emphasizes in her instruction that poetry involves a sense of place, including one’s place in history, place in experience and personal place.

She said she hopes that her time in the Adirondacks will enhance her capacity to help her students express their own life experiences in new and more meaningful ways.

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