Sarasota County Schools News

Suncoast Technical College (formerly SCTI) hosts open house

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Oct. 31, 2014 updated Nov. 6) – Suncoast Technical College, formerly known as Sarasota County Technical Institute, will hold an open house from 5-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 6. Students, parents and other community residents are invited to tour classrooms, labs, auto and marine mechanics shops, culinary arts kitchens, facilities for health programs and more. Instructors will be on hand to answer questions about STC programs and the admissions process.

Adult and Community Enrichment classrooms at STC also will be open for tours for anyone interested in ACE classes in ballroom dancing, ceramics/pottery, painting and a wide variety of other classes that celebrate lifelong learning.

Suncoast Technical College is located at 4748 Beneva Road in Sarasota.

Officials cut ribbon to open Venice Performing Arts Center at Venice High

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VPAC exteriorVPA from balconyVPAC ribbon cut 11-6-14

NEW GEM IN VENICE: The Venice Performing Arts Center on the Venice High campus is the result of a partnership between the School Board of Sarasota County and the City of Venice. From top are photos of the exterior and the stage viewed from the balcony, and the ribbon-cutting Nov. 6.

VENICE, Oct. 30, 2014 (UPDATED Nov. 7) – Officials from Sarasota County Schools and the City of Venice, including members of the School Board and the Venice City Council, shared the scissors with representatives of local performing arts groups, architects and builders to cut the ribbon opening the Venice Performing Arts Center Nov. 6.  

The ribbon-cutting was followed by musical performances. The two-and-a-half-hour event, sponsored by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, was a showcase for the resident arts groups that will perform regularly in the Center: Venice High Chorus, Chamber Orchestra, and Band; Venice Symphony, Venice Concert Band and Exsultate! Chorus.

The 51,562-square foot Venice Performing Arts Center, built on the Venice High School campus, is the result of a partnership between the School Board of Sarasota County and the City of Venice to provide a world-class venue for musical and other theatrical performances. The barrier-free facility seats 1,070 people.

In addition to regular performances at the VPAC by resident arts groups performing at the grand opening, the Venice High School Performing Arts Department will present future theatrical productions on the stage. Other performing arts groups will be able to rent the Center, which will bring additional high-quality entertainment and arts education offerings to Venice. The VPAC also will create opportunities for original programming and special events.

The Center features state-of-the-art elements, including a 2,000-square-foot stage, acoustical engineering and sound system, lighting, fly loft with stage rigging, catwalks, automated orchestra pit and an acoustic shell that can be configured as needed for various performances. Such a facility has been on the community’s wish list for more than two decades. Most of the funding for the $15 million project came from Sarasota County’s voter-approved one-cent sales tax revenue that is shared with the county, the cities and the school district for capital projects.

Dan Tarczynski of Schenkel Shultz Architecture was lead architect for the Venice High School construction project that includes the Venice Performing Arts Center. The VHS project was constructed by Gilbane Building Company.

Cassandra Trascik is the VPAC manager. Venice High Performing Arts teacher Miles Mowry is the Center’s executive director.

The Venice Performing Arts Center is located on the Venice High campus at 1 Indian Ave. More information about the VPAC, including upcoming performances, is available at or by calling the Center at 941-488-6726. 

Sportscaster Dick Vitale visits Tuttle Elementary for cancer research benefit

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Vitale visit to Tuttle-Rob Loeffel class 11-3-14

AWESOME, BABY! ESPN sportscaster Dick Vitale visits Rob Loeffel's third-grade class at Tuttle Elementary Nov. 3. Loeffel is at right in back, Vitale is at left.

SARASOTA, Oct. 29, 2014 – Legendary ESPN sportscaster and local resident Dick Vitale will participate in Tuttle Elementary School’s Walk-A-Thon Kick-Off Assembly Monday, Nov. 3. The Walk-A-Thon will be held later in November. Proceeds from donations, which can be made any time during school hours through Nov. 25, will benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Vitale is scheduled to arrive on campus at 1:15 p.m. to meet with the Walk-A-Thon planning committee, followed by a visit to classrooms. From 2-2:45 p.m. he will speak to fourth- and fifth-grade students at an assembly, sharing the history of the V Foundation and the ways it benefits children. Two of “Dick's Kids” (benefactors of the V Foundation) will be at the assembly. 

The Walk-A-Thon will be held at the school from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 25, with students in different grade levels participating at different times throughout the day. Local business sponsors will provide prizes in various categories for participants.  

Tuttle Elementary is located at 2863 8th St. in Sarasota.

Riverview High open house showcases nature programs

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SARASOTA, Oct. 28, 2014 – Riverview High School will hold an open house to showcase its Eagle Native Plant Nature Trail, planetarium and AquaDome Saturday, Nov. 1. The event is free to the public and will include tours of the nature trail and AquaDome from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and planetarium shows from 5:30-9:30 p.m. For those interested in stargazing, the Observers Club will be on site with telescopes.

The nature trail, which was unveiled to the public in May, is an extension of the school’s Stars to Starfish program, which focuses on the sky with its planetarium, the sea in its AquaDome and now the earth with its nature trail.

The Eagle Native Plant Nature Trail was developed by students and includes 600 linear feet of trail with more than 1,600 plants (representing 53 species that are native to Florida) and a water pond and surrounding garden, all housed within five ecosystems. Students planted much of the foliage during the week in late April that included Earth Day.

The Eagle Native Plant Nature Trail was made possible by grants from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Riverview High School is located at 1 Ram Way, off Proctor Road east of U.S. 41.

Sarasota High ‘zombies’ invade St. Armands with ‘Thriller’ Oct. 31

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SHS Thriller dance 10-31-13

'THRILLER' TWINS: At the October 2013 “Thriller” dance on St. Armands Circle, pictured left to right are Sarasota High students Olivia Hermey, Emily Hermey and Micaela McFadden. The performance is an annual tradition of the SHS Theater Department.

 SARASOTA, Oct. 22, 2014 – Sarasota High School Theater students will “zombie-walk” around St. Armands Circle once again on Halloween in their annual tribute to the Michael Jackson classic song and macabre dance, “Thriller.” The performance will be part of Fright Night at St. Armands, 6-8:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 31.

The number of students auditioning in hopes of being part of the “Thriller” performance has grown from 150 to more than 300 students, including students from SHS sports teams, the National Honor Society, alumni and other community members. 

The zombie walk and safe trick-or-treating start at 5:30 p.m. and the zombie parade and Thriller dance begin at 7:30pm.

This year Sarasota High is adding some events to the “Thriller” lineup, including Zombie Camp for children ages 8-13, 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30 on the SHS campus. The camp will include a pumpkin patch, crafts, face painting booths, a barbecue and a “Thriller” dance lesson. The younger students will be invited to join the high school “zombies” on St. Armands on Friday to do some safe trick-or-treating around the stores and to have front-row seats for the Thriller dance on the Circle. The cost for children to attend the Zombie Camp is $20; interested parents should contact SHS and ask for the Theater Department. 

“We are proud of our annual ‘Thriller’ tradition and we’re happy to see it grow every year,” said drama teacher Melissa Dweck.

Sarasota High School is located at 1000 S. School Ave., Sarasota.

NOTIFICATION: District postpones high school grade-weighting change

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SARASOTA, Oct. 22, 2014 - The Sarasota County School District has postponed a previously announced change in the policy regarding grade weighting for high school Honors courses. The change, which would have reduced the grade weight for all Honors courses from 1.0 to 0.5, was scheduled to take place at the start of the 2014-15 school year. Most Honors courses will continue to be weighted at 1.0 until further notice.   

Click here for the full text of the letter that is being mailed to parents of students in Honors courses who are affected by the postponement of this grade-weighting change.  



Lamarque Elementary hosts Earth-themed Family Night

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NORTH PORT, Oct. 20, 2014 – The Lamarque Explorers, an after-school program dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) will host Family Night: Earth, from 5:30-7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 23, at Lamarque Elementary School. The free event for the school’s third- through fifth-grade students and their families will celebrate the ways the Earth sciences affect all our lives.

Students who participate in the Lamarque Explorers Program will introduce their families to the concepts they have learned and connect with Earth-minded community groups and businesses.

Information booths and displays will be set up by various organizations, including People for Trees, Suncoast Science Center, Florida Division of Forestry, Venice Area Audubon Society, City of North Port Utilities Department, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium Mobile Exhibit and the Lamarque Explorers themselves. The Lamarque Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization will sell pizza and drinks. 

Family Night: Earth will explore the STEM subject areas by grade level, including:

  • Third grade: Animal habitats and protection
  • Fourth grade: Rock cycle
  • Fifth grade: Water cycle and conservation

 Lamarque Elementary School is located at 3415 Lamarque Ave. in North Port.

McIntosh Middle students build hydroponic garden system on campus

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SARASOTA, Oct. 16, 2014 – Students in McIntosh Middle School’s Agriscience Program will construct and unveil what is believed to be the Sarasota County School District’s first hydroponic gardening system, Friday, Oct. 24. Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil, using nutrient-enriched water.

From 11-11:30 a.m., engineers from Blue Planet Environmental will explain to students how hydroponics works and will demonstrate the technology to 20 McIntosh students. The students will split into four teams; each team will build its own hydroponic system.

From 4-5:30 p.m., students will present their systems to visitors touring the school’s gardens and greenhouse as part of Sarasota’s Eat Local Week (Oct. 24-30), a celebration of local food and farming.   

The systems will remain on the McIntosh campus as a teaching tool and for food production, primarily for growing leafy greens. 

McIntosh Middle School is located at 701 S. McIntosh Road, Sarasota.

District receives $1.2 million arts integration grant from USDOE

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SARASOTA, Oct. 14, 2014 — The Sarasota County Schools, through Any Given Child Sarasota, have been selected by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) to receive a $1.2 million grant over four years to implement an initiative entitled Elevate with Arts Integration, also known as Project Elevate. The grant, which is designed to enhance teaching and learning through arts-integrated instruction in local schools, was one of only 17 awarded nationwide by the USDOE this year as part of its Professional Development Arts Educators Program.  

Project Elevate aims to increase students’ academic performance in reading, writing, math and science through arts-integrated instruction at four Title 1 elementary schools in the Sarasota County School District. The schools participating in the grant program are Atwater, Brentwood, Emma E. Booker and Tuttle elementary schools. Funds will help second- through fifth-grade teachers at those schools gain proficiency in developing and providing arts-integrated instruction.

Title I is a federally funded program designed to address the academic needs of students, particularly in the areas of reading, writing, science and math. Schools are designated as Title I based on the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious grant,” said Any Given Child Sarasota Program Director Brian Hersh. “Project Elevate will enable Sarasota County Schools and Any Given Child to continue developing innovative learning practices in arts-integrated education that benefit thousands of students in the district each year.”

Through Project Elevate, Any Given Child Sarasota will hire a full-time, experienced arts integration specialist beginning in the 2015-16 school year. The specialist will provide coaching, training and mentorship in creating and teaching arts-integrated lesson plans at each of the four Title 1 schools selected for the program. In total, more than 75 classroom and arts teachers, as well as additional pre-service interns, will benefit from the program in its first year alone.

Of equal importance, hundreds of students at the Title 1 schools involved in Project Elevate will benefit from increased opportunities to engage with the arts through enhanced arts-integrated instruction and arts experiences, in addition to the arts instruction they already receive. Numerous studies have shown that students who participate in the arts and arts-integrated learning perform better academically and have lower dropout rates than students who do not have such engagement with the arts.

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s Center for Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching (PAInT) will serve as the official evaluator for the program, helping collect and analyze student learning outcomes, academic performance results and other metrics. Dr. Brianne Reck, senior fellow and executive director of Center for PAInT, says she and the faculty in USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Education share the commitment of Any Given Child Sarasota and Sarasota County Schools to transforming learning experiences for children through the integration of the arts.

“We are thrilled to be part of this groundbreaking work and to provide the evaluation expertise that is critical to the project,” said Reck. “It is through the power of this partnership that we support innovation that will make a difference in the lives of our children and our community.”

Any Given Child Sarasota is a partnership between the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and Sarasota County Schools. The program is designed to provide students with expanded and enhanced opportunities to benefit from the arts in our community and quality arts education in all local schools.

By working with the school district, local arts organizations and corporate and private donors, Any Given Child Sarasota is helping build high-quality arts, theater, music and dance programs in schools throughout Sarasota County; providing access to theater and musical performances, museum visits and other arts experiences for students; and securing funding to help teachers and schools better integrate arts education into their curriculums.

Special guests serve National School Lunch Week menu

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Lori White National School Lunch Week Phillippi Shores

SUPER SERVER: Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Lori White serves lunch Oct. 17 to students at Phillippi Shores Elementary School in Sarasota. Special guest servers, including government officials, firefighters, School Board members, and school and district administrators donned aprons and gloves to dish out meals in school cafeterias across the county during National School Lunch Week, Oct. 13-17.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Oct. 10, 2014 – The Sarasota County School District is celebrating National School Lunch Week (Oct. 13-17) with appearances by guest lunch servers at various school cafeterias around the district, including School Board members Jane Goodwin, Shirley Brown and Caroline Zucker; Superintendent Lori White; Deputy Superintendent Scott Lempe; local chefs; firefighters; school principals and other school district administrators. The guests will take shifts at various schools, offering students diverse lunch selections.

On an average day, Sarasota County Schools serve 30,000 to 35,000 meals to students. The cost is $2.10 at elementary schools, $2.30 at middle and $2.50 to $3 at high schools. Cafeterias also provide breakfast and lunch to school visitors and faculty. Beverly Girard, director of Food and Nutrition Services for the school district, reports that the percentage of students receiving free lunches, and reduced-cost lunches at a cost of 40 cents each, has risen from a ten-year average of about 33 percent in Sarasota County to an average of about 50 percent.

“We urge eligible families to apply for their children to receive free or reduced-cost meals if it will help them in these tough economic times,” said Girard. “Even if they are only in this situation temporarily, we encourage parents and guardians to consider this opportunity. Three years ago we launched an online application system, which makes it fast and convenient for families to apply for meal benefits.”

The National School Lunch Program began in 1946 when President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into law. Since then public schools throughout the nation have served nutritious meals to billions of students. Ninety-five percent of schools participate in the program; 30 million children are served daily. The meals are offered to students at a low cost or no cost to parents, thanks to a bounteous food supply, dedicated staff members and help from federal funding. President Kennedy proclaimed the first National School Lunch Week in 1963.

Nationally, school lunches must include protein, fruits and vegetables, grains and low-fat milk, served in age-appropriate portions. Menus in Sarasota County Schools’ cafeterias reflect the national goal of providing wholesome, healthy food that students like to eat. More information about the free and reduced-cost lunch program, including the online application, school lunch menus, costs and nutritional information, is available on the Food and Nutrition Services page of this website:


REMINDER: Public health updates are available on our website

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Oct. 7, 2014 -- The Sarasota County School District works closely with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County on public health issues affecting students and their families, as well as district employees. Here is the link to information on health issues, including communicable diseases: New Link

'Chefs Move to Schools' to cook with kids for ‘Eat Local’ feast Oct. 30

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Chefs Move to Schools-Paul Mattison 2012

FRESH FEAST: Pictured from left, Phillippi Shores Elementary School students Olivia Dosanjos and Douglas Goodin work with Paul Mattison of Mattison’s Restaurants to prepare the 2012 Kids ‘n Chefs Gala Dinner. Mattison and other local chefs are working with students on this year’s dinner, set for Oct. 30 at Phillippi Shores Elementary.

SARASOTA, Oct. 7, 2014 – The Sarasota County School District’s Food and Nutrition Services Department will host Chefs Move to Schools: Kids ‘n Chefs Dinner Gala, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30, at Phillippi Shores Elementary School. The dinner will be served outside near the school’s garden, weather permitting.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. They can be purchased online at One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to a Sarasota County School Nutrition Association fund that awards an annual college scholarship to one high school senior in each of the district’s traditional public high schools.  

The Chefs Move to Schools program pairs professional chefs with schools to help educate children about food and nutrition. Students learn cooking skills and contribute to recipe creation, while chefs gain an understanding of school food service and the National School Lunch Program. 

This year’s Chefs Move to Schools is a featured event of Transition Sarasota’s Eat Local Week. The theme is Farm to School; all dishes will feature produce from local Florida farms. Local farmers who supply food for Sarasota County’s school food nutrition program will be at the event to show off their bounty and to showcase their partnership with the school district.

Community members are encouraged to help celebrate this collaboration of local chefs, Sarasota County public school students, and Food and Nutrition Services Department staff. In addition to creatively prepared dishes highlighting local products, the evening will feature the sounds of the Booker Middle School Jazz Ensemble. Raffle prizes will include gift cards to Indigenous, Polo Grill, Trader Joe’s and Mote Marine. A “mini farmers market” will sell items harvested from local school gardens.

The following chefs are partnering with the school district to create chef-inspired, kid-approved recipes featuring locally grown foods:

  • Bryan Jacobs, personal chef to former president George W. Bush and the Anheuser-Busch family; creator of the Vet to Chef program through the USF Sarasota-Manatee Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch
  • Paul Mattison, chef/owner of Mattison’s Restaurants
  • Malin Parker, executive catering chef at Morton’s Market
  • Darwin SantaMaria, chef/owner of Darwin’s on Fourth

 Phillippi Shores Elementary is located at 4747 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.

Booker High students stage Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’

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BHS Our Town cast Oct 2014

'OUR TOWN' CAST: Booker High School students will stage Thornton Wilder’s classic play “Our Town” Oct. 8-11. Pictured from left are Jenny Solomon, Ryan O’Dell (at bottom of ladder), Zach Herman and Lilianna Solum.

SARASOTA, Oct. 3, 2014 — The Booker High School Visual and Performing Arts Theatre Department will present Thornton Wilder’s classic play “Our Town” at 7 p.m. Oct. 8-11, in the VPA Theatre. The play, set at the turn of the 20th century, explores the passage of time, the beauty of everyday life and the idea that the little moments people take for granted should be treasured.

It is set in three acts: “Daily Life,” “Love and Marriage” and “Death and Dying.” The plot emphasizes the significance of companionship and importance of living in the present. The emphasis on human contact as the most important aspect of life is achieved through mimed interaction with props and a stark set that showcases the actors.

Director Natalia Mock, an adjunct VPA Theatre teacher, said Wilder’s choice to go with no props and a bare set creates an audience-to-actor connection that makes for a magical theater experience and allows the audience to remember the play’s central message.

“Wilder is commenting on the idea that ‘things’ are not important,” Mock said, “He’s saying that the relationships you have with people are more important than material possessions.”

These themes are explored through the courtship and marriage of George Gibbs (Zach Herman) and Emily Webb (Lilianna Solum), as well as Emily’s untimely death in childbirth. Upon her death, Emily opts to return to the world of the living and is pained by the idea that she should have relished the moments of her earthly existence while they were tangible and palpable.

“Our Town” was selected for performance at Booker High during the fall as Americans begin preparing for the holiday season, which centers on family, connection and appreciating precious moments with one another.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play also makes for rich acting material, said Mock. It is Wilder’s masterpiece, and a part of the classical canon of theater that Mock said all acting students should be exposed to, in part for its stature and in part for the challenge it presents actors, who have nothing but each other to work with on stage.

“As we’ve worked, the students have become better listeners,” she said. “They’re forced to listen to each other and to respond realistically.”

“Our Town” consciously evokes the world of the theater, relying on a narrator who is also the stage manager of the play itself (Ryan O’Dell). Most recently, O’Dell played Frank Butler in the VPA Theatre Department’s crowd-pleasing production of “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for students. They can be purchased online at or by calling Judy Piercy at 355-2967, option 1.

Booker High School is located at 3201 N. Orange Ave. in Sarasota. 

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