Sarasota County Schools News

Sarasota County has more 'A' schools than last year, remains an 'A' district

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SARASOTA COUNTY, July 13, 2014 – School grades for elementary and middle schools were released today by the Florida Department of Education. The grades are for academic year 2013-14. 

Eighteen Sarasota County schools retained their A grades from last year and five schools rose from B to A for a total of 23 A schools in 2013-14, compared to 21 in 2012-13. The schools that rose from B to A were Cranberry Elementary in North Port, Garden Elementary in Venice, Gulf Gate Elementary in Sarasota, Imagine School at North Port and Venice Middle School. 

Six schools were graded B; 11 received C’s. There were no D or F schools. Grades for high schools and some schools that combine more than one level (such as middle and high school grade levels) are expected later this year.

The Sarasota County School District maintained its overall A grade, one of only 10 of the 67 countywide school districts in the state to achieve the highest grade possible. It is one of only five Florida school districts to earn an A every year since the state began grading districts in 2004.  

According to the FLDOE, “This is the final year school grades will be calculated using the current formula. The new grading system next year will support the more rigorous Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessment which will replace the FCAT.”

Click here for a list of state grades for all Sarasota County public elementary and middle schools from 1999 through 2014.

Students must have required vaccinations before school starts Aug. 18

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NOTE: This news release was sent to media July 8 by the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County.

SARASOTA COUNTY, July 8, 2014 - With local schools scheduled to resume on Monday, Aug. 18, Sarasota County public health and school officials remind parents to get their child’s immunizations updated now. Parents of children who will be entering schools in Sarasota County for the first time must provide the school office with a completed Florida Certification of Immunization (DH 680).

Available through health care providers or at the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (formerly known as the Sarasota County Health Department), with locations in Sarasota and North Port, this is the official record showing that school-age children have had all the immunizations needed for their grade level.

By the time a child starts school, he/she should have already had a number of required immunizations. However, proof of updates, boosters and series completion is required to enter Sarasota County Schools for the first time and to advance to some grade levels.

Listed below is the total number of doses of each required vaccine for which proof of immunization is needed.

Hwealth Dept Vaccines Chart July 2014 SMALL

“Let’s all have a great start to the school year. Compare your child’s immunization record with the immunization requirements and also remember to get the influenza vaccine at the beginning of flu season,” said Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) School Health Supervisor Linda Glover, a registered nurse.

Children entering seventh grade in August must have proof they received a tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis booster (TDaP) within the past five years. Parents also should make sure their college-bound teenagers have up-to-date required and recommended vaccines, which usually include the meningococcal (meningitis) and HPV vaccines. If your child needs updated immunizations, get them done soon to avoid a possible wait in early and mid-August.

The registrar must be at the school to process the DH 680 forms. While some school staff members work year-round, the majority of Sarasota County School District school registrars will return to work on Thursday, July 24. According to school officials, schools will be closed all Fridays from June 6-Aug. 8 and will return to normal hours on Monday, Aug. 11.

“Bring your student’s DH 680 form to the school as soon as you can so your child’s first day of school will be a positive experience,” said Glover.  

Students who do not have the required immunizations will be sent home from public schools on the first day, Monday, Aug. 18. In addition, they will not be able to ride the bus or participate in sports, band or other extracurricular activities until the school has the DH 680 form showing that they received the required immunizations.

The DOH-Sarasota, through the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, offers immunizations to eligible children at no cost. No appointment is needed. A parent or legal guardian must be present, and must bring prior shot records. Immunizations are also available free of charge to children with insurance. Please bring your insurance card information. Immunizations for children are available at the following locations:

William L. Little Health and Human Services Center
Call 941-861-2900 for hours or visit
Walk-In Immunization Clinic
2200 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota

North Port Health Center
Call 941-861-3864 for hours or visit
Walk-In Immunization Clinic
6950 Outreach Way, North Port

For more information, contact your health care provider or the DOH-Sarasota’s Office of School Health at 941-927-9000, ext. 32101. For a complete shot schedule CLICK HERE.

District custodians sharpen skills during Custodial Day

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Duct Tape Wars 

DUCT TAPE WARS: Tuttle Elementary School custodians Blondel Alexandre, left, and Gilda Williams participate in a team-building exercise called Duct Tape Wars during Custodial Day activities at Riverview High School on July 2. Click here for more photos.

SARASOTA COUNTY, July 7, 2014 – About 320 Sarasota County School District custodians converged on Riverview High School on July 3 for the district’s annual custodians professional development day. They each selected five sessions to attend from 21 different classes.

The subjects they studied ranged from cash management to CPR and defibrillator use to fire safety and security to Internet navigation. Many other classes focused on subjects that would benefit them and their families such as preparing for retirement, nutrition, home repair and health insurance.

District Energy Manager Alisha Burris, who helped organize the event, said, “The goal of the event was to raise the professional level of our employees. We hope by offering them opportunities to expand their knowledge in the personal and professional arenas, they will benefit, learn, and become healthier, informed, and productive employees.”

Although the day had a serious purpose in raising the productivity of the custodial staff, the team-building activities were clearly the most fun. Organized around the theme of “Custodial Olympics,” teams of custodians from individual schools went head-to head in a series of events that culminated in three trophies being awarded to the top teams.

The events included a Golf Cart Rodeo, Duct Tape Wars, Olympic
Games and building a spaghetti structure. All of the events were designed to strengthen the team’s skills at working together, but they all generated plenty of laughs in the process.

The Golf Cart Rodeo required drivers to navigate a slalom course of tennis balls on stands without knocking them over and to negotiate a series of turns and stops to demonstrate their knowledge of campus safety protocols.

 In the Duct Tape Wars, they had to manipulate long duct tape ribbons connected to a magic marker to write the word “teamwork” on a pad. In the spaghetti structure event, they needed to build the tallest structure they could from spaghetti and masking tape that would hold a marshmallow at the top.

The Olympic Games was series of timed events involving bowling with toilet paper rolls, solving a three-dimensional puzzle made of plastic pipe, and balancing a tennis ball on parallel mop handles. 

The team from Tuttle Elementary School had the most points at the end of the day and won the gold trophy. The Venice Elementary team won the silver and the Toledo Blade Elementary team won the bronze.

The Sarasota County Schools custodial staff is widely recognized as one of the most efficient in Florida, cleaning 8,820,835 square feet of floor space in 1,213 buildings every day with a staff of 320. The average district custodian cleans more than 27,000 square feet of space a day. 

The Florida Department of Education standard is 19,000 square feet per day. Staffing the district at that level would require 144 more custodians.

A study of the district conducted by an independent consultant in 2012 said the staffing level is “a testament to this function’s efficiency and effectiveness.” Nevertheless, the Facilities Department administrators and staff are continuously working to improve their service.

Supervisor Cecil Peel said the Custodial Day is important to the quality of work they perform.  “It’s all about building teamwork,” he said. We learn to depend on each other and never to say ‘It’s not my job.’ When we’re part of a team, it’s all our job.”

District's learning management system wins innovation award

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SARASOTA COUNTY, July 1, 2014 – The Sarasota County School District has been chosen as a winner of a Catalyst Award for Innovation from Blackboard Inc., the world’s leading education technology company. The Innovation Award honors those in education who think outside the box in areas such as teaching and learning practices, software development, mobile innovation, cloud innovation and online program management.

Each year Blackboard recognizes and honors innovation and excellence in the global community of practice where teachers and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology.

Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt said, “It’s an honor each year to recognize forward-thinking educators who are helping create a world inspired to learn. We congratulate Catalyst Award winners on their vision and innovative approaches to education, and celebrate their accomplishments with them.”

The program that was the basis for the award was developed through the collaboration of the Instructional Technology and Curriculum and Instruction departments. The teams worked with teachers throughout the district to build this innovative product. They created an Instructional Focus Guide program to help teachers use Blackboard Learn™, the company’s next-generation learning management system, more effectively.

A learning management system is the infrastructure that delivers and manages instructional content, identifies and assesses learning goals, tracks progress, and collects and presents data for supervising the learning process. A learning management system delivers content and handles registering for courses, tracking and reporting. Most learning management systems are web-based to facilitate access to learning content and to enhance and support classroom teaching.

Brad Porinchak, an assistant principal intern at Northport High School and former program specialist in Curriculum and Instruction, said Sarasota County Schools are using Blackboard Learn to give teachers a location for curriculum, pacing and resource support. Curriculum specialists, technology specialists and teachers work together to create grade-level and subject resources. The Instructional Focus Guide is the backbone for these courses.

The guide was derived from state standards, testing requirements and data gathered from district-created benchmark tests delivered through Blackboard Learn. Teachers K-12 will have access to either an elementary, middle or high school Instructional Focus Guide course, he said.

Learning management systems have been available to district teachers for several years, Porinchak said. “The district does not require that teachers provide online learning for their students,” he said, “Many teachers see the value in offering an online class to supplement their face-to-face teaching, but have no idea how to create a course.

“By providing teachers a course full of approved resources based on Florida State Standards we are taking some of that ‘fear’ away.  Teachers will go from shying away from Blackboard Learn to saying, “Why wouldn’t I use it?”

Porinchak said the new guide is “providing teachers with a fully furnished house rent-free. Instead of an empty course shell that they have to build, they now have a starting place.

The end product allows every Sarasota County teacher from kindergarten to grade 12 to have access to a number of resources in every content area. Teachers can use these courses as a pacing and resource guide for themselves or add students and assignments to it for a blended learning environment.

“These courses have a variety of resources available across multiple disciplines.
A high school English teacher now has access to math, science, and social studies materials. The guides allow teachers to create activities and assignments across subject areas.

“Instead of asking other content areas what they are teaching they can look within the IFG and know exactly what their peers are teaching. This information will allow for much more collaboration across grades and subject areas. Ultimately, it is the students who will benefit.”

Porinchak, Cameron Parker, Instructional Technology Program Specialist, and Sue Meckler, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, have been invited along with other Blackboard Catalyst Award winners to present information about their award-winning program and to receive their award at Blackboard’s annual user conference.

Pine View teacher receives top honor from national council

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Fran Squires

                  Fran Squires

OSPREY, July 1, 2014 – Pine View School language arts teacher Fran Squires has been named the 2014 Outstanding Middle Level Educator in the English Language Arts by the National Council of Teachers of English.  NCTE is a 35,000-member organization dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of English language arts at all levels.

The NCTE announcement of the award said it recognizes “exceptional English language arts teachers of grades six-eight who have demonstrated excellence in teaching English language arts and inspired a spirit of inquiry and a love of learning in their students.”

Squires teaches sixth-grade gifted and advanced-level English language arts. Since Pine View is a school for gifted students, the sixth-grade curriculum covers material students in other district schools normally would study in grade seven.

To help her students develop as accomplished readers and writers, Squires sets high expectations, provides an environment rich in literary materials, and encourages creative writing and portfolio building. Many of her students have been recognized in state and national writing contests.

Squires has written grants to fund a number of innovative programs and projects, including the Pine View student literary magazine Portable Prose and Poetry. She also secured the funding for an economics project titled “The Ugly Mug” in which students packed chocolate cake ingredients into recycled coffee mugs. Squires said the program was both an instructional unit and hands-on community service project.

She frequently attends professional development workshops to improve her instructional skills and to share information with her colleagues in the Language Arts Department. She also provides writing assistance to the Pine View science and math team teachers.

She served for several years as a teacher advisor for SCOPE magazine, the national literary publication of the Scholastic Corporation. She has been a leader in the implementation of Florida State Standards in middle-school language arts at Pine View.

She said the NCTE award is gratifying because it is an endorsement of her work by her peers. “I am personally thrilled to win this award after a long career in education,” she said.

“I have been a presenter at the NCTE conference before, and I always love the opportunity to attend to learn something new to bring back to my arsenal for the students I teach. Nothing could be more gratifying than to be acknowledged by my professional organization for what they deem as excellence in English language arts.”

Squires will receive the Outstanding Middle Level Educator in the English Language Arts Award during the NCTE national convention in Washington, DC, Nov. 21.

More information about NCTE is available at Additional information about the Award for Outstanding Middle Level Educator, including past winners, is available at 

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