Sarasota County Schools News

Three of WWSB-TV’s ‘7 Who Care’ honorees are school volunteers

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ABC 7 Who Care-3 volunteers with Scott Dennis July 2014

ALL SMILES: Three Sarasota County school volunteers who were among ABC 7’s “7 Who Care” honorees share a moment with news anchor Scott Dennis at the awards luncheon July 14 at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. Pictured from left are Kellee Keller, Dennis, Naba Rahman and Mark Morin.

SARASOTA, Aug. 15, 2014 – Suncoast television station ABC 7 announced this year’s 7 Who Care honorees at a luncheon July 14 at Michael’s On East. Three of the seven are volunteers for Sarasota County public schools. The station also profiled the winners in TV news stories on its Facebook page and on its website at

This year’s 7 Who Care honorees include Naba Rahman, a senior at Pine View School. She was named the school district’s Outstanding Youth Volunteer in April. Rahman recognizes the power of youth working collaboratively to change the world through direct action, journalism and mentorship. Her projects include raising funds to build a relief shelter and school in Bangladesh, contributing to clean drinking water for the Sudan through and packing food for local families in need through the Warren Backpack Program. She also volunteers through Pine View’s clubs, including Student Council, Speech and Debate, Model UN, Builders Club, Key Club and Peace Jam, a service learning model that unites change-agent youth with Nobel Prize laureates to cultivate global peace.

Rahman inspired younger students to participate in One Billion Rising, a project designed to demonstrate global solidarity and a refusal to accept violence against women and girls. Last June she took personal action on an international level by working with an SOS Village Orphanage branch in Pakistan. Through this international organization that provides safe homes and education to local orphans, Naba taught English and other subjects to elementary school-aged children.

Kellee Keller also was honored by ABC 7; she was the district’s Outstanding Adult Volunteer in 2013-14. Inspired by the weekend food backpack program at Laurel Nokomis School, Keller organized a group of parents to explore how the school could expand this concept. With support from the PTO Board of Directors and the school’s principal, Nancy Dubin, Keller began the process of creating the Laurel Nokomis School Clothes Closet. The project’s motto is “If we have it and you need it, we will share it; if you have it and no longer need it, please donate it.” News of the clothes closet and motto was sent out to the Laurel Nokomis School community; the response was overwhelming.

Donations poured in from families and businesses and included clothing, shoes, toiletries, blankets, hangers, clothing racks, school supplies and bags. Keller coordinated a volunteer task force to sort, launder and organize donated items. She used financial contributions to purchase other much-needed items for the closet. Once the closet was stocked and operational, Keller distributed information to families in need, local community centers, and other area schools. By the end of the year, the Clothes Closet had officially become community-based, serving anyone in the Venice and south Sarasota area who had a need. The program also provides baby clothes for county teen pregnancy programs, programs supporting migrant workers, and nursing homes.

The third school volunteer named as one of 7 Who Care was Mark Morin, who gives much of his time to the Adult Education Program at the Sarasota County Technical Institute Newtown campus. Morin has worked with students at the facility four to five times a week for the past four years, logging thousands of volunteer hours. His goal is to help students earn a General Equivalency Diploma, or GED, by helping them with math and other skills needed to pass. 

He helped one student earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing by brushing up on his own knowledge of biology and chemistry and testing her on those subjects. He also assists students with financial aid applications and other paperwork they need to complete in order to continue their education.

Morin loaned a car to a student, bought another student tires needed for a vehicle, recruited a retired pediatrician to help a student with an anatomy class and hosts a party every year for other SCTI Newtown volunteers.

Announcing the names of Rahman, Keller, Morin and the other four 7 Who Care honorees this year, Jeff Benninghoff, vice president/Broadcast, Calkins Media and General Manager, ABC 7, said, “Our seven honorees personify the spirit of volunteerism and have made invaluable contributions to the Suncoast community, each in his or her own extraordinary way. It is our privilege to shine a spotlight on these special individuals and champion their wonderful work.”

Sarasota County School District launches redesigned website

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 15, 2014 – The Sarasota County School District has launched a redesigned website that features a responsive web design that automatically adjusts its display to the screen size and shape of a wide range of devices, from desktop computers to mobile phones to tablets. The site is among the first school district websites in Florida to use responsive design.

The new homepage debuted this summer in advance of the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 18. Parents and students can use the new site to learn about schools’ opening and closing times, bus routes, school lunch menus and the school year calendar, among other information.

Sarasota County School Board Chairwoman Jane Goodwin said, “The redesigned website is an important part of our continuing efforts to actively engage parents and other county residents in their public schools by providing easier access to information about the district and the School Board. People will find the tools they need on the site to become even better informed citizens in Sarasota County, a community that places a high value on public education.”

Features of the site include improvements in navigation and readability that make the site more visually appealing and help users find what they are looking for more quickly. Larger changing photos on the homepage showcase various aspects of the district and the School Board. A new school selector from the top menu links directly to school websites and most frequently visited department pages. Translation buttons allow visitors to view text on the site in nine languages in addition to English.

As they are completed, redesigned web pages for district departments, content areas and individual schools will replace current pages on the site to reflect the new design.

“We heard from a lot of parents and community members who said they wanted the website to have a more contemporary look and feel,” said Mina Ajrab, online communications specialist for the district. “As more and more people use websites on mobile devices, we want them to be able to access information easily wherever they are, with optimum readability and easy navigation across all platforms.”

The website also was redesigned with the idea that more parents and students are accessing information online that used to be delivered in printed documents. For example, the Student and Family Handbook is available from the homepage. The Parent Portal, which allows parents to access students’ report cards and other academic records, is easily accessible from the Parents page of the site — just a quick click from the homepage.

Users can comment on the website by clicking on the Contact Us link on the homepage.

Sarasota High team wins design award at national robotics competition

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VEX robotics SHS winners Nick Greb-Joey Martineau

NATIONAL WINNERS: Sarasota High School students Nick Greb, left, and Joey Martineau, display the Design Award they received at the VEX Robotics Competition in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 13, 2014 – In its first year of competition at the national Vex Robotics Competition, a team from Sarasota High School received the Design Award, the second-highest award in the contest. The SHS team, consisting of rising sophomores Nick Greb and Joey Martineau, also finished fourth place in the H2H Tournament (head-to-head competition) and were ranked in the top four for the highest award, VEX excellence. More than 50 high school teams from around the nation participated in the event, which was held June 27-July 1.

The Design Award is presented to a team that demonstrates an organized and professional approach to the design process, project management, time management and team organization. Teams are assigned a 10-minute time slot to set up and deliver a presentation to judges. The winning team from Sarasota High described how they created and implemented an efficient and productive design process to effectively manage their time and resources to accomplish their project goals.

“Our showing at Nationals turned out to be a very successful finish to a great first year of VEX Robotics at Sarasota High,” said Greb.

The VEX Robotics Competition is the ultimate STEM activity for middle school and high school students (ages 11-18). Each year, an engineering challenge is presented in the form of a game. Students, with guidance from their teachers and mentors, use the VEX Robotics Design System to build innovative robots designed to score the most points possible in qualification matches, elimination matches and skills challenges. In addition to building sophisticated robots, through their participation in the VEX Robotics Competition and the work within their team, students learn many academic and life skills.


Sarasota Ballet family event Aug. 14 benefits school arts programs

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SCS News

What: “Picnic and Play at the Ballet” fundraiser to support Any Given Child Sarasota

When/Where: 5-7 p.m., Thursday, Aug.14

  • Family Fun Picnic at The Ringling’s Bolger Playspace, 5-7 p.m.
  • The Secret Garden” dance theater performance in the Mertz Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, 7 p.m.


  • Family Fun Picnic: $30/adult, $10/child
  • “The Secret Garden” performance: $25-$75 per person
  • 15-percent discount on performance with picnic ticket purchase


Tickets: 941-359-0099, ext. 101

SARASOTA, Aug. 15, 2014 - The Sarasota Ballet and Any Given Child Sarasota will host a family-friendly event titled “Picnic and Play at The Ballet” Thursday, Aug. 14. The program will begin at 5 p.m. in the Bolger Playspace at The Ringling, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, with light snacks and refreshments provided by The Francis.

The event will be followed by The Sarasota Ballet’s performance of “The Secret Garden” at 7 p.m. in the Mertz Theatre at the FSU Performing Arts Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Proceeds from the picnic and performance will support Any Given Child and The Sarasota Ballet’s outreach initiatives and help send 2,000 area third graders to attend “The Secret Garden” in October.

Tickets are $30/adult, $10/child for the picnic and $25-$75 per person for “The Secret Garden” performance. They may be purchased by contacting The Sarasota Ballet at 941-359-0099, ext. 101. A 15-percent discount to “The Secret Garden” applies when tickets are purchased for both the picnic and performance.

Any Given Child Sarasota Program Director Brian Hersh said he is grateful for the support of The Sarasota Ballet in the program’s effort to offer expanded arts experiences for Sarasota students.

“The Secret Garden is a world-class production and to share that with the students of Sarasota County Schools is an incredible gift,” he said. “The Sarasota Ballet's commitment to arts education with such a collaborative spirit is a model for Sarasota and the 13 other Any Given Child communities located around the country.”

Based on a classic children’s novel, “The Secret Garden” is an original production of The Sarasota Ballet directed by Olivier Award-winning British choreographer Will Tuckett. Described by The Ballet’s Artistic Director Iain Webb as “dance theater,” the production combines ballet with puppetry, music, narration, colorful costumes and set design.

Equally important, according to Webb, is the fact that every aspect of the production includes an educational component to help students better understand and appreciate the arts.

“We are delighted to partner with Any Given Child Sarasota to help ensure that local students and children are exposed to this incredible production,” he said. “Sharing the art of dance with our youth is incredibly important to The Sarasota Ballet, and all of us look forward to using partnerships like this one between The Ballet and Any Given Child to educate younger audiences.”

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 the community and quality arts education in all local schools.

Research shows that students who are engaged in the arts perform better academically and are more likely to graduate than their peers who do not participate in arts programs. 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.

More information about “Picnic and Play at The Ballet” is available at 941-359-0099, ext. 101, or Information about Any Given Child Sarasota is available at 941-927-9000, ext. 31182, or by email at

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Communications and Community Relations
Gary Leatherman, Director

Debbie Tippen, Administrative Assistant

Media Relations
Scott Ferguson, Specialist

Online Communications
Mina Ajrab, Specialist

Phone: 941-927-4009 or
941-927-9000 ext. 74009
Fax: 941-927-4059
1960 Landings Boulevard
Sarasota, Florida 34231
Green 3rd Floor

Education Channel 20/33
Leanne McIntire, Manager
Phone: 941-361-6355
Fax: 941-361-6358 
4748 Beneva Road
Sarasota, Florida 34233

Volunteer & Partnership Office
Danielle Schwied, Coordinator

Alice Faria Stevens, Administrative Assistant 
Phone: 941-927-9000, ext. 31500
Fax: 941-361-6539
Green 1st Floor

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