Sarasota County Schools News

Sarasota High repeats as STEMsmart competition champion

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SHS students STEMsmart Summit 2016

STEMsmart WINNERS: Sarasota High School senior Dhvani Patel, left, and junior Joana Gonzalez display the championship trophy at the 2016 STEMsmart Summit.

This news release is from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation:

220 students from seven high schools compete in science and math challenges at STEMsmart Summit, $3,500 awarded in grants to winning schools

VENICE, Jan. 29, 2016 – Sarasota High School barely held off North Port High to repeat as overall champion at the fourth annual STEMsmart High School Summit.  The top finish earned the Sailors a $1,000 grant for their science and math programs, along with the STEMsmart traveling trophy and bragging rights for another year, in a competition that included more than 200 students from seven Sarasota County high schools.  In all, participating schools earned $3,500 in grants from Gulf Coast Community Foundation during the January 22 event.

“The STEMsmart Summit is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Gulf Coast president and CEO Mark Pritchett, who was on hand to watch many of the morning’s challenges and congratulate the winning students and their teachers and administrator during the awards ceremony that followed.  “This was a day off from school, but rather than sleep late or play videogames, all of these students got up early and came here to compete in subjects they love.”

The competition featured 12 different challenges in four science, technology, engineering, and math categories, along with two bonus events—model water-tower design and digital art, in which student work completed prior to the summit was judged that morning.  The annual STEMsmart High School Summit is organized by the Career and Technical Education Department of Sarasota County Schools, in partnership with sponsor Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and hosted at Suncoast Technical College.  More than 30 volunteer judges, including local professionals, retired science and business experts, and school administrators, proctored the events and evaluated students’ work.

“For the second year in a row, we had to flex our own math smarts to calculate our overall winner, it was that close,” said Dr. Ron DiPillo, assistant director of CTE K-12 Programs for Sarasota County Schools.  “The competition is so fierce that teams are fighting for every point possible.”

Sarasota High and North Port High both took first place in three individual challenges and two event categories, earning $500 grants for each of the latter victories.  Sarasota took the mathematics category and North Port won in engineering, while the two schools tied for first in technology/design.  The Sailors edged out the Bobcats on overall points to earn the top finish.  The other competition category—science/medical—was taken by Venice High School, which won the same category last year.  In the bonus events, Booker High finished first in water-tower design and Suncoast Polytechnical High School placed first in digital art.  “The addition of digital art was embraced by the judges and the community and is a must-have for next year,” noted DiPillo.

In the popular VEX Robotics competition, Sarasota High’s team of Nick Greb and Joey Martineau repeated this year as winners.  The robotics final, played in the atrium of STC and traditionally the last event to finish, drew a crowd of spectators including students, judges, volunteers, and community members.  Greb and Martineau faced off against the robotics team from Pine View School in the final match.  They and several of the other teams will compete

About Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Together with our donors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation transforms our region through bold and proactive philanthropy.  Gulf Coast is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital.  Since then, we have become the philanthropic home of more than 600 families who have established charitable funds here, and we have invested over $217 million in grants in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. 

2016 STEMsmart High School Summit

 January 22, 2016

 Final Event Standings


 Sarasota High School ($1,000)


North Port High School


Overall Winner:

Venice High School ($500)


  1. Venice High School
  2. Suncoast Polytechnical High School
  3. Riverview High School

 Health Career Display

  1. Venice High School
  2. Sarasota High School
  3. Suncoast Polytechnical High School

 Health Quiz Bowl

  1. Suncoast Polytechnical High School
  2. Venice High School
  3. North Port High School



Overall Winner (tie):

 Sarasota High School ($500)

 North Port High School ($500)

Logo Design

  1. North Port High School
  2. Venice High School
  3. Sarasota High School

 Desktop Publishing

  1. Venice High School
  2. Sarasota High School
  3. North Port High School

 Web Design

  1. Sarasota High School
  2. North Port High School
  3. Suncoast Polytechnical High School


Overall Winner:

North Port High School ($500)

Computer-Aided 3D Design

  1. North Port High School
  2. Riverview High School
  3. Suncoast Polytechnical High School

Engineering Design

  1. North Port High School
  2. Sarasota High School
  3. Riverview High School

 VEX Robotics

  1. Sarasota High School
  2. Pine View School
  3. (tie) North Port High School and Suncoast Polytechnical High School


Overall winner:

 Sarasota High School ($500)

STEM Business Plan

  1. Riverview High School
  2. North Port High School
  3. Sarasota High School

 Multimedia Math Challenge

  1. Sarasota High School
  2. North Port High School
  3. Riverview High School

 Math Quiz Bowl

  1. Venice High School
  2. Sarasota High School
  3. Pine View School


Model Water Tower

  1. Booker High School
  2. North Port High School
  3. Venice High School

 Digital Art

  1. Suncoast Polytechnical High School
  2. Sarasota High School
  3. Booker High School



100 high school students meet with superintendent for annual forum

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Jan. 29, 2016 – Approximately 100 students from Sarasota County public high schools will meet with Superintendent Lori White and Executive Director of High Schools Steve Cantees for the annual CYD School Forum. The meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 2, in the Suncoast Technical College Conference Center. 

The forum is a chance for high school students to share ideas and feedback with district administrators. This year’s forum will include 11 student-generated topics, including academics, the arts, food and nutrition, safety and security, and technology, to name a few. Typically there are 10 students per table, with discussions facilitated by a district leader and a CYD student leader. The student feedback is used by CYD to develop recommendations for improving the high school experience in Sarasota County.

“I look forward to this event every year,” said White. “I enjoy interacting with students because they care about their schools and their community and are open and honest about their ideas and concerns. We seriously consider all student feedback and suggestions. The input from this forum has led to positive changes through the years.”

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

About CYD

Celebrating its 20th year of service to the community in 2016, CYD provides the tools to empower youth as leaders in service to their community. Students in grades 6-12 participate in a variety of 21st century skill development programs. In 2015, CYD served over 2,000 middle and high school students through 160 youth development activities throughout Sarasota County. The organization is funded in part by The Bank of America Client Foundation, The Roberta Leventhal Sudakoff Foundation, The Scheidel Foundation, Sarasota County Government, and Volunteer Florida. For more information, call 941-922-5126 or visit

Sarasota High has 17 Outstanding Cambridge Learners, 3 Top in Country

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SHS Cambridge AICE Scholars June 2015

TOP SCHOLARS: Some of the 17 Sarasota High students who have received prestigious awards from Cambridge International Examinations to acknowledge their outstanding performance in the June 2015 Cambridge examination series are pictured here. In the front row from left are Drew Fenner, Ashley Nguyen, Tanner Holman and Codi Elliott. In the back row from left are Skyler Haber, Sierra Pitts, Sydney Askins, Holly Finehout and Attila Nagy.

This news release is from Cambridge International Examinations:

CAMBRIDGE, U.K., Jan. 26, 2016 -  Seventeen learners from Sarasota High School have received prestigious awards from Cambridge International Examinations to acknowledge their outstanding performance in the June 2015 Cambridge examination series in Advanced (A) or Advanced Subsidiary (AS) college-level courses. Most of the 17 students are still at SHS; a few graduated last year.

The Outstanding Cambridge Learner Awards programme celebrates the success of learners taking Cambridge examinations in over 140 countries around the world. Cambridge places learners at the centre of their international education programmes and qualifications, which are inspired by the best in educational thinking.

The following learners at Sarasota High School received Top in Country Awards:

Esther Jaffee: A Level English Language

Deep Patel: AS Level Biology

Sydney Askins: AS Level History

The following learners at Sarasota High School received the Cambridge Scholar Awards:

Sydney Askins: A level (with merit)

Alyssa Juzwa: A level

Natalie Olson: A level

Codi Elliott: AS level (with merit)

Ashley Nguyen: AS level (with merit)

Josh King:  AS level (with merit)

Tanner Holman: AS level (with merit)

Attila Nagy: AS level

Deep Patel: AS level

Drew Fenner: AS level

Holly Finehout: AS level

Margaux Albiez: AS level

Mikaela Vitug: AS level

Philip Shore: AS level

Sierra Pitts: AS level

Skyler Haber: AS level

Laurie Saslow, Cambridge Coordinator at SHS said, “It is extremely rewarding to congratulate Cambridge learners and teachers at Sarasota High School Cambridge learners and teachers at Sarasota High School who have worked so hard to achieve tremendous success in Cambridge examinations. The results are a reflection of the enormous talent in Sarasota County, not only amongst learners but also within the teaching profession. Learners from Sarasota High School have a bright future ahead of them, and I wish them every success in their future.” 

Please visit website to learn more about the AICE/Cambridge program at Sarasota High School.

About Cambridge International Examinations

Cambridge International Examinations prepares school students for life, helping them develop an informed curiosity and a lasting passion for learning. We are part of Cambridge Assessment, a department of the University of Cambridge.

Our international qualifications are recognised by the world’s best universities and employers, giving students a wide range of options in their education and career. As a not-for-profit organisation, we devote our resources to delivering high-quality educational programmes that can unlock learners’ potential.

Learn more! Visit



Riverview Kiltie Band plays annual Sousa Concert

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RHS Kilties perform concert

STARS AND KILTS FOREVER: The Riverview High School Kiltie Band will perform their annual Sousa Concert Jan. 29.

 SARASOTA, Jan. 25, 2016 – The Riverview High School Kiltie Band will perform the music of John Philip Sousa during the annual Sousa Concert at 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 29. The program will be presented at the Riverview Performing Arts Center. The Kilties will perform in full Scottish dress; the concert will feature the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic and Varsity bands. A $5 donation is suggested. 

Considered by many to be America’s most beloved bandmaster, John Philip Sousa’s music has been a crowd-pleaser for generations. The Kilties will perform his marches “King Cotton,” “High School Cadets,” and “Nobles of the Mystic Shrine,” among others.

“Everyone loves the stirring and very American sounds of Sousa, and this concert always draws a crowd,” said Mark Spreen, RHS music director and Kiltie Band conductor.

The Riverview Performing Arts Center is located at Riverview High School, 1 Ram Way, between U.S. 41 & Swift Road, just off Proctor Road in Sarasota.


Regional Science Fair includes public Expo at Robarts Arena

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Rebecca Elsishans SHS-2015 Science Fair

SCIENCE FAIR TIME: Sarasota High student Rebecca Elsishans won a $1,000 Faulhaber Foundation Prize for her 2015 science fair project about nanotubes. This year's fair will include an Expo for the public Jan. 27.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Jan. 20, 2016 – The Sarasota County Schools and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County are adding a new event to the annual Sarasota Regional Science, Engineering and Technology Fair this year.

From 5:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 27, the event organizers will host a Science Fair Expo at Robarts Arena in Sarasota to allow parents and other interested community members to view the exhibits, see live student science demonstrations and participate in other science-related activities.

The Expo will include robotics demonstrations and table displays by members of the Science and Environmental Council of Southwest Florida and the Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab. The event also will include a drawing for a free electronic tablet.

A public Expo was added to the science fair schedule so parents could support their students’ interest in science and see the projects other students have produced. The number of students and judges participating in the science fair’s limited space prevents parents from attending the fair during the school day.

Elementary school projects will be judged at the district fair on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Middle school and high school projects will be judged at the district fair on Wednesday, Jan. 27. The middle school and high school projects will remain on display and five winning projects from each elementary school will be returned to be displayed at the Expo on Wednesday.

Robarts Arena is located at 3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. Additional information is available by calling 941-927-0965.


School Board approves 2016-17 school year calendar

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SCS News

SARASOTA, March 2, 2016 - The School Board of Sarasota County approved the 2016-17 school year calendar at its regular meeting March 1. 

The calendar starts the school year Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. The last day of school will be Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Click here to see the approved 2016-17 calendar.



Orioles and district team up for middle school health & fitness program

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Orioles Health and Fitness Challenge Jan 2016 RECROP

HOME RUN: The six-week Orioles Health & Fitness Program will be offered at nine Sarasota County middle schools from Jan. 19 through Feb. 26.

This news release was issued by the Orioles:      

SARASOTA, Jan. 15, 2016 - The Orioles and Sarasota County Schools are collaborating on a new program to encourage healthy lifestyles among middle school-aged children in Sarasota County. The Orioles Health & Fitness Challenge, which was developed in partnership with Health Fit Powered by Sarasota Memorial, will launch on Tuesday, January 19, to teach students about the importance of physical fitness, healthy eating, and tobacco-free living.

The six-week program will be offered in nine county schools for approximately 4,000 students in grades six through eight. Students will participate in a variety of health and fitness challenges, including exercises to build endurance, strength, flexibility, speed, and balance, plus a healthy eating goal. Sarasota County physical education teachers will present the program during regular school hours.

After each week is completed, participating students will receive an Orioles-themed prize. Students who complete the entire six-week challenge will receive two complimentary tickets to an Orioles Spring Training game this season and vouchers for complimentary concessions at a new “Orioles Fit!” healthy-food stand at Ed Smith Stadium.

“The Orioles Health & Fitness Challenge offers students from Sarasota County Schools a unique opportunity to learn how to eat, train, and live like world-class athletes,” said John Angelos, Orioles executive vice president. “Through a variety of community outreach initiatives in Sarasota County and in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Orioles promote active lifestyles and healthy choices. We are committed to investing in the long-term health and habits of future generations through the excitement of Orioles Baseball.”

“We’re delighted to join forces with the Orioles to help keep our students fit and remind them of the importance of a healthy lifestyle,” said Karen Rose, Sarasota County Schools executive director of middle schools. “The middle school years are a great time to reinforce these lessons, and this program hits a home run by doing that in fun, interactive ways.”  

The Health & Fitness Challenge is part of Sarasota 365, a host of initiatives through which the Baltimore Orioles and OriolesREACH demonstrate the ballclub’s year-round engagement with the Greater Sarasota community. Whether hosting youth activities, participating in charitable causes, or partnering in efforts to boost the local economy, the Orioles are active in the region all year long, proving that their commitment to the club's southern home goes far beyond baseball.

Booker High Theatre hosts gala show to raise funds for regional contest

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Passionella-BHS Theatre Savannah Sinclair 2015-16

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Booker High student Savannah Sinclair plays the title character in "Passionella," part of the "Trending Now" gala Jan. 31 at BHS.

SARASOTA, Jan. 13, 2016 – The Booker High School Visual and Performing Arts Theatre Department will host a gala benefit performance to raise funds to send students to Greensboro, N.C. in March to compete in the Southeastern Theatre Conference Festival. The gala, “Trending Now: #plinkplankplunk,” will be at 5 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 31 in the VPA Theatre on the Booker High campus.

“Trending Now” will include a musical revue as well as an encore performance of “Passionella” from “The Apple Tree,” a series of three short musical plays. The Booker High production of “Passionella” took first place at the 60th annual Florida Theatre Conference in November.

The Florida Theatre Conference competition, which pits theatre departments from across the state against one another as they vie for the “Best Production” award, is fierce. The winning production represents the state of Florida at the SETC festival. Booker High will compete for the regional title and students will audition for dozens of college theatre departments nationwide.

While it is exciting to offer the chance for talented students to perform for prestigious judges at SETC, the opportunity comes with a price tag. For registration, hotel and travel fees for the cast and crew of “Passionella,” the BHS VPA Theatre Department seeks to raise $35,000. This will allow the department to offset expenses for all students and provide additional support to those who are financially disadvantaged.

Booker High School VPA Theatre has a history of FTC and SETC wins. The department took top honors in 2008 with its production of “John Lennon and Me,” and in 2003 it won first place with “Seussical the Musical” at SETC. That production featured future stars Syesha Mercado, American Idol Season 7 semifinalist and Broadway performer, as well as Charlie Barnett, star of NBC’s “Chicago Fire.”

This year, as in the past, BHS cast members also earned distinctions of their own, in addition to the accolades for the overall production. Savannah Sinclair, who performed the title role of Passionella, won the Best Actress award. Rogers Knopik earned an All-Star Cast Award for his portrayal of the balladeer. The VPA Technical Theatre students also wowed judges with their execution of technical tasks in the “Tech Olympics,” for which they won the second-place award.

The exposure these festivals offer students is valuable. College representatives from more than 100 colleges and training programs travel to SETC to recruit students, and this allays costs to families who would otherwise have to make their own arrangements for travel to individual colleges to audition.

Tickets for the gala are available at or by calling the VPA Box Office at 941-355-2967, option 1. General admission is $20; VIP tickets are $50 (includes hors d’oeuvres, dessert reception and photo ops with the cast). T-shirt sponsorships are also available for businesses who would like to support the cause. Those who would like to help may call VPA Coordinator Rebecca King at 941-927-9000, ext. 65216, or email her at

Alta Vista Elementary gets reading grant from author James Patterson

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James Patterson author-grant to Alta Vista

FRIEND OF YOUNG READERS: Best-selling author James Patterson has donated $2,500 to Alta Vista Elementary's media center.

SARASOTA, Jan. 13, 2016 – James Patterson, best-selling author of adult novels featuring psychologist and crime-solver Alex Cross as well as humorous books for young readers, has donated $2,500 to Alta Vista Elementary School’s media center. In addition, Scholastic Reading Club, in partnership with Patterson, has matched each dollar of his donation with “bonus points.”

The points can be used by Jeri Bunnell, the third-grade teacher who applied for the grant, to acquire books and other materials for her classroom. Alta Vista was one of several schools selected from almost 28,000 applications for grants.

To apply for the grant, Bunnell was asked how the school would use the funds. She answered that the grant would enable Alta Vista students “to see the world through books.”

 As part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a number-one priority in the U.S., bestselling author, James Patterson, together with Scholastic Reading Club made a commitment to help support school libraries nationwide. In 2015, Patterson donated $1.75 million to school libraries nationwide in grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 allocated to each of the 467 selected schools. 

Patterson joined forces with Scholastic Reading Club to administer funding applications to its network of 62,000 schools and 800,000 teachers. Any U.S. school with students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade was eligible for a grant. The full list of grant recipients is available online at

Patterson hopes that the high volume of requests will raise awareness for the problems facing school libraries today. “These grants are my humble acknowledgement of some of the terrific work taking place in libraries,” he said in a statement on the Scholastic website. “Here's to communities supporting school libraries. Here's to a country that makes reading a priority. Here's to flourishing libraries and to a joyful holiday season!”

“We are so appreciative of James Patterson and Scholastic Reading Clubs,” said Bunnell. “Through their generosity they have helped open a window to the world for our students through reading.”

Alta Vista Elementary School is located at 1050 S. Euclid Ave., Sarasota.

MLK Community Celebration includes ‘Dream Big’ at Booker High

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MLK marches with students

THEY HAD A DREAM: Martin Luther King Jr. marches in the 1960s with children and adults for the cause of civil rights and equal opportunity for all.

SARASOTA, Jan. 12, 2016 – As part of “Stride Toward Freedom,” the 2016 Sarasota Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration honoring the life and work of the civil rights leader, Booker High School will present “Dream Big: Civil Rights and Social Justice” from 6 to 8 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 17, at the school’s Visual and Performing Arts Theatre. The event is free and open to the public.

The program, an evening of oratory, investigation, and the arts, is sponsored by the Booker High School Law Academy, Sarasota County Schools, the Sarasota County Bar Association Diversity Committee, and Association for the Study of African-American Life and History.

The event will begin with a showing of the documentary “Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot,” which chronicles the famous marches of 1965 through newsreel footage and interviews. The film, produced by Teaching Tolerance (an arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center), is an inspiring look at bravery in the face of racism and brutality.

Also included in the evening will be an interpretive dance performance by the Booker High School VPA Dance Department. Courtney Smith and her students have created a new piece for the event, interpreting themes of discrimination, acceptance and overcoming adversity. Utilizing a popular song by Marvin Gaye, the piece highlights the juxtaposition of violence and passive protest, opposition and resilience, and hatred and love. Connecting our past with our present, the gestures and relationships of the dancers urge us to learn from history.

Booker High School Law Academy students have a few special components of the evening planned. Included in the program will be a mock civil rights appellate hearing, composed by Chief Judge Charles Williams of the SCBA Diversity Committee. Students will act out a fictitious but representative legal case about the integration of the beaches here in Sarasota. Judge Williams based his case on local news articles from the time.

The evening will also offer a special panel of civil rights and social justice activists, both past and present. The panel will include Jetson Grimes, local business owner and community activist for the past four decades; Gail Foreman, a Booker High School Law Academy teacher; and Edward James III, who is running for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, District 72. Booker High School Law students will introduce the panelists and moderate the panel discussion.

To conclude the program, winners of the Sarasota County Schools MLK Essay Contest will be announced. The first prize is $1,000 ($500 to student, $500 to school); the second prize is $250; the third prize is $100. The overall winner will also present his or her essay to the audience. Prizes for the essay contest were generously provided by the SCBA Diversity Committee and ASALH.

Booker High School and the VPA Theatre are located at 3201 North Orange Ave., Sarasota.

Click here to see a list of additional events in the Stride Toward Freedom MLK Community Celebration.


NASA scientists land at Pine View for ‘veggies in space’ visit

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Pine View NASA veggie garden 2015-16

OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD GARDEN: Pictured from left, Pine View third-graders Anson Nguyen, Selma Pehlic and Rushi Patel check out new growth in the school’s vegetable garden, which simulates NASA’s experiments with “Veggies in Space.” Photo by Zach Bright

OSPREY, Jan. 11, 2016 – Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will visit Pine View School Friday, Jan. 15, to speak to students who have been growing the same varieties of vegetables that astronauts have been growing and eating in the International Space Station.

From 10:30 to 11:15 a.m., six NASA scientists will talk about the agency’s Vegetable Production System (also known as “Veggies in Space”) and answer students’ questions in the school’s auditorium. Following the talk, students and teachers will show the scientists their garden, located by the Pine View’s solar panels.

Some of the school’s eighth-grade students have been mentoring third-graders in gardening. The younger students have planted and will harvest vegetables in the school’s garden, simulating NASA’s experiments with “veggies” in space. The students have used Nutricote, the same time-released tomato fertilizer NASA uses in its experiments. Florikan, the Sarasota-based company that has developed Nutricote, donated the fertilizer for Pine View’s garden. Students also purchased and planted the same brand and type of tomato seeds NASA is using in its veggie program. The Pine View Association, the school’s parent-teacher organization, has supported the students effort with funds and help from volunteer gardening parents, including Chef Paul Mattison of Mattison’s Restaurants & Catering.

Florikan has developed formulas for fertilizers based on the nutrient needs of the types of vegetables astronauts eat while on the International Space Station. In 2020, NASA plans to use during their mission to the red planet.

Pine View School is located at 1 Python Path, Osprey.

About Gioia Massa and NASA’s Veggies in Space Program

Gioia Massa is a NASA scientist at Kennedy Space Center working on food production for the International Space Station and future exploration endeavors. She led the science team for the veggie hardware validation (the system used to grow veggies in space) and heads an interdisciplinary group to study the impact of fertilizer and light on the nutrition and flavor of veggie-grown crops. Massa also is involved with education and outreach programs related to plants in space.

Massa has been interested in growing plants in space since she was 12. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Plant Science from Cornell University and earned a PhD in Plant Biology from Pennsylvania State University. She has worked in the areas of plant space biology and bioregenerative life support.  

Massa’s research is designed to give residents of a future habitat on Mars a better quality of life in an extreme environment. The goal is for them to have fresh, nutritious food to eat, and to be able to enjoy the sight, smell and taste of green plants. The plants will produce food for the crew, recycle their atmosphere, and possibly even help with cleaning their water. 

The research will help to enable NASA’s grand challenge of space colonization as humanity transitions from a planet-bound to a spacefaring civilization.

In addition to Massa, other “veggie scientists” scheduled to join Massa for the Pine View visit are:  

Raymond Wheeler, NASA plant physiologist and advanced life support lead

Trent Smith, veggie project manager

Matthew Mickens, NASA postdoctoral fellow

Nicole Dufour, veggie engineer

LaShelle Spencer, veggie chemist

School choice window for 2016-17 is now CLOSED

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Feb. 23, 2016 (UPDATE OF EARLIER NEWS RELEASE) – Parents who would like their children to attend a Sarasota County public school in 2016-17 other than their districted school were invited to submit a school choice application from Monday, Feb. 1, through Monday, Feb. 22, 2016.

The 2016-17 school choice window is closed. No more applications will be accepted. Parents will be notified of choice assignments in April.

The ability for parents to choose a school outside of their district began in the late 1990s in the Sarasota County Schools and has been well received by parents and school administrators. However, since space is always limited and demand may be high at some schools, it is typically not possible to accommodate all school choice requests. Siblings can no longer be guaranteed placement at a school that has been determined to be over capacity. Options at some schools that are open to school choice are limited to certain grade levels for the 2016-17 year if those schools are near their enrollment capacity for those grades. Click here for 2016-17 school choice highlights and a list of schools that were open and closed to choice.

As in previous years, school choice approvals will be determined by a random lottery process, rather than on a first-come, first-served basis. Students will be assigned automatically to their districted school (based on the location of their residence) or their current school, unless a school choice application is received.

Other district options, such as charter schools, magnet schools or magnet programs, do not require the completion of a school choice application. Students interested in attending these schools or programs, including Bay Haven School of Basics Plus; Suncoast Polytechnical High School; the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Brookside Middle; Riverview and Venice high schools; the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) programs at Booker Middle and Booker High; the Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) programs at Heron Creek Middle; Booker; Sarasota and North Port high schools; the Law Academy at Booker High; McIntosh Middle School’s STEM Agriscience and Arts Magnet Program; and the Venice Middle School Young Marines Program, should contact these schools directly.

Parents whose children receive their school of choice will be responsible for providing them with transportation to and from school. All questions may be directed to the Office of School Choice. More information is available on the School Choice page of the district website.


Barancik Foundation awards grant for elementary math teacher training

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Fruitville math girl-Athena in Ms Seltzers class Jan 2015

DO THE MATH: This Fruitville Elementary School student will be among many to benefit from a Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation grant for elementary math teacher training.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Jan. 8, 2016 – Elementary teachers in Sarasota County will get special training to help students overcome math anxiety, thanks to a grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. The organization is providing $619,000 in funding for the school district to hire a mathematics expert, train teachers and evaluate the effort.

The goal is to change the way elementary teachers approach math lessons. Research suggests that when it comes to student performance in the subject, an effective teacher has two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including technology, facilities and school administration.

“The most important part of this initiative is investing in the talent of teachers,” said Teri A Hansen, president and CEO of the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. “The teacher is the critical component of student success and we want to invest in the human capital inside the classroom.”

In addition to providing teachers with the guidance of a math expert and special training in effectively teaching the subject to elementary students, the initiative will allow teams of teachers to collaborate on math lesson plans. Teachers on the team will have the opportunity to engage in “instructional rounds” together as they attempt to perfect their lesson plans. Instructional rounding is the process of having teachers and administrators observe and reflect on lessons being taught. The concept is based on the medical model of health care professionals observing patients together and planning the next steps in their care.

“We’re grateful to the Barancik Foundation for recognizing the importance of great teaching in this equation,” said Laura Kingsley, executive director of elementary education for Sarasota County Schools. “This program will provide our teachers with expert training to fill any gaps and stretch their thinking. It will encourage them to work through deeper math discussions and learn to ask the questions that foster real understanding in their students.”

Kingsley cites frequent comments among children and adults such as “I hate math” and “I was never any good at math.” Some studies have found that 25 percent of four-year college students experience moderate to high math anxiety, that teachers with math anxiety tend to have students with lower performance in math, and that 50 percent of students in first and second grade are “afraid” of math.

“We need to alleviate that anxiety among our elementary teachers so they can help address it in their students,” said Kingsley. “This initiative will give our teachers the tools to help our students enjoy the productive struggle that is always present when they are learning something new and challenging.”

The elementary math teacher training initiative is funded through March 2017, with possible additional funding after its effectiveness is evaluated.

About the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation

The Charles & Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation — a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida. The Barancik Foundation creates initiatives and awards grants in Sarasota and beyond in the areas of arts and humanities, education and science, humanitarian causes, medical research, and the environment. 


Best-selling author speaks at Venice High’s Literacy Celebration

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Venice High author Ellen Hopkins Literacy Celebration Jan 2016

AUTHOR TO APPEAR: Best-selling novelist Ellen Hopkins will speak at the 12th Annual Literacy Celebration at the Venice Performing Arts Center.

VENICE, Jan. 6, 2016 – New York Times best-selling author Ellen Hopkins will be the speaker when Venice High School presents the 12th Annual Literacy Celebration at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 20, at the Venice Performing Arts Center. The event is sponsored and funded by the Venice High School Literacy Council and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Hopkins has written 15 books for young adults and older adults, including the best-sellers “Burned” and “Crank.” She is known for tackling controversial subjects. Her newest novel, “Traffick,” is the story of five teens victimized by human trafficking. The book was published in November. Her next book, “Chameleon,” is set to be released in fall 2016. Hopkins’ books will be available for purchase on the evening of the event, and she will sign books for attendees.

Tickets for the event are $10 for adults and $5 for students; they may be purchased online at or at the VPAC box office the night of the presentation.

The Venice Performing Arts Center is located on the campus of Venice High School at 1 Indian Ave. in Venice

Southside Elementary celebrates school’s 90th birthday

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Southside 1937 aerialSouthside Webber entrance 2007

SOUTHSIDE CELEBRATES: Top photo: This aerial view of Southside Elementary in 1937 predates extensive development around the school. Bottom photo: This 2007 photo shows Southside’s entrance from Webber Street.

SARASOTA, Jan. 6, 2016 – Southside Elementary School will celebrate its 90th birthday Monday, Jan. 11, with a luncheon in the courtyard — including birthday cake — from noon to 1:30 p.m. Expected attendees include alumni, including some whose children now attend Southside, retired principals and teachers, as well as current teachers who worked there when the school celebrated its 60th birthday in 1986. Guests also will include parents and community leaders who have had significant leadership roles on Southside’s School Advisory Council, Parent-Teacher Organization and Foundation.

Southside first opened its doors to 170 students on Jan. 11, 1926. Enrollment at the school today is 766. The original building was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style by architect M. Leo Elliot; the same plan was used for the school in north Sarasota now known as Bay Haven School of Basics Plus.

During the luncheon there will be student performances and art work on display. Fifth-graders will share their memories of their experiences at Southside in grades K-5.

“We’re proud to be part of a 90-year tradition of a great Sarasota neighborhood public school,” said Principal Steve Dragon. “All of us who are part of the extended Southside family look forward to a wonderful multi-generational gathering.”

Southside Elementary School is located at 1901 Webber St., Sarasota.


Booker Middle students compete in ‘Pop-Up Quiz Show’

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Booker Middle kids study for quiz show 1-4-16

QUIZ SHOW: Booker Middle School students prepare for the Pop-Up Quiz Show by studying civics and practicing questions and answers. Pictured from left are seventh-grade students Ella Gerdes, Jordan Febish, Chuntierra Packer, Will Egan and Jakobi Davis.

SARASOTA, Jan. 5, 2016 – Teams of seventh-grade students at Booker Middle School will compete in the Pop-Up Quiz Show, designed to test their knowledge of civics in a game show format. A mobile “pop-up” stage on a large trailer will travel to the school for two 30-minute quiz sessions at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 7. Students in the audience will cheer on their favorite teams. Prizes will be awarded to the school and to winning teams.

The Pop-Up Quiz Show is a part of the Celebrate Literacy initiative, sponsored by the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Lottery.

Seventh-grade civics students have been preparing for the quiz show by reading and studying about the history and government of the U.S. and Florida. The questions are based on the Florida Standards, which stipulate what students should learn at all grade levels. Topics covered in the Pop-Up Quiz Show include the American Revolution, the Florida Constitution and roles of the branches of state and federal governments.

“This event is a terrific way to integrate reading, civics and research,” said Bernadette Bennett, social studies curriculum specialist for Sarasota County Schools. “Our students are studying to take the civics end-of-course exam, and this is a fun and exciting way to help them prepare!”

Booker Middle School is located at 2250 Myrtle St., Sarasota.

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