Sarasota County Schools News

District to focus on school security for 2nd Digital Town Hall Dec. 6

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Digital Town Hall

JOIN US! Our second Digital Town Hall will be Wednesday, Dec. 6, from 7-8 p.m. on Facebook Live, the district website and The Education Channel (Comcast 20 and Frontier 33).

SARASOTA COUNTY, Nov. 29, 2017 – Sarasota County Schools will host its second Digital Town Hall from 7-8 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 6. The first half of the program will be dedicated to school safety and security, with the second half opened up for other topics.

The event will be streamed live on Facebook, on the home page of the district’s website,, and broadcast live on The Education Channel, Comcast 20 and Frontier 33.

During the event, viewers will be able to pose questions to a panel of speakers through Facebook and Twitter and receive real-time responses. Questions also can be emailed in advance to

“Our first Digital Town Hall on Sept. 6 happened to be scheduled in advance for a night when Hurricane Irma was approaching our area,” said Superintendent Todd Bowden. “People were understandably preoccupied with the news of that storm, but many joined us anyway via social media or sent questions in advance. And the timing of the program meant that our discussions of the hurricane and how we were preparing for it were very timely.

“For our second Digital Town Hall, we are inviting questions on another subject that’s very important to all of us who are parents of students in our schools: safety and security.”

During the first half of the program centering on school security, Bowden will be joined by School Board Chairwoman Bridget Ziegler, Assistant Superintendent for Operations Scott Lempe, Director of Safety & Security Mike Andreas, Riverview High School Principal Paul Burns and Venice Middle School Principal Karin Schmidt.  

The second half-hour will open the questions up to all topics. Bowden, Ziegler and Lempe will be joined for that segment by Assistant Superintendent for Academics Laura Kingsley and Assistant Superintendent for Finance Mitsi Corcoran.

Possible subjects for the second segment include the opportunity for Sarasota County voters to renew the 1-mill school funding referendum in a special election March 20, how referendum dollars are spent, academic programs and initiatives, and other issues of interest.


Ziegler elected to one-year term as School Board chairwoman

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Brown-Ziegler-Robinson 11-28-17

PASSING THE GAVEL: Bridget Ziegler, center, is congratulated by fellow School Board members Shirley Brown and Eric Robinson after being elected 2017-18 School Board chairwoman. Jane Goodwin, who was elected vice chair, and Caroline Zucker, outgoing chair, joined the School Board meeting by phone from a conference in Tampa.

SARASOTA, Nov. 28, 2017 — Bridget Ziegler was elected to a one-year term as chairwoman of the School Board of Sarasota County on Nov. 28 by a unanimous 5-0 vote of the Board. Jane Goodwin was unanimously elected to serve as vice chair. The School Board elects a chair and vice chair annually from among its five members. Ziegler, who has served as vice chair since November 2016, succeeds Caroline Zucker as chair.

“I am pleased to be elected chair by my fellow School Board members,” said Ziegler. “I look forward to serving in this important role, collaborating with my colleagues on several projects that have an impact on student success, including closing the achievement gap, attracting and retaining high-quality school district employee, and educating citizens about the upcoming referendum vote in March. Voters will decide about whether to renew the referendum on the 1-mill voted funding that supports local schools for another four years. It’s an honor to represent the School Board and this exceptional school district in this critical year.”   

School Board member Eric Robinson, referring to the election of Ziegler and Goodwin as chair and vice chair, said it was the “right combination at the right time.”

Ziegler was appointed to the School Board by Gov. Rick Scott in June 2014 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Carol Todd. Ziegler was elected to a four-year term in November 2014.

She is a vice president at Marsh & McLennan, a firm whose specialties include risk management and insurance services. She is married to Christian Ziegler, state committeeman for the Republican Party of Sarasota County. The couple has two young daughters, Reagan and Sloane.

Bay Haven elementary students to log in for Hour of Code event

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Bay Haven Hour of Code 2015

CRACKING THE CODE: Bay Haven students Charles Mills, at left, and McKinley Parisi participate in the Hour of Code in 2015.

SARASOTA, Nov. 27, 2017 – All 600 students in grades K-5 at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus will once again join the largest learning event in history, the “Hour of Code,” leading into the national observance of Computer Science Education Week, December 4-10.

Bay Haven parents, community members and business leaders are invited to attend the Hour of Code kickoff assembly at 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 29, and get involved to help students participate in the “Hour of Code” all week, Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, with help from technology teacher Sarah Hu. Participating classes will be held throughout the school day, from 9:30 3:45 p.m.

“Computers are everywhere, changing every industry on the planet, but not enough schools teach computer science,” said Principal Chad Erickson. “Girls and minorities are underrepresented in computer science classes and in the technology industry. The good news is that we are helping to change this at Bay Haven!”

Last year, Bay Haven students wrote over 30,000 lines of computer programming code with the help of parent volunteers, New College of Florida faculty and students, and local IT professionals. This year the school is partnering with the Microsoft Store at University Town Center and New College of Florida to provide a broad perspective on the computing industry.

Bay Haven is at the forefront of this movement in Sarasota County, offering teacher training to help more schools participate this year. Nationwide, over 100 business partners have joined together to support computer science education, including Amazon, Disney, Microsoft, Apple and Google.  

Bay Haven School of Basics Plus is located at 2901 W. Tamiami Circle, Sarasota.

Booker Elementary to host STEM and Science Fair Night Dec. 7

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Nov. 22, 2017 – Emma E. Booker will host STEM and Science Fair Night from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7. The event is an opportunity for families to see the future through scientific processes and robotics engineering. Class projects will be displayed in the media center for everyone to view.

The school’s partners and guests, including representatives of Suncoast Technical College, Suncoast Science Center and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, will demonstrate robotics and drones. Giti Javidi, assistant professor of information technology at USF-SM, will bring an interactive humanoid robot known as NAO.

The night will conclude with information about science experiences the school plans for the remainder of the school year. 

Emma E. Booker Elementary School is located at 2350 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Sarasota.

Sarasota High begins search for new head football coach

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SHS Sailor logo

SAILOR SEARCH: Sarasota High School seeks a new head football coach.

SARASOTA, Nov. 22, 2017 – Sarasota High School Principal David Jones has accepted the resignation of Head Football Coach Brian Ryals and appreciates his dedication to the Sailor Football program. Ryals will continue his service to Sarasota High in his other role on campus, First Step outreach coordinator. 

Sarasota High School is beginning a national search for a new head football coach for the Sailor football team. “We look forward to welcoming a head coach to build upon our tradition of excellence,” said Principal David Jones.

Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and resume to Ryan Chase, assistant principal, at

About Sarasota High School

Sarasota High School proudly calls itself the “first and finest” high school in Sarasota County. First opened in 1913, Sarasota High School has a rich tradition of excellence and community support. Sarasota High School is home to academically-rigorous programs including the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program and the Mathematics Science and Technology (MaST) Program. Sarasota High School is also home to championship athletics programs providing a world class educational and social experience. Sarasota High School continues to set the mark for excellence in education. Go Sailors! 

Adult & Community Enrichment to hold 4th annual Art Sale Dec. 6

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ACE art 2016 A

PRICELESS: The 2016 ACE Art Sale featured, in top photo, mosaics and acrylic paintings by ACE students. This year's event will also include a wide range of teacher and student artwork for sale.

SARASOTA, Nov. 21, 2017The Adult & Community Enrichment program of Sarasota County Schools offers lifelong learners a wide range of experiences. Its arts programs are among the most popular classes, representing 40 percent of its offerings. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 6, ACE will celebrate the showcase and sell creations by its art teachers and students in time for holiday gift-giving at its fourth annual Art Sale. The event will be held at Suncoast Technical College, 4748 Beneva Road in Sarasota, in the center lobby of Building 3.

“This sale is an annual highlight for all the ACE staff and students,” said Laura Trubac, program manager. “There is so much creative energy when so many talented art students come together, offering their wares. We all do some holiday shopping, having fun as we choose from affordable and one-of-a kind art creations.”

The sale will include a large selection of handmade, original, reasonably priced artwork, including ceramics, paintings, fiber art, photography, baskets, jewelry and much more. A portion of the proceeds will help support the ACE Art Program and the ACE Scholarship Program.

This year, ACE instructor Barbara Harrison will offer a free demo session, “Wall Sculpture Creations.” Harrison uses non-traditional materials, which makes her methods and media unique. The one-hour session will be held in room 104 at 1 p.m. Art shoppers and lifelong learners interested in ACE classes are invited to come and see the creative process of a sculpture in progress.

More information about Adult & Community Enrichment classes is available at

Second Digital Town Hall set for Dec. 6, advance questions are welcome

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Digital Town Hall

SARASOTA, Nov. 20, 2017 - Our first-ever Sarasota County Schools Digital Town Hall, held Sept. 6, was well-received by parents and other members of the community. This technology-enhanced public forum is a key part of our ongoing efforts to reach families where they are and engage in two-way communication via the devices we all use every day.

We hope you will join us for our second Digital Town Hall, Wednesday, December 6, from 7-8 p.m. You can email your questions in advance to or submit them during the live event. 

During the event, streamed live on the district website and Facebook Live and broadcast on The Education Channel—Comcast 20 and Frontier 33—people will be able to ask our panel questions through Facebook and Twitter and receive real-time responses. You can join in  and participate on a smart phone, tablet or computers.

The first half of the program will be devoted to a very important subject: school safety and security. Superintendent Todd Bowden will be joined by the Sarasota County School Board chair, Assistant Superintendent for Operations Scott Lempe, Director of Safety & Security Mike Andreas, Riverview High School Principal Paul Burns and Venice Middle School Principal Karin Schmidt.  

For the remaining half-hour we will open the questions up to all topics. Joining Dr. Bowden, the school board chair and Mr. Lempe for that portion of the program will be our two other assistant superintendents: Assistant Superintendent for Academics, Dr. Laura Kingsley, and Assistant Superintendent/Chief Financial Officer Mitsi Corcoran.

Wherever you are during the Digital Town Hall, we hope you will join us on your phones or computers at 7 p.m., Wednesday, December 6. And please, feel free to ask a question in advance via the email link above and/or during the live event! We look forward to answering your questions about school safety and security and other topics! 

Gulf Coast's Veronica Brady to get national literacy leadership award

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Veronica Brady award surprise-with Lisa Fisher 11-17-17Veronica Brady-surprise group 11-17-17

SURPRISE! In top photo, Reading Recovery lead teacher Lisa Fisher and others surprise Veronica Brady (at right) of Gulf Coast Community Foundation with the news that she will receive the 2018 Excellence in Literacy Leadership Award. BOTTOM PHOTO: Staff from Sarasota County Schools and Gulf Coast Community Foundation were joined by Gulf Coast donors who support Reading Recovery to congratulate Veronica Brady. Pictured from left are Lisa Fisher, Teri A Hansen, Chris Renouf, Todd Bowden, Wendy Deming, Brady, Mark Pritchett, Keith Monda, Lin and Bob Williams, and Laura Kingsley.

This news release is from Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

SARASOTA, Nov. 17, 2017 – Veronica Brady, senior vice president for philanthropy at Gulf Coast Community Foundation, will receive the 2018 Excellence in Literacy Leadership Award presented by the Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders.  The prestigious award will recognize Brady’s vital role in implementing and expanding Reading Recovery in Sarasota County Schools and promoting the successful literacy program beyond the region.

A group of school district administrators, teachers, and donors surprised Brady with the news of her selection on Friday afternoon, November 17, at Sarasota County School District headquarters.  The award will be presented in February before more than 2,000 attendees at the National Reading Recovery & K-6 Literacy Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

“Reading Recovery is changing the lives of young students in our school district, and Veronica Brady is the driving force that has made it happen,” said Laura Kingsley, assistant superintendent of Sarasota County Schools. “From rallying donors to supporting and celebrating our teachers to championing access for even more students, Veronica has been a dynamo.”

Reading Recovery is an intensive, short-term intervention for first-graders who struggle in learning to read and write. Specially trained literacy teachers provide daily, individual lessons designed to accelerate students’ progress to grade level within 20 weeks. Created in New Zealand in the 1970s and introduced to the United States in 1984 through The Ohio State University, Reading Recovery is the world’s most widely studied early reading intervention.

Brady first learned about the program a few years ago from philanthropists Keith and Linda Monda, who supported Reading Recovery through Ohio State and envisioned replicating it in Sarasota County. Believing it could play a key role in reducing the achievement gap by helping the lowest-performing first graders quickly catch up to their classmates, Brady spearheaded a partnership with Sarasota County Schools. She secured funding commitments from the Mondas and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and with additional funds and administrative support from Gulf Coast, Reading Recovery was introduced in fall 2015 at three Title I elementary schools.

“Not only did Veronica line up the seed capital to launch Reading Recovery in our school district, but she organized and delivered hundreds of books and stacks of training materials over the last two weeks of that summer so the program was ready to go when school reopened,” recalls Mark Pritchett, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

As Reading Recovery quickly showed promise of success, Brady led the charge to expand it to all 10 of the district’s Title I elementary schools in 2016, including securing philanthropic support from several additional donors. The results in year two bore out the partners’ confidence, with 86 percent of the students who received a full complement of Reading Recovery lessons reaching average grade levels for reading and writing. The national success rate for the highly touted program is 75 percent.

Recognizing that many students in non-Title I schools also would benefit from Reading Recovery, Brady advocated for further expansion to all 23 Sarasota County elementary schools. With additional funding from the Barancik Foundation and the school district totaling more than $1 million, Reading Recovery was implemented district-wide this school year. Highly trained teachers in every school now work with Reading Recovery students throughout the morning and then assist many more students as school-based literacy experts the rest of the day.

To further leverage the extensive training received by these teachers, Brady helped create a summer-reading program that stipends district teachers to work with incoming kindergartners and first-graders at local summer camps. Piloted at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex in Newtown, the Kids READ summer program was expanded to all Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County thanks to Brady’s efforts.

In addition to maintaining and expanding the high standards of Reading Recovery locally, recipients of the Literacy Leadership Award are also recognized for “significant contributions to implementation beyond the local level.” To that end, Brady is developing a “playbook” to help other school districts that are considering Reading Recovery learn from Sarasota County’s experience. She also presented a session at the statewide Florida Reading Conference earlier this month. Sarasota County is currently the only school district in Florida to offer Reading Recovery.

“This is a program worth investing in, and Veronica shares that message everywhere she goes,” said Keith Monda. “We see the difference Reading Recovery is making for Sarasota County students, and we would love more communities throughout Florida to achieve that same success for their children.”




Free flu shots to be offered at all Sarasota County schools Nov. 28-30

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Nov. 15, 2017 - The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County will offer free flu vaccinations from Tuesday, Nov. 28 through Thursday, Nov. 30 at all Sarasota County schools. Anyone 19 or younger may be vaccinated at the clinic.

A flu vaccination is the best and safest way to protect students against several flu viruses. Protection will be effective within two weeks and should last until the end of the flu season. It’s important for children to be immunized for their own protection and to prevent the flu from spreading to families. Children do not need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to receive a vaccination.

Permission slips will go home with students the week of Nov. 13 and should be returned by Tuesday, Nov. 21.

For more information call the School Health Office at 941-927-9000, ext. 32101.

Sarasota County Teacher of the Year finalists surprised at their schools

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Elem Toy Bethany Burnett-VHS Nov 2017MS TOY Allison Cohen-Booker Middle Nov 2017HS TOY-RHS Es Swihart Nov 2017

TOP TEACHERS, SUPPORTIVE STUDENTS: In top photo, Venice Elementary teacher Bethany Burnett is swamped by students congratulating her on being named Sarasota County Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year Nov. 14. MIDDLE PHOTO: Booker Middle teacher Allison Cohen, middle, shares the spotlight with students Jakiah Mills, left, and Valeria Hernandez, right, after being honored as Sarasota County Schools Middle School Teacher of the Year. BOTTOM PHOTO: Riverview High students Samantha Chaulsett, left, and Jakob Dubin, right, celebrate the moment with teacher Es Swihart, who was named Sarasota County Schools High School Teacher of the Year. Photos by Rod Millington

SARASOTA COUNTY, Nov. 14, 2017 – Teachers at three schools in Sarasota County were surprised Tuesday, Nov. 13, when they were revealed as the district’s elementary, middle and high school Teachers of the Year and the 2018 Teacher of the Year finalists.

The annual Teacher Tribute Tour team traveled to each school together on a bus. This year’s team included Superintendent of Schools Todd Bowden, School Board members, Education Foundation President Jennifer Vigne and other representatives of the foundation and the school district, past winners and special guests. They congratulated the teachers as their students and school staff helped celebrate the event. One of the three finalists will be named the district’s overall Teacher of the Year at the Ignite Education event at the Westin Sarasota on Dec. 13.

The first stop for the Teacher Tribute Tour bus was Booker Middle School, where Superintendent Todd Bowden told students and staff, “You have a teacher who is very special to you and to all of us — she’s the Middle School Teacher of the Year for the whole school district…Ms. Allison Cohen!” 

Cohen, who teaches sixth-grade math to students of varying abilities, told the cheering crowd, “I could not do this without the support of our great staff and our volunteers.” She integrates English language arts into the math curriculum and presents information in a variety of ways to meet the needs of each student.

“I don’t just teach math, I teach life skills, social skills and job skills. My goal is for all our students to be college- and career-ready,” Cohen said. “I love being here every day — I’m a Booker Tornado for life!”

Student Rachel Welch called Cohen “an amazing teacher” and said it is exciting to see her honored.

Cohen earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida. She has taught for 21 years — all of them with Sarasota County Schools. 

“Education is a family tradition,” she says. “My two sisters, a cousin and a niece are all teachers in the district.” Cohen loves watching minor league baseball, gardening, and working with students at a local community center.

Next, the bus pulled into Riverview High School — the second time in a row the tour bus has stopped there. Reigning district Teacher of the Year B.J. Ivey, who teaches and coaches at Riverview, passed the High School Teacher of the Year baton to English Language Arts teacher Es Swihart.

Principal Paul Burns called it “a special day for us at Riverview.” He told the gathered students and staff that the next period was about to start, but that “it’s important to take this moment to celebrate. Having the High School Teacher of the Year two years in a row says a lot about what happens here in our classrooms.”

Swihart (whose first name Es is pronounced as the letter “S,” and whose last name is pronounced SWY-hart), said being named the district’s High School Teacher of the Year is “quite an honor. I am shocked and amazed…and overwhelmed!”

Swihart has taught for 11 years, five of them in Sarasota County. She teaches English Literature and “English 1” to Pre-International Baccalaureate students. She holds a bachelors’ degrees in English and theater performance from the University of Florida and a master’s of English education from the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg.

She said she is “passionate about teaching, learning and exploring the arts and writing to understand why these modes of expression are so powerful.

“I am drawn to story forms and their influence in any medium — including education, the arts, human relationships, psychology and technology,” Swihart explained. “I believe stories are powerful tools for connection and bettering our understanding of the world and ourselves. I want my students to be comfortable expressing who they are — their authentic selves.”

Student Alex Hilton said Swihart “is not just an amazing teacher; she’s an amazing person.”

Swihart loves spending time with her daughter, exploring the world, reading, attending and performing in theater productions.

The final stop on the tour was Venice Elementary, where Bethany Burnett was named the district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year. Burnett has been a teacher for 26 years, 20 of them in Sarasota County. She teaches fifth-grade inclusion, co-teaching with a colleague to help ensure that the individual needs of all students are met.

Burnett talked about students who are labeled “square pegs” because they don’t fit into the “round holes” as some people expect. “I look at students who might be labeled as having obsessive-compulsive disorder and help them and their classmates see them as organizers. It’s important to help kids understand who they are and to help them rise above the labels others assign to them.”

She said whenever she hears the phrase “those who can’t, teach” she corrects them. “Those who teach inspire and transform lives. A random act of kindness by a teacher can change the life of a student.”

Student Maddox Smith said Burnett is “really patient…she’ll let things slide sometimes. She will always be on your side. She’s the best!

Burnett holds a bachelor’s degree in specific learning disabilities from Mercer University and a master’s of curriculum and instruction from American Intercontinental University. Her hobbies include cooking, gardening and home renovation.

About the Teacher of the Year program

The Teacher of the Year program is co-produced by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and the Sarasota County School District and is made possible through the funding and support of community partners. Each of the three finalists will receive a cash award from the Education Foundation. 

The overall district Teacher of the Year for 2018 will be announced from among the three finalists at Ignite Education: A Celebration Honoring Teachers. The event will be held at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the Westin Sarasota. For moreinformation and to purchase tickets visit

To further amplify the importance of teachers on their students and the community, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County will also recognize the nominees for Alumni of Distinction and honor the winner of the inaugural award.

The district Teacher of the Year will represent Sarasota County Schools at the Florida Department of Education-Macy's Teacher of the Year program and will serve as a spokesperson for and representative of the teaching profession at various events throughout 2018.

About the Education Foundation of Sarasota County

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County is an independent partner working to advance philanthropic support for Sarasota County Schools. Its mission is to enhance the potential of students, promote excellence in teaching and inspire innovation in education. Guided by the belief that education changes lives, the Education Foundation strives to match each donor’s passion with high-impact projects created to ensure students graduate with purpose and are prepared for a post-secondary pathway. The Education Foundation of Sarasota County and its philanthropic investors are champions for students, teachers, and schools. For more information on how to be a champion for education, visit

About Sarasota County Schools

Dedicated to academic excellence, Sarasota County Schools is home to 53 schools, 43,000 students and 5,000 employees. It is one of only two Florida districts to be graded A by the Florida Department of Education every year since grading began in 2004. 

Education Foundation grants over $60,000 to Sarasota County Schools

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Ed Foundation logo

This news release is from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

 SARASOTA, Nov. 10, 2017 – The Education Foundation of Sarasota County has granted over $60,000 in funding for Sarasota County Schools to support its Middle School College and Career Readiness Project. This funding provides over 6,300 students in eight middle schools with the Naviance College & Career Readiness Curriculum, allowing students to develop skills and college knowledge needed to reach their post-secondary goals, and AchieveWORKS assessments, providing a comprehensive profile of each student’s strengths. This grant was made possible thanks to generous donations from the Koski Family Foundation and the Roberta Leventhal Sudakoff Foundation. 

“Middle school is a critical time for self-discovery, developing confidence, and understanding why academic planning is relevant to a student’s future,” explained Jennifer Vigne, President of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. “Naviance is a tool that provides Sarasota County Schools with the necessary curriculum to show students the countless pathways to post-secondary success.”

Naviance will train a focus team for each of the middle schools consisting of a career advisor, school counselor, assistance principal and lead teachers along with the Executive Director of Middle Schools, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction on how to facilitate the platform and implement the curriculum. Every Sarasota County Middle School student will receive 25 minutes of Career Readiness instruction each week and will have access to 17 career lessons annually including a pre- and post-test assessment tool.  Students will also be able to explore their career interests through 3000 videos created by students on various career opportunities through a Naviance platform entitled, RoadTrip Nation.

About the Education Foundation of Sarasota County

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County is an independent partner working to advance philanthropic support for Sarasota County Schools. Its mission is to enhance the potential of students, promote excellence in teaching and inspire innovation in education. Guided by the belief that education changes lives, the Education Foundation strives to match each donor’s passion with high-impact projects created to ensure students graduate with purpose and are prepared for a post-secondary pathway. The Education Foundation of Sarasota County and its philanthropic investors are champions for students, teachers, and schools. For more information, visit                           

Sarasota High to present original play ‘Safe Keeping’ Nov. 16-18

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Cast 1-Safe Keeping SHS Nov 2017Cast 2-Safe Keeping SHS Nov 2017

PREMIERE PRODUCTION: In top photo, portraying adults in the Sarasota High production of “Safe Keeping,” are, from left, SHS students Miranda Marino, Katie Terres and Frankie Lowicz. Bottom photo: In the roles of football players are, from left, Andrew Sapienza, Sebastian Hassett and Jake Sheffield.

SARASOTA, Nov. 9, 2017 – Young actors at Sarasota High School will present “Safe Keeping,” a new original play. The playwright is SHS drama teacher Lacey Knispel, who says it is “a play about finding your way back home when you have no home to go back to.” The show runs Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 16-18, at 7 p.m., with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available online at Prices are $8 for students and $10 for adults.

In this touching and relevant new play about teen issues of the early 2000s, we follow Alex and her friends, Cori and Ben, as they try to navigate life and find their ways back home. In the plot, Alex just lost her job... again. When her best friends try to cheer her up with a girls’ night in, they break out their old high school notes, and we find out just how much the past has affected her future.

Knispel presented the play to the cast of student actors and they workshopped it under her direction. The play briefly touches on issues specific to the time period —  hinting at the strange transition for kids who grew up in the prosperity of the 1990s but became adults during the recession — but some of the issues span generations. Things like family illness, identity, abandonment and just being a teenager are topics that really hit home for some of the young actors.

“Having the students involved early on in the process has been a huge asset,” said Knispel. “They have really enjoyed being a part of developing the story and creating original characters. Watching the characters come to life and develop as the actors interpreted my vision was the most exciting part for me. Even though the time period wasn’t that long ago, we had to do some research so the kids could understand that life really was different back then.

“My favorite part was taking them thrift shopping and seeing their faces as I picked out clothes they found absolutely hideous that I used to wear. We listened to music, talked about the events of that time, and discussed the implications of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, and the economic recession. It's been quite the journey.”

Senior Frankie Lowicz, student director of “Safe Keeping,” said, “Watching this show grow into what it is has made it all worth it. From writing workshops to costume trips, to run-through after run-through, it has been one amazing ride!”

Sarasota High School is located at 2155 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota.

North Port celebrates opening of technical college and library

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STCNP and SSL Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

HURRAY! Officials from Sarasota County Schools, Sarasota County Government and the City of North Port celebrate the opening of Suncoast Technical College-North Port and the Shannon Staub Library.

NORTH PORT, Nov. 7, 2017 - Cheers rang out as Sarasota County School Board members, Sarasota County commissioners and North Port commissioners cut the ribbon on a collaborative project Tuesday, Nov. 7 — Suncoast Technical College-North Port and the Shannon Staub Library. 

    More than 300 people celebrated the grand opening of the facility. “This project came together so well because it was the right thing to do,” said Superintendent Todd Bowden, who also talked about future phases of the technical college. County commissioner and former state senator Nancy Detert called it “a dream come true.”

    Mayor Linda Yates cited the North Port motto, “Achieve anything,” and said the combined technical college, library and conference center is proof that the saying is true. 

    Several speakers lauded the partnership as a model of cooperative and efficient government. Many also sang the praises of former county commissioner Shannon Staub, for whom the library is named. School Board member Eric Robinson said, “I’m a member of the Shannon Staub Fan Club.” 

    Other speakers cited Staub’s passion for libraries and dedication to progress in south Sarasota County. Sarabeth Kalajian, director of Libraries and Historical Resources for the county, presented Staub with the Library Champion Award from the Tampa Bay Library Consortium.

    Staub and Ron DiPillo, executive director of Career, Technical and Adult Education for Sarasota County Schools and master of ceremonies for the event, shared the scissors to cut the ribbon on the facility. They were surrounded by elected officials and administrators from the three partnering organizations.

    The speeches and ribbon-cutting were followed by tours of the technical college and library.

    About Suncoast Technical College and Shannon Staub Library

    The combined facility that houses Suncoast Technical College and conference center and the Shannon Staub Library is the result of agreements among the school board, the county commission and the city commission to share the facility and costs for the benefit of citizens. The college includes a conference center jointly funded by Sarasota County Schools and the City of North Port.

    In order to better serve the growing population of North Port, staff from Sarasota County Schools and Sarasota County Libraries first presented the idea of a joint-use project at the January 2014 Convocation of Governments. In October 2015 the Sarasota County Commission approved the naming of the new library for former Commissioner Shannon Staub — citing her 14 years of service to the county, her strong advocacy of libraries and her leadership in establishing the Library Foundation. In June 2015 the North Port City Commission voted to augment the School Board’s budget for the college in order to include a community conference center.

    Suncoast Technical College-North Port, which opened to students Oct. 17, is the latest career and technical education facility of Sarasota County Schools. The college houses a Commercial Foods and Culinary Arts program with a kitchen adjacent to the conference center, much like the one at the college’s Sarasota campus.

    Other programs, such as Accounting, Business Management, Carpentry, Industrial Technologies, Emergency Medical Technician, General Equivalency Diploma and English for Speakers of Other Languages will prepare high school students for the workforce, allow adult students to hone their skills and develop new ones, provide Adult & Community Enrichment classes, and help local businesses and industries find qualified employees.

    Additional courses leading to licensing and certification in a variety of other fields will be added later. The college is now enrolling students for classes that start in January on the North Port campus. Financial aid is available for qualifying students. Future phases of STC-North Port will include additional programs.

    The Shannon Staub Library is the newest addition to Sarasota County Libraries. It features a multimedia collection of print and digital resources for all ages, meeting and study rooms, a Friends of the Library Bookstore, outdoor gardens with comfortable seating, a children’s area and a high-tech teen center. The library also includes Creation Station — a center with tools such as a 3D printer, a laser cutter and a suite of sewing machines, allowing users to create a variety of hands-on projects.

    The budgeted and projected final cost of all components of the two-story, 77,500-square-foot facility, including furniture, fixtures and equipment, is $27.7 million. The design includes ideas shared by community members at public forums in 2015. The project team includes SchenkelShultz Architecture, Willis Smith Construction, Jensen and Group Engineering Consultants, DWJA Landscape Architects, Engineering Matrix and PDES Design Group. Suncoast Technical College-North Port and the Shannon Staub Library are located at 4445 Career Lane. 


    Schools honor veterans on campus, in community

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    Veterans Day graphic

    SARASOTA COUNTY, UPDATED Nov. 8, 2017 – Students and staff at Sarasota County schools will honor military veterans and active members of the armed forces with special activities and projects the week of Veterans Day. Several veterans have been invited to schools to participate in many of the events. High school bands, color guards and other school groups will participate in various community ceremonies on Veterans Day, Saturday, Nov. 11. Selected events are as follows:

    Tuesday, Nov. 7:

    8:45 a.m.: Phillippi Shores Elementary, outside courtyard. Students will march in procession and the flag will be raised, followed by the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance. The PYP Sticks and the Phillippi Chorus will perform. The guest speaker will be veteran Lt. Col. Tony Mediavilla, US Marines (Ret.). Other veterans will be acknowledged, students will recite speeches and poems, and the school chorus will sing patriotic songs. 4747 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota 

    Wednesday, Nov. 8:  

    9 a.m.: Glenallen Elementary kindergarten students performed a Veterans Day program to honor Veterans near and dear to their hearts. Each kindergartener was asked to personally invite a veteran. Veterans were welcomed with a breakfast reception, followed by a performance to honor those who served. 7050 Glenallen Blvd., North Port    

    10-11 a.m.: Invited veterans will speak to students at Suncoast Polytechnical High School and answer questions about military service.

    7 p.m.: The Sarasota High School Singing Sailors along with guest choirs from Brookside Middle and McIntosh Middle will present their Annual Veterans Salute Concert in the SHS auditorium. A Salute to the Armed Forces will recognize the five branches of the U.S. military. The concert is free and open to the public. (See also 7 p.m. Thursday.) 2155 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota.

    Thursday, Nov. 9:

    8:45 a.m.: Fruitville Elementary School will honor veterans at a special event, “Courage and Coffee.”After a short performance from some of our students, we will be serving coffee and refreshments to show our appreciation for your dedication to fight for our freedom. 601 Honore Ave., Sarasota

    9:15-10:30 a.m.: Lamarque Elementary will hold its11th Annual Veterans Day Celebration in the physical education area. The schoolwide event will include performances by the Lamarque Elementary Chorus, Lamarque Drama Company and the Woodland Middle School Wind Ensemble. All community members are welcome to attend. Invited guests include Lamarque family veterans and active duty military. 3415 Lamarque Ave., North Port. The school will broadcast a virtual “Wall of Heroes” throughout the day, with photos and mementoes representing Lamarque family veterans and those who are currently serving. Third-grade students will set a table in white colors to honor fallen, captured and missing troops. Passages from Margot Thies Raven’s book, “America’s White Table,” will be read as students perform the ceremony of preparing a place-setting, providing an emotional connection to the reason America honors veterans each year. 3415 Lamarque Ave., North Port

    9:30-10:30 a.m.: Bay Haven School of Basics Plus will host a Veteran’s Day program in the cafeteria. The chorus will sing the “Armed Forces Medley” and “Thank You to Our Veterans.” Speakers will include a Vietnam Veteran speaker and members of the Student Leadership Team. All veterans and community members as invited to join students and staff in this celebration. 2901 W. Tamiami Circle, Sarasota

    9:30-10:30 a.m.: McIntosh Middle School salutes veterans in the gym. The program includes Riverview High bagpipers, Sarasota High JROTC color guard and first responders. Veterans and active military are encouraged to attend. 701 S. McIntosh Road, Sarasota

    7 p.m.: The Sarasota High School Singing Sailors along with guest choirs from Brookside Middle and Sarasota Middle will present their Annual Veterans Salute Concert in the SHS auditorium. A Salute to the Armed Forces will recognize the five branches of the U.S. military. The Sarasota Middle School “Joyful Voices” Choir will sing songs honoring servicemen and women, past and present. The concert will culminate with all three schools, over 300 student voices, singing together. This festive celebration of American heroes is free to the public. Doors open at 6 p.m. Seating is limited and often results in standing room only. The concert is free and open to the public. 2155 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota 

    Friday, Nov. 10

    7:45 a.m.: Venice Elementary School will host veterans and first responders from students’ families with a breakfast and special flag ceremony. All students will participate in the celebration in the school’s courtyard, which will include a short music program, flag-raising and readings. 

    8:30 and 9:30 a.m.: Cranberry Elementary School will hold its annual “A Veterans Day Musical Salute” in the cafeteria. Veterans and current service members will participate in this celebration. Third-grade students will sing patriotic songs and all visiting veterans will be recognized during the assembly. 2775 Shalimar Terrace, North Port

    8:30 a.m.: Lakeview Elementary will hold its 2nd annual Veterans Day Celebration. The celebration will include breakfast honoring veterans in the media center where Lakeview’s fourth and fifth-grade Student Council Representatives will have a chance to meet and interview veteran guests. After a short parade around the media center building, the ceremony will begin in the cafeteria at 9:15 a.m. with a flag presentation by local Cub Scouts and Boy Scout. Anthony P. Gallo, retired U.S. Army captain, will be the guest speaker. To honor the veterans who are guests, student council members will introduce each veteran on stage and speak about his or service history. Veterans will receive a certificate of appreciation. The event will include a patriotic musical performance by Lakeview’s After School Chorus Club. 7299 Proctor Road, Sarasota 

    8:30-10:30 a.m.: Pine View School’s Elementary Student Council will host a Veteran’s Day celebration and parade. The event will start with a breakfast in the student union, followed by a parade and ceremony in the gym. Students will honor approximately 60 veterans for their service to our country. In addition to recognizing each veteran, students will chorally recite “Freedom’s Call.” Elementary Student Council representatives will also promote the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry Food Drive at this time. The ceremony will be enhanced with patriotic music from the Pine View High School Band, String Quartet, and the Elementary Chorus. 1 Python Path, Osprey. 

    8:45-9:45 a.m.: Sarasota Suncoast Academy will honor veterans in the main auditorium.  Students in each grade will sing a patriotic song and will display artwork featuring American symbols. During the celebration, students will honor veterans with a salute to servicemen and women and an opportunity to recognize veterans in the audience. 8084 Hawkins Road, Sarasota

    9 a.m.: Garden Elementary will honor and recognize veterans. The assembly will feature the Venice Middle School Young Marines, patriotic musical performances by Garden students, and student readings dedicated to veterans. “We would like to extend an invitation to the veterans of our community to join us for this event. Please feel free to wear your uniform to the program.” 700 Center Road, Venice

    9 a.m.: Island Village Montessori Venice Campus will thank veterans for their service with coffee and donuts for refreshments. The students will perform through music, drama and poetry. 2001 Pinebrook Road, Venice

    9 a.m.: Tatum Ridge Elementary will present a Veterans Day program. Students will wear red, white and blue. Veterans with a connection to the school are invited to attend. They will be recognized at the ceremony and will greet students as they leave the ceremony. The school’s music teacher has been working with students on several songs. Second-grade students will speak about each branch of the military and the history of Veterans Day. The school has organized a Veterans’ Wall of Fame with pictures and information about veterans from students’ families. 4100 Tatum Road, Sarasota

    9:15 a.m.: Toledo Blade Elementary will hold a Veterans Day Patriotic Tribute. 1201 Geranium Ave., North Port

    9:30-11 a.m.: Heron Creek Middle will salute veterans with a program that includes patriotic musical selections performed by the school’s orchestra and band, a welcome to veterans from Principal Kris Lawrence, presentation of the colors by the North Port High School JROTC, pledge of allegiance and national anthem, a speech by student and Junior Honor Society President Samantha Perseo, a special recognition of veterans, a performance of Taps and a moment of silence for departed veterans.   

    9:45 a.m.: Brookside Middle School is holding its Veterans Day Salute in the cafetorium.  All veterans and their families are invited to join us for musical selections presented by the school’s band and chorus. As an International Baccalaureate World School, Brookside’s music and art students study the meaning of patriotism, the love of country. This unit of study provides an opportunity for students to explore how patriotism helps sustain a nation, how they can become patriotic and how music and art are tools to celebrate and honor a nation. 3636 South Shade Ave., Sarasota

    2 p.m.: Wilkinson Elementary students will gather in the cafeteria to hear the chorus perform patriotic songs, celebrate the veterans in our community, hear speeches about Patriot Plaza at the Sarasota National Cemetery and hear from veterans in the community. The school also will have our Veteran’s Wall on display that students and staff created honoring the veterans in their families. 3400 Wilkinson Road, Sarasota

    5 p.m.: The Imagine School at North Port Young Marines will participate in an activity to celebrate the 241st birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. The parents of Young Marine students are providing a special cake commemorating the event. Master Gunnery Sergeant Russ Barber, a retired U.S. Marine Senior NCO, will serve as master of ceremonies. 2757 Sycamore St., North Port

    Saturday, Nov. 11: Veterans Day

    10 a.m.: The Venice Middle Young Marines and groups from other schools will march in the Veterans Day Parade in downtown Sarasota. The parade is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at Main Street and Osprey Avenue. High school and middle school students from Sarasota Military Academy will also participate. In addition, each of the two campuses (SMA and SMA Prep) will hold a luncheon for veterans. 

    11 a.m.: The Sarasota Academy of the Arts chorus will sing the National Anthem and other songs at the closing ceremony of the Veterans Day parade at 11 a.m. at Selby Five Points Park. Sarasota Military Academy students will provide the honor guard and bagpipes for the ceremony.  



    Students from 3 Booker schools clean gravesite of Emma E. Booker

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    Emma E portraitEmma E Booker grave

    HONORING HER LEGACY: Top photo-A portrait of pioneering educator Emma E. Booker is on display in a room at Booker High School dedicated to the history of the Booker schools and the Newtown community. Bottom photo-Students and staff from the Booker schools and other volunteers will travel to Lincoln Cemetery in Gulfport Nov. 4 to beautify the gravesite of Emma E. Booker.

    SARASOTA, Nov. 2, 2017 — Students and staff from Emma E. Booker Elementary, Booker Middle and Booker High schools will join forces for a community service field trip to honor their founder’s legacy by beautifying her final resting place. Pioneer educator Emma E. Booker, for whom all three schools are named, is buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Gulfport. The cemetery was a primary burial place for African Americans in Pinellas County from the 1920s through desegregation. 

    Students will travel by charter bus at 7 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 4 to trim foliage and pick up debris near Booker’s gravesite during Lincoln Cemetery Clean-Up Day, scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon. The cemetery was among the places damaged by Hurricane Irma in September. The public is encouraged to help. Volunteers are asked to wear closed-toe shoes or work boots, and to bring their own work gloves and lawn equipment, including rakes, trash bags, wagons/wheelbarrows and gas-powered weed eaters.

    Sarasota lays claim to Emma E. Booker as the educational leader for children of color. Booker founded Sarasota’s first school for black students, Sarasota Grammar School, in 1910, but she is also listed in records from the City of St. Petersburg as one of Pinellas County’s pioneering educational leaders. Booker died in 1939, but her legacy — a dedication to quality education for every child — lives on through the lives of every student educated in the Booker schools from 1912 to the present.

    Booker High School principal Rachel Shelley saw the need for a collaborative partnership during an impromptu visit to Booker’s gravesite in early October.

    “My heart was broken when I went to visit Emma E. Booker’s gravesite,” said Shelley. “I decided to do something, but I knew I needed help to get it done.”

    Shelley shared her thoughts with the principals of Emma E. Booker Elementary and Booker Middle schools — Edwina Oliver and LaShawn Frost, respectively. Shelley hopes the gravesite clean-up will be an annual community event.

    “Our goal is to have as many people help with this effort as possible,” Shelley said. “I’m hopeful we can find donors for a new headstone, gravestone or tombstone for Emma E. Booker, as well as permanent maintenance equipment for the cemetery.”

    Lincoln Cemetery was established in 1926 and relies on volunteer efforts for maintenance. Community members are committed to making the cemetery “a peaceful, serene, garden-like resting place where families can find their loves ones and pay respect for generations,” in accordance with the mission statement on

    Lincoln Cemetery is located at 600 58th St. in Gulfport. For information on the field trip, call Booker High School at 941-355-2967. 

    Sarasota County observes School Psychology Awareness Week

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    SCS News

    SARASOTA COUNTY, Nov. 2, 2017 - During School Psychology Awareness Week, November 13–17, 2017, the 23 school psychologists employed by Sarasota County Schools are encouraging students to “Power Up! Be a Positive Charge.” The phrase “Power Up!” emphasizes each individual’s ability to plug into the talents, skills, behaviors, and mindset that will help them grow and contribute to the quality of their school and broader community. The goal is to highlight how taking a small, positive action creates connections that lead to positive changes both for themselves as individuals and for their communities as members of classrooms, peer groups, families, teams, and clubs.

    School Psychologists apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally by providing direct support to students, such as individualized learning and behavioral assessments to identify students’ strengths and needs, academic and behavioral interventions, counseling, and social skills training. School psychologists also work behind the scene, consulting with teachers, families, and other educators to improve support strategies and school-wide practices and policies. School psychologists are in a unique position to ensure students’ success every day, including both small and big accomplishments. 

    All children and youth can face problems from time to time related to learning; social relationships; making difficult decisions; or managing emotions such as feeling depressed, anxious, worried, or isolated. School psychologists help students, families, educators, and members of the community understand and resolve both long-term, chronic problems and short-term issues that students may face. They are a highly skilled and ready resource in the effort to ensure that all children and youth thrive in school, at home, and in life.  

    Powering up to be a positive charge can take many forms. It can mean taking action to speak up when bullying occurs, engaging in learning, trying a new activity or skill, cleaning up trash on the playground, doing something kind for a classmate or neighbor, or making new friends. These actions empower children, create compassion, strengthen connections, and build resiliency—all traits that are critical for academic and social–emotional success. Being a positive charge to grow as an individual and to make the world even a little bit better can have a long lasting impact.

    Power Up at Home

    There are many ways families can help children take action to make positive changes. As parents and caregivers, you can:

    1. Talk to your kids about sparks—actions that can help them be a positive charge. Spark ideas include: dream, laugh, connect, imagine, create, encourage, share, listen, help, explore, try, speak up.
    2. Help your children develop positive relationships with peers and adults, and model respectful, caring behaviors with others.
    3. Help your children identify their strengths and interests, learn new skills. Emphasize that learning and growing require trying new things and that success comes from small steps to a long-term goal.
    4. Encourage goal setting and mapping out a plan for achieving the goals. Talk with your children about steps they have taken, what worked and what didn’t, and what they might do next.
    5. Praise attempts, as well as success, and make sure that you focus on the effort or hard work put into the success. Emphasize the importance of deliberate practice that talent is developed over time through skillful practice.
    6. Create an environment at home that allows your children to explore building (playing with blocks, helping with projects, and more), drawing (crayons, finger paints, paper), and music (on the radio, with children’s instruments, or through formal training through school or community resources). This may help to identify special interests.
    7. Help your child work through setbacks, or lack of self-confidence, by helping to identify negative thoughts that may suggest concerns about his or her ability to be successful. As a parent, you can help children see what the small steps are and how persisting and overcoming obstacles is a part of succeeding. Help your child realize that setbacks are not permanent or all-encompassing.
    8. Seek out support systems available in the community to help your children learn new skills and thrive, such as tutoring or mentoring programs. Encourage your children to participate in community activities that may help them to develop positive behaviors, such as being grateful. In particular, volunteer activities may encourage the development of positive behaviors. Consider participating in community events yourself as a role model.
    9. Encourage your children to participate in school and community activities that may help them to develop positive behaviors, such as being grateful. In particular, volunteer activities may encourage the development of positive behaviors. Consider participating in community and school events yourself as role a model.

    Adapted with permission from

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