Sarasota County Schools News

Acting principals named for Wilkinson and Venice elementary schools

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Dec. 18, 2015 – Acting principals will lead Wilkinson and Venice elementary schools from Jan. 4, when school resumes after winter break, through the end of the 2015-16 school year in June.

Superintendent Lori White has assigned Wilkinson Principal Ruth Thomas to the Task Force on the Achievement Gap in Elementary Schools, which was formed in February to research and address the gap in academic achievement between white and minority students. Thomas has been a member of that task force since its inception. White said she believes the district’s students and parents will best be served by Thomas working full-time on the task force until her planned retirement in June.

Thomas began her career with the Sarasota County School District in 1977 and was named principal of Wilkinson in 2006. She also served as assistant principal at Wilkinson, Emma E. Booker and Phillippi Shores elementary schools and at Booker Middle.

William Muth has been named acting principal of Wilkinson. Muth was principal of Wilkinson from 1986 to 2006. He also served as principal of Ashton Elementary from 2006 until his retirement in 2012.   

“We are looking forward to having Ruth bring her energy and experience to the Task Force on the Achievement Gap,” said Laura Kingsley, the district executive director of elementary schools. “Her talents and insight will help us accomplish great things for the district’s 16,000 elementary students. We are also fortunate that longtime Wilkinson Principal Bill Muth agreed to return for the remainder of the school year to a place he called his ‘home away from home’ for 20 years.”

Venice Elementary Principal Theresa Baus is retiring from the district; her last day as principal is today (Dec. 18). She became principal of Venice Elementary in 2002 after serving as assistant principal at Lakeview Elementary from 1997 to 2001. Baus also taught at Brentwood and Tuttle elementary schools; her career with the Sarasota County Schools began in 1978.        

Al Bezilla will be acting principal at Venice Elementary. He has served in that role for the district at several elementary schools, including Emma E. Booker, Phillippi Shores, Fruitville and Glenallen.

“Theresa Baus has served the Venice Elementary extended family for over 13 years as part of her 37-year career with the Sarasota County Schools,” Kingsley said. “We thank her for her dedicated service to the district. Al Bezilla will lead the school well as acting principal.”

In the spring, parents and staff at Wilkinson and Venice Elementary will be invited to participate in meetings held at the schools to determine what qualities they would like to see in their school’s next principal. New principals at both schools are expected to be named by late spring and to start July 1.


Pine View School partners with Zenie Foundation on scholarships

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SCS News

OSPREY, Dec. 18, 2015 – Administrators at Pine View School recently accepted an invitation from the Zenie Foundation to pilot the first-ever partnership of the Foundation with a high school. The program will award at least one qualified Pine View senior with a $30,000 Zenie Foundation award toward the student’s undergraduate education.

Through the partnership, Pine View will recommend outstanding candidates for Zenie Foundation fast-track award consideration. 

“Pine View is a perfect match for this innovative partnership. Their student profile of intellectually gifted and passionate students aligns well with the students we seek,” said Frank Zenie, co-founder of the Foundation and Sarasota resident. “Pine View’s commitment to prepare its students for their college experience is impressive. This dovetails well with our mission to help students become effective adults through education by providing monetary support and real-world coaching through the undergraduate years.”

The Zenie Foundation selected Pine View to pilot the program because of the school’s rigorous academics and exemplary college preparation curriculum. The mutual goal is to develop a unique process to match deserving Pine View seniors with Zenie Foundation scholarships and advance the pilot into a permanent Zenie Foundation-Pine View School partnership.


About Pine View School

Pine View, a Sarasota County public school, provides academic and related programs to meet the unique needs of intellectually gifted students in grades two through 12. Its competitive entry admission is open to residents throughout Sarasota County. Pine View has about 2,000 students; about 99 percent of the school’s seniors matriculate to four-year colleges and universities. In 2013 Pine View was ranked the sixth best high school in America by U.S. News & World Report.


About the Zenie Foundation 

Founded in 1984, the Zenie Foundation believes that education enables young people to develop into effective adults. The Foundation co-invests with the student, the family and the school, providing both financial assistance and real-world coaching to foster self-development. The Zenie Foundation is headquartered in Portland, Maine. Frank Zenie, its co-founder, is a year-round Sarasota resident.

District joins community in Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

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Attendance Awareness poster-3rd grade student fall 2015Atwater Principal Kirk Hutchinson-3rd grader Ciara Dungan

COOL SCHOOL POSTER: Above, as part of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, students in Sarasota and Manatee counties created posters to encourage daily school attendance. This winning poster was designed by Atwater Elementary third-grader Ciara Dungan. Below, Atwater Elementary Principal Kirk Hutchinson shares a proud moment with Ciara at a celebration Feb. 2 honoring poster contest winners.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Dec. 16, 2015 — The Sarasota County School District has joined forces with community partners to support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The Campaign is a community-wide effort to help all children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade. The region – including Manatee and Sarasota counties — is focused on addressing the most common issues and obstacles that impact a child’s ability to read.

Part of a nationwide movement, the Suncoast Campaign is focused on addressing the most common issues and obstacles that impact a child’s ability to read. It is one of over 230 Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities in the U.S. and two of 16 in Florida. The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on three community-solution areas: 

School Readiness:

By the time they start kindergarten, children from low-income homes may already be 12-14 months behind their peers in language and reading skills. Making sure children are ready to learn puts them on a path to succeed.

The Sarasota County School District’s Task Force on the Achievement Gap initiated a V2K Committee (Voluntary Pre-K to Kindergarten) and held two events to develop relationships between VPK providers and kindergarten teachers that will result in future meaningful sharing of professional development and other resources. 


To succeed in school, children need to attend school regularly. Students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade (missing 18+ days a year) are at risk of being unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade. 

The Sarasota County School District Task Force’s Attendance Committee has been busy reviewing and updating district procedures, and putting a “name and face” on the children who were chronically absent last year. Schools have creatively responded — for example, providing mentors for each child, instituting incentives and creating Attendance Plans. Many of the ideas are from a Toolkit put together from resources found at

The Patterson Foundation supports the bi-county efforts of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. This year, The Patterson Foundation funded the inaugural Attendance Awareness Poster Contest, which raised awareness about the importance of attendance in both counties. Approximately, 38,000 posters from 83 schools were submitted. In October. Click here to see the winning Attendance Awareness posters from students in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The Patterson Foundation brought Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, to the area. Hedy presented to key education personnel in Sarasota and Manatee counties about chronic absenteeism and solutions that work. For more information, visit

Summer Learning:

Students may lose ground academically over the summer. Some children from low-income homes fall behind as much as two months in reading achievement.

The Sarasota County School District is working with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to support outstanding summer programs at various community sites, and is continuing its work with Alta Vista Elementary School Principal Barbara Shirley and donors Joe and Mary Kay Henson to replicate Alta Vista’s Eagle Academy at other elementary schools in the district. These programs focus on a “two generations – one future” component that raises the status of the entire family.

Click here to visit the website of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. 

Sarasota named one of 10 Gold Level Healthy School Districts

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Healthy Schools flag to School Board 12-8-15

FLYING THE 'HEALTHY' FLAG: Florida Action for Healthy Kids executive committee member Dan Caccamo, center, presents the Healthy School District Gold Level flag at the Dec. 8 School Board meeting. Accepting on behalf of the district are, from left, Scott Lempe, deputy superintendent; Jane Goodwin, School Board member; Sherri Reynolds, Student Services supervisor; Caccamo; Shirley Brown, School Board chairwoman; and Robbie Hodgson of Booker High School, student representative to the School Board.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Dec. 16, 2015 — The Sarasota County School District was recognized at the Dec. 8 School Board meeting by Florida Action for Healthy Kids as a Gold Achievement Level Healthy School District. FAHK executive team member Dan Caccamo presented the award in the form of a Florida Healthy School District flag to School Board Chairwoman Shirley Brown.

Since 2009 FAHK, the Florida Coordinated School Health Partnership, and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents have recognized 36 districts as Florida Healthy School Districts, but only 10 have been recognized at the Gold Level. This award covers school years 2015-16 and 2016-17, and is the second time in a row that the Sarasota County School District has been recognized as a Gold Level award recipient (the district’s first Gold award was for the previous two-year period).

Caccamo, who serves on the executive committee of Florida Action for Healthy Kids, told the School Board, “We applaud your district for establishing a culture and climate in which students and staff can reach their personal potential. The coordinated school health approach your district has embraced is effective in reducing and eliminating the barriers to learning and supports academic achievement. Thank you for being at the forefront of ensuring the future of a healthy Florida by creating health-literate and health-practicing students and staff.”

Sherri Reynolds, the district’s supervisor of pupil support services, prepared the application. She attributed the second recognition at the Gold Level as “a team effort. Many departments in our district work together to ensure the health of our students and staff. Students can’t succeed in school if they’re not healthy; our dedication to the ‘whole child’ is reflected in this award.”

To qualify as a Healthy School District, school systems must provide FAHK with a detailed self-assessment on their activities in eight categories: health education, physical education, health services, nutrition services, counseling, psychological and social services, healthy school environment, health promotion for staff, and parent and community involvement. The assessments are evaluated on a scale of 1-100. A score higher than 86 percent is required to earn the Gold Level.

The district’s score in nutrition services and education was 100 percent. Scores in the other categories were as follows: health services, 97 percent; family and community involvement, 95 percent; physical education, 94 percent; employee wellness, 92 percent; healthy school environment, 90 percent; health education, 86 percent; counseling, psychological and social services, 86 percent.

About Florida Action for Healthy Kids

Florida Action for Healthy Kids is a national non-profit organization that makes sure that every kid is healthy, active and ready to learn. They do this by mobilizing school professionals, families and communities to take actions that lead to healthy eating, physical activity and healthier schools where kids thrive.

Tatum Ridge Elementary dads give presents to three needy families

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Tatum Ridge dads wrap gifts Dec 2015

SCHOOL DADS SPREAD JOY: Members of the Tatum Ridge Elementary Dads Group wrap gifts for needy families Dec. 17. Pictured from left are David Lepow, Assistant Principal Intern Scott Parrish, Mark Marquez and Principal Barry Dunn.

SARASOTA, Dec. 18, 2015 - The Tatum Ridge Dads Group, fathers of students at Tatum Ridge Elementary School, is giving Christmas presents to three needy families at the school. At 8:30 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 17, the dads will meet in the school’s media center to wrap the presents.

About 30 dads are in the group. They meet once a month and hold an annual golf tournament to raise money to support various causes at the school, as well as sponsoring a family game night and a bowling night.

This year the dads decided to help families in need for the holidays by shopping for six children in three families. In addition, the school’s Parent Teacher Organization asked parents and staff to send in donations and will use those funds to buy gift cards for the parents of the three families in need. The families will pick up the gifts Friday at the school.

Tatum Ridge Elementary School is located at 4100 Tatum Road in Sarasota.



Phillippi Shores teacher conducts last holiday concerts before retirement

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Phillippi Shores music teacher Peggy Conrad-retired Dec 2015

LONGTIME MUSIC TEACHER: Peggy Conrad taught at Phillippi Shores Elementary for 27 years. Her last annual holiday concerts at the school will be Dec. 15-17, 2015.

SARASOTA, Dec. 14, 2015 - Music teacher Peggy Conrad, who has been at Phillippi Shores Elementary School for 27 years, will bid a musical farewell to her 35-year career with the Sarasota County Schools by conducting student singers in her final annual holiday concerts at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 15-17, in the school’s cafeteria.

The final concert on Thursday will feature fourth- and fifth grade students, and audience participation.

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

Tatum Ridge Elementary aide seeks shipper for ‘Books for Africa’

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Tatum volunteers-Books for Africa 2015-16Tatum aide Maggie Kristhanson-Books for Africa 2015-16

BOOKS FOR AFRICA: In top photo, volunteers prepare to take books to storage for eventual transport to Africa. Pictured from left are Klara Roguska, 10th-grade student visiting from Warsaw, Poland; Emily Crump, 11th grade student at Riverview High; Randy Roy, head custodian at Glenallen Elementary; Alex Reda, seventh-grade student at Sarasota Middle; Nathan Reda, ninth-grade student at Sarasota High; and Maggie Kristjanson, teacher’s aide at Tatum Ridge Elementary. Bottom photo: Tatum Ridge Elementary teacher’s aide Maggie Kristjanson with Books for Africa donations. The books are at Big Jim Self Storage in Sarasota awaiting transport to Atlanta and, eventually, to Africa. Kristjanson is seeking donated transportation services for the materials.

SARASOTA, Dec. 11, 2015 – Staff members and parent volunteers at Tatum Ridge Elementary School have spearheaded an effort to send mathematics textbooks that are no longer used in the Sarasota County School District to schools in African countries. The books are being donated to a nonprofit organization known as Books for Africa. The local effort is in need of the donation of services from a shipping company so the books can be sent to Atlanta, the next step of their journey to Africa.

The project began near the end of the 2014-15 school year, when teachers at Tatum Ridge Elementary were asked to bring their old math textbooks to the school’s media center to make way for the district’s newly adopted series of math books and related materials. When they saw the volume of older materials that was piling up, staff members and parent volunteers suggested that the old books might find a new, useful life elsewhere.

Renee McQueen, the school’s media aide and Maggie Kristjanson, a teacher’s aide in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program, conferred with parent volunteer Karrah Voros. Together they decided that the three of them could manage collecting the books from district elementary schools.

First, they found and contacted Books for Africa, an organization that distributes textbooks and other educational materials to schools in developing nations, where such materials and financial resources are scarce. Next, they contacted Paco Colon, manager of the Big Jim Self Storage location on Apex Road, who generously offered to donate as much storage space as would be needed. With these arrangements in place, project organizers got the blessing of school and district administrators.

The next step was to contact all of the district’s elementary school principals to ask if their school would like to participate. The idea was enthusiastically received; many of the elementary schools in the district still had the items and wanted to donate them.

Over the summer, a team of volunteers visited the 14 participating schools with the largest vehicles they had or could borrow, and picked up any materials that had been collected for the book drive. Voros even rented a U-Haul truck at her own expense, so they could pick up as many materials as possible in one day. In addition to the old math items, the team collected story books teachers no longer needed and withdrawn library books. 

“The volunteers were very dedicated, working several hours on each run during the hot summer months,” said Kristjanson. “Now, four 10-by-10-foot storage units are filled with textbooks, workbooks, software, related math materials and various other items that are awaiting the final step of the project: transport to the “Books for Africa” warehouse in Atlanta. We’re hoping that, in this season of giving, a transportation company will donate the logistics and transportation we need to empty the storage units and send the books on their way.”

Kristjanson notes that, because Books for Africa is a charitable organization, any transportation company that can transport the items to Atlanta pro bono will be able to write it off as a tax-deductible donation.

Anyone who would like to donate shipping services to send the books to Atlanta, or a cash donation to help pay for shipping, is asked to contact Kristjanson at or 941-321-3281.

“Books For Africa is a simple idea, but its impact is transformative. For us, literacy is quite simply the bridge from misery to hope.”  -Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary-General

About Books for Africa (from

The mission of Books for Africa is to end the book famine in Africa. With your help, we will help create a culture of literacy and provide the tools of empowerment to the next generation of parents, teachers, and leaders in Africa.

Books donated by publishers, schools, libraries, individuals, and organizations are sorted and packed by volunteers who carefully choose books that are age- and subject-appropriate. They are shipped in sea containers paid for by contributions from people like you. It costs about 50 cents to send a book from the U.S. to Africa.

Books for Africa has shipped more than 34 million books to 49 different countries since 1988. Over the past 12 months we have shipped 2.4 million books, 665 computers and 200 e-readers containing 1.6 million digital books, as well as five new law and human rights libraries to 21 African countries. More than $2.3 million was raised last year to ship the books to the students of Africa.

They are on once-empty library shelves, in classrooms in rural schools, and in the hands of children who have never before held a book. Each book will be read over and over again. When the books arrive, they go to those who need them most: children who are hungry to read, hungry to learn, hungry to explore the world in ways that only books make possible.

Sarasota County Commission honors student artists for 2016 calendar

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2016 NEST calendar cover art-Garden El studentSarasota city commission-calendar artists 2016

BRANCH OUT, PLANT A TREE: Top photo is the cover art for the 2016 NEST calendar. It was created by first-grade Garden Elementary student Reece Lanum. Bottom photo: On Dec. 9, Sarasota County commissioners honored the 13 students who created the calendar artwork.

This news release is from Sarasota County Government:

SARASOTA COUNTY, Dec. 9, 2015 - Sarasota County commissioners today honored 13 elementary school artists whose illustrations appear in the 2016 "Branch Out - Plant a Tree!" calendar, an effort of Sarasota County's Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST). 

The goal of the calendar is to show how the community's youth interpret the environmental needs of the county, and how what we do in our homes and on our lands has a direct impact on the health of our beautiful bays and beaches. 

"I think the calendar we produced this year is one of the best ever," said Rob Wright, who coordinates the calendar for the NEST program.

The popular annual calendar contest is open to any elementary student in any public or private Sarasota County school, including charter and elementary-age home-schooled students.

Students whose artwork is selected for the calendar are honored each December by the Sarasota County Commission with a breakfast ceremony and board meeting recognition. Commissioners state that this is one of their favorite events of the year; they dedicate time to sign each winning student's calendar, and each commissioner asks the students to sign his or her artwork in the commissioner's copy of the calendar. 

"Our future is bright with these kids," said Sarasota County Commission Chair Carolyn Mason. "We're proud as a commission, and our community should be proud as well." 

Each winner's school will receive a supply of calendars, and copies of their winning artwork will be displayed throughout January 2016 in the Sarasota County School Board Administration offices.  The calendars are also distributed to schools, libraries, homeowners associations, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, local parks and recreational centers, after Jan. 1. 

To get a free copy of the 2016 "Branch Out - Plant a Tree!" calendar, or to learn more about the NEST program, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 and ask for Rob Wright.

McIntosh Middle students Skype with creator of R2-D2 from 'Star Wars'

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Tony Dyson with R2-D2

THE FORCE IS WITH HIM: Tony Dyson with R2-D2, the robot character he built for Star Wars.

SARASOTA, Dec. 9, 2015 – Just a few days before the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” students from McIntosh Middle School will have a conversation with the creator of the robot R2-D2, one of the most beloved and recognizable characters from the popular film series.

At 2:15 p.m., Monday, Dec. 14, in the school’s cafetorium, McIntosh students will gather to interact with Tony Dyson via Skype, a web-based teleconferencing application. Dyson, who lives in Malta, likes to inspire children in schools that integrate the arts with science, technology, engineering and math, to think inquisitively and creatively.

The Skype session with Dyson is part of McIntosh’s monthly speakers program.

“Professionals from in and around our community come to speak to our students about various careers as part of our STEM A2 magnet program,” said teacher Leiland Theriot. “We have had tech people, pharmaceutical researchers, architects specializing in ‘green’ architecture, Harvard mathematicians, biotech software and hardware engineers, journalists and many others. Our students are especially excited about talking to the creator of R2-D2!”

Dyson built the original R2-D2 based on sketches by Ralph McQuarrie; the character was co-developed by John Stears.

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



Shirley Brown elected chair of School Board for one-year term

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Shirley Brown 2014

NEW CHAIR OF SCHOOL BOARD: Longtime School Board member Shirley Brown will serve as board chairwoman until November 2016.

SARASOTA, Dec. 7, 2015 – At the annual reorganization meeting of the School Board of Sarasota County Nov. 17, members of the board elected Shirley Brown as chairwoman. Brown succeeds Frank Kovach and will serve until the board’s next annual election of the chair in November 2016.  Caroline Zucker was elected vice chair for the same term.

Brown said her goal is to for the School Board to work together even more as a team. “I’d also like to encourage additional involvement by community members in our public schools, which contribute so much to our quality of life in Sarasota County,” she said. 

Brown was elected to the School Board in November 2006. She served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1992 to 2000, representing District 69 as a Democrat. Brown currently serves on the boards of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Sarasota County, and SPARCC, the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, which serves Sarasota and DeSoto counties. She attends Church of the Palms and is a member of many local civic organizations. 

Southside Elementary students ‘Bag Up the Love’ for foster kids

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Dec. 4, 2015 –The Southside Elementary School Student Council will partner with local charity Bag Up the Love to stuff bags of supplies for children entering the foster care system, at 3:15 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 8, in the school’s media center.

The council includes 20 students selected by their peers from classes in grades three through five. The students came up with the idea of raising funds through ideas such as “Frozen Fridays,” selling popsicles after school.

This is the first donation of the year by the student council. The duffel bags they stuff will include the basics, such as shampoo, soap, socks and a toothbrush, and special treats, such as a stuffed animal, a blanket and a personalized note from the student who stuffed the bag.

Each month in Sarasota there are 15 to 20 children who enter the foster care system. Bag Up the Love helps provide them with a duffel bag instead of the standard trash bag they are given by the foster care system for their possessions.

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

About Bag Up the Love (adapted from info at

Children and teens in Sarasota County who enter the foster care system are given a black plastic trash bag in which they pack up their worldly possessions. This doesn’t feel right to us, and after a little research we found that other groups across the nation have successfully started programs to change this.

Bag Up The Love, working independently from but in conjunction with Safe Children Coalition and the Sarasota YMCA, will replace the trash bags with brand new duffel bags stuffed with supplies.

Safe Children Coalition does such an amazing job collecting the necessities — clothes, school supplies and even toilet paper — that we wanted to provide something they couldn’t ask for, something perhaps considered a luxury. Does a trash bag work? Sure. But does it have to be that way? We don’t think so.

We aim to supply 250 duffel bag sets to children entering the foster care system annually in Sarasota County, to be increased as needed. Each bag contains necessities and special treats that make a foster child feel like her or she is truly at home.


District receives $25,000 grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Dec. 3, 2015 — The Sarasota County School District has received a $25,000 grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for the Reading Recovery program, which is designed to help struggling readers at three elementary schools: Atwater and Cranberry in North Port, and Tuttle in Sarasota. Gulf Coast also serves as the fiscal agent for the project.

The district launched the program this school year. It is a school-based, short-term intervention designed for students in first grade who have great difficulty reading and writing. The intervention involves intensive one-to-one lessons with a trained literacy teacher 30 minutes a day for 12 to 20 weeks. Reading Recovery lessons are customized for each child and are designed to complement classroom teaching, helping students engage in regular academic work with their classmates. When a student in the program is reading and writing at the level of their peers, the series of lessons is discontinued.

The Reading Recovery program is fully funded at the participating schools for 2015-16, with some aspects of the program funded for three years. In addition to the grant from Gulf Coast, the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation has contributed $100,000 for the first year of the program. Keith and Linda Monda, who helped support the national implementation of the program, also have contributed $100,000 for the first year of its implementation in Sarasota County through their charitable fund at Gulf Coast.

Sarasota County Schools Executive Director of Elementary Schools Laura Kingsley said, “We are grateful to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and all the funders who have made the Reading Recovery program possible at these three schools. Their generosity will help ensure that these students catch up with their peers in the fundamental skill of reading, which is the foundation for future success in school and in life.”

About Reading Recovery

Reading Recovery helps struggling beginning readers and writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The intervention requires ongoing data collection for each and every child who has lessons. In the U.S., evaluation is conducted by the International Data Evaluation Center located at The Ohio State University. Results are consistent across 25 years and include more than 2 million Reading Recovery students. Achievement gaps are greatly reduced or closed across varying racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic groups, and for English language learners. More than 100 research studies have documented Reading Recovery’s benefits for students and schools. More information is at

About Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Together with its 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, it has become the philanthropic home of more than 600 families who have established charitable funds there, and has invested more than $208 million in grants in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture and the environment. Learn more at

Booker Middle hosts West Point cadets for robotics summit

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Dec. 3, 2015 – Cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point will meet with students during a robotics summit at Booker Middle School.

Cadets and professors from West Point will teach robotics to sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4 in the school’s media center. Students from Largo Middle School in Pinellas County will join their Booker Middle counterparts for this opportunity.

This special event is sponsored by College for Every Student, a mentoring group dedicated to providing college experiences and training for middle and high school students. Students will design, build, program and operate robots during the sessions.

“This is the perfect event for students who are thinking about a future in science or engineering,” said Rick Baxter, BMS technology instructor and a member of the CFES team. “And having West Point cadets and instructors here to teach them is a win-win for everyone involved.”

The CFES program at Booker Middle is the only middle school program of its kind on the Suncoast. The program, led by Haley Shaffer, has enrolled 350 students in its first three years. The college preparedness program teaches students about the benefits of higher education through workshops, experiential learning and field trips to college campuses and local industry.

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

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