Sarasota County Schools News

Pine View School to offer Advanced Placement Capstone Program

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SCS News

OSPREY, May 31, 2016 – Starting in the 2016-17 school year, Pine View School will offer Advanced Placement Capstone – an innovative program created designed to allow high school students to develop critical skills required for success in college, including inquiry, research, academic writing and collaboration. Pine View, which serves intellectually gifted students in grades two-12, will be one of more than 350 schools worldwide to offer AP Capstone. The program was developed by The College Board, a not-for-profit organization best known for the SAT college entrance exam.

“We are pleased to offer the rigorous AP Capstone program at Pine View,” said Principal Stephen Covert. “We believe it will be a perfect academic fit for many of our high school students.”

The program consists of two sequential courses, AP Seminar and AP Research, which were designed as a result of feedback from college faculties and admissions officers. The first of the AP Capstone courses, AP Seminar, will begin at Pine View in 2016 when the Sarasota County school year starts Monday, Aug. 22. The program will be offered to juniors, and will allow students the opportunity to explore complex, real-world topics though a multitude of lenses and points of view.

In AP Seminar, students gather research using a variety of materials such as research studies, academic journals and foundational texts. They are required to analyze and evaluate various points of view and synthesize their research. They are then challenged to develop their own points of view and their own research plans. Teachers are encouraged to suggest topics and themes matching students’ interests, such as sustainability, national security, technology and citizens’ rights to privacy. Unlike traditional AP courses, the AP Seminar course assessment includes an individual paper and presentation, a team project and a written exam. 

Pine View will offer the second Capstone course, AP Research, to seniors in the fall of 2017. AP Research provides students with an opportunity to build on the foundational skills learned in the AP Seminar course. Students dig more deeply into a topic of interest or study and are mentored throughout the year as they develop an original academic thesis, which is designed to be ready for peer-review publication or presentation. Students explore different types of citations, learn how to use research methodology, and prepare to defend their thesis.

Students can earn the AP Capstone Diploma if they score a three or higher on the AP Seminar and AP Research exams, and a three or higher on four Advance Placement exams of their choosing.

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


State group recognizes Gocio Elementary as Florida Arts Model School

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Gocio Aladdin SMALL May 2015

THE MAGIC OF A MODEL SCHOOL: Gocio Elementary is recognized as a Florida Arts Model School for programs such as musical theater. In this May 2015 photo, Gocio students Marisa Cruz-Solis, at left, and Sara Vitale prepare for their roles in “Disney’s Aladdin KIDS.”

SARASOTA, May 31, 2016 – The Florida Alliance for Arts Education will recognize Gocio Elementary School as a Florida Arts Model School at the organization’s annual Leadership Summit in Daytona Beach, June 23 through 25. The designation covers a three-year period; Gocio has been a Model School continuously since 2010. During the FAAE Summit, Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Lori White also will be honored as Superintendent of the Year for her support of arts education.

The Florida Arts Model Schools program recognizes schools in Florida that have done an exemplary job making the arts an essential part of their education curriculum. The purpose of the award is to identify, recognize and promote statewide K-12 fine arts programs that balance diversity, high performance standards and instructional quality in visual and performing arts education. Last year, Booker Middle School joined Gocio as a Florida Arts Model School; Booker’s designation is for the years 2015-18.

“We are proud that Gocio Elementary continues to be recognized for its commitment to arts education and the high quality and diversity of the arts education programs we offer,” said Principal Pam Buchanan, who is retiring at the end of the school year after leading the school for six years.

Gocio Elementary School is located at 3450 Gocio Road, Sarasota. 




Executive director of high schools receives sports safety award

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Cantees and Tim Tebow-sports award May 2016

SPORTS STANDOUTS: Florida Gators football legend Tim Tebow congratulates Executive Director of High Schools Steve Cantees on receiving the first-ever Best of HT Preps Sports Safety Partner of the Year Award May 24. Photo courtesy Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

SARASOTA, May 27, 2016 — Sarasota County Schools Executive Director of High Schools Steve Cantees received the first-ever Sports Safety Partner of the Year Award from Sarasota Memorial Hospital and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune at the Best of HT Preps Awards ceremony May 24 at Robarts Arena honoring local high school athletes.

In his remarks presenting the award to Cantees, SMH CEO David Verinder said, “There’s so much value in high school sports besides the satisfaction from a well-played game – about teamwork, collaboration, communication and dedication.  

“As leaders, it’s up to all of us to make sure student athletes have the opportunity to play the games they love – safely. Concussion management has been a topic discussed at the state and national level for decades. And it’s something the school district and hospital have worked on separately for many years.

“In 2014, we took a huge step forward when Executive Director of High Schools Steve Cantees and Sarasota County Schools opened their doors and began helping us test a new approach in concussion education and management.  

“In a research study led by local neurologist Dr. Daniel Stein and SMH research nurse Allison Lauderdale, we are using a novel iPad app to provide important base-line testing on football players at all five public high schools in Sarasota County. The data collected becomes a critical benchmark if they are later injured during practice or play.

“The technology is showing a lot of promise, and in future could become a game changer for the way our nation tests athletes' vision, balance and neuro-cognitive abilities before and after an injury. At this time, I’m very pleased to present our first Sports Safety Partner of the Year award to Steve Cantees and Sarasota County Schools.”

Cantees said he was honored to receive the award and thanked the district’s high school athletic directors, principals and others who contributed to the effort to keep student athletes safe.

FL arts education group names Lori White 'Superintendent of the Year'

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Lori White Oct 2015

CHAMPION OF ARTS EDUCATION: Lori White is being honored by the Florida Alliance for Arts Education as its Superintendent of the Year.

This news release is from the Florida Alliance for Arts Education.

ORLANDO, May 24, 2016 – The Florida Alliance for Arts Education has named Lori White, superintendent of Sarasota County schools, its 2016 Superintendent of the Year.

White will be formally honored during an awards ceremony at the FAAE Leadership Summit. The Summit will be held June 23-25 at The Shores Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach. The Awards Ceremony will take place at The Brown Museum of Art at the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts and Sciences at 6 p.m., Friday, June 24. 

“I am honored to be named Superintendent of the Year by the Florida Alliance for Arts Education,” White said. “The organization’s commitment and leadership in arts education makes this award especially meaningful. I’m fortunate to lead a school district that gets so much support from local arts and cultural organizations, foundations and individuals that care so deeply about the arts as an integral part of K-12 education. They know that engaging students in the arts helps young people think and act creatively, whatever career path they may pursue.”

Since 1981, FAAE has united educators, artists, community leaders, concerned citizens, corporate partners and arts-education organizations and institutions in pursuit of a common goal: to ensure that all Florida students receive a complete education that includes the arts.

“It is FAAE’s vision for every child in every school to have a well-rounded education that includes a comprehensive, sequential, high-quality program of arts instruction, and for all Florida communities to have broad-based cultural programs available to support lifelong learning in and through the arts,” said Julie Hebert, the alliance’s executive director. “Sarasota has long been a model for demonstrating student achievement and equitable access to a high-quality arts education.”

Each year during the summit, FAAE recognizes outstanding leaders in arts education. “It is our hope that educators will see the great things happening around the state and implement similar models in their own districts,” Hebert said. “Wouldn’t it be great if all Florida students had the same opportunities in arts education as students in Sarasota do?”

When selecting the Superintendent of the Year, FAAE recognizes that strong leadership from the top is necessary to develop and maintain strong arts education programs in a school district. Superintendent White was selected for this prestigious award based upon her tireless efforts to maintain outstanding arts programs in the Sarasota schools as well as the strong relationships she has fostered with community arts organizations.

White has served as superintendent of Sarasota County schools since 2008 and is renowned across the district and state for her support of arts education. She grew up in Sarasota and has spent her entire career as a teacher and administrator in the district. She served as director of curriculum and instruction from 1995-2003 and was later associate superintendent of instructional services.

White received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida State University. She is married and has two grown children and two grandchildren.

Angela Hartvigsen, Sarasota County’s Fine Arts Program Specialist, stated that despite budget shortfalls and recommendations from consultants to cut arts education positions, White staunchly supported the presence of the arts in all of Sarasota’s public schools. Due in large part to White’s support, Sarasota County was the nation’s sixth community chosen for the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child Initiative. This initiative promotes access and equity in arts experiences for all students, K-8, through the school district, the local arts community, and the Kennedy Center.

Brian Hersh, the Program Director for Any Given Child Sarasota, added that “in addition to Any Given Child, Superintendent White’s involvement in EdExplore was crucial to ensuring students experiential learning opportunities with and through the arts.” EdExplore is an online platform that connects teachers to a plethora of local community arts, cultural, historical, and science field-based organizations that provide opportunities to enrich and extend the school curriculum.

“Mrs. White is an eloquent speaker about the arts and their importance to a child’s whole education. She is also proud to tell you about her days playing the violin at Pine View School,” Hartvigsen remarked.

Sarasota High choirs to sing year-end concert with Key Chorale May 26

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SHS Chamber Choir spring 2016

SINGING SAILORS: The 2016 Sarasota High Chamber Choir and other SHS choirs will perform their Final Bow Concert May 26 in the SHS auditorium. Pictured at right is choir director Kirby Sanders.

SARASOTA, May 24, 2016 – The Sarasota High School Choral Department will present the Final Bow Concert at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 26, in the school auditorium. The event will mark the end of the school year and the last choir performance by graduating seniors.

The program will feature a wide variety of music and will showcase the Singing Sailors, the Chamber Choir, the Women’s Chorale and student soloists. The Key Chorale, a local adult choral music group conducted by Joseph Caulkins, will join the Chamber Choir for a presentation of songs from the April concert, Tomorrow’s Voices Today, the Key Chorale’s third annual collaboration with choirs from Sarasota County high school choirs.

The program will conclude with a salute to the graduating seniors of 2016 as they take their final bow. The concert is free and open to the public. More information is available by calling 941-955-0181, ext. 64570, between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Sarasota High School is located at 1000 S. School Ave., Sarasota.

Administrators’ organizations award 15 college scholarships

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SDA-SBA Scholarship winners May 2016

SDA/SBA SCHOLARS: Fifteen high school seniors are 2016 SDA/SBA Scholarship winners. In front row from left are Taylor Walter, Nathan Garcia, Shelby Duquette, Jamie Quinn and Raven Peters. In back row are Skyler Miller, Magdalena Coca, Kade Sleight and Erica Brown. Not pictured are Liliana Acosta, Jacob Jeskey, Charles Madden, Nicole Pelletier, Nina Rivenson and Tho Van.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 20, 2016 – Two organizations of administrators affiliated with the Sarasota County Schools, School District Administrators (central office administrators) and School-Based Administrators (principals and assistant principals), have awarded 15 $1,000 college scholarships to high school seniors. The students were recognized at the May 17 School Board meeting.

The organizations work together on an annual golf tournament to raise money for the scholarships, as well as for the district’s School Related Employee of the Year and Teacher of the Year programs.

Criteria for the scholarships included academic and civic achievements, work experience and hobbies. The SDA/SBA Scholarships were awarded to the following students:  

Liliana Acosta, North Port High

Erica Brown, Booker High

Magdalena Coca, Riverview High

Shelby Duquette, Venice High

Nathan Garcia, Suncoast Polytechnical High

Jacob Jeskey, Venice High

Charles F. Madden III, Riverview High

Skyler Miller, Booker High

Nicole Pelletier, Booker High

Raven Peters, Booker High

Jamie Quinn, Venice High

Nina Rivenson, North Port High

Kade Sleight, Venice High

Tho Van, Venice High

Taylor Walter, Riverview High   

North Port High welcomes class of 2015 members into Hall of Fame

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SCS News

NORTH PORT, May 20, 2016 – North Port High School will hold a special ceremony at 6 p.m., Friday, May 20. Select members of last year’s graduating class will be inducted into the school’s Academic Hall of Fame.

The event, held in the school cafeteria, is open to the public and will feature NPHS Academic Hall of Fame member and successful dentist, Dr. Ashley Keen (class of 2005), as guest speaker.

The inductees from the class of 2015 include Rodrigo Amaya, Sarah Brown, Christelle Colon, Rebecca Corbin, Courtney Cramer, David Ehrenhaft, Lindsey Gill, Alina Maksimchuk, Ashley Marceus, Kelley Mayo, Korina Melton, Hannah Patrick, Loren Phillips, Alexsys Serafine, Leslie Simmons, Vivien Singh, Victor Sinopoli and Taylor Williams. They will join NPHS alumni from 2004-14 in the school’s Hall of Fame. 

The North Port High School Academic Hall of Fame permanently recognizes students for outstanding academic achievement completed while attending the school. Criteria for induction include being among the top 20 students of each graduating class, based on weighted grade-point average; having attended the school for at least three years; and, beginning with the class of 2015, attaining a college placement score of 1,170 on the SAT (critical reading and math) or 26 on the ACT (composite) while attending NPHS.

North Port High School is located at 6400 W. Price Blvd., North Port.

Englewood Elementary Choir named grand champs at Music USA Festival

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Englewood Elem Choir in Orlando-Grand Champs May 2016

GRAND CHAMPS: Members of the Englewood Elementary School Show Choir celebrate their Grand Champion award at the Music USA Festival in Orlando May 13. Pictured in the middle is Choir Director Tricia Buckstein.

ENGLEWOOD, May 20, 2016 -  The Englewood Elementary School Show Choir was named the 2016 Grand Champion in the Elementary Division at the Music USA Festival May 13, hosted by Universal Studios. Students performed a two-song “mash-up” of “Monster Mash” and “Thriller.” The choir, led by Choir Director Tricia Buckstein, performed the musical Lion King earlier this year and trained all second semester for the Music USA Festival.

Englewood Elementary School is located at 150 N. McCall Road.

About Music USA Fesivals:

Music USA Festivals is a non-profit organization promoting music education through quality evaluation. 


Fifteen high school seniors awarded Town Hall Scholarships

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Town Hall Scholars at Board meeting 5-17-16

TOWN HALL SCHOLARS: Fifteen high school seniors were recognized as Town Hall Scholarship winners at the May 17 meeting of the School Board of Sarasota County. Students in front row from left are Emma Johnson, Reagan Sullivan, Oi Lam Michelle Yan, Jamie Quinn, Natalie Jaskolski, Melissa Fierro, Christy LaPerriere, Ryan Bausback and Yosa Whitney. In back row are Ernesto Rendon, Olivia Campbell, Cooper Abbott and Talia Ursel. Not pictured are Peter Scherbak-Hooker and Gabrielle Ferra.

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

SARASOTA, May 19, 2016 — Fifteen high school seniors from area public schools and select private schools who took part in The Ringling College Library Association (RCLA) Town Hall Lecture Series were selected to receive college scholarships from the Rosemary and Lou Oberndorf Town Hall Scholarship Fund and the Dorothy B. Templeton Scholarship Fund of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The students were among the more than 140 high school seniors sponsored by the Community Foundation and donors, with significant organizational support from the Sarasota County School District, to attend one of the five RCLA 2016 evening lectures at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall as “RCLA Town Hall Scholars.”  

School principals selected students to attend based upon academics, demonstration of leadership, and community service. The students were able to attend a private question and answer session with each speaker before the lecture. After the lectures, the seniors were invited to submit a 750-900 word essay about their experiences meeting and listening to the presentations of either former Disney CEO Michael Eisner; political consultants Jim Messina and Karl Rove; author and visionary Sir Ken Robinson; ABC Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts; and former CIA director, General David Petraeus.

Through a selection committee administered by the Community Foundation, the 15 top essayists, chosen from more than 90 applicants, were each awarded $2,000 college scholarships and were recognized at the School Board of Sarasota County meeting on Tuesday, May 17. Two students read excerpts from their essays.

Scholarships were awarded to: Cooper Abbott, Sarasota High School; Ryan Bausback, Booker High School; Olivia Campbell, Pine View School; Gabrielle Ferra, Lakewood Ranch High School; Melissa Fierro, Imagine School of North Port; Natalie Jaskolski, Sarasota High School; Emma Johnson, Pine View School; Christy LaPerriere, Cardinal Mooney High School; Jamie Quinn, Venice High School; Ernesto Rendon, Pine View School; Peter Scherbak-Hooker, Pine View School; Reagan Sullivan, St. Stephen’s Episcopal; Talia Ursel, Venice High School; Yosa Whitney, Lakewood Ranch High School; Oi Lam Michelle Yan, St. Stephen’s Episcopal.

“We’re so delighted to partner with our donors Rosemary and Lou Oberndorf, Ringling College Library Association and the Sarasota County school district on this wonderful program,” said Roxie Jerde, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “With the support and passion of our donors, we invest heavily in literacy, education and scholarships and the Town Hall Scholars program is a combination of all of those areas of focus. Not only do area students get the benefit of hearing from a wide range of influential thinkers and articulate what they learned through the essay, they also get to carry that learning into their college experience.”

"The Town Hall Scholarship program in conjunction with the Town Hall Speaker Series is a wonderful example of how our community is helping identify and reward our best and brightest High School leaders,” says Lou Oberndorf. “The opportunity afforded 140 of these leaders to meet and interact with the National and International thought leaders RCLA brings to Sarasota is extraordinary. Rosemary and I could not be more proud of our Community."

About the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

The Community Foundation is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. With assets of over $292 million in more than 1,300 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $16.3 million dollars last year in the areas of arts, culture and humanities; education; civic engagement; health and human services; animal welfare; and the environment. For more information, call 941.955.3000 or visit

North Port High students declare their school ‘No Place for Hate’

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NPHS anti-hate art May 2016NPHS anti-hate art 3 May 2016

NO PLACE FOR HATE: Posters are displayed on the North Port High campus to emphasize that the school is “No Place for Hate.”

NORTH PORT, May 18, 2016 – North Port High School students have declared their school to be “No Place for Hate,” thanks to a partnership of the school and the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. At 9 a.m., Friday, May 20, during an assembly of the junior class, representatives of the Federation and the Anti-Defamation League will present a banner designating NPHS as a "No Place for Hate" school.

Anti-Defamation League anti-bullying leadership training sponsored by the Federation started at the school last fall. School staff chose 18 11th-grade students to train in anti-hate leadership qualities.

As a result of the leadership training, students created three inspirational projects in order to earn the designation of a “No Place for Hate” school. The entire student body was involved, with inspirational message contests and filling out and exchanging “ally” cards to people who were a positive influence. The students also work with younger students at the school to model anti-bullying behaviors and tips on how to be an ally to other students.

An anti-bullying atmosphere was reinforced in the NPHS cafeteria, with inspirational messages in three categories: promoting diversity, body-positive messages and student community involvement.

At the May 20 event, the North Port High Jazz Band will provide music, an anti-bullying skit will be performed by the school’s theater students, and student Alyssa Pascik will sing “You are Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera. Students will be asked to sign the anti-bullying banner, which will be displayed in the cafeteria.

North Port High School is located at 6400 W. Price Blvd., North Port.


Riverview High students create portraits of Bolivian children

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RHS student Carly Schortzman artwork-Memory Project

ART FOR MEMORY'S SAKE: Riverview High School student Carly Schortzman sketched this portrait of a Bolivian child (at right, drawn from photo on left) that will be sent to its subject. It is one of 55 portraits of children created by students in Judy Lyon’s art class.

SARASOTA, May 18, 2016 – Art students at Riverview High School recently created portraits of underprivileged children in Bolivia. The Riverview initiative is part of the Memory Project, which matches poor children with student artists who create a lasting keepsake of the child’s young life. The project was founded by Ben Schumaker, who launched it while he was a college student in 2004 and still directs the project.

Fifty-five portraits were created by students in Judy Lyon’s drawing class. The portraits were shipped to Bolivia recently and distributed to the children who are the subjects of the artwork. The project is supported by a classroom grant made possible by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. This grant was sponsored by Eloise Malinsky, a former Sarasota County teacher.

“The project is a wonderful mixture of art, culture and philanthropy,” said Lyon. “It was truly the most significant, and at the same time one of the most difficult lessons I have taught in 22 years of teaching art. Creating these portraits showcased my student’s finest efforts and abilities.  The portraits were on display at school before we sent them to Bolivia, and the response from the school’s staff and visitors was enormously positive and encouraging.”

 Students have been very inspired by the lesson. Annelise Anderson said, “I really enjoyed this project more than any other lesson this year, mainly because it was for the benefit of another person. I wanted to create something that would have meaning to someone else, and I think I accomplished that goal.”

Carly Anderson said, “This project was a lot of fun. It’s really a personal way to brighten a child’s life with art. I know it’s going to mean a lot to these kids having a hand-drawn portrait of themselves.”

After the Memory Project received the Riverview portraits, Schumaker wrote to Lyon, “I'm very happy to let you know that your portraits arrived here safe and sound, and they look great! Most schools in this project contribute just 10 to 20 portraits, so it really is amazing to open a package with so many portraits that all look so good. It will truly be a privilege for us to deliver these many special gifts to the kids on behalf of your group. Your students did a wonderful job.”

The Memory Project created a video and sent it to Lyon, showing children receiving the portraits at numerous locations throughout Bolivia.    

Riverview High School is located at 1 Ram Way, Sarasota.

Sarasota High student is Girls Inc. National Scholar, one of 7 in U.S.

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Sarasota High student Tyesha Brown April 2016

STRONG, SMART AND BOLD: Sarasota High student Tyesha Brown was named a Girls Inc. National Scholar and received a $20,000 college scholarship.

SARASOTA, May 13, 2016 – Tyesha Brown, a senior at Sarasota High School, was named a Girls Inc. National Scholar during the organization’s national luncheon March 7 in New York City. One of only seven winners nationwide, Brown will receive a $20,000 college scholarship. She plans to pursue a degree in business at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University in Tallahassee. 

Brown, who is a student in the Cambridge Advance Certificate of Education (AICE) program at SHS, has been attending Girls Inc. since the age of 7 and refers to it as her “second home.” She is enrolled in Girls Inc.’s High School Initiative and also works at Girls Inc. part-time. On April 1, Brown was honored as “Girl of the Year” at the local Girls Inc. annual celebration luncheon held at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota.

In addition to her 12-year involvement with Girls Inc., Brown has been involved with Take Stock in Children for six years, Community Youth Development’s STAR program for four years, and Sarasota YMCA Achievers for the past year.    

 “Tyesha represents all that a young woman associated with Girls Inc. should embody,” said Angie Stringer, executive director of Girls Inc. of Sarasota County Angie Stringer. “She is a role model to other girls and is quick to take on responsibilities that will help her gain experience and learn. Tyesha is truly strong, smart and bold.”

Friends agree that Tyesha is known for her upbeat personality and ability to handle challenges calmly. Laurie Saslow, coordinator of the AICE program at Sarasota High School, said, “Tyesha’s smile lights up a room. When people see it they automatically start smiling back. She is a wonderful student and we are so proud of her! Tyesha will be missed at Sarasota High next year as she moves on to college.”

Sarasota High School is located at 1000 South School Ave., Sarasota. Girls Inc. of Sarasota County is located at 2001 S. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota.  

About Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. is a national non-profit organization with the mission of inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold. More than 140,000 girls across the U.S. and Canada participate in programming that focuses exclusively on the unique challenges girls face.

School to welcome its families to ‘Lamarque’s Night at the Smithsonian’

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SCS News

NORTH PORT, May 13, 2016 – Students at Lamarque Elementary School will have a chance to experience the Smithsonian museums without traveling to Washington, D.C. Lamarque will host “Lamarque’s Night at the Smithsonian” for the school’s students and their families from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 19.

Students at every grade level have selected a specific museum to feature in their displays or presentations. Joining the effort to bring a Smithsonian-level experience are teaching artists, historical experts and hands-on presenters.

The event will take place throughout the school as part of an initiative called “Lamarque Families Learning Together.” Families will be able to experience two different sessions of museum activities, in addition to the closing ceremony and free pizza.

“There will be something to suit everyone at the event,” said Principal Brandon Johnson. The 10 exhibits and presentations will feature a wide variety of topics, ranging from the art of storytelling with Mark Twain and Harriet Tubman, to artist Henri Matisse and his circus-themed collages made of paper cut-outs.

Visitors can learn about Seminole Indian history at the “Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki” presentation, play the Sarasota Bay Rancho Game and learn how to make clay pinch pots at the “Bisque It” demonstration.

Students will be able to “blast off” by making and operating operate straw rockets, while in another location visitors will learn the proper way to fold an American flag according to the protocol standards of the Military Officers Association of America. A general presentation titled “Engaging Students in History and Archeology” will round out the evening’s events.

Students at Lamarque have already learned that 11 of the 19 Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries are located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian is known as “the nation’s attic,” with over 138 million items in its collections. 

Lamarque Elementary School is located at 3415 Lamarque Ave. in North Port.


New principal announced for Venice Elementary School

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Erin del Castillo

New Venice Elementary School Principal Erin del Castillo

SARASOTA, May 12, 2016 – Sarasota County Superintendent of Schools Lori White has appointed Erin del Castillo  as the new principal of Venice Elementary School, effective June 14. She will succeed Theresa Baus, who retired in December.

Del Castillo has an extensive background in instruction and administration. She currently serves as the assistant principal for the elementary-school grades at Pine View School.

Del Castillo grew up in Ohio. She graduated from the College of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in English and communications. She earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of West Florida in 2006.

She started her career in education as a dual-enrollment and advanced-placement coordinator at Bay High School in Panama City in 2004. She taught English and reading at North Port High School from 2007-2010, where her duties included advising the yearbook staff and serving as an adjunct instructor in the dual-enrollment program.

From 2010-15, she was an assistant principal at Riverview High School with supervisory responsibility for the teen parent program and the English and Reading Department. 

Sarasota Schools Executive Director of Elementary Schools Laura Kingsley said del Castillo will be a very effective leader for Venice Elementary. “Erin brings a wealth of experiences to her new position,” Kingsley said. “She is an incredibly strong instructional leader who understands what children and teachers need to be successful. Venice Elementary School will benefit from her passion for learning.”

Del Castillo and her husband have lived in Florida since 2004. They have a 5-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter. She said she enjoys beautiful beaches, reading, running and spending time with family and friends.

She said she is honored to have been chosen to lead a school with the reputation for success that Venice Elementary enjoys. “I am delighted to be part of the Venice Elementary School community and to partner with the staff, students and families,” she said. “I look forward to our working together and continuing the culture of excellence.”

Venice Elementary School is located at 150 E. Miami Ave. in Venice.

New Principal appointed for Gocio Elementary School

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Steve Royce

New Gocio Elementary School Principal Steve Royce

SARASOTA, May 12, 2016 – Sarasota County Superintendent of Schools Lori White has appointed Steve Royce as the new principal of Gocio Elementary School, effective June 14. Royce will succeed Pamela Buchanan, who is retiring after a distinguished 38-year career in public education and six years as years as principal of Gocio. Royce has served as the principal of Tara Elementary School in Manatee County since 2012.

He received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Houghton College in New York and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.

He started his career in education in the Manatee County School District in 1994 as a teacher at Harlee Middle School. While there, he started the first school-based Boys and Girls Club in Manatee County. The club was recognized in Forbes Magazine as one of the best afterschool programs in the United States.

He subsequently served as assistant principal at Palma Sola, Stewart, Ballard and Daughtery elementary schools. He was appointed principal at Tara in 2012. He raised the school grade from a C to an A in one year.

Royce was born and raised in the Catskill Mountain region of New York. He is married and has two daughters. He said in his leisure time, he enjoys fishing, golf and rooting for the Buccaneers.

He said he is honored to have been chosen as the new leader at Gocio. “I am very excited to be selected as the next principal of Gocio Elementary School,” he said. “I look forward to working together with the staff and community in the pursuit of excellence in academics and the arts.”

Sarasota County Schools Executive Director of Elementary Schools Laura Kingsley said Royce is an excellent fit for the Gocio position. “Steve comes to us highly recommended from Manatee County, where he was their Principal of the Year and a state finalist,” she said. “He has led schools to great improvement and brings his enthusiasm for teaching and learning to Gocio.”

Gocio Elementary is located at 3450 Gocio Road in Sarasota.

School-Related Employee of the Year supports students in many ways

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Betsy Hooper-20016 SREOY with car

SUPER-DUPER HOOPER: Sarasota County School-Related Employee of the Year Betsy Hooper prepares to take the wheel of a 2016 Scion iA. This is the 10th year Germain Toyota of Sarasota is providing the district winner with the use of a new car for a year.

SARASOTA, May 11, 2016 — Betsy Hooper, an administrative assistant and bookkeeper in the Pupil Support Services Department, was named the Sarasota County School District’s 2016 School-Related Employee of the Year at a luncheon May 11 at Michael’s on East in Sarasota.

Hooper was selected from among 49 nominees selected from the approximately 2,100 support staff members who work throughout the district’s schools and departments, and who are not teachers or administrators. All nominees were honored at the luncheon. (Click here for a list of all 49 honorees.) 

Superintendent Lori White, Deputy Superintendent Scott Lempe and School Board Chairwoman Shirley Brown were among the speakers and award presenters.

Charlie Brown, a school bus driver who was the district’s 2015 School-Related Employee of the Year, was on hand to pass the torch to this year’s winner.

Accepting the award, Hooper addressed all the nominees in her emotional remarks: “With heartfelt thanks and wobbly knees, let me say how honored I am to represent all of you. I know how hard you work; you give your time, talent and treasure to the district and students every day. I’m so touched by this. Thank you from the bottom of my racing heart!”

Hooper has been with the school district since 1998. She has served as an administrative assistant to various departments, currently as the administrative assistant and bookkeeper for the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Migrant Education programs, and simultaneously for the district’s State and Federal Projects Office.

White said Hooper has excelled in multiple roles and that many of her activities outside the school district also provide support for students and families.

Hooper has a 20-year history of volunteering with the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and is active at her church, St. Boniface Episcopal. She coordinates donations of shoes and socks for students from local businesses, including Regions Bank, so economically disadvantaged children will have new footwear to start the new school year.

She also is passionate about volunteering to support the efforts of local schools with Odyssey of the Mind, a creative, competitive problem-solving program for students in grades K-12 and college. The goal is to learn teamwork, brainstorming, self-reliance and respect for the individual strengths of team members. Hooper has been active in the judging of the contests at the regional and state level for 14 consecutive years. Teams from district schools often compete in the Odyssey World Finals, held each year at Michigan State University in East Lansing, where Hooper received her master’s degree in public administration. (She also has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.) In 2002 Hooper was a coach at the Odyssey World Finals; her team of coaches took second place in a special competition.

Hooper also serves on the committee that organizes the School-Related Employee of the Year program each year. Al Harayda, the district’s employee relations administrator, said at the awards luncheon that it was hard to keep the secret from Hooper that she would be this year’s district honoree. Before making the surprise announcement of the winner, Harayda said, “Those of you who know this person will agree that the judges made the perfect choice.”

For the 10th consecutive year, the Lead Sponsor of the School-Related Employee of the Year program is Germain Toyota of Sarasota. As the company has done for the past nine years, Germain Toyota is honoring all district employees through its sponsorship of the program. As they have done all 10 years of their sponsorship; Germain also is providing the overall district winner with the use of a new vehicle for 12 months. This year the car is a 2016 Scion iA.

The event’s Platinum Sponsors are the School Based Administrators organization, the School District Administrators organization, Harvard Jolly Architects, ProFloors, Tampa Bay Trane and Tandem Construction.

Gold Sponsors are the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, McIntyre Elwell & Strammer Contractors, Jon F. Swift Construction, Florida Blue, Neal Communities, PDQ Sarasota, Tandus Centiva and Willis Smith Construction.

Silver Sponsors are Bencor, Cristal/Haneian Attorneys at Law, Landscape941, Magnum Builders, Publix Super Markets Charities, Re-Ex Insurance Brokers, Springer-Peterson Roofing and Sweet-Sparkman Architects.

Friends of the event are Sights and Sounds A.V., the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association and the Sarasota County Association of Educational Office Professionals.

Suncoast Technical College Digital Video Production Program students recorded the event with photos and video. Booker High School music students provided entertainment. Venice Middle School Young Marines presented the colors.


New principal named for Wilkinson Elementary School

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New Wilkinson Principal Susan Nations

New Wilkinson Elementary School Principal Susan Nations

SARASOTA, May 11, 2016 – Sarasota County Superintendent of Schools Lori White has appointed Susan Nations as the new principal of Wilkinson Elementary School, effective June 8. Nations is the assistant principal at Southside Elementary School. She will succeed Bill Muth, who has been serving as acting principal at Wilkinson since January.  

Nations is an Ohio native who grew up and graduated from high school in Tampa. She comes from a family of many educators in Ohio and married into a family of educators in Sarasota. 

She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary and early childhood education from Florida Southern College, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from National Louis University and a second master’s degree in educational leadership from St. Leo University.

She began her teaching career in Hillsborough County in 1986. She taught primary grades, and served as a reading specialist and reading intervention teacher until 1999.

From 1999 to 2011 she was a literacy and data coach at Gocio Elementary School in Sarasota. During that time she earned National Board Certification in Early to Middle Childhood Literacy. She was selected as the Sarasota County School District Teacher of the Year in 2005.

Nations has been the assistant principal at Southside Elementary School since 2011. She has co-authored four professional books and written numerous teachers’ guides for national publishers. She has served as a literacy consultant and conference presenter at the district, state and national levels.

She and her husband, Don, who attended Wilkinson as a child, have been married for 29 years. They have three adult children and two school-age children.

Nations said she was thrilled to learn that she would be the next principal of Wilkinson.

“Wilkinson is a very special school to me and my family,” she said. “Not only did my husband attend this school, but it is also one of the first schools I served as a summer literacy coach after moving to Sarasota.  I am very excited to meet the staff, students and families in the coming weeks.”

Sarasota County Schools Executive Director of Elementary Schools Laura Kingsley recommended Nations for the appointment. She said Nations has the perfect combination of experience, skills and temperament to be an outstanding leader for Wilkinson.

“Susan has provided outstanding leadership, not just at the schools she has served, but also for our entire district,” Kingsley said. “She is an expert instructional leader who has developed strong relationships in our community. I look forward to her working with the dedicated staff at Wilkinson to build a powerfully positive school environment for our children and families.”

Wilkinson Elementary School is located at 3400 Wilkinson Road in Sarasota.



New principal appointed for Glenallen Elementary School

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Rebecca Drum

Rebecca Drum

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 10, 2016 – Sarasota County Superintendent of Schools Lori White has appointed Rebecca Drum as the new principal of Glenallen Elementary School in North Port, effective June 8. Drum is the assistant principal at Glenallen. She will succeed Amy Archer, who has been appointed as the new principal of Garden Elementary School in Venice.

Drum grew up in Venice. She is a third-generation graduate of Venice High School. She graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Walden University in 2007.

She has been a teacher and administrator with the Sarasota County Schools for 14 years.

She began her career with the district in 2002 at Englewood Elementary, where she taught second and fifth grade and reading intervention. She served as an assistant principal intern at Phillippi Shores and Tatum Ridge elementary schools prior to being hired as an assistant principal at Glenallen in 2012. 

She said she is very much looking forward to continuing to serve the students and families of Glenallen as the leader of the school staff. "I am thrilled to have been chosen as the next principal of Glenallen Elementary School,” she said. “I am excited to continue working with the incredible staff and families of this school.”

Executive Director of Elementary Schools Laura Kingsley, who recommended Drum for the position, said she stood out in a strong field of highly qualified candidates. “Mrs. Drum is a consummate professional who has a clear understanding of research-based instruction and heartfelt compassion for the students of Glenallen,” Kingsley said. “I am confident that she will continue to provide the leadership at Glenallen that has brought great success to the school.”

Drum said she and her husband Keith have been happily married since 2005. Their “amazing” son Kolton attends a Sarasota County elementary school.

Glenallen Elementary school is located at 7050 Glenallen Blvd. in North Port. 


Garden Elementary students draw portraits of school staff ‘superheroes’

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Garden Elem Principal Sandra Russell superhero student art May 2016Garden Elem art teacher Joanna Lanum-Davis student superhero art May 2016

SUPER-EDUCATORS! Garden Elementary students have created portraits of school staffers as "superheroes," including Principal Sandra Russell (at top), and art teacher Joanna Lanum-Davis (bottom photo), who organized the project.

VENICE, May 10, 2016 – Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Students at Garden Elementary School in Venice have been thinking a lot lately about the qualities that define their superheroes. As part of Joanna Davis-Lanum’s art class for fourth and fifth-graders, students have created portraits of their principal, teachers and other staff members, depicting them as superheroes.

The project, designed to teach students about portraiture, coincided with the annual Teacher Appreciation Week, although Garden students decided to assign superhero identities to a wide range of school staffers. The finished artwork features school superheroes such as “Mrs. Incredible,” “The Reading Queen,” “The Great and Powerful Nurse,” “Captain Make it Happen” and many more. The portraits are on display in the school’s main hallway until May 27. A large banner with the words “I Teach…What’s Your Superpower?” greets visitors to the school.

Last year, the students in Davis-Lanum’s art class created standard portraits of the teachers. “This year we wanted to go bigger and better,” she said.

Each staff member was asked to fill out a questionnaire answering questions such as, “What legacy will you leave at Garden Elementary?” and “What can you be heard saying to your students time and time again?” The students chose the teacher or other staff member they wanted to draw, brainstormed ideas for the person’s superhero name and began drawing the portraits.

David-Lanum said, “I am always amazed at how children are able to capture the essence of the teacher through their drawing. Sometimes it’s the eyes, sometimes it’s the hair, but almost always it is the spirit of the teacher.”

Once the portraits were finished, a second student was assigned the task of writing three or four sentences about the superhero. “I loved their humor and honesty. The writing was spot-on,” said Davis-Lanum.

Garden Elementary’s acting principal, Sandra Russell, who has been at the helm only since February when longtime principal John McQueen retired, has quickly reached superhero status. In response to being portrayed as “Mrs. Incredible,” Russell said, “There is nothing more affirming than being recognized and admired by students. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘staff appreciation’ when children see us as superheroes.”

The staff and teachers have enjoyed the recognition, too. Davis-Lanum said, “It’s amazing to walk through the hallway and hear the giggles, gasps and chatter among the students and teachers. The children take ‘selfies’ with the sketches, and social media has exploded with their character portraits. This project is one of the most fun teacher appreciation events ever celebrated at our school. It’s just a big ‘thank you’ to all our staff members who work so hard and give so much.”

Garden Elementary School is located at 700 Center Road, Venice.

Event at Booker High to offer help for students seeking college aid May 24

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SCS News

SARASOTA, May 10, 2016 – Local high school students and their parents are invited to receive assistance with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at “College Money Madness,” a free workshop from 2:30 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 24, in the media center at Booker High School.

The event is a joint venture between the Sarasota County School District and the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, a local education workforce initiative with a goal of offering college and career pathways for local students. The district and Talent4Tomorrow have already hosted two similar events this year at North Port and Sarasota High schools.

Completing the FAFSA application allows students to qualify for federal funds to attend college, and may qualify them to receive funding from other sources. Students who complete the form can earn grants, loans and work-study jobs that can help pay for post-secondary education.

Booker High Principal Rachel Shelley said she thinks more students would apply if they had support. “Many people think FAFSA is an income-based funding provider,” Shelley said. “But it’s actually needs-based, which means that all families facing a gap between what they’re able to afford and the actual cost of college may benefit from applying, regardless of their family income.”

College financial aid representatives and trained FAFSA volunteers will be on hand at the event. Computers and internet access also will be provided, so applicants can complete the FAFSA submission process at the event.

The event also will feature food; childcare for families with small children; and door prizes, including Wal-Mart gift cards and a Chromebook.

Families should bring financial documents from 2015 for both parents and students, or 2014 financial documents if that was the last year taxes were filed. Families also should bring W-2s and a Federal Income Tax Return, as well as their Social Security and drivers’ license numbers. College Money Madness coordinators are encouraging families to create a Federal Student Aid ID prior to the event by visiting

Federal Student Aid is the largest student aid provider in the U.S., distributing more than $150 billion annually to support the goals of millions of students.

More information about College Money Madness is available by contacting Booker High college and career advisor Lem Andrews at 941-355-2967, ext. 65020.

Booker High School is located at 3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota.


Riverview High student musicians celebrate spring with versatile concert

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RHS Kiltie Band brass

KILTIE BRASS: The horn section of the Riveriew High School Kiltie Band performs at a previous concert.

SARASOTA, May 3, 2016 – Student musicians at Riverview High School will highlight their versatility at the school’s annual Spring Concert at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 5, at the Riverview Performing Arts Center on the RHS campus.

The concert will feature the renowned Kiltie Band highland dancers and bagpipers, varsity band, symphonic winds, wind ensemble, marimba trio, trombone trio and percussion ensemble.

Selections will take listeners on a musical tour around the world. They include John Edmondson’s “American Folk Fantasy,” a medley of “Disney Favorites,” Clare Grundman’s “An Irish Rhapsody,” “Song for Japan” and Rimsky-Korsokov’s “Flight to Turkey.” The finale will be Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” featuring the stirring “Great Gate at Kiev.”  

Riverview High Music Director Mark Spreen said, “The final concert of the year is always one of our favorites. The musical selections offer a wide variety of genres, from pop to classical. This is the culmination of all the work the students have done during the year. It’s the final performance by our seniors; they will put on the kilts for the last time for this event. We have a very large and talented 12th grade class this year. I think it’s one of the best senior classes we’ve had in years.”

A suggested donation of $5 will be collected at the door, with proceeds supporting music education at Riverview High School. 

Riverview Performing Arts Center is located at 1 Ram Way, off Proctor Road between U.S. 41 and Swift Road.  

New principal named for Sarasota Middle School

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Janel Dorn

NEW MIDDLE SCHOOL LEADER: Janel Dorn is the new principal of Sarasota Middle School.

SARASOTA, May 3, 2016 – Superintendent Lori White has appointed Janel Dorn, an assistant principal at Pine View School, as the new principal of Sarasota Middle School, effective immediately. Candace Dearing had been serving as Sarasota Middle’s acting principal since former SMS principal Karen Rose became the district’s executive director of middle schools in October.

Dorn has extensive experience as an administrator and teacher. She is delighted to accept the job as SMS principal. “It is a tremendous privilege to work with the staff, students, parents and partners of the Sarasota County Schools,” said Dorn. “I look forward to leading the Sarasota Middle School team.”

Rose said, “Janel Dorn is an excellent administrator who is dedicated to serving students and families. She is accomplished in developing STEMsmart classrooms and collaborative learning environments.”

Dorn began working for the Sarasota County Schools in September 2005 as a teacher at Heron Creek Middle School in North Port. She became assistant principal intern at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus in Sarasota in the 2011-12 school year. In the summer of 2012 she was named an assistant principal at Sarasota High School. In 2014 she became an assistant principal at Pine View School in Osprey, which serves intellectually gifted students in grades two-12.

A native Floridian, Dorn was born in Indian Rocks Beach and grew up in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary social science education from the University of South Florida. She earned a master’s degree in interdisciplinary curriculum and instruction from National Louis University and earned a specialist degree in educational leadership from Argosy University in Sarasota.

Dorn’s husband, Brian Dorn, is an assistant principal at Booker Middle School. Janel’s son, Joseph, is a 2012 graduate of Riverview High School.

Sarasota Middle School is located at 4826 Ashton Road, Sarasota.

Five Star and Golden Schools honored for community involvement

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 2, 2016 – Forty Sarasota County public schools have been awarded the Golden School Award for their community involvement in 2014-15; 19 of those were named Five Star Schools. The schools will be recognized at the next Sarasota County School Board meeting at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 3, in the School Board Chambers at the Landings.

“We are delighted that so many of our schools have received and continue to receive this recognition,” said Tanice Knopp, coordinator of the district’s Volunteer & Partnership Office. “They are thankful for the school-community collaborations that help make their schools so strong.”

Superintendent Lori White said, “The Five Star and Golden School awards reflect our community’s unwavering commitment to its public schools. They are a tangible reminder that our schools, parents, community members, local businesses and organizations work hard together to make Sarasota County the special place that it is.”

The Golden School Award has been presented annually for over three decades to public schools with exemplary volunteer programs. Schools must document volunteer hours equaling twice the student enrollment, train at least 80 percent of their faculty to work with volunteers, designate a volunteer coordinator and formally recognize their volunteers.

The Five Star School Award honors schools with exemplary programs that fully integrate comprehensive community involvement toward student achievement through community and business partnerships, family involvement, volunteerism, student community service efforts and initiatives of the school’s advisory council, which is made up of parents and other community members as well as school staff. To qualify for the Five Star award, a school must first have a “C” grade or above and meet Golden School Award eligibility requirements, as well as providing extensive documentation that they meet the 31 criteria set by the Florida Department of Education.

Two Sarasota County public schools have been Five Star Schools since the award began in 1994: Bay Haven School of Basics Plus in Sarasota and Venice Elementary School.

In addition to recognizing outstanding schools, the Five Star Award also serves as an assessment tool for schools to measure the success of their programs and identifies schools with programs that serve as models for other schools. 

2014-15 Sarasota County Schools: 40 Golden Schools and 19 Five Star Schools

Years GoldenYears Five Star
Alta Vista Elementary 29  
Ashton Elementary 34 20
Atwater Elementary 6 5
Bay Haven School of Basics Plus 31 21
Brentwood Elementary 34  
Cranberry Elementary 13 12
Emma E Booker Elementary 24  
Englewood Elementary 34 19
Fruitville Elementary 35 18
Garden Elementary 34  
Glenallen Elementary 31 17
Gocio Elementary 22  
Gulf Gate Elementary 33  
Lakeview Elementary 28 19
Lamarque Elementary 9 9
Phillippi Shores Elementary 34 16
Southside Elementary 35  
Tatum Ridge Elementary 10 10
Taylor Ranch Elementary 25 20
Toledo Blade Elementary 23 19
Tuttle Elementary 35  
Venice Elementary 35 21
Wilkinson Elementary 34  
Booker Middle 31 9
McIntosh Middle 33  
Sarasota Middle 26  
Venice Middle 33  
Booker High 32  
Riverview High 30  
Suncoast Polytechnical High 7 6
Suncoast Technical College 27  
Venice High 18  
Laurel Nokomis 34  
Oak Park 35  
Pine View School 33 8
Sarasota Academy of the Arts 2 2
Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences 4 4
Sarasota Suncoast Academy 10  
Sarasota Military Academy 11  
Sarasota Military Academy Prep 1  


Volunteer tutors needed for Summer Reading Camp at three schools

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Barbara Grauer with EEB student 2011

GIVING THE GIFT OF READING: Volunteer reading tutor Barbara Grauer shares a story with elementary student Kareem Smith. The district needs volunteer reading tutors for the 2016 Summer Reading Camp.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 2, 2016 – Volunteer reading tutors are needed for the Sarasota County School District’s Summer Reading Camp this summer. The camp will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. Volunteers are needed from June 13 through July 21 at three elementary schools — Brentwood and Gulf Gate in Sarasota, and Lamarque in North Port. There will be no classes the week of July 4.

Summer Reading Camp is for third-graders who have not reached grade-level reading proficiency. Tutors will work one-on-one with the same three students each week; a commitment of at least 90 minutes a week (30 minutes with each of the three students) is preferred. No experience is necessary; just a love of reading and children. Free training is provided.   

“It is absolutely essential that we do everything we can to provide learning opportunities that will make a difference for our most struggling readers,” said Laura Kingsley, executive director of elementary education. “Helping them ‘learn to read’ will allow them to keep up with their peers who are able to ‘read to learn,’ and may well mean the difference between them having to repeat third grade or moving ahead with their classmates. This is a game-changer for these children.”

Suzanne Naiman, the district’s English language arts program specialist, calls Reading Camp “an instructionally rigorous, yet enjoyable program. The entire day revolves around the Florida Standards, which include reading, writing, speaking and listening; and using language to communicate interesting themes, such as inventors and their inventions, space exploration and sea life, to name a few.”

Kingsley added, “We value our volunteers who dedicate part of their summer to helping children who may otherwise feel defeated in their attempts to read on grade level. Our goal is for every one of these 200 students to know that the community supports them by matching each child with a caring, encouraging volunteer.”

For more information and to register for the training, please contact the district’s Volunteer & Partnership Office at 941-927-9000, ext. 31500, or via email at


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