Sarasota County Schools News

Health Department and School District offer mosquito safety tips

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SCS News

NOTE: This information was provided by the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County and is also available on the web (see links at end of news release).

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 31, 2017 — Living in Florida, mosquitoes are part of everyday life. But many children don’t know that mosquitoes not only make them itch, but can carry diseases like Zika and West Nile virus. Not all mosquitoes are the same. Different mosquitoes spread different diseases and are more likely to bite at certain times of the day. Some mosquito species bite during the day and other species of mosquitoes bite most often at dawn and dusk.

To help prevent infection and to reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, it is important for children and parents to practice basic mosquito bite prevention: cover skin with long clothing and repellent and spill sources of standing water. Fewer mosquito bites reduces everyone’s risk for illness and a smaller mosquito population means fewer bites. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as one teaspoon or a bottle cap of water.

Children can help in the fight against mosquitoes when they “Spill the Water!” around their home and neighborhood. Read more tips below.

Use EPA-approved insect repellents on children and babies:
  • Teach your children to wear insect repellent when they are outdoors, such as waiting at a bus stop in the early morning. Keep Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents ready to use at home and in your car. Always follow the product’s instructions.
  • Don’t use repellent on babies younger than two months.
  • Spray the repellent on your hands and then apply to your child’s face. Avoid their eyes, nose, mouth and hands, and avoid cuts or irritated skin.
  • Dress babies and toddlers in clothing that covers arms and legs, and cover strollers, cribs or baby carriers with mosquito netting.
  • Don’t spray repellent on skin that will be covered by clothing.
  • Repellent is applied after sunscreen.

Keep mosquitos outside:  

  • Make sure all your windows have screens and immediately repair any hole in your screens.
  • Keep doors and windows shut and use air conditioning whenever possible.
  • Remember, if you must be outside when mosquitoes are active, cover up. Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and long sleeves.
Here are links to mosquito safety information from the Florida Department of Health website:     

More information on mosquito safety is available on the Sarasota County Mosquito Management website at


Booker High named to list of top arts high schools in America

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Aug. 31, 2017 – Booker High School has been named among the top 80 best high schools for the arts in America by, a website that analyzes data and reviews to produce comprehensive rankings, report cards and profiles for schools throughout the U.S. The list of high schools with top arts programs includes public and private schools.

The list is based on an analysis of key statistics, reviews from students and parents and data from the U.S. Department of Education. The methodology takes into account school diversity, class size and interest among the high schools’ alumni in arts majors and colleges.

Booker High Principal Rachel Shelley has helped propel the school’s status through her commitment to the school’s arts programs. Named the state’s Principal of the Year in June by the Florida Department of Education, Shelley has worked tirelessly to improve the school’s community presence.

“When you see what these students and teachers are doing every day, in their studios and on stage, it is absolutely amazing,” said Shelley. “It’s definitely time they earned this kind of recognition for their incredible work,” Shelley said.

Angela Hartvigsen, the district’s fine arts curriculum specialist, said, “This is a well-deserved honor for Booker High, which truly sees the arts as a powerful vehicle for students to connect with life and an amazing way to build culture,” said “School culture is phenomenal because of the leadership,” she said. “When you talk to Booker High students, their enthusiasm and love for the school is palpable.”

To Hartvigsen, the distinction can be attributed to several strengths of the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) program, from the excellence of its instructors and the diversity of the programming to the atmosphere for learning that the school offers. Love for the school is in no short supply on campus, and students’ comments about their VPA experience are often ebullient.

“I’m very happy here!,” said Timarus Foulks, a sophomore in the school’s Theatre Department. Fellow student Lucille Lawrence said, “We learn new things every day. Our teachers are well-versed in what they are teaching us.”

Established on the Booker High campus in the 1970s, the VPA Department has a history of success, with student productions and artworks earning regional and national titles in all of its disciplines. Notable graduates include American Idol finalist and Broadway star Syesha Mercado, Academy Award-winning makeup artist Bill Corso and actor Charlie Barnett of NBC’s “Chicago Fire.”

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

Venice High School adds varsity lacrosse to athletics lineup

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SCS News

VENICE, Aug. 24, 2017 – One of the country’s fastest growing team sports, varsity lacrosse, has found a home in Powell-Davis Stadium at Venice High School. The school will establish boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams later this school year; the Venice Indians inaugural lacrosse season will launch in February 2018. The effort will be led by SRQLAX, a nonprofit organization formed to establish lacrosse as a Florida High School Athletic Association varsity sport in Sarasota County public high schools.

SRQLAX helped start the first Sarasota County public high school lacrosse program at Riverview High School in spring 2016 – a program that went on to add junior varsity teams and earn local and national recognition in 2017.

At an end-of-school-year event to assess interest in this emerging sport, more than 160 Venice High School students signed on. Tryouts will be held in January 2018. Students enrolled in Venice High School are eligible to try out for the teams. Students attending Pine View School and Suncoast Polytechnical High School may also be eligible through the Sarasota County Athletic Choice Program. Interested students or parents should contact Sarasota County Schools Athletic Director James Slaton for more information.

The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that Florida saw a 70 percent increase in lacrosse participation from 2009-13, the second largest of any state. As of last season, the state had 187 boys’ teams and 167 girls’ teams.

In accordance with FHSAA policy, the Venice teams will compete as independent teams their first year, entering competition for district titles the following year. The Indians lacrosse teams will still play the teams within their district this spring, with dozens of nearby teams available to round out their schedule.

In the upcoming season, six teams will compete in the Class 1A of District 17, including local high school teams from Riverview, Cardinal Mooney, Out-of-Door Academy and Sarasota Military Academy. In the region from Naples to Tampa, there are an additional 40 teams in the southwest Florida region.

“The interest the Venice community has shown in lacrosse is fantastic,” said boys’ varsity lacrosse coach Jamie Carver. “I’m excited about the opportunity to coach the student athletes at Venice High School. Venice is full of talented young athletes, and our goal is to prepare these students to play at the collegiate level.”

Costs for the Venice program, like the Riverview program, are entirely raised by

SRQLAX and the newly formed Venice Indians Lacrosse Booster Club. The bar has been set at $90,000, but supporters of the program are optimistic.

“The excitement surrounding Lacrosse is so rewarding,” said Becki Moyer, the booster club president. “I look forward to meeting more parents and kids as we move forward with our fundraising efforts. We currently have a Venice High School Lacrosse Carnival, 5K and golf events in the works.”

“This is just the beginning,” said Rachel Hautamaki, president of SRQLAX.  “We are beyond thrilled to bring lacrosse to the second public high school in Sarasota County, and we look forward to seeing FHSAA-sanctioned lacrosse teams throughout the county in the next several years.”

Full schedules and information on teams can be found at Additional details about other local lacrosse activities, such as programs teaching basic lacrosse skills for local elementary students, will be added when available.


Sarasota County Schools to host inaugural Digital Town Hall

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Town Hall

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 23, 2017 – Sarasota County Schools will host a Digital Town Hall from 7-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The inaugural event will be broadcast live on The Education Channel on Comcast Cable’s channel 20 and Frontier’s channel 33 as well as the district’s website and Facebook page.

During the event, viewers will be able to ask a panel of speakers questions through Facebook and Twitter and receive real-time responses. Questions can be emailed in advance for inclusion in the question bank for the evening event.

The Digital Town Hall’s speaker panel includes Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Todd Bowden, Sarasota County School Board Chairwoman Caroline Zucker, and the district’s three assistant superintendents: Laura Kingsley, Scott Lempe and Mitsi Corcoran. 

“In today’s environment of ever-changing technology and the desire for real-time information on electronic devices, we want to reach families where they are,” said Bowden. “We hope it’s easier for people to watch a town hall on their computers, tablets and smartphones than to have to show up for an event in person. This way, we are able to reach more people in a more convenient way. The goal is to answer as many questions as possible in an hour, and if we have a great turnout, we definitely plan to host more of these throughout the school year.”

Barancik Foundation renews grant for math teacher training

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 15, 2017 – Thanks to the overwhelming success of last year’s grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, elementary teachers in Sarasota County will continue to get special training that helps them plan lessons that result in students overcoming math anxiety and finding success in math class. The organization is providing $480,000 in funding for the school district to hire a mathematics expert, train teams of teachers, purchase manipulatives for our youngest students, and hire an evaluator for this second year effort. 

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

“The teacher is the critical component of student success and we want to invest in the human capital inside the classroom,” said Teri A Hansen, president and CEO of Barancik Foundation. “We are pleased to partner with Sarasota County Schools for a second year of this high-impact teacher training initiative.” 

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

“We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to build on the training last year and continue to provide the gift of time to our teachers so they are able to collaborate with their colleagues,” said Laura Kingsley, Assistant Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer for Sarasota County Schools. “Our teachers deserve more time to plan together than the time that is currently allocated.  We know that when teachers have time to learn together, analyze student work together and then plan engaging lessons together, they build a collective sense of efficacy that translates into student achievement.”

Kingsley praises the summer work completed by school district math specialists Sue D’Angelo and Alicia Charbonneau that provides guidelines for elementary math teachers to help them understand math standards and build better lesson plans and assessments, and provides them with access to additional K-5 math resources.  

“Teachers are going to be so grateful for this invaluable resource that allows them to be less reliant on textbook resources so they can emphasize developing students’ ‘math mentality’ for solving complex problems.”

“Our principals also engaged in this training over the summer and expressed tremendous gratitude to the Barancik Foundation for the confidence they placed in our teachers,” Kingsley said.  “We know that for our great schools to become greater, we need to tell every child that this work is important, they CAN do it, and we will not give up on you!  Well, through this second grant, the Barancik Foundation has literally said the same things to our teachers!”

The elementary math teacher training initiative is funded through June 2018.

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

Sarasota County School District plans for Aug. 21 solar eclipse

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 15, 2017 – The Sarasota County School District has sent information to principals about the solar eclipse that will be visible in the continental U.S. on Monday, Aug. 21. While the total phase of this solar eclipse will not be visible in Sarasota County, it will be observed here as a partial solar eclipse between the hours of 1:15 and 4:15 p.m.

The district will distribute information to parents via an automated phone call, email, website and other communication channels. We have sent our principals the following guidelines:

  • Looking directly at the Sun without approved safety glasses is dangerous, but there are several safe methods that any teacher can employ to ensure the safety of his or her students while observing. No matter which method teachers choose, they must make certain directions are understood and followed. This means constant monitoring of students, with zero tolerance for disregarding the directions.


  • The NASA website emphasizes the importance of carefully following safety procedures. Retinal burns can occur if someone views the eclipse without the recommended eye protection. Click here for more information:
  • Because the eclipse will occur when most children are being dismissed from school, we are cautioning our principals. (Sarasota schools let out from 2:15 to 4:15 p.m., depending on the school.) Whenever possible, students should wait in covered areas for buses during dismissal time.

District permission slips are required for eclipse activities:

  • Some classes are planning projects around this event. Parents will need to sign the required district permission slips before students can participate in eclipse activities. Only schools and classes that have pre-planned activities and the necessary approved safety eyewear for viewing the eclipse may host viewing activities, and only students with a signed district-approved permission slip may participate in these activities.  

Reading Recovery expands to all Sarasota County elementary schools

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GCCF Reading Recovery

READING RECOVERY: Sarasota school district leaders and Reading Recovery funders at a celebration lunch to welcome the district’s new Reading Recovery teachers on August 8 in Venice (left to right): Chris Renouf, executive director of elementary education, Sarasota County Schools; Dr. Laura Kingsley, assistant superintendent; Dr. Todd Bowden, superintendent; School Board member Jane Goodwin; philanthropists Linda and Keith Monda; Reading Recovery lead teacher Lisa Fisher; Veronica Brady, senior vice president for philanthropy, Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

This news release is from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

First-Grade Reading Intervention Exceeds National Success Rate; 86% of Students Who Participated Last Year Achieved Grade-Level Reading

VENICE, FL (August 15, 2017) – A successful reading intervention for struggling Sarasota County first graders that is outpacing national results has been expanded district-wide for the new school year.  When classes began August 14, every elementary school in Sarasota County had at least one Reading Recovery teacher on staff, with a total of 34 of these specially trained literacy experts placed across the district.

The expansion of Reading Recovery from 10 schools to all 23 elementary schools was made possible with funding from the Sarasota County School Board, the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

“Our community’s initial investments in Reading Recovery are changing the lives of students who have the most difficulty learning to read,” said Veronica Brady, senior vice president of philanthropy at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “As these students quickly catch up to their classmates, they are put on a new trajectory for potential success throughout the rest of their school careers. I can’t wait to see the data next year, now that we’re in all 23 schools.”

Reading Recovery is a research-based, short-term intervention of one-on-one tutoring for the poorest-performing first graders. Daily, customized, 30-minute lessons are designed to accelerate low-achieving students’ progress to average levels of reading and writing within 20 weeks. As soon as a student reaches grade level, the lessons are discontinued and a new student begins the curriculum. 

In Sarasota County, Reading Recovery was introduced in three Title I elementary schools—Atwater, Cranberry, and Tuttle—in 2015, thanks to funding from philanthropists Keith and Linda Monda provided through Gulf Coast Community Foundation and a grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. Additional funding from Gulf Coast, the Barancik Foundation, and other donors allowed the school district to expand the program to all 10 Title I elementary schools in 2016-17. 

A report from The Ohio State University, which evaluates Reading Recovery implementations throughout the country, found that 86 percent of Sarasota County students who received a full complement of Reading Recovery lessons last year reached average levels of reading and writing. The national rate for achieving grade level through the program, according to the report, is approximately 75 percent.

For the current school year, the Barancik Foundation and the School Board have provided the additional funding needed to place 14 more Reading Recovery teachers in Sarasota County elementary schools. Gulf Coast and its donors continue to fund coordination of the program, training and supplies for teachers, and other support.

Besides providing direct one-on-one tutoring, the district’s 34 Reading Recovery teachers also will teach other students during the course of their day, leveraging the rigorous professional development required of teachers in the program. Last year, for example, in addition to the 170 students enrolled in Reading Recovery lessons, the district’s 20 Reading Recovery teachers worked with 550 students during the rest of their day.

Reading Recovery was created in New Zealand in the 1970s and introduced to the United States in 1984. Extensive research and evaluation over that time have made it the world’s most widely studied early reading intervention, according to the Reading Recovery Council of North America. Follow-up studies have shown that most Reading Recovery students also do well on standardized tests and maintain their gains in later years.

About Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Together with our donors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation transforms our region through bold and proactive philanthropy.  Gulf Coast is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital.  Since then, we have become the philanthropic home of more than 650 families who have established charitable funds here, and we have invested $260 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 Nation’ leads Newtown tour for new staff

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Booker Nation staff field trip 8-10-17

FIELD TRIP: Staff members from Booker schools toured significant sites in the Newtown community.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 11, 2017 – On Thursday, Aug. 10, “Booker Nation,” also known as the collaboration between Emma E. Booker Elementary School, Booker Middle School and Booker High School, partnered on a Newtown community tour experience for more than 50 of its new teachers and staff members.

Emma E. Booker Elementary Principal Edwina Oliver, Booker Middle Principal LaShawn Frost and Booker High Principal Rachel Shelley joined teachers and staff members and boarded a bus driven by Diane Preston, the district route coordinator supervisor. The group stopped at seven sites in Newtown of historical and cultural significance, including the Newtown Historical Gallery and a church that pioneering educator Emma E. Booker attended, among others. . The tour was in advance of the start of the 2017-18 school year in Sarasota County on Monday, Aug. 14.

“This is a truly unique experience for these newly installed teachers and staff members,” said Troy Thompson, assistant principal at Emma E. Booker Elementary, who spearheaded the event under the direction of Edwina Oliver. “We want to pay homage to the town’s past and present and immerse our new team members into the fabric of the community that we serve.”

The engaging excursion provided a general background of the rich history of Newtown. Jetson Grimes, a longtime community member, activist and Newtown business owner joined the tour to provide other historical information about the community. City of Sarasota Commissioner Willie Shaw was also a part of this experience, providing information related to contributions made by other notable Newtown residents and educators. 

“We really wanted our new staff members to see the impact that they have and understand the foundation of how the Booker schools were created,” said Oliver. “Emma E. Booker wasn’t a Sarasota native, but she came in like a whirlwind, planted her roots here and allowed them to grow. Like her, we all have a passion for educating our children – not only in the Booker schools but across our district.”

Sarasota County Schools ready to welcome students Monday, Aug. 14

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Principals 2017

PRINCIPALS IN NEW ROLES: Clockwise from top left are Kristi Jarvis, Ashton Elementary; Edwina Oliver, Emma E. Booker Elementary; Kristine Lawrence, Heron Creek Middle; Jamie Lowicz, Oak Park School; Matthew Gruhl, Brookside Middle.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 9, 2017 – Students return to Sarasota County public schools for the 2017-18 school year on Monday, Aug.14. Schools, teachers, administrators and support staff are ready to welcome students. Here is a snapshot of the district:

About Sarasota County Schools:
Dedicated to academic excellence, Sarasota County Schools is one of only two Florida districts to be graded A every year since grading began in 2004.

53 Schools:

  • 23 elementary schools
  • 7 middle schools
  • 6 high schools
  • 1 K-8 school (Laurel Nokomis)
  • 1 one gifted school (Pine View, grades 2-12)
  • 1 school for students with special needs (Oak Park, pre-K to age 22)
  • 1 alternative school (YMCA Triad, north and south campuses)
  • 11 charter schools
  • 1 virtual school
  • 1 technical college: Suncoast Technical College. High school/adult students; campuses in Sarasota and Venice; new campus opening in North Port in October. The site will include the Shannon Staub Library, a Sarasota County public library; and a conference center jointly funded with the City of North Port.

Projected 2017-18 General Fund (Operating) Budget:
$441 million

Total Projected Student Enrollment:
Approximately 44,000 students

Number of Employees:
5,102 (2,749 teachers, 2,127 support staff, 226 administrators)

Number of Volunteers at Schools:
Approximately 12,000

Principals in new roles:

  • Ashton Elementary: Kristi Jarvis (formerly assistant principal at Phillippi Shores Elementary)
  • Emma E. Booker Elementary: Edwina Oliver (formerly Oak Park School principal)
  • Brookside Middle: Matthew Gruhl (former Heron Creek Middle principal, trading places with Kris Lawrence)
  • Heron Creek Middle: Kris Lawrence (former Brookside Middle principal, trading places with Matthew Gruhl)
  • Oak Park School: Jamie Lowicz (formerly an assistant principal at Sarasota High)

School Construction/Renovation Projects (some examples of many):

  • Booker High: Digital Design Program classroom renovations
  • Emma E. Booker Elementary: ongoing upgrades to cafeteria/auditorium
  • Englewood Elementary: renovations to a classroom wing
  • Lakeview Elementary: front office renovations with safety/security improvements
  • Laurel Nokomis School: Four new TechActive classrooms, new playground, landscaping
  • Pine View School: interior renovations: cafeteria, auditorium, orchestra/art rooms
  • Sarasota High: multi-phase renovation project of west campus competed
  • Suncoast Technical College-North Port: scheduled to open in October
  • Venice Elementary: Renovations to front office, new conference room
  • Venice Middle: Renovated administrative offices, Young Marines Program building


  • 5.5 million: approximate number of miles district buses will travel in 2017-18
  • 17,000: Average number of students who ride the bus daily
  • 6,000: Approximate number of bus stops
  • 1,000: Approximate number of bus routes
  • 250: Number of buses in the district fleet
  • 27,500: Average number of miles driven per day
  • 3,700: Average number of gallons of diesel fuel used each day 

Food and Nutrition Services (2016-17 stats):

  • 6,316: Average number of breakfasts served each school day
  • 21,199: Average number of lunches served each school day
  • 649: Average number of after-school snacks served each day
  • 934: Average number of suppers served each day
  • 51.6 percent: Students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals

Sarasota County Schools launches new mobile app

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SCS app on phone

SMART APP: The Sarasota County Schools app is available as a free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 8, 2017 – In conjunction with the start of the 2017-18 school year, Sarasota County Schools has introduced a new mobile app to help keep parents and community members informed about district news, events and other information. The app is designed for smartphones and tablets.

Created by the district and education technology firm Blackboard, the free app is available for download at the Apple App Store and Google Play for Android devices. On the app, parents can choose specific schools to follow, access district calendars and lunch menus, keep up with their favorite school sports teams and see news and social media posts from the district, all in one place. Users can also access the district’s Student and Parent Portal to track grades and attendance.

“It’s a one-stop shop for parents,” says Joe Binswanger, director of information technology for Sarasota County Schools. “The app gives us the ability to aggregate the various pieces of information that a parent would need or want to successfully be able to support their student in their educational career.”

The app took about three months to create and underwent a soft launch among district staff members at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Each school in the district will help distribute information about the new app to its parent population as students return to school. 

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Communications and Community Relations
Tracey Beeker, Director

Kelsey Whealy, Media Relations Specialist

Caroline Lee, Administrative Assistant;
Public Records Custodian, Peachjar eflyers 

Digital Communications
Mina Ajrab, Manager

Torie Ewald, Social Media Strategist

Katy Ellis, Social Media Producer

Phone: 941-927-4009 or
941-927-9000 ext. 74009
Fax: 941-927-2539
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Sarasota, Florida 34231
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John Flowerree, Manager

TBA, Engineer

Phone: 941-361-6355
Fax: 941-361-6358
4748 Beneva Road
Sarasota, Florida 34233

Community Involvement
Lyndsey Cantees, Coordinator

Jennifer Anderson, Administrative Assistant
Phone: 941-927-9000, ext. 31500
Fax: 941-361-6539
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