Sarasota County Schools News

Ground broken for tech college, library, conference center in North Port

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STC Groundbreaking

DIGGING IN: Sarasota County School Board members, County Commissioners and North Port City Commissioners join in the groundbreaking ceremonies for a new joint-use educational and conference facility in North Port.

NORTH PORT, Sept. 29, 2016 – Hailed by everyone involved as a model for government collaboration in Florida and beyond, the project to build the Suncoast Technical College-North Port campus, Shannon Staub Public Library and North Port city conference center was officially launched with a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 29. The project is being jointly funded by the Sarasota County School District, Sarasota County, the city of North Port and the state of Florida.

The new school will be located at 4901 N. Cranberry Blvd. near the Toledo Blade-I 75 interchange. The $25.3 million, 80,000-square-foot facility will include career, technical and adult education instructional spaces; a full-service public library and a joint-use conference center.

Todd Bowden, the executive director of career, technical and adult education for the Sarasota County Schools served as the master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking. He asked the audience to count how many times he used the word “excited” in his remarks because he was so pleased to be involved in a project that brought four government agencies together for the good of the community.

Bowden explained that the project started in 2013 with a discussion of the need to build a branch campus of what was then the Sarasota County Technical Institute “someday.” As the idea was discussed among elected officials, the need for a new library and a conference center for North Port became part of the conversation, as did the need for “someday” to be “yesterday.”

The project was fast-tracked through all of the agencies involved, but came up short on funding. The group appealed to the State Senator Nancy Detert, who persuaded the state Legislature to make up the shortfall. 

Bowden said he appreciates all of the agencies that came together to support the project, but is particularly grateful for the support of the Sarasota County School Board. He said the Sarasota Board is unique in the state in its commitment to career, technical and adult education.

Many school boards see their job as educating students through grade 12, but the Sarasota County Board believes its mission is to ensure that its students are ready for fulfilling careers, college or whatever post-secondary education they want to pursue. That commitment to career and technical education is unparalleled anywhere in Florida, he said.

County Commissioner Christine Robinson said North Port is growing as a city for families. She said facilities like STC-North Port will encourage young people to stay in North Port and Sarasota County. She said the project addresses three areas she believes are essential: quality of life, economic development and workforce training. “North Port will be the diamond in the Sarasota County treasure chest,” she said.

Robinson said the first conversation she had with Shannon Staub after taking her seat as a county commissioner in 2010 was about building a library in North Port. It was a distant possibility in the economic circumstance of the time, but one that neither commissioner forgot.

Robinson said naming the library for Staub was a perfect choice because Staub is both a champion of libraries and a champion of collaboration.  She also is a great community leader widely known for her cheery optimism and love of community service.

Staub shared a personal story about going to the library with her mother before she was old enough to read, of being in awe of the place and spending spellbinding hours with her mother reading picture books. “The library became part of my soul,” she said. “It became part of my life. It is where I discovered what I could be and the goals I wanted to reach.”

Staub had special praise for the County Commissioners for their efforts to bring the library to fruition. She said the library shows them to be good leaders with good vision. “They also showed good taste in naming it after me,” she quipped.

North Port Mayor Jaqueline Moore said she believes that education is the heart of a thriving community and that having a new library for the 10,000 students living in North Port will instill in them a love of reading that expand their world view and lead to brilliant futures. “The possibilities are way beyond what we are thinking today,” she said.

Sarabeth Kalajian, the director of Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources, said that the technical college and library project will be a launch pad for many collaborations to come. “Having a dream become a reality creates a heightened sense of possibilities,” she said.

Bowden said he is excited about the possibilities of offering North Port students the opportunity to prepare for a “Career in a Year” in a wide range of professions. He said he is looking forward to convening back on the new STC-North Port campus for the opening day of the 2017 school year.



Bay Haven School celebrates 90th birthday

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BH time capsule day 35

90 YEARS AND COUNTING: Bay Haven student Raionna Clark prepares to bury a time capsule to be opened in 2026 during the school's 100th birthday party.

SARASOTA, Sept. 28, 2016 – The students, staff and families of Bay Haven School of Basics Plus are throwing a week-long birthday party from Sept. 26-Oct. 1. The celebration is including special lessons, activities and events every day to involve the school family and the surrounding community in commemorating the school’s opening day in 1926. One of the highlights of the week was burying a time capsule to be opened at the 100th anniversary party in 2026.

At a Sept. 28 ceremony to bury the time capsule, Principal Chad Erickson said Bay Haven was celebrating 90 years of outstanding instruction, excellent students and dedicated volunteers. He said that when Bay Haven School opened in the 1920s, Yo-yos, puzzles, Lincoln logs, jump ropes and teddy bears were the most popular toys. The most popular form of family entertainment was gathering around the radio after dinner (if the family was lucky enough to have electricity). A dollar could buy a pair of jeans or six gallons of gasoline.

Among the firsts that occurred in that decade were Charles Lindbergh’s first solo flight across the Atlantic, the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, the first Winter Olympics, the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, the first Sears store opening, the beginning of work on Mt. Rushmore and the first Mickey Mouse cartoon. 

Shifting focus from the past to the future, Mr. Erickson noted that most of the students at the ceremony will be enrolled or have graduated from college when the capsule is opened. Sue Gordon’s fourth-grade class created the capsule. The reminders of life in 2016 they included were toys, video games, CDs, a flash drive, two phones and letters from current students to those who will be at Bay Haven in 10 years.

Bay Haven Anniversary

Bay Haven Birthday Bash photos; clockwise from top left 

With encouragement from classmates, fourth-grader Nolan Welch, center, models the flapper dress she made from newspaper.

Principal Chad Erickson, teacher Rolf Hanson and Assistant Principal Sean Cheeseman pose with school volunteer Brian Post and second-grader Ripley Post in front of the rainbow eucalyptus tree that Post and Hanson planted. The tree is a gift to the future dedicated at the birthday celebration Sept. 28. Post said the tree may reach a height of more than 100 feet.

Mr. Cheeseman leads the Bay Haven student body in singing “Happy Birthday” to their school.

Mr. Erickson hosts the ceremony for burying a time capsule.

Bay Haven and Southside elementary schools were built from identical plans in the Mediterranean Revival style. The schools were designed to accommodate 600 students each and cost $72,000 apiece to build.

The schools’ locations north and south of the city center were recommended by nationally renowned city planner John Nolen, who planned the city of Cambridge, Mass. Some city leaders were skeptical about building new schools so far from downtown.

Mrs. Mason H. Rose was the first principal of Bay Haven. The school received strong support from parents from the first year it opened.

The Great Depression closed Sarasota's public schools for lack of funds in February 1933. The Bay Haven PTA kept the doors open by charging tuition to families who could afford to pay and sponsoring fundraisers for those who could not.

Parents worked in the kitchen and provided vegetables, canned fruits and milk for free lunches for needy students. In 1934 the Florida PTA convention honored the Bay Haven PTA for its welfare work and membership efforts.

In 1937, Bay Haven established the first in-house elementary school library in Sarasota County. In 1962, Bay Haven became the first Sarasota County elementary school to be integrated, enrolling 29 African-American students. Bay Haven became the site of the first kindergarten in a Sarasota County public school in 1964. The school building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. 

In 1983, Bay Haven was designated a magnet school that students from any neighborhood north of Gulf Gate could attend. The name was changed to the School of New Basics to reflect a back-to-basics curriculum created in response to a rising national concern about school quality and the need to improve student’s fundamental academic skills.

The key features of the curriculum were Spanish language instruction, more computers, smaller classes and increased parent involvement. For their children attend the new school, parents and guardians were required to sign contracts that committed them to enforce academic and behavioral standards, to attend PTA meetings and to volunteer time at the school.

 In 1990, Bay Haven received the National Elementary School Recognition Program Award.

Today the Bay Haven School of Basics Plus retains its popularity, its tradition of parent involvement and its high academic standards. 

The birthday celebration will continue with birthday cake being served at Friday’s lunch and students performing historical sketches and songs. On Saturday, Oct. 1, the community is invited to a special celebration that will include an Anniversary Day proclamation, hallway exhibits and an antique car show.

Mr. Erickson said bringing the history of the school to life is helping students appreciate the strong academic tradition of their school and how it was involved in the vast social and economic changes the city of Sarasota has experienced in the nine decades since the school opened.


Groundbreaking set for Suncoast Tech. College-North Port, Public Library

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STC-NP front rendering Sept 2016STC-Library rendering overview Sept. 2016Shannon Staub Library at STC-NP rendering Sept 2016

BREAKING GROUND ON A LEARNING CENTER: Officials will break ground Sept. 29 on Suncoast Technical College-North Port and the Shannon Staub Public Library. From top are renderings of the college entrance, the overall project and the library entrance.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Sept. 26, 2016 – Elected officials from the School Board of Sarasota County, the Sarasota County Commission and the North Port City Commission will celebrate the official beginning of construction for Suncoast Technical College-North Port and the Shannon Staub Public Library with a groundbreaking and dedication ceremony at 9 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 29. The event will be held at the construction site at 4901 N. Cranberry Blvd., North Port.

The project is the result of agreements among the School Board, the County Commission and the City Commission to share the facility and costs for the benefit of citizens. The college includes a conference center jointly funded by Sarasota County Schools and the City of North Port.

Suncoast Technical College-North Port is the latest career and technical education facility of Sarasota County Schools. The Shannon Staub Public Library is the newest addition to Sarasota County Libraries.

The projected cost for all components of the facility is $25.3 million. Site preparation began in early May. The design includes ideas shared by community members at public forums in 2015. The two-story, 80,000-square-foot facility is projected to open to the public in the fall of 2017. The project team includes SchenkelShultz Architecture, Willis Smith Construction, Jensen and Group Engineering Consultants, DWJA Landscape Architects, Engineering Matrix and PDES Design Group.

“This project is an example of government collaboration at its finest,” said Todd Bowden, executive director of Career, Technical and Adult Education for Sarasota County Schools and director of Suncoast Technical College. “When the doors open we’ll be able to serve students and employers in North Port and throughout the region with programs that develop the skills needed for today’s and tomorrow’s workforce — while providing all residents and visitors with a library.”

Sarabeth Kalajian, director of Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources, said, “The Shannon Staub Public Library will give the citizens of North Port a much-needed second library to share with STC-North Port students. The unique partnership we formed for this project is helping us find shared resources, cost savings and efficiencies in the design and construction phases. The team will continue to work together to ensure that this unique learning center serves students, library patrons and the entire community for years to come."                                                 

In order to better serve the growing population of North Port, officials from Sarasota County Schools and Sarasota County Libraries first presented the idea of a joint-use project at the January 2014 Convocation of Governments. In October 2015 the Sarasota County Commission approved the naming of the new library for former Commissioner Shannon Staub — citing her 14 years of service to the county, her strong advocacy of libraries and her leadership in establishing the Library Foundation.

In June 2015 the North Port City Commission voted to augment the School Board’s budget for the college in order to include a community conference center.

Suncoast Technical College-North Port will house a culinary program with a kitchen adjacent to the conference center, much like the one at the college’s Sarasota campus. Other programs, such as accounting, business management, carpentry, industrial maintenance and nursing will prepare students for the workforce and help local businesses and industries find qualified employees. Additional courses leading to licensing and certification in a variety of other fields will be added later.

The Shannon Staub Public Library will feature a multimedia collection of print and digital resources for all ages, meeting and study rooms, a Friends of the Library Bookstore, outdoor gardens with comfortable seating, a children’s area and a high-tech teen center.  

Superintendent finalist withdraws application

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Sept. 26, 2016 – One of the four finalists invited to interview for the superintendent’s position for the Sarasota County School District has withdrawn his application.

Andrew Rynberg notified the Sarasota County School District Friday afternoon by letter that he is withdrawing from consideration for the superintendent’s job for personal reasons. Rynberg is a former assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction with the Indian River County School District headquartered in Vero Beach.

The Sarasota County School Board has scheduled interviews for the superintendent’s position with three other candidates: Mark Porter, the superintendent of the Monroe County School District; Brennan Asplen III, the deputy superintendent for academic and student services with the St. Johns County School District; and Todd Bowden, the executive director of career and adult education for the Sarasota County Schools.

The interviews are scheduled for Oct. 12 and 13, with a public reception at Riverview High School the evening of Oct. 13. The Board plans to appoint the new superintendent on Oct. 18.

The new superintendent will succeed Lori White, who is scheduled to retire Feb. 28.


Local students improve swimming skills through free lessons

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Kids SWIM program May 2016 CROP

MAKING A SPLASH: In May 2016 Atwater Elementary student Tommy Hilbish, shown here jumping into the arms of a North Port YMCA instructor, learned how to swim through the Kids SWIM Program.

This news release is from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

VENICE, Sept. 15, 2016 – A philanthropic program that offers free swimming lessons to every second-grader in Sarasota County public schools helped students “significantly” improve their water-safety skills, according to an evaluation of the program during the 2015-16 school year.
What’s more, a survey of their teachers found near universal improvement in students’ listening skills as well as a significant sense of accomplishment among students after participating in the lessons.  

More than 2,350 Sarasota County students took part in the Kids SWIM (Safe Water Instruction Matters) program last year, which is made possible through a collaboration of Gulf Coast Community Foundation donors, including Keith and Linda Monda; several community organizations; and the Sarasota County School District.

“The results are not surprising to those of us who have observed the lessons and really point to the powerful effect this program has on our children,” said Laura Kingsley, executive director of elementary education for Sarasota County Schools.  “We are indebted to the Mondas and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for caring so deeply about the safety and well-being of every child in our community.”

Through Kids SWIM, second-grade classes are able to participate in a week’s worth of free water-safety lessons during the school year.  The lessons are led by certified aquatics instructors and offered at several area pools, to and from which transportation is provided.  According to a pre-assessment of students who participated last year, 60 percent of them were identified as non-swimmers.  These students could not demonstrate a majority of nine basic water-safety skills without assistance.  Overall, students improved an average of 21 percent over the course of their lessons, according to a post-assessment.  For students identified as non-swimmers at the start of the program, the rate of improvement was 42 percent. tudents showed the greatest improvements in rolling back to front, recovering from a prone position, and holding their faces in the water.

 “These fundamental skills can make a life-saving difference for a child who is unfamiliar with the water,” said Veronica Brady, senior vice president at Gulf Coast Community Foundation, who helped launch the program in 2013 with funding from the Mondas.

A survey of teachers showed further evidence of the program’s effects.  Every teacher said that the program had a moderate or major impact on their students’ water-safety skills.  In addition, 89% of teachers reported that the program had a moderate or major impact on the students’ listening skills, while 90 percent reported seeing a sense of accomplishment and improved confidence in a lot or many students after the lessons. Overall, 91 percent of teachers feel the program is extremely beneficial for students.

The evaluation was commissioned by Gulf Coast Community Foundation to assess the impact of the three-year-old Kids SWIM initiative and, if it proved successful, identify key elements for replication elsewhere.  According to the evaluation, the program’s large scope—offering every second-grader across the school district the opportunity to learn to swim—and its broad partnership are among the keys to its success.
Community organizations note that Kids SWIM has enabled them to reach children who could not otherwise afford or travel to swimming lessons.  They also have been able to reach out to families whom they might not otherwise engage, and now are able to offer ongoing swimming lessons over the summer through other funding sources.

The partnership behind the program, meanwhile, leverages each partner’s contribution to make a greater collective impact.  The school district, community organizations such as local YMCAs and Girls Inc. of Sarasota County, and the foundation and its donors all commit resources to the program.  The school district, for example, provides the time to promote and coordinate the program, while community partners provide the operational cost of their facilities.  Philanthropic funding from Gulf Coast—primarily through gifts from Keith and Linda Monda—pays for transportation and instructor time.  The foundation also provides fiscal management and coordination of the effort.

“Four years ago, we reached 445 students with swimming lessons,” commented Gulf Coast’s Brady.  “Last year, we reached nearly 2,400 Sarasota County students, and the program was expanded to Charlotte County too, where another 800 students participated.  Clearly, this model is working, and our community’s children will be safer because of that.”

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 over $234 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

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