Sarasota County Schools News

New principal named for Lamarque Elementary in North Port

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Brandon Jouhnson 2014

NEW LAMARQUE LEADER: Brandon Johnson has been named the next principal of Lamarque Elementary School in North Port.  


SARASOTA COUNTY, May 30, 2014 – Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Lori White has named an assistant principal as the next principal of Lamarque Elementary School in North Port. Brandon Johnson, who has served as assistant principal of Brentwood Elementary School since July 2012, is scheduled to begin the job as Lamarque’s new leader July 1, pending School Board approval. He will succeed Sally Mancheno, who is retiring from the district after leading the school since before it opened in August 2006. Lamarque Elementary has about 875 students.

“I’m incredibly excited and grateful for this opportunity to be part of the Lamarque school community,” said Johnson. “I can’t wait to get started!”

Johnson, 33, began with the Sarasota County Schools in summer 2005 as a teacher for children with special need in grades three through five at Emma E. Booker Elementary in Sarasota. He also served that school as a fourth-grade teacher and as a resource for teachers of special-needs students.

Johnson became an assistant principal intern at Emma E. Booker Elementary in February 2010 through a district program that trains teachers to be administrators. He served as an assistant principal intern at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus in Sarasota before being named assistant principal at Brentwood. 

Johnson brings extensive administrative and teaching experience to his new position. As assistant principal at Brentwood he developed and supported the Positive Behavior Support initiative and the school improvement plan. He was a summer school administrator, data coach, test coordinator and volunteer coordinator. He served on district committees to create a new elementary report card and to update the Student and Family Handbook. He also has served as a mentor for children, working with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Take Stock in Children. He was a member of the NAACP Youth Advisory Counsel.

Johnson holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va. He is married to Rashea Johnson.

Pine View sixth-graders hold end-of-year book release party

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Pine view sixth-grade authors May 2014

YOUNG AUTHORS: Sixth-grade students at Pine View School talk about the short stories they have written, which will be presented to them in a bound volume at a book release party June 2. A second copy of each book will be kept in the school’s media center. Pictured from left are Dante Aletto, Tori Belilovskiy, Ella Peavley, Daniel Feraco (seated), Hal Bloom, Dara Dombrowksi, Katie Dean and Gigi Langer.


OSPREY, May 30, 2014 – Ninety-two sixth-grade students who have each written a short story will celebrate their accomplishment with a book release party at Pine View School from noon-1:30 p.m., Monday, June 2, the last day of the 2014-15 academic year for the Sarasota County Schools.

The stories are a culmination of the students’ studies this school year. Plots range from government chaos to a murder mystery set on an abandoned ship. Students worked with a professional author, editor and photographer to complete their work. The class also established a Student Publishing section (a sort of “local authors” shelf) in the school’s media center.

During the event each author will receive a bound copy of his or her story, as well as a second copy to autograph and deliver to the school’s media center at about 12:45 p.m. The students’ copies of the books will include “praise pages” for fellow students and others to express their feelings about the prose.

“Parents, administrators, teachers and students are excited about this awesome experience for our students, and they love the idea of sharing the stories with future Pine View students for years to come,” said English teacher Desiree Schell.

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

Alta Vista Elementary students flash back to the 1970s

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SARASOTA, May 27, 2014 – Alta Vista Elementary students are planning to “time travel” to a decade long before they were born: the 1970s. Three fifth-grade classes will experience a “Flashback to the Seventies Day” Friday, May 30. Various events, from music to a mock “sit-in,” are scheduled to occur throughout most of the school day (9 a.m.-3 p.m.).

Through research and authentic hands-on learning activities, students have learned about the military draft, peaceful protests and the popular culture of the 1970s. During the culminating event, they will dress in tie-dyed T-shirts and stage a campus “peace walk.”

“Through this exercise, we hope our students will gain a greater understanding of an important historical period in our country,” said teacher Kelly McWilliams.

Alta Vista Elementary School is located at 1050 S. Euclid Ave., Sarasota.

District FCAT average scores higher than state at all grade levels

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SARASOTA COUNTY, May 23, 2014 - Sarasota County students scored higher than their peers across the state, on average, in FCAT Writing and third-grade Reading and Math test results released Friday, May 23, by the Florida Department of Education.

Writing tests were administered to students in grades four, eight and 10. In Sarasota County, 9,213 public school students participated in the writing assessment. The group included students with disabilities and English-language learners.

In the district, 3,074 third-grade students took the FCAT Reading and Math tests. The results reported are based on all students tested, including students with disabilities, English-language learners and retained third-grade students.

• The district’s FCAT average Writing results exceeded state averages for each grade tested. In grade four, 64 percent of students scored at proficiency level 3.5 or above on the essay; 11 percentage points higher than the state average 53 percent. In grade eight, 66 percent of students scored 3.5 or above, 10 percentage points higher than the state average of 56 percent. In grade 10, 73 percent of students scored 3.5 or above, 9 percentage points higher than the state average of 64 percent.

• In Reading and Math, the percentages of students scoring in proficiency levels 3-5 in Sarasota County are ¬¬14 and 7 percentage points higher than the state, respectively.

 FCAT spring 2014 charts-small

Booker Middle named one of state's best public schools for arts

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ORLANDO - May 22, 2014 – Arts Education lives strong in the heart of Booker Middle School, whose exemplary arts programs made it one of the best public schools for the arts in the state.

The Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE) recognized seven Florida public schools as Arts Achieve! Model Schools: Booker Middle School, Osceola County School for the Arts, Ronald McNair Magnet Middle School, Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, South Miami Middle Community School Center for the Arts, Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, and North Ft. Myers Academy of the Arts.

“Excellence in Arts Education is still very much a vital goal of the Florida Department of Education,” said Caroll Vick, Executive Director of FAAE. “Through the Arts Achieve! program, we’re ensuring that schools who have made a commitment to providing the highest quality arts programs for their students not only receive the recognition they deserve, but also receive the support they need in order to share the models for their success with schools that want to improve.”

Teams of school administrators and teachers from each of the Arts Achieve! Model Schools have been presented with full-conference scholarships to FAAE’s annual Leadership Summit in Orlando to further strengthen their engagement with Arts education best practices and help them connect with other arts educators and administrators from around the state. The winning schools will also be presented with their Arts Achieve! award at the Leadership Summit during a special luncheon in their honor on Friday, June 20.

“The spirit of this year’s conference is to celebrate the real potential arts students have for fruitful and fulfilling arts careers,” said Vick. “Artists aren’t starving; they’re finding homes for their creative minds in all sectors of the job market, including science, technology, engineering, and math. We praise Arts Achieve! Model Schools because their programs are preparing them for this new future in Arts careers.”

About ARTS Achieve! Model School Program
The Florida Alliance for Arts Education (FAAE) evaluates and approves schools based on criteria development by FAAE in corporation with Florida’s professional service associations for dance, music, theater and visual art. Schools that meet this criteria are committed for a three-year period to assist FAAE, school officials, teachers and other interested persons in observing quality fine arts programs and make suggestions for program improvement. The selected schools receive public recognition at the annual FAAE Leadership Summit.

Arts Achieve! Schools offer exemplary arts programs, exemplary arts integration programs, exemplary instructional settings, outstanding community connections, or other factors that make them worth attention and visiting. These schools have agreed to open their doors to visitors who wish to enhance and/or affirm their arts education practices.

For more information about the ARTS Achieve! Model School Program or the Florida Alliance for Arts Education, visit, or call 407-488-9951.

Heron Creek Middle holds Warrior Walk, opens Tranquility Garden

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NORTH PORT, May 22, 2014 – Leading up to Memorial Day on Monday, The first-ever Patriots Helping Patriots Warrior Walk will be held at Heron Creek Middle School at 9:30 a.m., Friday, May 23. Pledges have been made based on students walking the school track during their elective periods.

The goal of the walk is to raise $15,000 to support the Wounded Warrior Project, or about $17 per student for each of the school’s 870 students. Anyone who makes a donation of $20 or more will receive a Wounded Warriors T-shirt.

The day also will include the dedication of the school’s Tranquility Garden, sponsored by the HCMS Campus Beautification Club. The garden also was created in honor of Wounded Warriors. The school’s mascot is a Revolutionary War-era patriot, inspiring the “Patriots Helping Patriots” theme.

“The walk and the garden are designed to create a partnership that joins generations, honors veterans and teaches students about selfless acts and commitment and strengthens the bond between our students and the community,” said teacher Jennifer Weinberger.

Heron Creek Middle is located at 6501 W. Price Blvd. in North Port.

New principal named for Heron Creek Middle School in North Port

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Matthew Gruhl-HCMS principal named May 2014

NEW LEADER FOR HERON CREEK: Matthew Gruhl has been named as the next principal of Heron Creek Middle School in North Port.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 20, 2014  – Superintendent Lori White has named a Manatee County middle school principal as the next leader of Heron Creek Middle School in North Port. Matthew Gruhl, 39, is scheduled to begin the job July 1, pending approval by the School Board of Sarasota County. He will succeed interim principal Candace Dearing, who has led the school since January 2014. The school has about 870 students.

“I am so excited to serve the students, teachers, parents and community of Heron Creek Middle School,” said Gruhl. Referring to the school’s mascot, he added, “I am proud to be a Patriot!”

Gruhl has served as principal of Buffalo Creek Middle School in Palmetto since June 2009. He worked closely with school staff and parents to identify goals and areas needing improvement, successfully reduced discipline referrals, and helped develop and implement a teacher learning program. From December 2006 to June 2009 Gruhl was an assistant principal at Bayshore High School in Bradenton. From June 2004 to December 2006 he was assistant principal at Seven Springs Middle School in Trinity, Pasco County.

Gruhl also has experience as a teacher and coach. From 2001 to 2004 he was a social studies teacher at Electa Lee Magnet Arts Middle School in Bradenton. In 1999-2000 he taught world history and economics at Port St. Lucie High School, and in 1998-99 he taught in the pre-International Baccalaureate program at Lincoln Park Academy in Ft. Pierce. At Port St. Lucie High and Lincoln Park Academy Gruhl was an assistant basketball coach.

He holds an Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership and a Master of Science degree in Social Science Education from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology and Social Studies Teaching from Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C., which he attended on a full basketball scholarship.

“Matthew’s background and experience make him a great match for Heron Creek Middle School,” said Page Dettmann, executive director of Middle Schools for the Sarasota County School District. “He will be a wonderful addition to our district’s administrative team.”

Gruhl and his wife Martye have two sons, Nathaniel, 8, and Stryker, 7.

Heron Creek Middle School is located at 6501 W. Price Blvd., North Port.

Foundation lauds STEMsmart teachers, honors Sarasota Middle

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NOTE: This news release was prepared for distribution to media outlets by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.  

VENICE, May 16, 2014 – Gulf Coast Community Foundation recognized 140 math and science educators from 13 Sarasota and Charlotte county schools Tuesday at its third annual STEMsmart Teacher Celebration. Gulf Coast awarded technology prizes to seven teachers for excellence in professional development, student enrichment, or community awareness as part of the foundation’s STEMsmart science and math education initiative. The awards portion of the event, which was held poolside at the Venice Yacht Club, concluded with the announcement of Sarasota Middle School as the 2014 STEMsmart School of the Year.

“Together, we are transforming the way students in our community learn science and math,” said Teri A Hansen, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation, to the teachers and school administrators in attendance. “That transformation is possible because of your hard work, and we thank you for it!”

The main purpose of the evening was to acknowledge and thank the teachers for their commitment to boosting student achievement and interest in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. The teachers enjoyed socializing in an informal setting with their colleagues from area middle and high schools that participate in STEMsmart, as well as school district administrators and Gulf Coast donors who support the initiative.

A brief awards ceremony included drawings for technology prizes such as tablet computers and WiFi-enabled digital cameras for teachers nominated by their respective schools in the three individual award categories. The final award presented was STEMsmart School of the Year, with Sarasota Middle School chosen from 12 schools that submitted nominations for the prize. In announcing the winner, STEMsmart consultant Chris Pfahler read a long list of the school’s accomplishments, including high levels of student-body participation in STEMsmart activities, extensive demonstrations of classroom technology and techniques for local and national audiences, and a 100-percent passing rate for end-of-course exams in algebra and geometry.

“All students need to develop their STEM knowledge and skills, as they play a role in almost every aspect of everyday life and the workplace,” said Karen Rose, principal of Sarasota Middle School. Rose and her team of teachers were presented with a $2,500 grant from Gulf Coast to put toward the school’s STEM programs.

The previous winners of STEMsmart School of the Year were North Port High School (2013) and LA Ainger Middle School (2012).

2014 STEMsmart Teacher Awards:

STEMsmart Student Enrichment Award
Recognizes teachers for providing internship opportunities, STEM clubs, “summer bridge” activities, guest classroom speakers, and STEM competitions:
• Larry Shannon, Venice High School
• Kevin O’Gorman, Woodland Middle School
• Keith Little, Venice High School

STEMsmart Teacher Training Award
Recognizes excellence in Common Core standards, teacher externships, integrated and collaborative lesson development, and career technical education:
• Denise Brislin, North Port High School
• Cindy Schlotterback, Laurel Nokomis School
• Steve Case, Venice High School

STEMsmart Community Awareness Award
Recognizes excellence in community outreach related to STEMsmart business partnerships, parent events, and student material and curriculum:
• Maria Kearns, Venice Middle School

STEMsmart School of the Year
• Sarasota Middle School – Karen Rose, Principal

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 550 families who have established charitable funds here, and we have invested $170 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

Gocio Elementary School to host Career Week May 19-22

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SARASOTA, May 16, 2014 – Gocio Elementary School will host Career Week, Monday, May 19, through Thursday, May 22. The event is designed to get students thinking about their future careers. More than 30 community members, including a doctor, a nurse, a hairdresser, police officers and even circus clowns will visit the Gocio campus to teach students about their careers.

On Monday, May 19, guests from Build-a-Bear Workshop, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Tidewell Hospice and the Circus Arts Conservatory will speak to the children about their occupations.

On Tuesday, May 20, fifth-grade students will travel to the Ritz-Carlton, Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion restaurant and the Sarasota County Police Department to see a variety of workers in action. 

Workers and vehicles will arrive on campus Wednesday, May 21, for Transportation Day. Vehicles scheduled to appear include the Siesta Key Trolley, a tow truck, a fire truck, tractors, a dump truck and many more.

Thursday, May 22, is Health, Fitness and Beauty Day. Guests will include a pharmacist, a licensed massage therapist and a nutritionist.

Gocio Elementary is located at 3450 Gocio Road in Sarasota.

Saturday Showcase lets public tour Booker High School campus

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SARASOTA, May 15, 2014 – Booker High School will share its new campus with the community at the Saturday Showcase, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., May 17. The event will showcase the $58 million rebuild project, and will include tours of the new mock courtroom, instructional facilities and athletic complex. Also, local Amateur Athletic Union teams have been invited to play games on the athletic facilities, so the community will have the chance to take in basketball, football and baseball games. The event is free and open to the public.

The Booker High School rebuild was a four-year project in which most of the former buildings of the Booker campus – buildings from the former middle and elementary schools as well as the original high school – were razed and a new comprehensive campus was built in their place. The campus design features buildings situated around a central courtyard for students to congregate and campus meetings and celebrations of student achievement. The rebuild was a comprehensive project that employed community members and has been part of a revitalization effort of north Sarasota.

“This is a proud day,” said Principal Rachel Shelley. “Our campus now reflects everything our learners deserve: amazing facilities from the classrooms to the athletic fields. We are so excited to share the new Booker High School with the community.”

The event begins with a number of junior league teams battling it out in Tornado territory. Suncoast Athletics little-league baseball teams will play games at 9 and 11 a.m., basketball teams from Impact Academy will face off at 9 and 11 a.m., and the Sarasota Seminoles will meet the Sarasota Lightning on the football field at 9:30 and 11 a.m., so spectators can take in a few games before the Purple and Gold scrimmage game at 1 p.m., which will introduce the 2014-15 Varsity Tornadoes Football Team.

Among the highlights of the Booker High sports complex are the brand-new baseball field, tennis courts and practice fields. Last year, the school held a grand opening for the new weight room, which includes Pro Maxima top-of-the-line strength-building equipment.

While the gymnasium is not new to the rebuild, it has been refurbished with new floors and LED scoreboards, as well as a new lighting system. Another upgrade was made to the existing track, which is the only rubberized track in the district. It was resurfaced to improve its shock-absorbing properties and make it safer for runners’ joints and bones.

Inside the buildings, guests will be able to see the district’s only mock courtroom, an authentic learning environment for students who participate in the Law Academy. Tours also will showcase art studios, science labs, the hospitality and tourism classroom, and more.

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

Sarasota High Choirs to sing centennial concerts May 17, May 22

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SARASOTA, May 13, 2014 – The Sarasota High School Choral Department will present the Seventh Annual Singing Sailors Spring Cabaret and Silent Auction, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Saturday, May 17, at the Bethel Mennonite Church in Sarasota.

The theme of the after-dinner dessert event fundraiser will be “Celebrating a Century of Sailors,” a salute to the founding of the school 100 years ago. The first Sarasota High School opened to 350 students on Main Street in 1913.

Guests are encouraged to have dinner before they arrive; light refreshments and delicious desserts will be served. The Sarasota High School Choirs and soloists will perform. Guests are encouraged to dress to reflect the theme by selecting a decade of their choice from the past century.

A variety of gifts and other items will be included in a silent auction. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and $12 each for groups of 10 or more. Tickets may be purchased at Sarasota High School with cash or with checks made out to SHS Chorus Boosters. Payment at the door may be made with a credit card. More information is available by calling 941-955-0181, ext. 64599.

Bethel Mennonite Church is located at 2985 Bethel Lane, Sarasota, off Fruitville Road east of I-75.

The Sarasota High School Choral Department will present the 2014 Final Bow End of the Year Concert at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 22, in the school auditorium. The concert will feature a wide variety of music and will showcase the Singing Sailors, the Chamber Choir, the Women’s Chorale and student soloists. To celebrate the Centennial of Sarasota High School choral alumni are invited to join the Chamber Choir in a special Alumni Choir presentation. There will be a rehearsal at 7 p.m., Tuesday, May, 20 and at 1 p.m., Thursday, May 22, in the choir room. The program will conclude with a salute to the graduating seniors of 2014 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. 64599.

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

Lakeview Elementary to host Career Day with working vehicles

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SARASOTA, May 13, 2014 – Lakeview Elementary School will host a Career Day with a unique twist: getting children excited about careers through working vehicles. The event is set for 8:30-11:30 a.m., Friday, May 16. Kindergarten and first-grade students will have a parade while second- and third-graders will learn about careers through vehicles. Fourth and fifth-grade students will hear 10 different speakers discuss careers.

“We’ve invited several local companies and organizations to help us make careers come alive for our students,” said Principal Joan Bower. “We want to promote career awareness among our students and give them an opportunity to touch a truck or listen to a presentation and learn about the career options available to them. Students will have time to walk around and view vehicles or listen to a speaker and ask any questions. Who knows? This event may inspire a student to pursue a particular career path.”

Eleven large vehicles are expected, including the Purple Bell ice cream truck, Clear Channel Media broadcast truck, a Sheriff’s Office car, an ambulance, a fire truck, Upman’s Towing, and It’s All Good Charters, among others.

Speakers will include a reporter, private investigator, photographer, nurse, pilot, chiropractor and more.

Lakeview Elementary School is located at 7299 Proctor Road in Sarasota.

Heron Creek Middle student heading to national chemistry contest

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You Be the Chemist winner Heron Creek 5-7-14

CHEMISTRY CHAMP: Teachers and administrators at Heron Creek Middle School in North Port, Fla., celebrate the naming of HCMS eighth-grade student Mannie Saint-Amand as the Sarasota County You Be The Chemist Challenge Champion May 7. Pictured from left are Mia Montgomery; assistant principal; Melissa Varlas, physical science teacher; Saint-Amand; Candace Dearing, interim principal; and Laura Lundberg, physical science teacher. Saint-Amand will represent Florida at the National You Be The Chemist Challenge June 23 in Philadelphia.

NOTE: This news release is from the Chemical Educational Foundation. 

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla., May 7, 2014 — Mannie Saint-Amand, an eighth-grader at Heron Creek Middle School in North Port, competed against 14 other fifth to eighth grade students to become the Sarasota County You Be The Chemist Challenge® Champion. Saint-Amand will represent the state of Florida at the 10th annual National You Be The Chemist Challenge in June.

Developed by the Chemical Educational Foundation, the Challenge is an exciting question-and-answer competition that allows fifth to eighth grade students to test their knowledge of chemistry concepts, scientific theories and laboratory safety as they compete to represent their state on a national level. The Challenge program relies on partnerships between various community members seeking to foster student engagement with science, including industry, schools, universities and community organizations.

The 2014 Sarasota County Challenge was held at Heron Creek Middle School in North Port, and was sponsored by Brenntag (Tampa, Fla.) and J. Tech Sales (Boca Raton, Fla.). Heron Creek teachers Melissa Varlas and Laura Lundberg organized the event and hosted the event with Suzette Bucher from CEF and Ken Moyer from Brenntag. After multiple suspenseful rounds of competition, Saint-Amand was declared the winner of the competition. Eddie Smith, a student at Woodland Middle School; Joseph Kim, a student at Laurel Nokomis School; and Lucas Ponte, a student at Woodland Middle School earned the titles of first, second and third runners-up respectively.

Saint-Amand and his science teacher, Melissa Varlas, will advance to the National You Be The Chemist Challenge held in Philadelphia on June 23, 2014, at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. At the national competition, each participant will receive exciting prizes, including chemistry kits, T-shirts and gift certificates to the Discovery Channel Store. The first through fourth-place winners will also receive scholarships totaling $15,000 for future educational use. In addition to the competition and prizes, participants, chaperones and a nominated educator from each state will be treated to various activities in historic Philadelphia, such as a Day of Science Discovery at The Franklin Institute (an interactive science museum) and a celebration dinner at the National Constitution Center.

“The Challenge enlivens the learning experience for participating students and encourages them to explore the world of science and chemistry beyond what is taught in the classroom,” stated CEF’s Executive Director, John Rice. “CEF is continually impressed by Challenge participants’ grasp of scientific concepts and dedication to expanding their science knowledge. As CEF celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Challenge, we are eager to see how past and future participants will contribute their talents to the scientific community.”

Please visit the CEF website,, for more information.

About the Chemical Educational Foundation
Founded in 1989 and headquartered in Arlington, Va., the Chemical Educational Foundation works closely with industry to enhance science education opportunities for our youth. In 2014 CEF is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the You Be The Chemist Challenge and the 25th anniversary of the Foundation.

Military Officers Association hosts flag events at four schools

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NOTE: This news release is from The Patterson Foundation.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 16, 2014 - The Military Officers Association will host flag etiquette events at four schools: 10:30 a.m.-11a.m., Wednesday, May 14, at Pine View School in Osprey; 12:45-1:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 14 at Garden Elementary in Venice; 10:15-11 a.m., Friday, May 16 at Laurel Nokomis School in Nokomis; and 2:15-3p.m., Friday, May 16 at Lamarque Elementary School in North Port.  

The event at Pine View School concludes a 10-part lesson plan taught from the first-ever, voluntary American flag curriculum developed for Sarasota County Schools through a Legacy of Valor partnership with the Military Officers Association of Sarasota. Students from Venice Middle School’s Young Marines Program, Girl Scouts from Pine View School and a local veteran will demonstrate the proper flag-folding technique to a group of more than 40 fourth-grade students.  

At Lamarque Elementary, JROTC cadets from North Port High School and a local veteran will demonstrate the proper flag-folding technique to a group of nearly 300 fourth and fifth-grade students during the culmination of this voluntary course focused on the American flag. 

The lessons at Garden and Laurel Nokomis also will feature the Venice Middle School Young Marines.

The curriculum, created by a team of educators from Sarasota County Schools, including a former veteran and a parent of several children in the military as well as members of the Military Officers Association of Sarasota, is designed to preserve the history, traditions and proper observance of this national icon.

The curriculum and a flag etiquette guide were created in partnership with The Patterson Foundation’s Legacy of Valor campaign, an effort to honor the region’s veterans and military families. 

About The Patterson Foundation

The Patterson Foundation works with partners to accelerate positive change, sharing fresh perspectives on strategy, contributing new ideas and providing resources. We believe we’re stronger together – that the act of creative collaboration produces results and knowledge that can be applied more broadly to transcend any single act of philanthropy. For more information, please visit

Riverview High dedicates native plant nature trail on campus

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RHS Nature Trail from window April 2014

NATURAL VIEW: The Native Plant Nature Trail at Riverview High can be seen from the windows of various buildings on campus. 


SARASOTA, May 9, 2014 – Riverview High School will unveil the Eagle Native Plant Nature Trail on its campus at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, May 10. The new feature is an extension of the school’s Stars to Starfish program, which focuses on the sky with its planetarium, the sea in its AquaDome and now the earth with its nature trail. The event is free to the public and will include tours of the nature trail and AquaDome from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and planetarium shows from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. For those interested in stargazing, the Observers Club will be on site with telescopes.

The Eagle Native Plant Nature Trail was developed by students and includes 600 linear feet of trail with 1,700 plants (representing 53 species that are native to Florida) and a water pond and surrounding garden, all housed within five ecosystems. Students planted much of the foliage during the week in late April that included Earth Day.


RHS students work on nature trail April 2014

THEY CAN DIG IT: Students work on Riverview High School’s Eagle Native Plants Nature Trail in April. In foreground from left are Alexander Katsarelas, Jack Ostrowski and Elliott Tuchfeld, who were among the more than 100 students who planted foliage for the trail. 


“We are excited about this expansion of the Stars to Starfish program,” said Katrin Rudge, director of the Riverview Aquascience Department and co-director of the Stars to Starfish Program. “We want students, staff, parents and other visitors to appreciate the beauty of Florida's trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers, air plants and vines, and how ecosystems impact all life on land, in the sea and in the sky — from the Florida panther to the manatee to the osprey.”

Principal Linda Nook said, “The Eagle Native Plant Nature Trail illustrates the power of community partnerships that enhance our instructional programs.”

The Eagle Native Plant Nature Trail was made possible by grants from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

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

State chemistry challenge held at Heron Creek Middle School

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NORTH PORT, May 5, 2014 – A competition for middle school chemistry students is set for Heron Creek Middle School. The “You Be the Chemist” State Challenge will be held at from 6-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 7, in the school’s cafeteria.

The Challenge, which uses at “quiz bowl” format, will include 15 competitors from Sarasota County’s Heron Creek and Woodland middle schools, as well as Laurel Nokomis (a K-8 school). Organizers hope to expand the competition to other Florida school districts next year.

Chemistry questions will be projected onto a large screen; the moderator will read each question aloud to the students, who will have handheld scientific calculators to type in their answers. The responses will be submitted electronically and judges will assess them for accuracy.

The winner of the State Challenge will compete at the National “You Be The Chemist” Challenge in June. Last year’s top four competitors at the competition won trophies and college scholarships: first prize was $8,000; second prize was $6,000, third and fourth prizes were $4,000. All competitors receive prizes for participating, including chemistry sets, lab coats and gift certificates.

For the chance to compete in the State Challenge, more than 450 students from the three participating Sarasota County middle schools participated in a qualifying exam. The top five scorers on the exam from each school are competing in the Challenge.

The winner of the state competition will win a trip with his or her teacher and a parent or guardian to compete in the 10th anniversary National “You Be The Chemist” Challenge, Monday, June 23, at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

About the “You Be the Chemist” Challenge (from Chemical Education Foundation website)

The “You Be the Chemist” Challenge, sponsored by the Chemistry Education Foundation, is an interactive academic competition that engages students in grades five through eight in learning about important chemistry concepts, scientific discoveries and laboratory safety. Competitions take place across the country, encouraging the collaboration of industry members, schools and community organizations to educate students about the value of science education and the role of chemistry in their everyday lives.

North Port High School launches Academic Hall of Fame

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NORTH PORT, May 8, 2014 – More than 150 graduates of North Port High School from the last 10 years will be inducted into the school’s new Academic Hall of Fame at a special inaugural ceremony. The event is scheduled for 6 p.m., Saturday, May 10, in the North Port Performing Arts Center. Graduates from the classes of 2004 through 2013 will be honored.

“The North Port High School Academic Hall of Fame will be a lasting recognition of students who achieved outstanding academic success,” said Principal David Jones.

Criteria for induction consideration include the top twenty students of each graduating class based on district weighted grade-point average, which takes advanced placement, International Baccalaureate and honors courses into account when computing a student’s GPA.

The final selection criteria are: the graduate must have attended NPHS for at least three years and must have earned a minimum college placement score of 1060 in the SAT (critical reading and math) or 23 in the ACT (composite score) for tests taken while attending NPHS.

Future hall of fame inductions will occur each fall at the homecoming football game. Beginning in 2015, graduates will need a score of 1100 in the SAT (critical reading and math) or 24 in the ACT (composite score) to qualify for the North Port High School Academic Hall of Fame.

North Port High School is located at 6400 West Prince Blvd. in North Port.

Riverview Kilties stage final concerts of the year, salute seniors

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RHS Kiltie Band 2014 WEB

KILTIE CONCERT: Band Director Mark Spreen conducts the Rivervew High School Kiltie Band, which will perform its final concert of the school year May 8.

SARASOTA, May 6, 2014 – In a bittersweet salute to graduating seniors in the Kiltie Band, Riverview High School’s renowned Celtic-themed will stage its final concert of the school year at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 8, at the Riverview Performing Arts Center. Performers at the Spring Concert will the full 200-member Kiltie organization, which includes woodwinds, percussion, brass, bagpipes, color guard and Highland dancers.

Earlier in the week, students will perform a Percussion Concert, with 24 students performing a variety of musical genres with traditional and not-so-traditional percussion instruments. That show is at 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 6, also at RPAC, and features a full array of percussion instruments as well as trash can lids, paint cans and maybe even the kitchen sink. Both concerts start at 7 p.m.

Band Director Mark Spreen said the May 8 Spring Concert “is probably the personal favorite of all the Kilties because they have spent all year building up to this special occasion,” said “It’s an emotional performance because it’s the last one this very close group of students will ever do together.”

This year, 42 students will be parting ways with the award-winning Kilties, moving on to college and whatever life brings their way.

“For most of these young people, their first memory of Riverview was freshman band camp, so we’ve been a part of their high school experience before they even set foot inside a classroom.”

The Spring Concert will be a 90-minute presentation of musical excellence, featuring Highlights from the animated film “Frozen” the Mars segment of Gustav Holst’s symphony, “The Planets.”

“We are very proud of every member of the Kilties and hope the community will join us for this celebratory send-off,” said Spreen. A $5 donation will be collected at the door in support of music education at Riverview High School. Reserved seating for groups of 10 or more can be arranged by contacting Miriam Thompson at 941-539-5383 or

The Riverview Performing Arts Center is located at 1 Ram Way, Sarasota, just off Proctor Road, west of Swift Road.

Oak Park School student’s art set for exhibit by U.S. Congress

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Summer Picnic-Oak Park student Emonie Troupe-art winner 2014

ART FROM THE HEART: “Summer Picnic,” a painting by 12th-grade student Emonie Troupe of Oak Park School, won first place in the Congressional Art Competition for the 16th Congressional District of Florida. It will be displayed for one year in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.


SARASOTA, May 2, 2014 – A 12th-grade student at Oak Park School has been awarded first place in the Congressional Art Competition for the 16th Congressional District of Florida. Emonie Troupe’s painting, entitled “Summer Picnic,” will be exhibited for the remainder of the year, along with first-place winners from other congressional districts throughout the U.S., in the Cannon House Office Building adjacent to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Troupe and a guest have been invited to the exhibit opening and reception; airline tickets will be provided as part of the award. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan presented the award certificate to Troupe’s art teacher, Patrice Kennedy, at a recent ceremony in Sarasota.

Oak Park student Emonie Troupe with award 2014

GIFTED ARTIST: Oak Park School 12th grade student Emonie Troupe displays the first-place ribbon she received in the Congressional Art Competition from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.


“Emonie is a natural artist,” said Kennedy. “She has a unique way of looking at the world and expressing that perspective in her artwork. We’re very proud that her talent has been recognized in this prestigious competition.”

Oak Park is a school for students with special needs in grades pre-K to age 22. It is located at 7285 Proctor Road in Sarasota.

About the Congressional Art Competition (from U.S. House of Representatives website)

Each spring, the Congressional Institute sponsors a nationwide high school visual art competition to recognize and encourage artistic talent in the nation and in each congressional district. Since the competition began in 1982 more than 650,000 high school students have participated.

Students submit entries to their representative’s office and panels of district artists select the winning entries. Winners are recognized both in their district and at an annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. The winning works are displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol. The winning student from each congressional district is invited, along with one guest, to the unveiling of the exhibit and a reception in Washington, and is provided two round-trip airline tickets for the occasion.

Local students score high in ACES Math Competition run by SCF

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NOTE: This news release was issued April 29, 2014, by State College of Florida.

BRADENTON, May 1, 2014 — Faculty members from State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota’s (SCF) math department created, administered and graded examinations for the annual Math ACES competition for public and private high schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties held March 20.

Each school's top scorer will be recognized with a $150 award and a certificate at the school's senior awards assembly.

Winners of this year’s competition are Jorge Carrasco, Suncoast Polytechnical High School; Hunter Carrell, North Port High School; James Cramer, Riverview High School; Kyle Grosser, Manatee High School; Nathaniel Folkins, Sarasota High School; Quinton Fitzgerald, Out-of-Door Academy; Daniel Kessler, Southeast High School; Daniel King, Venice High School; Nathan Marshall, Braden River High School; Savannah Savadel, Cardinal Mooney High School; David Segovia, Palmetto High School; Rebekah Johnson, Bradenton Christian School; Kaitlyn West, Lakewood Ranch High School; William Wickerson, Pineview High School; Wenjie Zhang, Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School.

The exam is sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the State College of Florida Foundation Inc., the American Public Works Association Sun Coast Branch, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County Inc. and the Sarasota Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
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