Sarasota County Schools News

Venice High adds varsity water polo to spring sports lineup

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SCS News

VENICE, Jan. 31, 2018 – Venice High School is making a splash by adding boys’ and girls’ varsity water polo to its spring athletics lineup. They will be the first high school varsity water polo teams in Southwest Florida. Practice started Jan. 22.

“We are excited to add water polo to our lineup of sports for students at Venice High. This will grow our already strong aquatics program and give more athletes the opportunity to be part of our proud athletic tradition,” said VHS Athletic Director Pete Dombroski.

The Venice High water polo program is community funded through The Southwest Florida Water Polo Foundation; home games will be held at the Venice High pool.

“I’m looking forward to building these teams at Venice High,” said new head coach Jon Baca, a USA Water Polo coach with over 30 years of experience. “We have the opportunity to compete at the state level and bring collegiate opportunities to these student athletes.”

Water polo is growing rapidly across the U.S. There are now over 80 high school programs in the state of Florida and USA Water Polo has taken notice.

“We believe Sarasota County has the potential to have some of the state’s top water polo athletes,” said Mark Carney, director of sport growth at USA Water Polo. “We are working closely with the Southwest Florida Water Polo Foundation to support the Venice High School program in its first year.”

More information about the VHS boys’ and girls’ teams is available at Students enrolled at Venice High are eligible for the teams. Students attending Pine View School, Sarasota Military Academy, 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 at

 About Venice High School

Venice High School is a community-oriented, A-rated school that boasts a student body of more than 2,000 students with a 70-acre campus located on the island of Venice. The school offers rich academic programs, including the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program for students in grades 11 and 12. Highly regarded for its athletics programs, Venice High boasts state championships in volleyball (1998, 2005, 2012, 2014, 2017), football (2000, 2017) and baseball (2007, 2012, 2013, 2015). 

About the Southwest Florida Water Polo Foundation

The Southwest Florida Water Polo Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2017 by an all-volunteer team to grow the sport of water polo in Southwest Florida and support Southwest Florida water polo teams, programs, players, and events. For more information visit


Phillippi Shores Elementary students to stage ‘Annie Kids’ Feb. 9

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Phillippi Shores Annie KIDS cast Jan 2018Phillippi Shores Annie KIDS cast 2 Jan 2018

CURTAIN UP! In top photo, members of the “Annie KIDS” cast rehearse for their roles. Pictured from left are Jaxen Wilkinson as Annie, Ethan Perrin as Daddy Warbucks and Ashby Thompson as Grace. BOTTOM PHOTO: Pictured from left are “Annie KIDS” players Loudon Dougherty as Lily, Jackson Mitchell as Rooster and Katie Lee as Miss Hannigan.

SARASOTA, Jan. 31, 2018 – Students at Phillippi Shores Elementary School will stage their very first musical, “Annie KIDS” at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, at the Riverview Performing Arts Center on the campus of Riverview High School. Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased with cash or check in advance at Phillippi Shores Elementary or at the door on show night.

“We appreciate parents and community members coming out to see our first musical,” said Samantha Cataline, who teaches drama at Phillippi Shores. “The play is full of memorable characters and the kids are excited about performing it for an audience.”

The play tells the story of Little Orphan Annie, a character made famous by a long-running newspaper comic strip and later by the Tony-Award winning Broadway musical “Annie.” “Annie KIDS” is a shorter version of the musical adapted for children. The book and score are by Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin.

According to Music Theatre International, which licenses “Annie KIDS” performances, the musical “features everyone’s favorite little redhead in her very first adventure. With equal measures of pluck and positivity, Annie charms everyone's hearts despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City. She is determined to find the parents who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of an orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan. Annie eventually foils Miss Hannigan's evil machinations, finding a new home and family in billionaire Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbucks, his personal secretary, Grace Farrell, and a lovable mutt named Sandy.”

Riverview Performing Arts Center is located at 1 Ram Way, Sarasota.


What parents can do if your kids have the flu

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Flu photo

Flu season is October through March. There are various ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy during flu season such as:

  • Keep sick family members home;
  • Contact your health care provider if you or your child are sick,
  • Follow your doctor's guidance on treatment,
  • Get vaccinated,
  • Keep your child home from school until they are fever free for at least 24 hours
    without fever-reducing medication.

For everyday preventative action that can help fight germs like flu, 

For general flu information for parent with young children, please visit

Flu vaccines are free for students currently enrolled in Sarasota County Schools and available at the Department of Health offices in Sarasota and North Port. 

Walk-in times at the Sarasota office start at 7:30 a.m. Monday thru Friday and appointments are available by calling 941-861-2784.

Walk-in times at the North Port office starts at 8:00 a.m. Monday thru Friday and appointments are available by calling 941-861-3864. This location closes daily from noon to 1 p.m.

For more information about immunizations please visit the Department of Health:

The State of Florida awards $4.3 million to Sarasota teachers

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SCS News

Scholarships are part of the annual
Best and Brightest program

SARASOTA COUNTY, Jan. 30, 2018 – The state of Florida has recognized 2,603 traditional and charter school teachers from Sarasota County who will receive scholarships as part of the annual Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program. A combined total of $4,316,400 has been granted to teachers in the Sarasota district as part of the 2017-2018 year. Under Florida Statute 1012.731, eligible teachers may receive scholarships based on various criteria, including $6,000 for strong SAT or ACT scores, $1,200 for teachers earning a Highly Effective performance rating and $800 for teachers earning an Effective performance rating. The Florida Department of Education cites a link between student outcomes and a teacher’s own academic achievement, thus the program was designed to recognize the critical role teachers play in preparing students to achieve a high level of academic performance.

“We are thrilled so many of our teachers in Sarasota County were recognized by the state for their performance and inspiration in the classroom,” noted Todd Bowden, Sarasota County Superintendent. “This program affords teachers throughout the district yet another opportunity to be compensated for doing a great job and ensuring our students thrive.”

In Sarasota County, a total of 222 traditional and 40 charter school teachers were eligible for the $6,000 scholarship for previous SAT or ACT scores above the 80th percentile. This includes first-year teachers. For those teachers who received a Highly Effective rating, 1,372 traditional and 203 charter school teachers were eligible for a $1,200 scholarship and 864 traditional and 164 charter school teachers were eligible for the $800 Effective scholarship. In some cases, teachers were awarded multiple scholarships with 215 traditional and 34 charter school teachers receiving a total scholarship of $7,200 each. For the 2016-2017 school year, 218 teachers were eligible for scholarships from the state, however the program has since been revised, enabling more teachers to receive scholarships this year. The state will officially disperse scholarship funds by February 1, with teachers paid no later than April 1.

About Sarasota County Schools
Dedicated to academic excellence, Sarasota County Schools is home to 53 schools, 43,000 students and 5,000 employees. It is one of only two Florida districts to be graded A every year since grading began in 2004. Learn more:

Elementary music teacher, 2 district middle schools honored by FMEA

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FMEA award winners 1-12-18

MEET THE MAESTROS: Pictured from left at the Florida Music Education Association Awards ceremony are Brookside Middle Assistant Principal Amanda Rojas, Fine Arts Curriculum Coordinator Angela Hartvigsen, Brookside band teacher Marina Pope, Brookside chorus teacher Holly Dewitt, Laurel Nokomis School elementary music teacher Charles Allen, Laurel Nokomis Principal Ray Wilson, Woodland band/chorus teacher David Wing and Woodland orchestra teacher Christopher Riley.

TAMPA, Jan. 25, 2018 — An elementary music teacher from Laurel Nokomis School and the music programs at Brookside and Woodland middle schools were honored by the Florida Music Education Association at the organization’s FMEA Awards Breakfast, held this year on Jan. 12 at the Tampa Convention Center.

The FMEA Awards are presented during the organization’s annual conference to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of exemplary music teachers, school and district administrators, businesses and others who have made an outstanding contribution to music education. The efforts of all awardees help FMEA attain their mission of promoting a quality, comprehensive music education for all Florida students as part of a complete education.

Laurel Nokomis elementary music teacher Charles Allen was one of nine teachers statewide to receive the 2018 Music Education Service Award. This designation is awarded to music educators who have been active in the field for 25 years or more. Allen was recognized for his 31 years of service in music education.

Two Sarasota County middle schools, Brookside and Woodland, were presented with Middle School Music Enrollment awards. This awards are given to music programs demonstrating high enrollment in music courses. The honors went to Woodland Middle School Principal Cindy Hall and music teachers David Wing and Christopher Riley, with 47 percent of their student body enrolled in music courses. For Brookside Middle School, the award went to Principal Matthew Gruhl and music teachers Holly Dewitt and Marina Pope, with 54 percent of students enrolled in music courses.

“There is a high correlation between students taking music courses and high achievement in other academic subjects,” said Angela Hartvigsen, fine arts curriculum specialist for Sarasota County Schools. “We’re pleased that our district’s dedication to music and other fine arts as an integral part of a well-rounded education is recognized by these statewide accolades.” 

Riverview High School to celebrate 60th anniversary March 17

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RHS Ram logo

SARASOTA, Jan. 25, 2018 - Once a brand-new school situated on a dead-end street at the southernmost campus in Sarasota, today another brand-new Riverview sits looking out on Phillippi Creek, surrounded by a widely-expanding city area now more than four times the size it was in 1958. 

It’s a growth story that fosters pride in six decades of Rams, and on Saturday, March 17, graduates from all of the 60 years of Riverview’s existence will be present to celebrate the school’s “Legacy of Excellence.” 

The anniversary event, open to all, will start with a typical Friday morning pep rally in the courtyard, complete with the cheerleaders and the Kiltie Jam squad, drumline and Highland Dancers (formerly known as “Tams”). Tours will take alumni to the Aqua Dome, Nature Trail, Archive Room and Planetarium. 

A Kiltie reception in the music building will start at 9:30 a.m., and coaches and athletes can meet in the gym for a reception at 10. Cheerleaders will have a reception on the upstairs outdoor patio at 10:30. 

Principals, former staff and honored guests will be introduced in the Riverview Performing Arts Center (RPAC) at 11:15 a.m. The Riverview High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame board will induct new honorees at that time. 

The campus festivities will conclude with a luncheon by ticket only in the cafeteria, starting at 12:30 p.m. Food will be provided by Der Dutchman restaurant. Tickets for the luncheon can be purchased for $10. A reservation is required; contact Jo Ivey at 941-922-2991 or

About Riverview High School

Since Riverview High first opened its doors in 1958, it has been home to state- and nationally-acclaimed programs like the Speech and Debate Team, the Kiltie Band, the Ram Page (student newspaper), the Tartan (student yearbook), planetarium, and AquaDome. Sports teams include football, basketball, baseball, swimming, soccer, lacrosse and many more. The International Baccalaureate program offers students a rigorous academic preparation for college. Riverview graduates have gone on to be leaders in a wide range of professions and industries.



High school students to get financial aid assistance at workshops

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T4T logo

This news release is from the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership.

SARASOTA, Fla. (January 25, 2018) — The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, a community collaboration targeting local college attainment rates, is offering free assistance to Sarasota County families to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Trained community volunteers from CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, UnidosNow and United Way Suncoast, as well as financial aid officers from Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and Keiser University, will offer guidance on completing the application. These FAFSA “Labs” are being offered to high school seniors at the following locations and dates:

North Port High School — Tuesday, February 20, 3-8 p.m. (Cafeteria)

6400 W Price Blvd., North Port, FL 34291

Booker High School —Tuesday, March 6, 2:30-7:30 p.m. (Media Center)

3201 N Orange Ave., Sarasota, FL 34234

Sarasota High School —Tuesday, March 20, 3-8 p.m. (Building 13, Room 101)

2155 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota, FL 34239

The FAFSA is required for any student applying for federal and state financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants, as well as for many scholarship programs. Through efforts made by the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership last year, 45.5% of Sarasota County high school seniors competed the FAFSA. This is a 9.1% change over the previous application year, equating to an estimated additional $513,180 in Pell Grants awarded to Sarasota County students, according to the Florida College Access Network, with the average Pell grant award in 2016-17 of $3,740, and the maximum of $5,820.

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is a broad community collaborative known as a “Local College Access Network.” Lead agencies in the partnership include: Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sarasota County Schools, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. Additional support for these FAFSA assistance events comes from the Florida Philanthropic Network through its College Access & Success Initiative (CASI). CASI is an initiative of the Florida Philanthropic Network, made possible through funding from the Helios Education Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, to strengthen Local College Access Networks around the state.  

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is dedicated to bringing together community partner organizations to build a competitive workforce for the region by supporting data-driven programs and collaborative actions which increase the number of college graduates in fields that are in high demand. “Millions of dollars in financial aid grants are left unclaimed every year because parents and students don’t complete the FAFSA,” noted Steve Cantees, Executive Director of High Schools for Sarasota County Schools. “Through the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, we are able to provide incredible support which will pay off in real college money for our students.”

Additional resources and event information can be found at For more information, please contact Mimi Cirbusova at or (941) 556-4038. 

Gulf Coast’s Brady among national Literacy Leadership awardees

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Veronica Brady-award surprise

AWARD-WINNING DISTRICT PARTNER: Veronica Brady, vice president of philanthropy at Gulf Coast Community Foundation, was surprised by Sarasota County teachers and administrators with news about this award in November 2017.

NOTE: This is an abbreviated version of a news release from the Reading Recovery Council of North America. Click here for the complete release about all three of the Council's 2018 award honorees.

Click here for the November 2017 news release from Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 18, 2018 – Three individuals will be recognized with the 2018 Excellence in Literacy Leadership Award presented by the Reading Recovery teacher leaders. They are Dr. Amanda Alexander, chief of elementary schools at District of Columbia Public Schools; Dr. Dean Baker, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 49 in central Maine; and Veronica Brady, senior vice president of philanthropy at Gulf Coast Community Foundation in Venice, Fla.

Each year, Reading Recovery teacher leaders from across the country nominate individuals to receive this prestigious award. Recipients, who are not trained in Reading Recovery, have displayed a strong commitment to expand and maintain its high standards and made significant contributions to implementation beyond the local level. The nominating teacher leaders will present the awards on Sunday, February 18, during the 2018 National Reading Recovery & K-6 Literacy Conference opening session at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Veronica Brady, senior vice president of philanthropy at Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Veronica Brady first learned about Reading Recovery from philanthropists Keith and Linda Monda, who supported Reading Recovery through The Ohio State University and envisioned replicating it in Sarasota County. Brady spearheaded a partnership with Sarasota County Schools and secured funding commitments from the Mondas and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.

She shares district data to educate the community, media outlets, and other potential donors, and led the charge to expand from 3 to all 10 Title I elementary schools in the district in just one year. Recognizing that many students in non-Title I schools also would benefit from Reading Recovery, she advocated for further expansion to all 23 Sarasota County elementary schools.

With additional funding, Reading Recovery was implemented district-wide this school year.

“From the inception, Veronica has worked diligently to reach numerous stakeholders and to spread the word about the powerful effects of Reading Recovery,” said Teacher Leader Lisa Fisher. “The benefits reach not only the students, but also impact the Reading Recovery teachers, the collaborating

homeroom teachers, the school as a whole, and the families of the children themselves. Her significant contributions to Reading Recovery’s expansion and implementation in Florida impacts lifetime trajectories.”

Sarasota County Schools serves about 43,000 students in Grades K-12, at 53 schools that include 11 charter schools, 1 virtual school, and 1 technical college. About 53% of the students are economically needy. The district offers a wide variety of school choice and magnet programs and is one of only two districts in Florida that has earned an ‘A’ every year since district grading started in 2004.

About Reading Recovery

More than 2.3 million struggling first graders in the United States have benefitted from the one-to-one teaching expertise of Reading Recovery professionals. The intervention, introduced to North America in 1984 by educators at The Ohio State University, has more research proving its effectiveness than any other beginning reading program.

 About the Reading Recovery Council of North America

The Reading Recovery Council of North America (RRCNA) is a not-for-profit association of Reading Recovery professionals and partners. The Council provides a network of professional development opportunities, including the National Reading Recovery & K-6 Literacy Conference, where literacy leaders share their expertise with more than 2,000 attendees from around the world.

Orioles Health & Fitness Challenge returns to middle schools

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Oriole Bird and students 2017

WINGING IT: The Oriole Bird works out with Sarasota County middle school students during the 2017 Orioles Health & Fitness Challenge. The initiative continues this year.

This news release is from the Orioles:

SARASOTA, Jan. 19, 2018 - Starting January 22, middle schoolers in Sarasota County will hit the gym to learn about healthy lifestyles through the Orioles Health & Fitness Challenge. Launched in 2016 in partnership with Sarasota County Schools, Health Fit Powered by Sarasota Memorial, and SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco), the program teaches students about the importance of physical fitness, healthy eating, and tobacco-free living.

During the five-week Challenge, more than 4,500 students in grades six through eight will participate in a variety of health and fitness activities led by Sarasota County Physical Education teachers. Each participating student is eligible for two free tickets to the Orioles Spring Training game on February 24 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Each student also receives a voucher for $20 in food and beverage from the Orioles Fit Grill. Families of participating students may also purchase additional tickets to the same game for just $5 each.

Now in its third year, the Challenge curriculum continues to be enhanced to emphasize tobacco-free living and better nutrition. The program also was expanded in 2017 to include Oak Park School, where faculty adapted the curriculum for students with special needs.

“The Health & Fitness Challenge is a fun way for young people to learn healthy habits that we hope will last a lifetime,” said David Rovine, Vice President of Orioles-Sarasota. “The Orioles are deeply committed to fostering the development of Sarasota County youth through this and other activities, such as providing free baseball clinics, promoting the Big League Reader program with Sarasota County Libraries, and supporting the Miracle League of Manasota.”

The Orioles’ youth programs in Sarasota are part of Sarasota 365, a host of initiatives through which the Baltimore Orioles and OriolesREACH demonstrate the ballclub’s year-round engagement with the Greater Sarasota community. A recent independent analysis commissioned by Sarasota County Government concluded that the Orioles generate approximately $89 million in annual economic impact back to taxpayers and residents. By marketing Sarasota to fans in the Mid-Atlantic region, operating a year-round athletic training facility, producing entertainment and sporting events, partnering with charitable causes, and hosting and often subsidizing youth sports tournaments and activities, the Orioles demonstrate an abiding commitment to their Florida home that goes far beyond baseball. For more information, visit   


Middle schools to host open houses in January-February

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Jan. 19, 2018 - Middle schools throughout the Sarasota County School District will host open houses for families of fifth-grade students exploring options for next year and beyond. The events will showcase academic and extracurricular programs and activities at the schools.

Laurel Nokomis School will host an open house Monday, Jan. 22 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Woodland Middle School will host an open house Tuesday, Jan. 23 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Heron Creek Middle School will host an open house Wednesday, Jan. 24 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Venice Middle School will host an open house Thursday, Jan. 25 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. 

Booker Middle School will host an open house Monday, Jan. 29 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Brookside Middle School will host an open house Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Sarasota Middle School will host an open house Wednesday, Jan. 31 from 6 to 7 p.m.

McIntosh Middle School will host an open house Thursday, Feb. 1 from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Visit the school websites for more information. 

Student-Parent Information Nights set for high schools through Feb. 6

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Jan. 15, 2018 - Families of eighth-grade students are invited to open houses and SPIN events — Student-Parent Information Nights — at high schools in January. The events will showcase academic and extracurricular programs and activities.

Booker High School will host a SPIN night Thursday, Jan.18 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Riverview High School will host a SPIN Night Monday, Jan. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Sarasota High School will host a SPIN Night Wednesday, Jan. 24 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

North Port High School will host a SPIN Night Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. 

Suncoast Polytechnical High School will host an open house Wednesday, Jan. 31 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. 

Venice High School will host a SPIN night Wednesday, Jan. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Sarasota High School will host an AICE and MAST Information Night Tuesday, Feb. 6, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

more information; they can be reached from the home page of this website (see High Schools section at top right.

Sarasota County School District graduation rate rises for 2016-17

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Jan. 10, 2018 — The Florida Department of Education reported today that the graduation rate for Sarasota County Schools for 2016-17 was 85.7 percent. The district remained well above the state graduation rate of 82.3 percent; its 2016-17 rate was an increase of .3 percentage point from the previous year.

In 2016-17, Florida is calculating and reporting the Federal Uniform Graduation rate. Federal regulations require each state to calculate a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, which includes standard diplomas but excludes general equivalency diplomas, known as GEDs, both regular and adult; and special diplomas. The U.S. Department of Education adopted this calculation method in an effort to develop uniform, accurate and comparable graduation rates across all states. The Federal Uniform Graduation rate is currently used in Florida’s school accountability system in the high school grades calculation.

The graduation rate is calculated by tracking the number of students who start in a school as ninth graders to the number in the same class who graduate four years later. Individual high school results are displayed in the table below:

Grad rate chart 2014-15 through 2016-17 1-10-18

MLK ‘Dream Big’ Community Celebration held at Booker High

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MLK Keep the Dream Alive

SARASOTA, Jan. 10, 2018 – As part of the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. observance honoring the life and work of the civil rights leader, Booker High School will present “Dream Big: Civil Rights and Social Justice” from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 10, at the school’s Visual and Performing Arts Theatre. The event is free and open to the public.

The program, an evening of oratory, investigation, and the arts, is sponsored by the Booker High School Law Academy, Sarasota County Schools, the Sarasota County Bar Association Diversity Committee and the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History.

Included in the evening will be an interpretive dance performance by the Booker High School VPA Dance Department. Melissa Lodhi, Courtney Smith and their students have created a new piece for the event, interpreting themes of discrimination, acceptance and overcoming adversity.

Guest keynote speaker Brook Bello, an author, filmmaker and civil rights activist, will share her “Keeping the Dream Alive” remarks at the event.

To conclude the program, winners of the Sarasota County Schools MLK Essay Contest will be announced. The first prize is $1,000 ($500 to student, $500 to school); the second prize is $250; the third prize is $100. The overall winner will present his or her essay to the audience. Prizes for the essay contest were generously provided by the SCBA Diversity Committee and ASALH.

Booker High School and the VPA Theatre are located at 3201 North Orange Ave., Sarasota. 

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