Sarasota County Schools News

School district gets $75K grant from state for Farm to School program

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Lamarque kids in school garden 2014

GARDEN FRESH: Lamarque Elementary students Donna Savchenko and Bin Huang proudly harvest a world-class cucumber from the school’s garden in 2014. The Farm to School program encourages students to select fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet, and works to help make students aware of food sources.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Oct. 28, 2016 – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has awarded the Sarasota County Schools with a $75,000 grant to create more opportunities for Florida farms and ranches to sell their products to the district. This new opportunity follows the $100,000 Farm to School Implementation Grant awarded to the district in 2013 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which sowed the seeds for Sarasota County to be a national leader in Farm to School programming. The state grant was one of only three in the $75,000 category; three other school districts received smaller amounts.

“By connecting Florida schools with local farmers, we are able to teach students where their food comes from while providing them with the nutrition they need for academic success,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. “These school districts have gone above and beyond to further grow Florida’s Farm to School program.”

Beverly Girard, director of Food and Nutrition Services for Sarasota County Schools, said, “The Farm to School program offers an exceptional educational experience for our students and staff, while providing nutritious meals sourced from local producers. The amount of Florida-grown food served in our cafeterias has steadily increased from 18 percent to 32 percent over the last three years. Our goal is to continue this trend and to maximize the quantity and variety of fresh local produce, meats, eggs, milk, juice and bread we serve to students every day.”

As the momentum of the Farm to School program increases, the school district has created a dedicated position to ensure the long-term success, sustainability and expansion of Farm to School activities in the district with a bit of visionary thinking. “Zach Glorioso has joined our team in Food and Nutrition Services as our Farm to School coordinator,” said Girard. “We are excited to incorporate his expertise in food-system development and his experience at the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences to strengthen our program and partnerships and to further impact the wellness of our students.”

In addition to sourcing more Florida-grown products to serve in school cafeterias, Food and Nutrition Services plans to use the $75,000 grant to create positive marketing campaigns, classroom collaborations and partnerships with local farms and businesses. The goal is to strengthen the farm-to-fork concept and to build capacity for local schools to create their own food systems on campus.

According to Glorioso, “The Food and Nutrition Services Department’s garden-to-cafeteria concept creates the perfect opportunity to engage students and adults in their food system to develop a true understanding and appreciation for where their food comes from — including business planning, production methods, marketing, menu development, food safety and culinary arts, while educating our future leaders about our global food system.”

As Farm to School programs grow nationwide, Girard says residents of Sarasota County can take pride in the efforts made by the district to sustain Farm to School as an integral element of academic achievement, student wellness and community growth. 

Leadership Legacy event honors Superintendent Lori White

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Lori White and Wilma Hamilton DelpLeadership Academy 2016

SCHOOL LEADERS-PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE: In top photo, Superintendent Lori White, left, enjoys a moment at a previous Leadership Legacy event with Wilma Hamilton Delp, who served as superintendent of Sarasota County Schools from 2000 to 2003. White became superintendent in 2008 and will retire in February 2017. In bottom photo, the current Sarasota County Schools Leadership Academy two-year cohort is made up of teachers and other school district staff who aspire to be administrators.

SARASOTA, Oct. 27, 2016 – School Board members, school and district administrators, teachers and other community leaders will celebrate Lori White’s eight years as superintendent and four decades with the Sarasota County Schools at the Leadership Legacy Dinner. The festivities will start at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Chelsea Center. The honorary chairwoman is Wilma Hamilton Delp, who served as the district’s superintendent from 2000 to 2003.

The event, which has been sold out for several weeks, is being organized by the district’s Leadership Academy in partnership with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The evening is designed to recognize the contributions of all administrators — including principals, assistant principals and those at the district level. Funds raised by the Leadership Legacy event directly support the Wilma Hamilton Leadership Fund, professional development programs and scholarships for administrators.

 “Lori White is such a revered and respected homegrown leader,” said Wendy Katz, co-facilitator of the event and the Leadership Academy. “She will retire in February, so we thought it was fitting to thank her for her service through this event. Her humble leadership, wise financial stewardship, and unwavering commitment to the children, parents and residents of this community will be her legacy.”

Katz notes that, when considering the contributions of all administrators, it’s important to recognize that the challenges and complexity of school leadership jobs have accelerated enormously in the past decade. Like teachers, administrators face pressure to elevate student achievement; ensure the safety and security of students; accommodate the diversity of learners they serve; and address many difficult personal issues that affect students; including poverty, homelessness and child custody.

Members of each two-year Leadership Academy are teachers and other district employees who aspire to become administrators. The two-year program offers career pathways in a district that is committed to growing its own leaders. The Academy and other customized leadership development efforts in the Sarasota County School District are unique; most other districts around the country rely on regional, state or national programs to prepare their future administrators.

Since 2003, the district has devoted much time and many resources to leadership development. In addition to offering current administrators multiple opportunities for advancement, the Leadership Academy also facilitates movement from the teaching ranks into administrative roles. Over the past 13 years, 42 new principals were internal hires and 19 were graduates of the Leadership Academy (45 percent). Of the sixty-six people who became assistant principals in the district during that time, 52 were graduates of the Academy (79 percent). The average tenure of district principals in one position is eight to nine years; the national average is two to three years.

“The success and strength of the Sarasota County School District and its administrators, teachers and support staff can be attributed to the depth of the relationships and trust that have been built during Lori White’s tenure,” said Cydelle Quinn, co-facilitator with Katz of the Leadership Legacy event and the Leadership Academy. “We are privileged to honor her and all our hard-working, successful leaders.”

The Chelsea Center is located at 2506 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota.

District holds job fair for substitute teachers, support-staff subs

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SCS News

NORTH PORT, Oct. 19, 2016 – The Sarasota County Schools Human Resources Department will hold a job fair for substitute teachers and non-instructional support staff from noon-5 p.m., Monday, Oct. 24, in the North Port High School Career Center.

“We need substitute teachers and non-instructional substitutes throughout the district,” said Human Resources Director Roy Sprinkle. “Many of our full-time employees have started as subs, and other substitutes simply enjoy working at schools as opportunities arise and their schedule permits. We encourage anyone who is interested to come to the job fair and learn more about it.”

Representatives from HR will be on hand to answer questions and computers will be available so attendees can complete their applications with assistance on site. Qualifications for substitute teachers include a bachelor’s degree or higher from a fully accredited college or university, resumé and two references from supervisors.

For prospective substitute teachers, more information about how to apply and the online application is available by clicking here. Those who wish to apply to be support-staff (non-instructional) substitutes can click here for more information.

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

School Board approves 2017-18, 2018-19 school year calendars

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SCS News

UPDATE: Dec. 6, 2016 - The School Board voted unanimously (5-0) today to approve the proposed calendars for school years 2017-18 and 2018-19. The link below goes to the draft calendars as recommended by the committee; those calendars are now official.

Click here to see the approved 2017-18 school year calendar.

Click here to see the approved 2018-19 school year calendar.

Here is the original news release:

SARASOTA COUNTY, Oct. 18, 2016 – The proposed calendars for the next two school years were presented at the regular meeting of the Sarasota County School Board Oct. 18. They are being advertised to the public via the school district website. Members of the public are encouraged to comment on the proposed calendars via email to The deadline for submitting comments is 4:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11. 

The 11-member Sarasota County Schools calendar committee that developed the proposed calendars will consider any public comments and present final proposed calendars to the School Board, which is expected to vote on whether to approve the calendars at its meeting at a regular meeting at 3 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6, in School Board Chambers at 1980 Landings Blvd. in Sarasota. The calendar committee is made up of teachers, parents, school and district administrators and support staff.

The committee recommended that school in Sarasota County start Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, and end Thursday, May 24, 2018. The following school year, the start day would be Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, and the last day of school would be Friday, May 24, 2019.

In both years, the earlier start date would mean that first semesters and related exams at high schools will be completed before the winter break. The schedule for both years also would end the school year before the Memorial Day weekend. 

School Board names internal candidate Todd Bowden next superintendent

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Todd Bowden Sept 2016

NEXT DISTRICT LEADER: The School Board of Sarasota County has named Todd Bowden as the next superintendent of schools. He will start March 1, 2017.

SARASOTA, Oct. 18, 2016 – The School Board of Sarasota County voted at its regular meeting today to name Todd Bowden, the district’s executive director of Career, Technical and Adult Education and the director of Suncoast Technical College, as the next superintendent of Sarasota County Schools.

Board members cited widespread community support for Bowden as well as his collaborative work with businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the county. Chairwoman Shirley Brown voted first for Brennan Asplen III, deputy superintendent for Academic and Student Services at St. Johns County Schools, citing several comments from people who attended the Oct. 13 public reception that noted his strengths in academics and early childhood education. But she subsequently made a motion to make the vote unanimous for Bowden, a motion which passed 5-0.

Although there were no votes for the third finalist — Mark Porter, superintendent of Monroe County Schools — Board members cited the strength of all three finalists. Frank Kovach said, “Any one of the three of the finalists could be successful here,” but said he is a “huge believer in promoting from within,” citing the success of current superintendent Lori White and former superintendent Wilma Hamilton, both of whom rose from the ranks in the district. Board member Jane Goodwin agreed, saying Bowden will “hit the ground running.”

All the Board members thanked the Florida School Boards Association, which consulted on the process; the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, which facilitated public forums, a public reception for the finalists and other opportunities for public input; and the advisory community which reviewed 49 applications and recommended eight semi-finalists for superintendent.  

Bowden said, “I am extremely grateful to the School Board for the confidence they have placed in me.” He credited White for being “responsible in large part for my success in this district. It is such a well-run, respected district and I want to perpetuate that trust the community has in us.”

Before coming to work for Sarasota County Schools in 2007, Bowden served in various roles at the Hillsborough County School District, including principal of Gary Adult High School, principal of Aparicio-Levy Technical Center and assistant principal for curriculum at Bloomingdale High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of South Florida, a master’s in business administration from Florida State University, and a master’s and doctorate in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.

A Florida native, Bowden grew up in Brandon and Valrico and attended Bloomingdale High. He and his wife Janene have two children who attend McIntosh Middle School in Sarasota: son Bobby, a sixth-grade student; and daughter Johnna, an eighth-grader.

The next step is the School Board’s negotiation of a contract with Bowden, a process that is expected to begin at the Board’s next regular meeting at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 1. White is set to retire Feb. 28, 2017. After an approximately two-week overlap starting in mid-February, Bowden will begin as the next superintendent March 1.

Click here for supporting documents about the Sarasota County Schools superintendent search.



‘Lowe’s Heroes’ building outdoor space for Booker Middle School

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Mooker Middle outdoor space-BEFORE-Oct 2016Booker Middle garden-Lowes Heroes Oct 2016Booker Middle garden-AFTER-Oct 2016

HEROES AT WORK: Top photo-The outdoor garden space at Booker Middle prior to renovation. Middle photo-Volunteers from Lowe’s known as Lowe’s Heroes build an outdoor garden space at Booker Middle School. Bottom photo-The completed outdoor garden space at Booker Middle. Students will plant vegetables in the raised beds at left and right.

SARASOTA, Oct. 17, 2016 – Volunteers from Lowe’s are building an “outdoor classroom” at Booker Middle School. The group, dubbed “Lowe’s Heroes” by the home improvement company, works on projects to support schools and other local organizations.

At 10 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19, the school and the crew will unveil the completed projects, and students will begin working in the new area.

The volunteers are sprucing up the school garden and creating a space to raise vegetables and live chickens, among other activities. Students will maintain the new learning environments.

Science teachers will engage their students to ensure that the outdoor lessons and activities are relevant to the curriculum, teaching life skills through projects that are fun for the children.

Booker Middle School is located at 2250 Myrtle Street in Sarasota. 







Booker Middle students present anti-violence play and author

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And then he looked at me-Booker Middle play Oct 2016

A PLAY WITH A POINT: Booker Middle students rehearse their production of “and then…he looked at me.” In the foreground from left are Anthony Lobo and Marcus Cruz-Santiago. In the background are Ryan Modjeski, Christina Brush and Nicole Parisi.

SARASOTA, Oct. 13, 2016 – Students in the Booker Middle School Visual and Performing Arts Drama program will perform the play “and...then he looked at me,” by award-winning playwright José Casas, Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the school. The event will begin with a chance for the public to meet the playwright at 5 p.m. There will be a welcome message by school administrators and teachers at 5:30 p.m. The play will begin at 6 p.m.

The play was specially commissioned to be performed by and for Booker Middle students. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Project Prevent (P2) program, in partnership with the Sarasota Against ViolencE (SAVE) project. Casas says he's excited to see his words come to life in the student performance.

The event is free and open to the public, but people who plan to attend should RSVP to drama teacher Carrie Mills by Friday, Oct. 14, by calling 941-359-5824 or emailing Mills at

Booker Middle School is located at 2250 Myrtle Street in Sarasota.

Gocio and Tuttle schools to co-host Hispanic Heritage Night Oct. 27

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Gocio Hispanic Heritage Night 2015

CELEBRATE! Pictured from left, Gocio Elementary students Nichole Almeida and Angela Marin participate in the 2015 Hispanic Heritage Night at the school.

SARASOTA, Oct. 11, 2016 – Gocio and Tuttle elementary schools will co-host the annual Hispanic Heritage Night from 6-8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27, at Gocio Elementary School. The event, which welcomes Gocio and Tuttle students and their families, will include a mariachi band, dancing, food and activities inspired by the cultures of Hispanic countries.

The festivities will include a parade of flags displayed by students dressed in the traditional clothing of several nations, displays of memorabilia from Hispanic countries, face painting, “Day of the Dead” art activities, dancing and more. More than 30 organizations will share information about resources available to Gocio and Tuttle families. Dancing, including performances by the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, will begin at 7 p.m.

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


Guests serve National School Lunch Week menu

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Lori White-Barbara Oldham NSLW 2015

LUNCH IS SERVED: Superintendent of Schools Lori White, at left, serves lunch to students with dietetic intern Barbara Oldham at Gulf Gate Elementary during National School Lunch Week in October 2015.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Oct. 7, 2016 – The Sarasota County School District is celebrating National School Lunch Week Oct. 10-14 with appearances by guest servers at various school cafeterias around the district, including School Board members Shirley Brown and Caroline Zucker, Superintendent Lori White, Deputy Superintendent Scott Lempe, School Board member-elect Eric Robinson and Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson, North Port police officers and firefighters, school principals and other administrators. The guest servers will take shifts at various schools, offering students such diverse lunch selections as pesto pizza, steamed zucchini, nachos with chili and cheese, oriental chicken salad and cheesy chicken pasta bake.  

On an average day, Sarasota County Schools serve 30,000 to 35,000 meals to students. The cost is $2.25 at elementary schools, $2.50 at middle schools and $2.75 to $3 at high schools. Cafeterias also provide breakfast and lunch to school visitors and faculty. Beverly Girard, director of Food and Nutrition Services, reports that the percentage of students receiving free lunches, and reduced-cost lunches at a cost of 40 cents each, is expected to reach a district average of about 50 percent this school year. 

“We urge eligible families to apply for their children to receive free or reduced-cost meals if it will help their financial situation,” said Girard. “Even if they are only in need of assistance temporarily, we encourage parents and guardians to consider this opportunity. Our online application system makes it fast and easy for families to apply for meal benefits.”

The National School Lunch Program began in 1946 when President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into law. Since then public schools throughout the nation have served nutritious meals to billions of students. Ninety-five percent of schools participate in the program; 30 million children are served daily. The meals are offered to students at a low cost or no cost to parents, thanks to a bounteous food supply, dedicated staff members and help from federal funding. President Kennedy proclaimed the first National School Lunch Week in 1963.

Nationally, school lunches must include protein, fruits and vegetables, grains and low-fat milk, served in age-appropriate portions. Menus in Sarasota County Schools’ cafeterias reflect the national goal of providing wholesome, healthy food that students like to eat. Click here for more information about the free and reduced-cost lunch program, including the online application, school lunch menus, costs and nutritional information.

Suncoast Technical College celebrates National Manufacturing Day

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National Mfg Day-KHS tour 10-7-16

NATIONAL MANUFACTURING DAY: Pictured at left, KHS USA Filling and Packaging Sales Manager Dave Houmes shows high school students a machine at the company's Sarasota facility Oct. 7.

SARASOTA, Oct. 6, 2016 – The main campus of Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota will celebrate National Manufacturing Day, Friday, Oct. 7, with tours and demonstrations for middle and high school students from Sarasota County public schools. The nationwide event is a celebration of modern manufacturing designed to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. 

About 200 students will arrive on buses in three groups at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each group will tour the college for 60 minutes, then travel to local manufacturing facilities.

Each tour of the college starts in the conference center with a 30-minute overview presentation, then a look at manufacturing classes in session that day, featuring such programs as precision machining, drafting, building trades and automotive/marine, as time allows.

Suncoast Technical College is located at 4748 Beneva Road, Sarasota.

School Board set to select next superintendent Oct. 18

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Superintendent candidates

The three finalists for the next superintendent of Sarasota County Schools are, from left, Brennan Asplen III, Todd Bowden and Mark Porter.

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

UPDATE: Oct. 14, 2016 - The School Board is scheduled to make its decision on the next superintendent during its 3 p.m. regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 18. The meeting will be streamed live on The Education Channel (on the left side of the home page of website, click on the play button underneath the headline "Watch the Education Channel Live."). The meeting also will be broadcast live on Comcast channel 20 and Frontier 33. 

Click here to watch each 90-minute School Board interview with the candidates. 

SARASOTA, Oct. 5, 2016 – In its continuing effort to include the community in the search for a new superintendent for the Sarasota County Schools, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County will host an open reception on Thursday, Oct. 13, for community members to meet the candidates and give feedback to the School Board. The reception will be the final opportunity for public input regarding the selection of a new superintendent.

The reception will be held at the Riverview High School cafeteria from 6 - 7:30 pm. It will be an informal event where participants can speak with the candidates and provide written comments to the Board regarding their impression of the candidates. Light refreshments will be served.

The candidates who have been invited to be interviewed and attend the reception are as follows:

  • Brennan Asplen III, deputy superintendent for academic and student services, St. Johns County (St. Augustine)
  • Todd Bowden, executive director of career, technical and adult education, Sarasota County Schools
  • Mark Porter, superintendent, Monroe County Schools (Key West)

The reception will follow two days of candidate interviews with the School Board. The full Board will interview the candidates at public meetings in the School Board chambers on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Those interviews will be televised on Comcast channel 20 and Frontier channel 33 and streamed live on the school district website. Bowden will be interviewed from 8:30-10 a.m.; Porter's interview will be from 10:30 a.m.- noon; Asplen will be interviewed from 1:15-2:45 p.m. Each candidate will meet privately with individual Board members for a second set of interviews on Oct. 13.

At the reception, participants will be provided with response cards to make notes about their impressions of the candidates. The cards will be copied and shared with Board members to be included in their final deliberations regarding who should be offered the superintendent’s job.

Click here for more information about the candidates and the search process.




Five Star and Golden Schools celebrated for community involvement

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Five Star-FLDOE-SCS combo logos

FIVE STAR SCHOOLS: 42 Sarasota County public schools have been named Five Star Schools by the Florida Department of Education.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Oct. 5, 2016 – Forty-two Sarasota County public schools have been awarded the Golden School Award by the Florida Department of Education for their community involvement in 2015-16; 19 of those were named Five Star Schools. The schools were recognized at the Oct. 4 meeting of the School Board of Sarasota County.

“We are delighted that so many of our schools have received and continue to receive this recognition,” said Danielle Schwied, coordinator of the district’s Volunteer & Partnership Office. “We are all so lucky to be part of a community that is so supportive of its public schools. We’re grateful to the staff members, parents, community members, local businesses and organizations that work hard together to make our schools the special places that they are.”

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

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

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

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

Five Star and Golden Schools 2015-16

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