Sarasota County Schools News

Sarasota County high school graduation rate rises 6 percentage points

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Dec. 16, 2016 – The 2015-16 graduation rate for Sarasota County high schools rose to 85.4 percent, more than six percentage points from the district’s 2014-15 graduation rate of 79 percent. The rates for all Florida school districts were released Dec. 16 by the Florida Department of Education.

The district’s graduation rate was more than four percentage points higher than the state average of 81 percent. Every traditional public high school in the district improved its graduation rate from the previous year. The most dramatic increase was for Venice High School, which improved its graduation rate by 13 percentage points over 2014-15.

In 2015-16 Florida is calculating and reporting only the Federal Uniform Graduation rate, which 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. 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 formula includes standard diplomas but excludes general equivalency diplomas (GEDs), both regular and adult, and special diplomas. The Federal Uniform Graduation rate is currently used in Florida’s school accountability system in the high school grades calculation.

The three-year chart below shows individual high school rates, and district and state averages.

2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 Graduation Rates Grad rate chart 2015-16 12-16-16

Ron DiPillo named Sarasota County Schools career education chief

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Ron DiPillo

NEW CAREER ED LEADER: Ron DiPillo has been named as the district's next executive director of career, technical and adult education.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Dec. 16, 2016 – The Sarasota County Schools assistant director of career technical education K-12 programs, Ronald DiPillo, has been appointed to succeed Todd Bowden as the district’s executive director of career, technical and adult education. Superintendent Lori White announced the appointment Friday. DiPillo, 50, succeeds Todd Bowden, who was appointed by the School Board Oct. 18 to succeed White as superintendent on March 1.

The primary responsibility of the executive director’s position is as the chief administrator of Suncoast Technical College. He also has responsibility for career and technical education programs in elementary, middle and high schools; serves as the executive director of the Adult and Community Enrichment Program; and is the chief administrator of Suncoast Polytechnical High School and Sarasota Virtual Academy.

DiPillo is an Ohio native who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Youngstown University. He received his doctorate in education from Argosy University in 2012

He has extensive experience as a teacher and administrator in the Sarasota County School District. He served as an assistant principal at Venice High School from 2004-2010 and as principal at Oak Park School for Students with Disabilities from 2010-2013, when he was appointed to his current position.

Previously he taught mathematics at VHS from 1996-2001. He also worked as an adjunct professor of mathematics at Manatee Community College from 1997-2004.

Bowden said of DiPillo’s appointment: “Our Career, Technical, and Adult Education programs hold a very special place in my heart. I take great satisfaction knowing that they have been entrusted to Dr. DiPillo. His experience as a principal and district level leader will serve him well in this new role. He is trusted and respected by our teachers, administrators, and our community. I am excited about the future of career, technical and adult education under Ron’s leadership.”

DiPillo said he is honored to succeed Bowden as the executive director of adult career technical education. “Dr. Bowden’s work will serve as a solid foundation to expand and solidify our current initiatives,” DiPillo said. “I believe that career technical education is a vital conduit for local employers and prospective employees to efficiently come together. My familiarity with our existing partnerships will allow me to hit the ground running, come the New Year!”

DiPillo and his wife, Karen, have lived in Florida since 1996. She is a teacher at Venice Elementary School. Their two daughters attend Suncoast Polytechnical High School. He said he loves spending time with family, golfing, traveling and antiquing.

DiPillo’s appointment is scheduled to be submitted to the School Board for approval on Jan. 3 and he is scheduled to assume his new duties on Jan. 4.

15 parents graduate from adult ed program at Alta Vista Elementary

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Dec. 9, 2016 – Alta Vista Elementary School and Suncoast Technical College will honor 15 adult graduates of the schools’ Two-Generational Program in a ceremony at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Alta Vista.

The program offers multiple programs in the Alta Vista Adult Education Center, thanks to an expansion of the elementary school’s partnership with STC. It is open to parents of students attending one of four of the school district’s Title 1 elementary schools: Alta Vista, Emma E. Booker, Gocio and Tuttle. Title I is a federal designation indicating that a high percentage of students at a school are from financially challenged families.

The current group of graduates includes 12 mothers and three fathers of students. This fall the program, which began offering classes in Certified Nursing Assistant in 2013, added a GED diploma (high-school diploma equivalent), an English for Speakers of Other Languages certificate and a Microsoft Office Specialist certificate. Eight of the 15 adult students (all are moms) are graduating with a CNA certificate, four are earning a GED, two are certified Microsoft Office Specialists and one is moving up from the ESOL program to the GED program.

With the establishment in 2013 of the Eagle Academy, Alta Vista became the first school in the Sarasota County School District to adopt an innovative and comprehensive model of approaching education, shifting from a student-focused to a two-generation focus. The new model was the result of a collaboration of partners including Suncoast Technical College, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and individual donors. In the three years since the program was established, 74 adult students have graduated.

Two-generation-focused programs provide opportunities and meet the needs of vulnerable parents and children together. While they were already adept at meeting the needs of children at the school, the school’s adult education program focuses on enriching the lives of parents.

“We are very proud of this program and we’re looking forward to offering more classes this spring to help parents,” said Alta Vista Principal Barbara Shirley. “The two-generation approach has transformed our thinking to include the entire family, connecting students and parents with educational opportunities that promote lifelong success.

“Every child in our school has a better chance of academic success because we engage parents. They’re involved in their child’s learning, but also their own learning. We focus on strengthening life and parenting skills while also fostering career and vocational training. The impact of the two-generation approach has been so much more than we ever dreamed.”

Anyone who would like more information about the Two-Generational Program at Alta Vista Elementary may contact Principal Barbara Shirley at 941-361-6400. Parents of students at Alta Vista, Emma E. Booker, Gocio or Tuttle elementary schools who are interested in enrolling in the adult program may contact Mary Tucker, parent education navigator, at 941-361-6400, ext. 51524, or at 

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


Alta Vista Elementary students celebrate books on ‘Reading Street’

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Dec. 8, 2016 – At Alta Vista Elementary School, all students in grades K-5 will cozy up with a good book on the sidewalks around campus from 10-11 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 13, in an event billed as “Reading Street.” The children will share books through book talks and create posters to display around campus. The sidewalks will be mapped out and the posters will showcase the readers in each class.

Students have been encouraged to bring their favorite blanket or pillow and a stuffed animal to “read” along with them in this schoolwide event, and to dress up as their favorite storybook character.   

Alta Vista has an ongoing partnership with Pine View School as part of the “Up with Books” program. Through this program, classes have partnered up as “buddy classes.” Pine View students from four elementary classes will visit Alta Vista to be a part of the event and to read alongside their new friends.

“Creating a schoolwide reading culture is important to promote reading as a lifelong lifestyle. Reading Street is a perfect way to foster connectivity around books and reading,” said Assistant Principal Holly Heim.

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

'Shark Tank' entrepreneurs visit Booker Middle School

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Dec. 7, 2016 – Entrepreneurs connected to ABC’s Shark Tank are coming to Booker Middle School to make a presentation starting at 7:30 a.m., Friday, Dec. 9. All eighth-grade students and their teachers will participate in an event designed especially for Booker Middle students.

Ashley Drummonds appeared on the hit show and landed a deal with Shark Tank investor Daymond John to market her high-protein ABS Pancakes. At Booker Middle, Drummonds and business partner Josh McClelland will teach students about nutrition and the importance of exercise while also receiving a sample of the pancakes. Eighth-grade reading teacher Brenda Zofrea arranged to bring the entrepreneurs to the school, with help from Peter Helfen, a local businessman.

The event will start with a 7:30 a.m. presentation to all eighth-graders by Drummonds, followed by breakout sessions with her and McClelland. The students will sample the pancakes; the event also will include a physical fitness activity on the school fields.

Brenda Zofrea, reading teacher at Booker Middle School, was frustrated by her students coming to class every day asking for cookies and granola bars because they were hungry; many also struggle to keep their heads up and their eyes open. When she asked students what they ate for breakfast, many said they didn’t eat breakfast. Those who did often ate high-carb “junk food” with little nutritional value. That's when she decided her students needed some nutrition education and out to Drummonds.

McClelland, Drummonds’ business partner and personal trainer, says he can personally relate to Zofrea’s intensive reading students because he struggled with reading and faced other challenges with his own education through middle and high school.

“When Brenda asked us if we would be interested in this project, we jumped at the opportunity. We know the difference that nutrition, leadership and fitness can make in helping students achieve success both academically and personally,” said Drummonds.

Booker Middle School is located at 2250 Myrtle St., Sarasota.

SPHS and STC schools benefit from Barnes & Noble Bookfair

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Suncoast Poly students prep for Bookfair Dec 2016

IN A HOLIDAY MOOD: Pictured from left, Suncoast Polytechnical High School students Riley Manion, Makenna Harris, Kayla Crawley and Zachary Pagan get in a holiday mood for the Dec. 8 Barnes & Noble Bookfair benefiting SPHS and Suncoast Technical College.

SARASOTA, Dec. 6, 2016 – Suncoast Polytechnical High School and Suncoast Technical College will benefit from the Barnes & Noble Bookfair, set for 5-9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8.

That evening, a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of most items will be donated to the schools. All funds go directly to acquiring books, materials and media for classes and the schools’ media centers. Students will contribute their time and talents and earn community service hour points; student performances and demonstrations will add to the experience.

In addition to benefiting the schools that evening, fundraising continues through Friday, Dec. 16. Shoppers can log on to and enter the code 11986932 at checkout.

Sue Gissal, media specialist for the two schools, said, “Every year I look forward to this event. Working with the students and staff make it one of the highlights of our school year!"

Suncoast Polytechnical High School math teacher Ricardo Bellón, said, “This event is a real pleasure to plan and bring to life. The students’ commitment, excitement and energy are contagious. It’s a great event for all!”

Barnes and Noble is located at 4010 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.

High school seniors get free help with FAFSA financial aid form

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SCS News

SARASOTA, Dec. 2, 2016 – Riverview High School will host a free workshop to help school seniors and their parents complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The form is required in order for a student to receive federal financial assistance for higher education and may help students obtain other college funding.

The FAFSA workshop is set for 3 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8, in the Career Center at Riverview High School. Seniors from all local high schools and their parents and guardians are welcome. Counselors will help students complete the FAFSA form.

Students should bring their Social Security Number, the most recent federal income tax returns for themselves and their parents, and their Personal Identification Number, or PIN, after registering at Anyone with questions may call Riverview High at 941-923-1484.

Riverview High School is located at 1 Ram Way in Sarasota, just off Proctor Road. 

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