Sarasota County Schools News

Education Foundation raises over $190,000 at Evening of Excellence

 Permanent link

Lori White and Katerina Stehlikova-2016 Eve of Excellence

BEST IN SHOW: Superintendent Lori White shares a moment with Venice High student Katerina Stehlikova, winner of the Best in Show Award for her work titled "Reincarnation," a portrait of musician John Lennon created using 5,000 drywall screws.

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

SARASOTA, Feb. 26, 2016 – The Education Foundation of Sarasota County held its 21st annual Evening of Excellence Feb. 26 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. The event grossed over $190,000 to benefit students and public schools in Sarasota County. Education Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Vigne thanked the over 400 guests for showing their appreciation of the district’s most talented high school student-artists while also giving generously in support of the Foundation’s mission to prepare every student for success in tomorrow’s world. 

Evening of Excellence is the premier arts competition for area high school artists and the signature fundraiser for the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. The student-artists donated all 25 of their winning pieces -- paintings, photographs, mixed media, sculpture and more -- which created a lively bidding exchange with many of the pieces. Venice High student Katerina Stehlikova's portrait of John Lennon, titled "Reincarnation," was created using 5,000 drywall screws. The unique piece topped the bidding at $3,000 and was named Best in Show (click here for a complete list of the top 25 students, their schools and titles of their winning artwork). 

Before the auction began, the guests were reminded by auctioneer Jimmy Dean why their gift to support the Education Foundation of Sarasota County matters: to positively impact the more than 42,000 students, more than 2,500 teachers and 52 public schools in Sarasota.

Dotti Sechrist, event chair, introduced this year’s 25 award-winning high school artists. The event theme was La Dolce Vita, inspired by Ambar Morales’ top 25 piece from last year’s event. Awards of $500 to $1,000 were presented to each of the Top 25 students, who represented every public high school in Sarasota County. 

Ringling College of Art President Larry Thompson presented two promising students, Julisa Diego from Suncoast Polytechnical High School and Max Dinnan from Sarasota High School, $5,700 scholarships to attend a four-week pre-college program at Ringling College of Art and Design. 

About the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.  

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County, founded in 1988 as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, serves more than 42,600 students in 52 elementary, middle and high schools.  The Education Foundation is the leading advocate for an exceptional public education for all students in Sarasota County. With strong support from donors and the community, the Education Foundation undertakes significant, high impact projects and initiatives. The Education Foundation encourages donors with a passion for education to express their imagination in finding solutions, to make an investment in providing new opportunities for student learning, and to share the inspiration their generosity sparks in young people whose lives are forever changed.  For more information, visit or call 941-927-0965.


Tuttle Elementary School to offer Cambridge Primary program

 Permanent link

SCS News

SARASOTA, Feb. 29, 2016 – Tuttle Elementary School has been approved by Cambridge International Examinations to offer the first Cambridge Primary program in the Sarasota County School District. The program will begin in the 2016-17 school year.

Tomas Dinverno, principal of Tuttle Elementary School, said: “We are excited to join the Cambridge network at Tuttle. Cambridge Primary will help support our students with the development of critical thinking skills, as well as prepare them for college and career pathways.”

Cambridge Primary is an international program affiliated with the University of Cambridge (U.K.). It is taught in more than 1,000 schools in over 100 countries around the world. It is designed for learners ages 5-11 to develop skills and understanding in English, math and science.

Michael O’Sullivan, chief executive of Cambridge International Examinations, said, “We are delighted to announce that Tuttle Elementary has joined our global community of Cambridge Primary schools. We look forward to a long and productive relationship with the school.”

Tuttle Elementary will integrate Cambridge Primary into the curricular approach of multi-disciplinary and diverse instruction that exists at the school. Cambridge Primary aligns with the current state-adopted English Language Arts and math standards. This curriculum emphasizes student critical thinking, and development of skills in speaking, listening, writing and reading. Students collaborate on project-based learning and global studies.

The curriculum design also includes an approach that integrates various subjects; students read for understanding from multiple texts. The curriculum includes print and online material that is differentiated for the learner. In the first year at Tuttle, the Cambridge Primary program will be used with students in one advanced work class homeroom at each grade level. In subsequent years students will build on their knowledge from the previous year to connect and spiral learning. 

Professional development for teachers in the first year will include Cambridge-approved training in Florida. The teachers also will form a professional learning community that will meet periodically to review the implementation of Cambridge Primary.

Tuttle staff members serving on a curriculum committee in 2014-15 recommended that the school apply for the Cambridge Primary program. Key reasons the committee thought it was a good fit for the school include the following: the program aligns with state standards; focuses on developing knowledge and skills in core subjects; is suitable for learners whose first language is not English, and is sensitive to different needs and cultures; and prepares students for college and career readiness by providing a pathway to Cambridge Secondary programs in middle schools and Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) programs in high schools.

In Sarasota County, Heron Creek Middle in North Port offers the Cambridge Secondary program; Booker Middle in Sarasota will begin offering it in 2016-17. Sarasota and Booker high schools in Sarasota and North Port High offer the AICE program.

More information about the Cambridge Primary program is available at Tuttle Elementary School is located at 2863 8th St., Sarasota.

Pine View, Sarasota High robotics teams qualify for world contest

 Permanent link

PV and SHS robotics state contest winners 2016

STATE ROBOTICS CONTEST WINNERS: Members of the Pine View and Sarasota High Robotics teams celebrate qualifying to compete in the 2016 Vex Worlds international robotics championship. Front row, from left, Pine View students Thomas Jurczyk, Katarina Jurczyk and Ellie Bodor. Back row, from left, SHS students Joey Martineau and Nick Greb; Pine View Students Julia Giffard, Jack Pullman, Eric McKinnon and Gabe von Kessel.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Feb. 18, 2016 – Robotics teams from Pine View School and Sarasota High School have qualified to compete in the 2016 Vex Worlds international robotics competition in Louisville, Ky., April 20-23. 

Organized by The Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, the event is the culmination of tournaments held throughout the world with more than 12,000 teams from 33 countries competing. “This year the task set by The REC Foundation was to have the robot pick up foam balls and launch as many into a goal 14 feet away within two minutes as possible,” said Neal Gleitz, the Pine View robotics teacher and team coach.

The Florida State Championship was Feb. 13 at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. Sixty local and regional tournament winners competed in qualifying matches. The top eight teams selected two alliance partners from the field to strengthen their teams. Team 4029A, the Excalibots, from Leesburg selected the SHS Sailor Team and the PVS Pythons Team 212P. 

Explaining the advantages that the two Sarasota teams brought to the alliance, Gleitz said, “SHS’s robot is superior at delivering balls into the goal from the near field, like the center in basketball.  PVS’s robot is good at launching from the corners, much like a guard shooting a three-pointer.”  Both bots have field goal shooting averages in excess of 90 percent.

The three-team alliance competed against high schools from the much larger metro areas of Tampa and Orlando. In a tie-breaker, the Sarasota-Leesburg Alliance won second place and a chance to advance to the world championship with a score of 277-233.

“We are extremely proud to not only qualify for the Florida State Championship, but also to advance to the 2016 Vex Worlds championship,” Gleitz said.  “Ours is a first year team which went against three of the most experienced teams in the country.  For our Sarasota kids to have made it to the international stage is an outstanding achievement.”

Pine View School is one of a handful of schools in the country that has adopted the Applied Robotics Program, a four-year sequence of stand-alone Robotics courses.  The number of students in the entry-level course has increased from 16 to 42.

Pine View Principal Stephen Covert said, “We are enormously proud of the dedication, commitment and teamwork our robotics students have demonstrated during this highly competitive cycle. We also want to thank all our parents and mentors who have helped our robotics teams perform so well.”  

Gleitz said, “Through hard work and international competitions, our students develop leadership, project management, critical thinking, problem solving and organizational skills.The four-year program provides students with real-world engineering experience that incorporates practical application of math and science.” 

School district and union reach agreement on 2015-16 contract

 Permanent link

SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, Feb. 26, 2016 – An agreement on the 2015-16 contract between the Sarasota County School District and the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association was reached Friday. Bargaining was protracted this year primarily because extensive negotiations were needed to reach agreement on how new state requirements for performance pay for teachers would be executed in the district.

SC/TA negotiates for both instructional and support staff. Only instructional staff is affected by the new laws tying pay to student performance.

Instructional staff who were hired before July 1, 2009, remain on the current instructional grandfathered pay schedule. They may receive up to two steps on the pay schedule. Those who are eligible for one step will receive a 1.25 percent one-time supplement in addition to the step. Those who are not eligible for a step increase will receive a 2.5 percent one-time supplement.

Instructional staff hired after 2009 will be placed on a new performance salary schedule and will receive a 2.5 percent supplement. Staff on the performance salary schedule also will receive a half-percent supplement for each year they have worked since 2011-2012 and were evaluated as highly-effective or effective. District negotiating team member Arthur Hardy said the agreement allows newer teachers at the low end of the salary schedule to receive up to a 4.5 percent increase.

The starting salary for new teachers proposed in the agreement is $41,000. The current starting salary is $40,265.

Classified employees could advance up to three steps on the salary schedule. If an employee is not eligible to receive the steps, he or she may receive a one-time supplemental pay of up to 2.5 percent.

District Deputy Chief Financial Officer Al Weidner said to put the agreement into perspective, it should be noted that last year the School Board approved a 2.5 percent one-time payment that did not continue into this school year.

“In essence all employees have had a 2.5 percent reduction in salary for the current year,” he said. “Final negotiations will restore all employees’ salaries to last year’s level through a combination of years of experience step increases or a percentage in a one-time supplemental payment.” 

The agreement must be ratified by both the bargaining unit members and the School Board. If it is ratified, the provisions it contains will be retroactive to July 1, 2015.

Lamarque Elementary hosts 'Run for the Lions' 5K and Fun Run

 Permanent link

SCS News

NORTH PORT, Feb. 23, 2016 – The Lion 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run are scheduled for Lamarque Elementary School at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., respectively, on Saturday, Feb. 27. Money raised from the Fun Run will go to student programs and to finish up the playground sunshades project. Interested business partners maycontact Mindy Long at

Registration for runners is available in the Announcements section of the Lamarque Elementary School website. Registration fees are $12 for runners 18 and younger, $25 for runners 19 and older, $20 for Manasota Track club members and $60 for families of up to six members of the same household.

Road closures on the day of the race will include the following: Lamarque Avenue, Thisbe Street, Sardinia Avenue, Pincushion Street, East Eldron Avenue and the north side of La Rocha Street.

Lamarque Elmentary School is located at 3415 Lamarque Ave., North Port.

Riverview High lacrosse teams win inaugural games

 Permanent link

RHS girl's lacrosse team 2015-16RHS boys lacrosse team 2015-16

MAKING HISTORY: The Riverview Rams girls' and boys' lacrosse teams (top and bottom photos, respectively) are the first in school district history. Both teams won their first games.

UPDATE-Feb. 26, 2016: The Riverview High boys' lacrosse team won its inaugural game Feb. 17, beating the Sarasota MilitaryAcademy Eagles 22-1. The RHS Lady Rams lacrosse team was victorius over the Academy of Holy Names Feb. 25 (10-6). Both were RHS home games.

SARASOTA, Feb. 16, 2016 – For the first time in Sarasota County School District history, a public high school will field boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams, sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

Both teams’ seasons officially began on Feb. 9, with away games at Out of Door Academy in Bradenton, followed by games at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School on Feb. 12.

Despite a centuries-old history in the U.S. and recent rise in popularity, the sport of lacrosse is still relatively new to South Florida and to Sarasota County in particular.

Until now, the only programs available to local high school players existed at private schools and with two local club teams: the Sarasota Seahawks, in Sarasota, and the Manasota Monsters, in Bradenton.

In 2013, a non-profit organization called SRQLAX was formed to facilitate the transition of lacrosse from a club sport to a high school varsity sport in Sarasota County public high schools. This would allow local players to play varsity lacrosse at their own schools, and to compete for state titles and even earn college scholarships.

“We knew that there was the will to make this happen in our community,” said SRQLAX board president Rachel Hautamaki. “We just had to find a way.”

After extensive meetings with parents, coaches, players and community members, SRQLAX brought the idea to the Sarasota County School District to try and put their plan into action.

“We had such a fantastic response from the district,” added Hautamaki. “They truly understood our vision from day one, and once we met with the administration and athletic department at Riverview High School, we knew that FHSAA lacrosse was going to become a reality in Sarasota County public schools.”

As a result of this collaboration, a three-year pilot program has been established at Riverview High School. SRQLAX was given the responsibility of not only creating the program from the ground up, but also providing funding, with costs estimated at approximately $100,000.

Due to generous donations, sponsorships and underwriting dollars from the Sarasota community and local businesses, along with a variety of fundraisers, the financial goal was met, and on Jan. 18, 2016, Riverview High School held tryouts for their first ever boys’ and girls’ varsity lacrosse teams.

“The turnout and talent at the tryouts was truly phenomenal,” said boys’ head lacrosse coach Pete deLisser. “We are looking forward to a fantastic inaugural season.”

The season continues through April 6 for the boys’ team and April 1 for the girls’ team.

“This is just the beginning,” stated Hautamaki. “The ultimate goal of SRQLAX is to see FHSAA-sanctioned lacrosse teams in all of the Sarasota County public high schools over the next 10 years.”

More information about lacrosse programs in Sarasota County and how to support them is available at or the Facebook pages for Riverview Rams Lacrosse and SRQLAX. More information about the RHS lacrosse program also is available at



Sarasota County Teacher of the Year finalists surprised at three schools

 Permanent link

Khea Davis-HS TOY wth Lori White-BHS 2-9-16Rolf Hanson-Elem TOY Bay Haven 2-9-16Kristina Beecher-MS TOY-Woodland 2-9-16

SURPRISE! Top photo: Superintendent Lori White, right, tells Booker High teacher Khea Davis that she is the district’s High School Teacher of the Year in a surprise ceremony in the school’s gym. Photo by Cliff Roles. Middle photo: Newly named Sarasota County Elementary Teacher of the Year Rolf Hanson, center, is congratulated by school district administrators, School Board members, colleagues, friends and family at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus in Sarasota. Photo by Cliff Roles. Bottom photo: Sarasota County Middle School Teacher of the Year Kristina Beecher celebrates with Woodland Middle eighth-grade student Carson Sweet, left, and sixth-grader Cole Cawthorne. Photo by Scott Ferguson.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Feb. 9, 2016 – Teachers at three public schools in Sarasota were surprised Tuesday when they were revealed as the district’s 2016-17 Teacher of the Year finalists by the annual Teacher Tribute Tour. Superintendent of Schools Lori White, School Board members Shirley Brown and Caroline Zucker, and a team of district administrators, past winners and representatives of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County congratulated the teachers as their students and peers helped celebrate the event.

The first stop was Booker HighSchool, where Khea Davis was surprised by White as High School Teacher of the Year for the district.

"It’s a huge shock but feels wonderful,” said Davis, after receiving a bouquet of flowers and balloons in the school colors of purple and gold. “I’m so honored to be chosen.” When asked the secret to her success as a teacher, she said, “I give my students love…I love every one of them.”

A teacher for 15 years, Davis has taught language arts at Booker for two years. She sponsors the Black History Club and serves as a mentor for teachers who are new to the profession. She has taught at Carlos E. Halle Middle School in Bradenton and at Pembroke Pines Charter High School.

Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Florida State University and a master’s degree in education curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix in Plantation, Fla.

Next, the bus pulled into Bay Haven School of Basics Plus, where science teacher Rolf Hanson was revealed as the district’s Elementary School Teacher of the Year. Principal Chad Erickson said Hanson “teaches from the heart every day.” Fifth-grade student Bryce Bennett said, “Everyone hear is super-proud of Mr. Hanson. He really brings science to life…he’s awesome!”

Hanson said he was “totally surprised” by the honor. I love the kids, my colleagues and our wonderful principal,” he said. Hanson has guided students to create a garden he calls an “edible landscape.” He said the ongoing project is an after-school activity for students. “Although I’ve been teaching for almost three decades, I try to keep things fresh and introduce new ideas and projects to kids when I can,” he said.

Hanson has been a teacher for 29 years; 17 of them in Sarasota County. In addition to Bay Haven, he has taught at Ashton Elementary. Prior to coming to Florida, he taught in elementary and middle schools in New York state (Albany and Troy) and in Minneapolis. He has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s in German literature from Reed College in Portland, Ore.

The final stop on the tour was Woodland Middle School, where Kristina Beecher was named the Middle School Teacher of the Year. A technology teacher who guides the school’s robotics team, she started her career in the district as a social worker and rehabilitation counselor. She didn’t intend to become a teacher, but found herself in the classroom after a reassignment and thought she’d “try it for a year.”

"I used my social work experience to connect with kids and found that I loved teaching,” she said. “I teach my students to be good competitors whether they win or lose; our robotics teams get awards for supporting kids they don’t even know.”

Beecher added that she didn’t expect this recognition, but that she’s happy to represent the district’s many excellent middle school teachers.

Beecher has a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in American Sign Language from the University of South Florida, Tampa; and a master’s in social work from FSU.

About the Sarasota County Teacher of the Year program

The Teacher of the Year program is co-produced by the Sarasota County School District and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and is made possible through the funding and support of community partners. Each of the three finalists will receive a cash award from the Education Foundation. 

The overall district Teacher of the Year for 2016-17 will be announced from among the three finalists at a luncheon Tuesday, March 22, at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. The individual Teachers of the Year for each school also will be honored at that event.

The district Teacher of the Year will receive a $2,500 cash award from Sunset Automotive Group; the two runners-up will receive $1,250 each from the dealership. The district’s Teacher of the Year also will represent Sarasota County Schools at the Florida Department of Education-Macy's Teacher of the Year program and will serve as a spokesperson for and representative of the teaching profession at various events throughout the 2016-17 school year.    

About the Education Foundation of Sarasota County

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County, founded in 1988 as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, serves more than 42,600 students in 52 elementary, middle and high schools. The Education Foundation is the leading advocate for an exceptional public education for all students in Sarasota County. With strong support from donors and the community, the Education Foundation undertakes significant, high impact projects and initiatives. The Education Foundation encourages donors with a passion for education to express their imagination in finding solutions, to make an investment in providing new opportunities for student learning, and to share the inspiration their generosity sparks in young people whose lives are forever changed. For more information, visit or call 941-927-0965.

Garden Elementary principal to retire, acting principal named

 Permanent link

John McQueenSandra Russell

CHANGE AT GARDEN: Garden Elementary Principal John McQueen, above, is retiring from the school district in February 2016. Sandra Russell, below, will serve as acting principal through June.

VENICE, Feb. 5, 2016 – John McQueen, who has served for almost a decade as principal of Garden Elementary School, will retire Friday, Feb. 26. Former Tatum Ridge Elementary Principal Sandra Russell will serve as acting principal at Garden for the remainder of the school year.

McQueen became principal of Garden Elementary in 2006 after serving as assistant principal at Brentwood Elementary from 2002 to 2006. He began his career with the district in 1981; before becoming an administrator he taught at Fruitville, Garden, Glenallen and Lakeview elementary schools.  

“My 37 years in education have been extremely rewarding,” said McQueen. “I’m proud that 35 of those years have been with the Sarasota County Schools. I’m very thankful for the support, generosity and cooperation of the Venice community and their support of our programs and initiatives at Garden Elementary.”

Laura Kingsley, the district’s executive director of elementary education, said, “John is a beloved educator; his devotion to his students, staff and school has been evident in the success of Garden Elementary. We will miss his ability to lead the school with kindness and a keen sense of humor.”

Russell served as principal of Tatum Ridge Elementary from 2005-11, principal of Brentwood Elementary from 1986-2005, and assistant principal at Brentwood and Gocio Elementary in the mid-1980s. From 1979-84 she helped the district identify children eligible for services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act. She was an Exceptional Student Education teacher at Bay Haven from 1976-79.

“Thanks to Sandra’s wealth of experiences teaching and leading other schools, she’s able to walk into a school and ensure that the staff, students and families have a smooth transition from a retiring principal to new leadership,” said Kingsley.

Parents and staff at Garden Elementary will be invited to participate in a meeting at the school from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 3, to determine what qualities they would like to see in their school’s next principal. A new principal is expected to be named by late spring and to start July 1.

Garden Elementary School is located at 700 Center Road, Venice.


Pine View teacher heads to FL Supreme Court Justice Teaching Institute

 Permanent link

Carol Lavallee Pine View teacher Jan 2016

MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT: Pine View School social studies teacher Carol Lavallee will participate in the Justice Teaching Institute at the Florida Supreme Court Feb. 7-11.

OSPREY, Feb. 2, 2016 – A Pine View School social studies teacher is one of 25 educators selected to participate in the 2016 Florida Supreme Court Justice Teaching Institute. Carol Lavallee will travel to the offices and courtrooms of the state Supreme Court in Tallahassee for the Institute, which will be held Sunday, Feb. 7, through Thursday, Feb. 11.

The Florida Law Related Education Association has implemented the Justice Teaching Institute since the inaugural program was developed in 1996, under the leadership of then Florida Chief Justice Gerald Kogan. The Institute offers an up-close examination of the workings of the judicial branch of government. The program incorporates a case study approach, including lectures, interactive presentations, observations, mock hearings and a culminating oral argument simulation. 

“I’m excited to see first-hand how our justice system works through this experience,” said Lavallee. “I’m looking forward to sharing this knowledge with my students.”

Through meetings with Supreme Court justices and other judges, interactive activities, simulations, and group discussions, teachers explore the concept of justice, debate topical legal issues, and develop techniques and strategies for teaching students and other educators about the nature, history, organization and processes of the Florida justice system. Participants conduct simulated appellate proceedings and observe the presentation of an actual case. 

Two mentor teachers and two mentor judges will guide the participating teachers through the experience. Staff from the Florida Law Related Education Association will help teachers develop the experiences into classroom best practices. Teachers’ expenses, including the cost of substitute teachers at their schools, are paid by the Association.

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

Search News Articles

Communications and Community Relations
Tracey Beeker, Director

Kelsey Whealy, Media Relations Specialist

Caroline Lee, Administrative Assistant;
Public Records Custodian, Peachjar eflyers 

Digital Communications
Mina Ajrab, Manager

Torie Ewald, Social Media Strategist

Katy Ellis, Social Media Producer

Phone: 941-927-4009 or
941-927-9000 ext. 74009
Fax: 941-927-2539
1960 Landings Boulevard
Sarasota, Florida 34231
Green 3rd Floor

Education Channel 20/33
John Flowerree, Manager

TBA, Engineer

Phone: 941-361-6355
Fax: 941-361-6358
4748 Beneva Road
Sarasota, Florida 34233

Community Involvement
Lyndsey Cantees, Coordinator

Jennifer Anderson, Administrative Assistant
Phone: 941-927-9000, ext. 31500
Fax: 941-361-6539
Green 1st Floor

Staff Listing