Sarasota County Schools News

District high schools win awards in FAFSA federal student aid contest

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SCS News

This news release is from the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership.

SARASOTA, April 29, 2016 — The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is proud to announce that Sarasota County Schools has received 8 awards in the 2016 Florida FAFSA Challenge, presented by the Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN). The Florida FAFSA Challenge is a statewide campaign to increase the proportion of Florida high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The individual schools and the Sarasota County School district will be recognized for this achievement and be awarded at the Sarasota County School Board meeting at 3 p.m., Tuesday, May 17.

The awards are for the following categories:

  • “MVP” (Have the highest completion rate through March 31st)
  • “Most Improved” (Improved their FAFSA completion rate the most compared to last year through March 31st)
  • “Fastest Lap” (Beat their FAFSA completion rate from last year by 5% in the fewest amount of days; must have a FAFSA completion rate of 20% or higher in 2016 to qualify)

The following awards were earned by Sarasota County Schools:

  • “MVP” for Medium Schools—Pine View School (73.8% completion through March 31st)
  • “MVP” for Districts—Sarasota County Schools (36.4% completion)
  • “Most Improved” for Large Schools—North Port High School (33.8% completion)
  • “Most Improved” for Small Schools—Imagine School at North Port (46.9% completion)
  • “Most Improved” for Large Districts—Sarasota County Schools
  • “Fastest Lap” for Large Schools—North Port High School
  • “Fastest Lap” for Large Schools—Imagine School at North Port
  • “Fastest Lap” for Large Districts—Sarasota County Schools

“We are grateful to the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership for helping raise awareness of the importance of completing the FAFSA application, and for sponsoring the supporting events,” said Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Lori White. “We’re proud of our students and parents for taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity, and we appreciate the administrators and counselors who helped facilitate the events at our high schools. Thanks to this initiative, more of our graduates will have access to a high-quality post-secondary education than ever before.”

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership has spent several months planning and executing FAFSA awareness and support activities, including FAFSA completion assistance during community- and school-based events. On February 6th, volunteers trained by the United Way of Sarasota County and UnidosNow assisted families during the United Way Financial Empowerment Expo, with 61 families completing a FAFSA. On February 11th, community volunteers as well as financial aid officers from Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and Florida Department of Education Office of Financial Aid assisted 75 families of high school seniors in completing the FAFSA form at North Port High School. On February 21st, Sarasota High School hosted a “College Goal Sunday” event and 56 families received FAFSA support from these same groups.  

In summer 2015, the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership conducted a “Community Scan Report” as part of a new College Access Network project. The report identified FAFSA completion as a critical component for increasing the number of students accessing post-secondary education. By completing the FAFSA application, students can obtain federal Pell Grant dollars for their post-secondary education, including trade or technical school, as well as 2- and 4-year degrees. According to the Florida College Access Network, less than half of all eligible Sarasota County high school students in 2012-2013 completed the FAFSA form, thus leaving over $2 million in Pell Grant dollars untapped. 59% of Florida students in 2013 were eligible to receive a Pell grant, which awards up to $5,645 a year per student.    

About the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is a broad-based business and education “cradle to career” collaborative convened by The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and is part of a larger effort to increase post-secondary attainment for Sarasota County students. The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership includes representatives from:

ALSO Youth

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast

Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County

CareerEdge Funders Collaborative

CareerSource Suncoast

Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Community Youth Development

Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County

Education Foundation of Sarasota County

Florida Department of Education Office of Student Financial Aid

Girls, Inc.

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

Gulf Coast Community Foundation

New College of Florida

PGT Industries

Ringling College of Art & Design

Rotary Futures

Sarasota County Libraries

Sarasota County Schools

SCOPE (Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence)

Selby Foundation

State College of Florida

Suncoast Technical College

Sun Hydraulics

Take Stock in Children of Sarasota County


United Way of Sarasota County

University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee


For more information regarding the Talent4Tomorrow partnership, contact Mimi Cirbusova at or (941) 556-4038.

Gocio Elementary hosts Human Wax Museum to benefit Food Bank

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Gocio Elem students Wax Museum

CLASSIC WAX: At a previous event, Gocio Elementary students Josh Lucas and Guillermo Pinon portray George Washington and Orville Wright, respectively, in the school's Human Wax Museum.

SARASOTA, April 27, 2016 – The Gocio Elementary School cafeteria will be transformed into the Human Wax Museum at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 28. Fifth-grade students will stand in a frozen statue pose, dressed as the influential characters they studied for their class biography projects. The public is welcome.

The “wax” exhibits in the museum will come alive to share biographical information about their characters when visitors drop change into their bowls. Proceeds from the project will benefit All Faiths Food Bank. Last year the students raised over $600 for the charity.

Students will portray a wide variety of historical and contemporary figures, including Dr. Seuss, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Betsy Ross, Anne Frank, Muhammed Ali, Jane Goodall, Neil Armstrong, Princess Diana, Milton Hershey, Walt Disney, Pocahontas, Sacagawea, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglas, Queen Elizabeth II, Cleopatra, Oprah Winfrey, Susan B. Anthony, Harry Houdini, Betsy Ross, Helen Keller, Coretta Scott King, Leonardo da Vinci, Paul Revere, Barack and Michelle Obama, Amelia Earhart and Michelangelo.

Gocio Elementary is located at 3450 Gocio Road, Sarasota.

New principal named for Laurel Nokomis School

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Ray Wilson 2016

NEW SCHOOL LEADER: Ray Wilson is the new principal of Laurel Nokomis School.

SARASOTA COUNTY, April 26, 2016 – Superintendent Lori White has named a new leader for Laurel Nokomis School. Raymond Wilson, an assistant principal at Heron Creek Middle School in North Port, will become principal of Laurel Nokomis, effective Monday, May 2.

Karen Rose, the district's executive director of middle schools, “Ray’s passion for students and the school community, combined with his respect for Laurel Nokomis and the accomplishments of its students and staff, are a perfect formula to lead the school community forward.”

Wilson said, “I count the opportunity to lead Laurel Nokomis School as an honor and a privilege. I am anxious to join such a dedicated team that has worked tirelessly to build a legacy of excellence. A quote by ragtime composer Scott Hayden embodies my philosophy and beliefs: ‘Teachers have three loves: a love of learning, a love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.’

“I am a learner first, and a teacher and leader second. I believe the continued success of Laurel Nokomis will be accomplished by reflecting on the instruction we deliver to ensure that we meet our high expectations and uncompromising commitment to excellence. Students deserve more than our best, they deserve our all — and nothing less.”

Wilson has been assistant principal twice at Heron Creek Middle since October 2007. In school years 2012-13 and 2013-14 he was assistant principal at Woodland Middle School in North Port.

He taught music at Heron Creek from 2003 until he became an administrator at the school. For four years Wilson was a music teacher at three schools in Tallahassee: Deer Creek Middle (1999-2001), Sabal Palm Elementary (2001-02) and Bond Elementary (2002-03). He holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Florida A&M University and a master’s in educational leadership from the University of South Florida. Several of Wilson’s family members, including three of his brothers, are educators in Florida school districts. His mother is a retired educator.  

Wilson and his wife, Selena, have a daughter and three sons, who are Raymond’s stepsons. One of them, Trenton Tompkins, is currently in eighth grade at Heron Creek Middle; he plans to attend Venice High next year.

Laurel Nokomis School is at 1900 E. Laurel Road, Nokomis.

Southside, Tuttle students meet for reading event at Selby Library April 30

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SCS News

SARASOTA, April 22, 2016 – Students from Southside and Tuttle elementary schools will share a Saturday reading adventure at Selby Public Library. As part of the “Up with Books” initiative, 150 students from the schools will meet at the downtown Sarasota Library from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, April 30. Tuttle students will be provided with bus transportation from their school to the library. Southside parents will bring participating students. 

“Up with Books” is a Sarasota County School District program that is focused on building home libraries and literacy opportunities at lower socio-economic schools to enhance and increase students’ literacy lives. As part of the initiative, students from Tuttle — a Title I school with more than 90 percent of students on free and reduced-cost meals — will spend some time with students from Southside, which has only about 24 percent of students on free and reduced. The goal is for students with diverse backgrounds to learn from each other and to celebrate the joys of reading.

This program is connected with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which is designed to help close the achievement gap in local schools. The Campaign is a community effort to positively impact four Title 1 schools with students who are most challenged by achieving reading success: Alta Vista Elementary School, Tuttle Elementary School, Gocio Elementary School and Emma E. Booker Elementary School.

Students from 10 Southside classes will be paired up with children from 10 Tuttle classes. Additional Southside students have volunteered to support the “Up with Books” program, and the Southside Jazz Band and Marimba Ensemble will perform. Southside families have collected almost 2,000 books to give to Tuttle students; the books will be distributed at the library and at Tuttle. Selby Library staff have planned activities including storytelling, puppetry, crafts, a tour of the library and a chance for students to get library cards.

Students will have lunch in Selby Five Points Park and will receive ice cream provided by the library. Children also will have time to select a book to build home libraries.

Selby Public Library is located at 1331 First St., Sarasota. Southside Elementary School is at 1901 Webber St., Sarasota. Tuttle Elementary is at 2863 8th St., Sarasota.

About the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a communitywide effort in Sarasota and Manatee counties to help all children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade. Part of a nationwide movement, the local campaign is focused on addressing the most common issues and obstacles that impact a child’s ability to read, including attendance, school readiness and summer learning. The Suncoast effort is one of more than 240 Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities in the U.S. and two of 16 in Florida.

Most improved students named in Sarasota, North Port event is May 23

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Most Improved 2016-4 top kids with big checks

UPDATE: Forty students fromn four high schools were honored as Most Improved Students April 28 in Sarasota. The top four student honorees received $5,000 each; all others received $2,500 each. Pictured above in front row are Dalton Brown of Venice High (left) and Thomas Childers of Riverview High. Behind them are Courtney McManus of Sarasota High (left) and Nicole Pelletier of Booker High.

SARASOTA COUNTY, April 22, 2016 – Fifty Sarasota County high school students who have overcome challenges to make positive changes in their lives will be honored at the 18th annual Most Improved Student Award Luncheon in Sarasota and at the ninth annual Most Improved Student Award Luncheon in North Port. The names of the students will be announced at each event.

The first luncheon, recognizing 40 students from Booker, Riverview, Sarasota and Venice high schools, will be held from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Thursday, April 28, at Michael’s On East in Sarasota.

Lori White, superintendent of Sarasota County Schools; Peni Riedinger, pupil support specialist for the district; and Philip A. Delaney Jr., president of Northern Trust, will speak at the event.

The second event, honoring 10 students from North Port High School, will take place from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Monday, May 23, at Heron Creek Country Club in North Port.

The students who will be honored have, in the judgment of their school counselors and principals, overcome challenging obstacles and made significant academic, social or behavioral turnarounds in their lives. The students nominated must also show community involvement and leadership potential. They also must remain drug-free and crime-free while participating in the program.

The program and the luncheons are designed to honor the students for their achievements, increase self-esteem and motivate them to continue on a positive path. Each participating senior receives a cash award to further his or her education. They must be planning to pursue postsecondary education the following fall and have demonstrated a financial need.

The sponsors of the Most Improved Student Award Program are Northern Trust, the Harold C. and Jacqueline F. Bladel Foundation, the Evalyn Sadlier Jones Foundation, the Annette J. Hagens Memorial Foundation, the Hunkele Family Foundation, Eluned and Edward Russell Charitable Foundation, and the Sarasota County School District.

Pine View student organizes anti-violence workshop

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Anti-Volence Workshop 4-23-16 JPG

KICKIN' VIOLENCE: Pine View student Grace Wickerson has organized an anti-violence advocacy workshop for middle and high school students Saturday, April 23.

SARASOTA, April 21, 2016 - A project called Kickin’ Violence by Grace Wickerson of Englewood, a student at Pine View School, has been selected as one of three national winners in the 2016 Jefferson Awards Foundation LEAD360 service ideas contest. The three winners were selected as a result of 100,000 online votes in February and were announced at the Jefferson Awards Foundation’s National Ceremony in New York City at Gotham Hall on March 2. See attached news release from the Foundation for details.

Wickerson has organized an Anti-Violence Advocacy Workshop for Saturday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Girl Scout Gulfcoast Event and Conference Center, 4780 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota. She describes it as “a morning of youth empowerment, service and martial arts.” All Sarasota County high school and middle school students are welcome to participate. There is no registration fee to participate and credit for community service hours is available. Click here to see the flier with details.

Anyone with questions may visit or call 941-445.3121. 



Laurel Nokomis School to host Kindergarten Round-Up April 28

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SCS News

NOKOMIS, April 21, 2016 – Laurel Nokomis School will hold its annual Kindergarten Round-Up from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 28. Parents whose children will be 5 years old on or before Sept. 1 and who are considering having their child attend Laurel Nokomis School in the 2016-17 school year are encouraged to attend kindergarten orientation to meet the teachers and visit the classrooms.

Information will be available regarding kindergarten registration, transportation, before-school and after-school care, the Parent-Teacher Organization and the school’s programs and activities. 

Laurel Nokomis School, the Sarasota County School District’s only school serving students in grades K-8, is located at 1900 E. Laurel Road, Nokomis.

Venice High School senior wins corporate National Merit Scholarship

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SCS News

VENICE, April 20, 2016 – The National Merit Scholarship Corporation has announced that Venice High School senior Julia Lesko is a corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship winner. More than 1,000 distinguished high school seniors have received corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship awards from about 200 corporations, company foundations and other business organizations. Citizen Watch Company of America is sponsoring Lesko’s award. She is considering a career in business.

Scholars were selected from students who advanced to the finalist level in the National Merit Scholarship competition and met criteria of their scholarship sponsors. Most of the corporate-sponsored scholarships are renewable for up to four years of college undergraduate study and provide annual stipends that range from $500 to $10,000 per year; some provide a single payment between $2,500 and $5,000. Recipients may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university of their choice.

More than 1.5 million high school juniors entered the National Merit Scholarship competition when they took the 2014 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The 16,000 semifinalists announced in the fall of 2015 represent less than 1 percent of the nation’s seniors.

This is the first announcement of 2016 National Merit Scholar winners. The organization will name recipients of National Merit $2,500 Scholarships in May and winners of college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards in June and July. This year, 7,500 students are expected to win National Merit Scholarships worth approximately $33 million.


Sarasota High students to stage Disney’s musical ‘Aida’ April 26-30

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Aida cast SHS 2016-photo 1

'AIDA' CAST GETS SET: Students rehearse for the Sarasota High production of ‘Aida.’ Pictured from left are Tristan Rivers, D.J. Callahan, Tanner Holman (kneeling), Alex Wojtaszek, Olivia Valek, Josselyn Wilson (kneeling), Carl Christensen Fedora and Juan Perez.

SARASOTA, April 19, 2016 – Students in the Sarasota High School Theater Department will present Disney’s musical “Aida,” Tuesday, April 26 through Saturday, April 30, in the school’s auditorium. Performances are at 7 p.m., with an additional matinee showing at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“Aida” is a fast-paced romantic adventure, featuring music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice. The play draws its strength and inspiration from a love that stands the test of time. It starts at an ancient Egyptian exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and quickly whisks the audience away to the time of pyramids, gods and intrigue.

An Egyptian Captain, Radames, has brought home captives from Nubia, unaware that one of them is Princess Aida. Although betrothed to Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter, from a young age, Radames soon finds love in the arms of Aida. But their love is put to the test when Aida’s father, King Amonasro, is captured. Everyone must make sacrifices — including Aida — and sacrificing her love for Radames is only the beginning. Is Radames and Aida’s love written in the stars, or will they have to search a hundred lifetimes to find it again?

Student actor Tanner Holman, who plays Radames, said “Preparing for this show has been such an incredible experience. It allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation of the hard and largely unseen work that goes into creating a character for the stage.”

Drama teacher Melissa Dweck said, “After 14 years of teaching and directing theater at Sarasota High School, this has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had with the students — and I have had many!”

Dweck promises audiences that the production “will amaze you…from our sets, to our costumes, to the amazing job the students have done on stage and behind the scenes!”

Tickets are available online at Prices are $12 for students and seniors age 55 and older, $15 for other adults.

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

U.S. News ranks Pine View best high school in Florida, seventh in U.S.

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SCS News

OSPREY, FLA., April 19, 2016 — U.S. News & World Report has released its 2016 Best High Schools rankings, naming Pine View School the best high school in Florida and the seventh best high school in the U.S. Pine View was one of only two Florida schools ranked in the top 20 best high schools in the nation; Design & Architecture Senior High in Miami was ranked 20th.

Pine View serves intellectually gifted students in grades 2-12. Its high school component, grades 9-12, was among almost 20,000 schools reviewed for U.S. News & World Report’s national and state rankings.

According to the U.S. News & World Report website, “To produce the 2016 Best High Schools rankings, (we) teamed with North Carolina-based RTI International, a global nonprofit social science research firm. RTI implemented the U.S. News comprehensive rankings methodology, which is based on these key principles: that a great high school must serve all of its students well…and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show it is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.”

Pine View Principal Stephen Covert said, “The students and teachers at Pine View consistently go the extra degree in everything they do, and their hard work and dedication is borne out in results like these national rankings. In addition to continuing Pine View’s tradition of academic excellence, our students and teachers are committed to social responsibility and making a difference in our community and the world. That really is far more important than test scores and assessments; the teaching and inspiring of students to be critical thinkers and collaborators, and preparing them to be leaders in the world.”

More about the U.S. News & World Report 2016 Best High Schools rankings, including details about the methodology behind the rankings, is available at

Superintendent search continues, 49 applications received

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SCS News


There were 49 qualified applicants by the Aug. 12, 2016 application deadline. 

Click here to see the list of all qualified applicants (in order of applications completed). 

Click here for supporting documents, including info about the community advisory committee, public input, timeline and more. 

SARASOTA COUNTY, Aug. 16, 2016 – The Education Foundation of Sarasota County and the Florida School Boards Association are collaborating with the Sarasota County School District to gather information from families, staff and community members about their hopes and expectations for the new superintendent of schools, who will succeed Lori White when she retires next February.

The school district has engaged the Florida School Boards Association to conduct a nationwide search for White’s successor. One of the key elements in the process was asking community members what they believe to be the strengths of the school district, what challenges it faces and what characteristics are the most important for a superintendent to exhibit.

That information was collected through a community survey that was conducted online and at four forums held in Sarasota, Venice and North Port in the spring of 2016. Participants were asked the following three questions:

  • What are the successes and strengths of the Sarasota County Schools?
  • What challenges will the new superintendent need to manage?
  • What characteristics should the new superintendent have?

Participants worked in small table groups to discuss their responses. The ideas they reported out were recorded and compiled in a report. Participants also had opportunities to speak individually at the forums and to submit ideas in writing that were not covered in the question-and-answer portion of the forums.

The information from the forums will be shared with the applicants for the position, with members of a community committee that will help screen applications, and with the School Board, which will appoint the new superintendent.

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County organized and facilitated the forums in collaboration with staff from the Florida School Boards Association. The Education Foundation also organized a community committee to help process applications.

Education Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Vigne said she is pleased and proud that her organization is engaged in the superintendent search. “Selecting a new superintendent is the most important decision most school boards ever make,” she said. “It will be particularly challenging for Sarasota to identify a successor to a superintendent who has been as successful, respected and loved as Lori White.

“I thank all community members who attended the forum in their area or completed the survey,” Vigne said. “The input from the community will provide invaluable guidance to those who will ultimately make this crucial appointment.”


Bay Haven, Lakeview headed to Odyssey of the Mind World Finals

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Bay Haven OM team at State Finals 2016Lakeview OM team State Finals 2016 CROPPED

BOUND FOR WORLD ODYSSEY: Top photo: Bay Haven School’s Odyssey of the Mind team members, pictured from left in front row, are Uli Saetre, Ben Vieira, Casey Scolardi, Imam Berche, Scarlett Urban, Nolan Welch and Brinlee Vandendooren. In back from left are assistant coach Anne Schultz, Odyssey of the Mind mascot OMER and coach Joyce Barnett. Bottom photo: Lakeview Elementary Odyssey team members, from left, are Ella Trandem, Brooke Olson, Alexis Chaulsett, Sam Elliott, Will Leffler, Olivia Seger and Alex Hume.

UPDATE-Special fundraising events as teams prepare to head to Iowa:

Thursday, May 19, during the school day at Lakeview Elementary, 7299 Proctor Road, Sarasota, it’s Hat Day. Any student can pay $1 to wear “their most creative thinking cap” and support the team.

SARASOTA, April 18, 2016 – Teams from Bay Haven School of Basics Plus and Lakeview Elementary School competed successfully with teams from throughout Florida in the Odyssey of the Mind State Finals in Orlando April 9, so both schools are headed to the World Finals, set for May 25-28 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. The schools are raising funds to send their teams.

Odyssey of the Mind has been in existence for over 25 years and is an intellectual and creative competition aimed at teaching students teamwork and creative problem solving. Parents act as coaches only; it is up to the children to come up with ideas, engineer technical features, make costumes and props, and present their interpretation of the answer to a highly complex problem.

Bay Haven’s team placed second in the elementary division of the Stack Attack challenge. The problem required teams to design, build and test a structure made only of balsa wood and glue that would balance and support as much weight as possible — twice! During weight placement, teams could “attack the stack” and remove all the weights except for the bottom one and the “crusher board.” Teams also received a score for removing weights. After attacking the stack, the weight-placement process could be repeated to add to the total weight held. Teams incorporated weight placement, repetition and “stack attacking” into the theme of the performance. The Bay Haven team held 705 pounds with their 15-gram balsawood structure.

The Lakeview team came in second in a problem called “Aesop Gone Viral.” Teams created and presented an original performance about a fable “gone viral.” The problem included a list of fables attributed to Aesop. Teams selected one of the fables and portrayed it and its moral as going viral (being shared throughout the community and beyond). The performance was set in a past era and included a narrator character, an artistic representation of the fable's moral, and a character that made a wrong conclusion about the moral and was corrected. The Lakeview team of students in grades 2-5 worked for months to prepare for the competition. They wrote an original script, designed and built a stage set, handmade all of their costumes and props, and even composed an original song.

More than 800 teams from around the world are scheduled to compete in the 37th Annual Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, which is billed as “the largest creative problem-solving competition in the world.” Schools raise funds to help cover the cost of travel, accommodations and the competition fee.

Bay Haven has a goal of $12,000; volunteers have set up a Go Fund Me page. Community members are invited to donate online at

Lakeview’s goal is $15,000. Anyone interested in donating may visit this page on the You Caring site:

Bay Haven School of Basics Plus is located at 2901 W. Tamiami Circle, Sarasota. Lakeview Elementary School is at 7299 Proctor Road, Sarasota.  

Donors sought to fund ACE basket-weaving class for blind adults

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Bona Lee-ACE basket weaver 2015-16Donna Peepl;es-ACE basket weaver 2015-16

WEAVERS AT WORK: In top photo, Bona Lee enjoys the Basket Weaving for the Visually Impaired class offered by Adult and Community Enrichment. Bottom photo: Donna Peeples weaves a basket in class.

SARASOTA COUNTY, April 15, 2016 — Blind and visually challenged adults may no longer be able to take a popular class, Basket Weaving for the Visually Impaired, which has been offered for over 35 years. The staff of the Sarasota County School District’s Adult and Community Enrichment (ACE) program is seeking funds from community members to help underwrite the program, following a large cut in state funding for programs designed for adults with disabilities.

The class costs $6,000 per year for the instructor’s salary and supplies. Classroom space is donated by the Sarasota County School District.

 “A number of the students who take this class depend on it as their primary social activity during the week,” said Galina Jordan, ACE volunteer coordinator. “It’s very popular and has become a cornerstone in their lives. Many of the students have been taking the class for years.”   

Jordan noted that students rely on this class as a way to be productive within their disability. She said most of the students are on fixed incomes, primarily Social Security, and will be unable to attend if they need to pay. In addition to the course fee, students have a $5 bus ride to come to the class, which is held in an ACE classroom at Suncoast Technical College, located at Beneva and Proctor Roads in Sarasota.

“For the adults who take this class, losing their sight has affected their confidence and self-esteem, but being able to make a basket gives them great joy,” said Jordan.

Student Bona Lee said, “In the past, I have enjoyed sewing, crocheting and knitting, but I find these are too difficult and certainly not enjoyable anymore. I wasn’t sure basket weaving would be something I could do, but with such great volunteers so willing to help it has been a beautiful experience.”

Meritt Weatherly, another student, said, “This class makes us feel like we are active and creative members of the community.”

Those who wish to donate or schedule a visit to the class may contact Galina Jordan at 941-361-6590, or via email at


District honor outstanding volunteers and business partners

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Outstanding Youth Vol 2015-16 Jamey Paul CROPOutstanding Adult Vol 2016 Laura PaolercioOutstanding Senior Volunteer 2015-16 Effa Beauette BRIGHT

STAND-OUT VOLUNTEERS: Top photo: Oak Park School student Savannah Jones, at left, enjoys a moment with Sarasota County Schools Outstanding Youth Volunteer Jamey Paul, who teaches cheerleading to Oak Park students. Middle photo: TeamUp Volunteer & Partnership Council member Tracy Bretoi (at left) shares the news with Tatum Ridge Elementary Principal Barry Dunn that Laura Paolercio (at center) is the school district’s Outstanding Adult Volunteer. Bottom photo: Outstanding Senior Volunteer Effa Beauette celebrates her award with Riverview High Principal Eric Jackson.

SARASOTA COUNTY, April 8, 2016 – Superintendent Lori White, School Board Chairwoman Shirley Brown, administrators, school-based staff and guests will celebrate the individuals and organizations that donate their time, talent and treasure to the Sarasota County School District and its students at the annual Volunteers and Business Partners Recognition Celebration. The annual invitation-only event will be held this year at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 12, at the Venice Community Center. ABC 7 News Anchor Scott Dennis will be master of ceremonies.

Last year more than 9,000 students, parents, community members and business leaders participated in the district’s Volunteer and Partnership program. Their work has been valued at more than $5 million annually, but Tanice Knopp, the district’s volunteer and partnership coordinator, calls it “priceless.”

The Gold Sponsor of the event is Achieva Credit Union. The Bronze Sponsor is the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. The awards for district volunteers and business partners were donated by Sarasota Trophy in honor of Ron Carr, past president of the TeamUP Volunteer & Partnership Council, an independent organization that supports the district’s Volunteer and Partnership program. Photography is provided by Prestige Portraits by Lifetouch. Cash awards to students for outstanding community volunteerism are courtesy of Freeman Orthodontics, Stage Door Studios and the TeamUP Volunteer & Partnership Council.  

This year’s district honorees include Outstanding Youth Volunteer Jamey Paul, who volunteers at Oak Park School, which serves students with special needs from pre-kindergarten to age 22. Paul is a senior at Riverview High School and a student in the school’s International Baccalaureate program. This is the second year she has volunteered at Oak Park to teach cheerleading and mentor the students.

Many of the students Paul interacts with are wheelchair-dependent. She always comes prepared and makes it interesting, making up a routine for a special Oak Park cheer and making games out of remembering motions. She is respectful, understanding and loving with the students. She builds a rapport, finding that certain something that makes each student special, commenting on his or her smile, effort and attitude.

With encouragement from Paul, a student with autism who is tactilely defensive actually let another person hold her hand. A student with cerebral palsy let others use her wheelchair tires to stand on during a pyramid. A high school student was able to do a solo routine in front of the group, remembering a complete cheer on her own. Paul makes them all feel involved, important and a part of the team.

Besides heading the Oak Park cheerleading program, Paul also started a Special Athlete Team Cheerleading Program, developing a squad of students with special needs that competes with other cheerleading teams throughout the state. Although it is a community-wide opportunity, five of the students of the team are from Oak Park School. This gives them an opportunity to be actively involved in their community and in sports, like their peers at other schools. They experience being on stage, winning and losing, wearing a uniform and taking part in all the other life experiences that come along with being on a team. By all accounts, Jamey Paul is a mature, intelligent, impressive young woman with a special fondness for the students at Oak Park School.

This year’s Outstanding Adult Volunteer is Laura Paolercio. A true asset to the Tatum Ridge Elementary School family, Paolercio’s contributions to the school have included improving the facility itself, assisting the staff and supporting the students. She runs the Mileage Club, which encourages physical fitness and has been instrumental in updating the school’s TV news network equipment and the sound system in the cafetorium. She also helped obtain the electronic sign for the school. Paolercio serves as the school’s Five Star School coordinator and as one of the school’s volunteer coordinators.

This year’s Outstanding Senior Volunteer is Effa Beauette. A former Riverview High teacher and now volunteer at the school, Beauette spearheaded and supports Riverview’s Eagle Native Plant Trail and Shoreline Restoration projects, which include five ecosystems incorporating 75 species with 2,500 plants. She wrote grants and garnered over $38,000 from more than 40 individuals and organizations to help fund these efforts. To ensure plant survival, she spent many hours maintaining the trail. Beauette’s giving nature inspires everyone who meets her.

The district’s Outstanding Local Business Partner of the Year is Church of Motion. The church is committed to serving the staff and students of Fruitville Elementary. Its members provided a breakfast at the beginning of the school year to honor the school’s staff and show them how appreciated they are. Members also volunteered to help teachers set up their classrooms, move furniture, or complete any task needed to be ready for the first day of school. The church also supported the school’s science fair when volunteers were greatly needed. Members also volunteer in classrooms, working directly with students and supporting teachers. Church of Motion also has supported school needs such as shoes for our students and items needed in the classroom for student reward systems. They also organized a large event for seven school families and many Fruitville staff, providing holiday support for families in need. Church of Motion is dedicated to continuing and increasing its support of Fruitville Elementary.

This year’s Outstanding Corporate Business Partner of the Year is Burlington Coat Factory. The store helps students with special needs at Oak Park School develop skills in social interactions, communication and independent functioning, among other strategies they need for daily living and working. The management and staff at Burlington have welcomed Oak Park students with open arms, and the arrangement has been a win-win for the store and the students.  The students fold towels, pair shoes together, straighten book shelves and apply size labels. Store management reports that, after Oak Park students have done their work, the store is neater and cleaner. The tasks provide vocational and life lessons the students need to develop in order to live a more independent lifestyle in the future. 

Other awards to be celebrated at the event include the Lilly Kaighin Service Award to Booker High student Raven Peters, the Bette Woodson Service Award to Venice High student Talia Ursel, the Teeja Service Through the Arts Award to Sydney Ring of Suncoast Polytechnical High School, and the Freeman Orthodontics Inspiration Awards to Makaela Frankford of Suncoast Polytechnical High and Patricia Maroszek of Venice High.

The Venice Community Center is located at 326 Nokomis Ave S. in Venice.

Barnes & Noble hosts 'My Favorite Teacher' awards UPDATED

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This news release is from Barnes & Noble Sarasota.

UPDATE: The overall winning teacher announced April 13 is Sarasota Middle School social studies teacher Jennifer Jaso. Dr. Jaso's name was submitted by SMS student Olivia Schmeits. Other schools with teachers who were honored include Booker Middle, North Port High, Sarasota High, Sarasota Military Academy, Student Leadership Academy and Incarnation Catholic School. 

SARASOTA, April 7, 2016Barnes & Noble, the leading retailer of content, digital media and educational products, will host a local ceremony honoring the teachers who were nominated in the Barnes & Noble “My Favorite Teacher” Contest. The event will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, at Barnes and Noble Sarasota, 4010 S. Tamiami Trail.

Students were invited to nominate their teacher by writing essays, poems or thank you letters that shared how their teacher has influenced their life and why they appreciate and admire him or her. Students enrolled in middle or high schools in the United States were eligible to participate, acknowledging educators employed by private or public elementary, middle or high schools. Some 200 entries were sent to the local store this year. Entries were judged on the compelling nature of the teacher’s qualities, the sincerity of the student’s appreciation and the quality of expression and writing.

Sixteen finalist teachers from various public and private schools will be recognized at the event at the Barnes & Noble Sarasota. They will receive special awards acknowledging their achievements and additional recognition and praise from the community. Students who wrote the winning essays or poems about their teachers will receive certificates of recognition, and the overall winning teacher and student from one Sarasota County school will be revealed. Last year’s local winner was Sarasota High School math teacher Kyle Mendenhall, who was nominated by student Cameron Insinga.

The local overall winning teacher will be entered into the regional competition, where five winners will be chosen. Each regional winner will receive a $500 Barnes & Noble gift card and a NOOK by Samsung. From the pool of regional winners, Barnes & Noble will name one teacher the Barnes & Noble National Teacher of the Year. The winning teacher will receive $5,000 and the title of “Barnes & Noble My Favorite Teacher of the Year.” The national winner will be recognized at a special community celebration at their local Barnes & Noble store, and the winning national teacher’s school will receive $5,000. The student who writes the national winning essay, poem or thank-you letter will win a $500 Barnes & Noble gift card and a NOOK by Samsung device.

More details on the contest rules can be found at General information on Barnes & Noble can be obtained via the Internet by visiting the company's corporate website:


Wilkinson Elementary students ‘Jump Rope for Heart’

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SARASOTA, April 5, 2016 –Wilkinson Elementary students are jumping at the chance to fight heart disease and stroke. On Friday, April 8, the school will host its 7th annual Jump Rope for Heart event to raise awareness and funds for the American Heart Association, which funds lifesaving heart and stroke research, and community and educational programs for our youth.

The festivities are scheduled for 8:45-10:15 a.m. for grades K-2 and 1:15-2:45 p.m. for grades 3-5. In addition to jumping rope, activities include the bean bag toss, hula hoops, sack race and long jump.

Jump Rope for Heart teaches students how physical fitness benefits the heart and shows them that volunteering can be a fun and positive experience for the whole community.

For over 35 years, millions of students have jumped rope and learned about heart health and how nutrition and physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke. Jump Rope for Heart is co-sponsored by the American Heart Association and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America).

Wilkinson Elementary is located at 3400 Wilkinson Road, Sarasota.

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