Sarasota County Schools News

Zucker takes office as president of FL School Boards Association

 Permanent link

Caroline Zucker Dec 2014

FSBA PRESIDENT: Sarasota County School Board member Caroline Zucker will become president of the Florida School Boards Associaton June 11.

SARASOTA, May 29, 2015 — Sarasota County School Board member Caroline Zucker will be sworn in as president of the Florida School Boards Association at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, June 11, at the FSBA Annual Summer Conference at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.

The FSBA is a nonprofit organization representing the members of the 67 countywide school boards in the state. Zucker’s one-year term as FSBA president follows her year of serving as president-elect in 2014-15 and as the organization’s vice president in 2013-14. She has been a member of FSBA since she was first elected to the Sarasota County School Board in 1992.

Zucker said she is pleased to serve as president of FSBA because it is an opportunity to continue to influence the direction of the organization and legislation related to public education.

“This is an exciting time for FSBA, as we move forward with our new strategic plan,” Zucker said. “We’re dedicated to helping school boards and districts serve the students of Florida.”

Zucker has served for 17 years as a Sarasota County School Board member (1992-2000 and 2006-2015). In 2012 she was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group. The group, which is mandated by federal law, advises the state about compliance, requirements and funding related to the federal Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act.

She was one of the founders of the Sarasota County Juvenile Justice Council in the early 1990s and served at various times as its chairwoman, vice chair, secretary and treasurer. The council was a forerunner of the Juvenile Justice Board. She also has served as chairwoman of the State Juvenile Justice Committee for the Florida School Boards Association. Beginning in 2009 sheserved a two-year term as chairwoman of the Juvenile Justice Board for the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida, which includes Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.

Zucker was appointed in 2012 by Speaker Dean Cannon of the Florida House of Representatives to serve on the K-12 Public School Facility Funding Task Force. The group explores issues related to the fairness of capital funding distribution for traditional public schools and charter schools in Florida’s school districts.

The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay is located at 2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa.

About FSBA

The Florida School Boards Association is a nonprofit corporation representing all school board members in Florida. It has been the collective voice for Florida school districts since 1930 and is closely allied with other educational and community agencies to work toward improvement of education in Florida. Its mission is to increase student achievement through the development of effective school board leadership and advocacy for public education.

School district administrators award college scholarships

 Permanent link

SDA-SBA Scholars May 2015

SDA/SBA SCHOLARS: Fifteen 2015 SDA/SBA Scholarship winners were honored at the Sarasota County School Board meeting May 19. In front row from left are Tatiana Jeune of Booker High, Marina Walter of Riverview High, Samantha Gogola of Pine View School, Nhi Nguyen of Booker High and Nicole Eddins of Suncoast Polytechnical High. In back row are Sydnie Battie of Sarasota High, Lauren Harrington of Riverview High, Brandon O’Malley of Venice High, Shelby Harding of Pine View, and Paul Adkins and David Klos of Booker High. Not pictured are Vivien Singh and Malek Barber of North Port High, Clarissa Choi of Suncoast Polytechnical High and Karin Prins of Venice High. Photo courtesy Robert Pope Photography.

SARASOTA, May 29, 2015 - Fifteen seniors from Sarasota County public high schools have been awarded $1,000 college scholarships by the School District Administrators and School-Based Administrators. The two independent organizations are made up of administrators who work for the Sarasota County School District (SDA) and as administrators based at local schools (SBA).

The scholarships are funded from the proceeds of the groups’ annual SDA/SBA Golf Tournament. Proceeds from the tournament also help fund the School-Related Employee of the Year program, which honors members of the school district’s support staff.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer scholarships to fifteen of the best and brightest high school students at each of our public high schools,” said Al Harayda, 2014-15 SDA president. “It’s one way we give back to the students, who are the reason we’re all here.”

The 2014-15 SDA/SBA Scholarship winners were recognized at the May 19 meeting of the School Board of Sarasota County. 





Fifteen high school seniors named 2015 Town Hall Scholars

 Permanent link

Town Hall Scholars May 2015

TOWN HALL SCHOLARS: Fifteen 2015 Town Hall Scholarship winners were honored at the Sarasota County School Board meeting May 19. In front row from left are Anna Higginbotham, Sarasota Military Academy; Marina Viloski, Lakewood Ranch High; Briana Merkher, Riverview High; Taylor Hoy, Lakewood Ranch High; and Pedro Rubiano, Pine View School. In back row are Sally Bright, Cardinal Mooney High; Alex Koutelias, Sarasota High; Vanessa deWit, Lakewood Ranch High; Connor Miller, Venice High; Tyler Kaiser, Pine View; and Griffin Donnelly, Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School. Not pictured are Benjamin Kalish and Kassandra Woodruff of Saint Stephen’s, and Mina Girgis and Nathan Schlesinger of Pine View. Photo courtesy Robert Pope Photography.

SARASOTA, May 29, 2015 - Fifteen high school seniors who attended the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series received $2,000 college scholarships. Ten scholarships were funded by the Lou and Rosemary Oberndorf Town Hall Scholarship Fund and five were funded by the Dorothy B. Templeton Scholarship Fund. Both funds are administered by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

The students wrote about their experiences attending the Town Hall lectures this year in essays submitted with their academic and extracurricular information. The winning essays were chosen from 80 received this year. More than 140 seniors from public and private schools in Sarasota and Manatee counties attended the lectures by columnist Charles Krauthammer, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, author Dan Buettner, activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali with journalist Katty Kay, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Student tickets were provided by the Community Foundation.

At the May 19 meeting of the School Board of Sarasota County, all 15 Town Hall Scholarship recipients were honored. Two of the winners, Alex Koutelias of Sarasota High School and Briana Merkher of Riverview High School, read their essays aloud. Koutelias will attend New College of Florida; Merkher will attend the University of South Florida.


Summer food programs offer free food for children and families

 Permanent link

SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 28, 2015 – The Sarasota County School District is joining forces with other local organizations to operate summer food programs at various schools and community sites. The district and All Faiths Food Bank are partnering again to feed children and teens age 18 and younger throughout Sarasota and DeSoto counties, the Food Bank is making food available for families at several sites and the Sarasota County Library System is joining the partnership this year. There are three components of the program: 

1.      Free breakfasts and lunches for youth 18 and younger will be served at Summer Break Spots in Sarasota and DeSoto counties. Locations and schedules are available at; by downloading a free mobile app, School Lunch by Nutrislice; or by calling 211. Times and dates vary by location. Click here for a list of Summer Break Spots with times and dates (see below for informaiton about Open, Open-Restricted and Closed-Enrolled sites; each site on the list falls into one of these categories)..        

2.      Food for the whole family will be available for pick-up at several sites. For details and locations call 941-379-6333 or visit

3.      Backpacks with food for children and teens will be available at public libraries throughout Sarasota County. For details and locations call 941-379-6333 or visit or

Summer Break Spots provide nutritionally balanced meals to children, regardless of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin. Any child 18 or younger who meets the criteria at a particular site is eligible to receive meals at no cost. Each site falls into one of three categories: open, open-restricted and closed-enrolled.

At open sites, meals are available to all children, whether or not they are enrolled in a summer program, such as a summer school session, at that site. Children are served on a first-come, first-served basis.

Open-restricted sites are restricted to the space available at the site for security, safety and control reasons. These sites are designed to serve the children in the local community, who will be served on a first-come, first-served basis.

Closed-enrolled sites operate to serve only the children enrolled in the program(s) offered at the site.

Non-discrimination statement:

In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, the Sarasota County School District is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA; Director, Office of Adjudication; 1400 Independence Ave. S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, or call toll free 866-632-9992. Individuals who are hearing-impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339; or 800-845-6136 (Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Fourteen Sarasota County students earn National Merit Scholarships

 Permanent link

SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 27, 2015 – Ten students from Sarasota County public high schools will receive National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges and universities, according to information released May 27 by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Four district students won other types of National Merit Scholarships; those winners were announced previously.

Officials from each sponsor college selected their scholarship winners from finalists in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution. These awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

More than 1.4 million juniors from about 22,000 high schools entered the 2015 National Merit Scholarship competition when they took the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Qualifying Test. Last fall, some 16,000 semifinalists were named and more than 15,000 semifinalists met requirements to become finalists.

The winners announced today are among approximately 7,600 high school seniors who will receive National Merit Scholarships worth approximately $34 million for college undergraduate study. Many of those scholarships will be sponsored by institutions of higher learning, including 107 private and 77 public institutions in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

The Sarasota County public high school students who will receive college-sponsored National Merit Scholarships are the following:

Student/high school/university/probable career field
  • Zelan Chambers, Pine View School, University of Florida, forestry
  • Andrew Fetigan, Pine View School, Northeastern University, chemistry
  • David Fong, Pine View School, Northwestern University, biomedical engineering
  • Sara Hanewinckel, Pine View School, University of Florida, undecided
  • Jacquelyn Tao Law, Pine View School, University of Central Florida, computer science
  • Benjamin Mann, Pine View School, Northeastern University, biochemistry
  • Kaylee McCutcheon, Pine View School, Auburn University, medicine
  • Manish Narasimman, Pine View School, Northwestern University, medicine
  • Eduard Rainer, Venice High School, University of Florida, medicine
  • Alex Woelffer, Pine View School, University of Florida, law
Recipients of National Merit $2,500 Scholarships, sponsored directly by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation rather than by colleges and universities, were named earlier this month. The students from Sarasota County public schools who will receive those scholarships are Zixuan Huang and Chloe Thacker of Pine View School and Patrizio Murdocca of Venice High School. In April, Christopher Blake of Pine View School was named a National Achievement $2,500 Scholarship winner. The final group of 2015 National Merit Scholars will be announced in July.

Suncoast Technical College gets precision-machining scholarship

 Permanent link

Keegan McDuffie-STC Precision Machining May 2015

TO BE PRECISE: Suncoast Technical College student Keegan McDuffie works on a Haas VF-2 Vertical Machining Center in the Precision Machining and CNC Automation program.

SARASOTA, May 27, 2015 — Students in the Precision Machining and CNC Automation program at Suncoast Technical College will be able to earn certificates that are prized in the precision machining and metalworking industry at no cost, thanks to a scholarship from the Gene Haas Foundation. The certificates are administered by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills.

Students in the program, which was launched in August 2013 in response to demand from local manufacturers, can earn certificates in such areas as safety, layout, milling, lathe work and CNC operation, setup and programming. CNC, which stands for computer numerical control, is a process in manufacturing that uses computers to control machine tools such as lathes, mills, routers and grinders. It is the current standard and equipment used in today’s modern machine shops. Manufacturers such as Sun Hydraulics and mold-making machine shops such as Atlantic Mold & Machining Corporation need tradesmen skilled in operating this equipment.

The Precision Machining and CNC Automation program at Suncoast is equipped with all new machinery, including Haas CNC equipment, and is an authorized Haas Technical Education Center. Thanks to the scholarship, students in the program can earn certificates in up to seven credential areas at no cost; earning all seven certificates normally would cost about $300 per student. Currently, 24 students in the STC Precision Machining program are working toward earning these certificates.

 “These are very valuable credentials to have in the metalworking industry,” said Precision Machining Instructor Ed Doherty. “This is yet another reason why students come here to pursue what we like to call ‘A Career in a Year,’ with 100-percent job placement. With the CNC credential, for example, a student is certified to plan, program, set up, run and inspect an entire metalworking project from beginning to end.

“Many companies are looking to hire graduates with credentials like this, so receiving the scholarship is a big win for our program. We’re grateful to the Gene Haas Foundation for their generous support of the program and our students.”

The next class in the 1,200-hour program starts in August at the main campus of Suncoast Technical College (formerly SCTI), at 4748 Beneva Road (corner of Beneva and Proctor roads).

New high school grads urged to get free vaccines for college

 Permanent link

SCS News

This news release is from the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County:

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 26, 2015 - Local public health and school officials urge new high school graduates to get their immunizations updated before they turn 19. 

The vaccines are available at no cost at the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County’s (DOH-Sarasota) clinics in Sarasota and North Port.  

Many colleges and universities, including Florida public universities and colleges, require proof of updated vaccinations for enrollment and/or dormitory-living. Vaccines are only available at no charge through the federally-funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program while the student is enrolled in high school or younger than age 19. The cost of vaccines for those who are no longer eligible for the VFC program can exceed $300. By acting now, families can save money, meet college requirements, and avoid the last minute rush in the summer. 

The recommended vaccines offer safe and effective protection against the most common and serious forms of bacterial meningitis, Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (whooping cough) and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Health officials also encourage college-bound students get the Hepatitis A vaccine, and the second dose of the Varicella  vaccine which protects against chickenpox. The protection offered through some vaccines wanes over time, so certain vaccines need to be repeated to maintain an adequate level of immunity.

“When young people are current on their vaccines, it reduces the likelihood that they will acquire vaccine-preventable diseases throughout their lifetime. From a public health standpoint, the entire community benefits when there is greater vaccine coverage,” says DOH-Sarasota School Health Supervisor Linda Glover. “In addition, you’ll save hundreds of dollars by getting vaccines now instead of waiting.” 

Vaccines can be obtained at your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider or at the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County’s (DOH-Sarasota) locations in Sarasota or North Port.

Health officials say that early morning hours are usually best for walk-in immunizations at DOH-Sarasota and appointments are also available. Parents must accompany those under age 18. Please bring previous shot record if available.
Immunizations are available at these locations (Monday-Friday):

William L. Little Health & Human Services Center
2200 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota

Walk-in services begin at 7:30 a.m.
Call for hours or to request an appointment

North Port Health Center
6950 Outreach Way, North Port

Walk-in services begin at 7 a.m.
Call for hours or to request an appointment

For additional details, please call the School Health Office at 941-927-9000, ext. 32101

NOTICE: Algebra, geometry final grade calculation update

 Permanent link

SCS News

NOTICE TO PARENTS AND STUDENTS (UPDATED May 21, 2015, with new information in bold paragraph):

Florida law requires that the grades for several middle school and high school courses be calculated with an End-of-Course (EOC) exam score counting as 30 percent of the final grade. The courses include Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, civics, U.S. History and biology.

This year the EOCs for Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry were included in the Florida Standards Assessment testing that is under review by a special state commission to determine if the tests are valid. The results of that study will not be available until Sept. 1.

Because it is not feasible for students to wait until Sept. 1 to receive a final grade in those courses, the state Commissioner of Education has authorized school districts to calculate final grades based on the average of the two semester grades and not to include the EOC score in the calculation.

If the tests are determined to be valid and the scores are released to the district, the grades students received in Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry will be reviewed. In cases where including the EOC score in the calculation would improve the student’s grade, the score will be included and the grade will be raised. 

The End-of-Course exams for civics, U.S. History and biology were not part of the FSA testing cycle. The EOC scores for those courses will be available in mid-June and will count as 30 percent of the final grade.

Superintendent names three new elementary school principals

 Permanent link

French-Wheatley-Dunn new principals May 2015

TRIO OF LEADERS: Pictured from left, Stephen French, Lisa Wheatley and Barry Dunn have been named the next principals of Fruitville, Lakeview and Tatum Ridge elementary schools, respectively.

SARASOTA, May 18, 2015 – Superintendent Lori White has announced the appointment of new principals for Fruitville, Lakeview and Tatum Ridge elementary schools, pending approval by the School Board of Sarasota County.

Steven French, 44, who has served as an assistant principal at Fruitville Elementary since 2011 and was named acting principal in February when longtime principal Laura Kingsley was appointed the school district’s executive director of elementary schools, will become principal of that school.

Lisa Wheatley, 43, an assistant principal at Pine View School since 2012, has been named the next principal of Lakeview Elementary. She will succeed Joan Bower, who is retiring from the district after serving as Lakeview’s principal since 2005.

Barry Dunn, 45, who has been principal of Jessie P. Miller Elementary in Manatee County since 2009, will be the next leader of Tatum Ridge Elementary. Principal Eric Jackson, who has been Tatum Ridge principal since 2012, has been named the next principal of Riverview High School. 

All new appointments will be effective July 1.

“All three of these administrators are highly regarded by their colleagues, and each of them perfectly fits the description of what parents and staff members said they wanted in their next principal,” said Kingsley. “They will be excellent leaders of their schools.”     

Before becoming assistant principal at Fruitville, French served as an assistant principal intern at Atwater Elementary in North Port from 2009 to 2011. He taught at Taylor Ranch Elementary from 2003 to 2009. He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in educational leadership from NOVA Southeastern University. He attended Alta Vista and Phillippi Shores elementary schools, Brookside Middle and Riverview High.

“I’m excited to remain at Fruitville after being an administrator here for four years,” said French. “The school is special to me; my son Jaxson is in fifth grade this year; my daughter Taytum is in second grade and my wife Elizabeth is an active volunteer here.”  

Wheatley was an assistant principal at Glenallen Elementary in North Port in 2011-12 and an assistant principal intern at Gulf Gate Elementary in Sarasota from 2008 to 2011. She has also been a literacy coach, data coach and testing coordinator at Venice Elementary, a literacy coach and science teacher at Heron Creek Middle, and a teacher at Taylor Ranch Elementary in Venice and Samoset Elementary in Bradenton. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Auburn University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from NOVA Southeastern University.

Wheatley grew up in Atmore, Ala. Her husband Brian teaches physical education and coaches volleyball at Venice High. Their daughter Brooke is in eighth grade and their son Luke is a sixth-grader; both attend Laurel Nokomis School in Nokomis.

“I’m very thankful for this opportunity,” said Wheatley. “I’m thrilled to join the Lakeview family and look forward to continuing their tradition of excellence. I can’t wait to partner with the talented teachers, amazing staff and supportive families to help every child excel in the classroom and in life.”  

Before becoming principal of Jessie P. Miller Elementary, Dunn served as an assistant principal at three Manatee County schools from 2005 to 2009: Moody, Williams and Oneco elementary schools. Before that he was a data coach and classroom teacher at Bay Haven and Gocio elementary schools in Sarasota and served for two years as a Florida sales representative for Compass Learning.

He has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Florida State University and a master’s in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.

Dunn has roots and strong connections in Sarasota. He went to Fruitville Elementary, McIntosh Middle and Sarasota High. “I’m excited to be coming back to this community and joining the Tatum Ridge family of students, parents and staff,” he said. 

Dunn’s wife Heather teaches at Tuttle Elementary, his sister Wendy teaches at Venice High and his mother Kay was a media specialist at Gulf Gate Elementary before she retired.

He’s proud of his history at local schools. Talking to Steven French about his time at Fruitville Elementary, Dunn said, “I won a sixth-grade spelling bee there. I think the award is still at the school."

Bus driver named 2015 School-Related Employee of the Year

 Permanent link

Charlie Brown 2015 SREOY with Prius

NEW WHEELS: School bus driver Charlie Brown was named the Sarasota County School District’s School-Related Employee of the Year May 13. He will have the use of a 2015 Prius for a year, provided by Germain Toyota of Sarasota.

SARASOTA, May 13, 2015 — Charles Brown, a bus driver and active volunteer with the school district and community organizations, was named the Sarasota County School District’s 2015 School-Related Employee of the Year at a luncheon May 13 at Michael’s on East in Sarasota. As the winner he will enjoy the personal use of a slightly smaller vehicle than a school bus for the next year, but with better gas mileage: a 2015 Prius provided by the event’s lead sponsor, Germain Toyota of Sarasota.   

Brown, known by his friends and colleagues as Charlie, was named from among 48 nominees selected from the approximately 2,100 support staff members who work throughout the district’s schools and departments. All nominees were honored at the luncheon.

After his retirement from Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, Brown began a new career as a school bus driver in 2012. Three years later, he is being honored by his colleagues as the top non-instructional employee in the school district. In his acceptance speech, Brown said, “This is such an honor. I’m overwhelmed. All of us who work with the schools have a passion for what we do. I love the job; I get to go to different schools and see lots of students. Thank you so much!”

As a utility driver, Brown is responsible for driving the route of any absent school bus driver or attendant, sometimes with only a moment’s notice. In his letter nominating Brown as the district’s School-Related Employee of the Year, Transportation Director of Transportation Ellery Girard wrote, “Charlie never complains about the routes he is assigned. He can work in any part of the county with any kind of students of any age. When we hire new drivers, we often have Charlie mentor them. He helps them with directions, student-management skills and many other things.”

Brown mentored a student from elementary school to his 2012 graduation from Riverview High and currently mentors a student at Tuttle Elementary. He served as chairman of the School Advisory Council at Sarasota Middle School and was named that school’s Senior Volunteer of the Year in 2013. He serves on the Sarasota Community Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast and was on the board of the Sarasota Coalition of Substance Abuse from 2008-12.

In April 2009 Brown married Jan Ehart at a unique ceremony at Sarasota Middle, where Ehart was then a teacher. The wedding took place during the school’s annual Civil War encampment, a project Brown and Ehart initiated to help students learn more about American history. About 100 friends, colleagues, students and other well-wishers witnessed the couple exchange vows and emerge from the ceremony under an arch of crossed bayonets and swords.

In 2013 when he was driving a bus for Phillipp Shores Elementary School, Brown and Ehart began collecting Box Tops for Education to help a classroom of children with special needs get additional resources. Although he no longer drives regularly for Phillippi Shores, Brown and Ehart still collect box tops for the school and ask their friends and relatives to collect them, too.

Shannon Haddad, a speech pathologist at Phillippi Shores, said “As a bus driver parents always commented on how kind, respectful and genuinely wonderful he was to their children. Safety was always his number-one priority and he was an advocate for all his students. When he came back to our school on assignments as a utility driver, students would see him, hug him and yell out cheers for Mr. Brown.” 

About the School-Related Employee of the Year Program

As with the district’s Teacher of the Year designation, many worthy support staff members vie for the title of School-Related Employee of the Year. All employees who are not teachers or administrators are eligible to be nominated, including teacher’s aides, clerical workers, bus drivers, food service workers, custodians and groundskeepers, to name a few.     

After the School-Related Employee of the Year is announced at the luncheon, he or she becomes a goodwill ambassador for the district and represents the school district as a candidate for the statewide title.

Debra Alvis-Greenwald, the district’s 2014 School-Related Employee of the Year and a finalist for the state-level award, was on hand at the luncheon to pass the torch to the 2015 honoree. Alvis-Greenwald is the administrative assistant to the principal of Booker Middle School.

For the ninth consecutive year, the Lead Sponsor of the School-Related Employee of the Year program is Germain Toyota of Sarasota. The dealership honors all district employees through its sponsorship of the program and by providing the use of a 2015 Prius for a year for the district’s School-Related Employee of the Year.

The event’s Platinum Sponsors are the School District Administrators organization, the School Based Administrators organization, Florida Blue, Harvard Jolly Architects, ProFloors and Tandem Construction.

Gold Sponsors are the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Jon F. Swift, Inc., McIntyre Elwell & Strammer General Contractors, Inc., Neal Communities, PDQ Sarasota, Tampa Bay Trane and Tandus Centiva.

Silver Sponsors are Humana, Magnum Builders, Marker 4 Restaurant, Pennsylvania Steel Company, Publix Supermarkets, Re-Ex Insurance Brokers and Springer-Peterson Roofing.

Friends of the event are Sights and Sounds A.V. Inc., the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association and the Sarasota County Association of Educational Office Professionals.

Booker High School music students will provide entertainment at the luncheon; additional BHS students will photograph the event. Venice Middle School Young Marines will present the colors and assist with seating the honorees and guests. The Education Channel (Comcast 20, Verizon FiOS 33) will record the event for a future broadcast.  

School District support staff snapshot

Each employee of Sarasota County School District makes a difference in the lives of children. Here are a few examples of the many jobs performed by district support staff:

  • Of the school district’s 4,925 employees, 2,656 are teachers, 192 are administrators and 2,077 are support staff.


  • Teachers’ aides help instructors implement classroom activities and assist more than 41,200 students accomplish their assigned tasks.


  • Bus drivers transport 18,000 students daily and drive 5.5 million miles each year to get students to and from school and home.


  • Food service workers serve 6 million meals annually — more than any restaurant in Sarasota County.


  • Custodians clean about 8.5 million square feet of space.


  • Clerical staff members perform a variety of duties including answering phone calls from parents, applicants, volunteers and other citizens.


  • Groundskeepers maintain more than 1,500 acres at schools and district facilities. 

Phillippi Shores Elementary raises funds to ‘adopt’ polar bears

 Permanent link

Phillippi Shores Polar Bears girls spring 2015Phillippi Shores Polar Bears class spring 2015

POLAR BEAR CLUB: In top photo, second-grade students Juliana Boatwright, at left, and Olivia Garber were dubbed the Polar Bear Girls for spearheading the Pennies for Polar Bears project at Phillippi Shores Elementary School. Lower photo shows students in Lisa Stephen’s second-grade class at Phillippi Shores Elementary joined in the school’s project to “adopt” bears through Polar Bears International. In the front row from left are Juliana Boatwright and Olivia Garber. In the middle row are Bridget Gallagher, Jayden Acevedo, Riley Battista, Jason Bradford, Zachary Helms and Makayla Garza. In back are Jake Lee, Lily Rubin, Zekiah Slaughter, Briarlyn James, Mishyah Rumph, Landon Sims and teacher Lisa Stephen.

SARASOTA, May 8, 2015 — Despite the fact that they live in sunny Florida, students in Lisa Stephen’s second-grade class at Phillippi Shores Elementary School recently “adopted” polar bears. They did it by collecting over $400 in pennies for an organization called Polar Bears International, a conservation organization dedicated to the long-term survival of the animals. Donating funds to “adopt” polar bears helps support the group’s research, education and action efforts. 

Earlier this school year, as part of a homework assignment, student Olivia Garber read an article about how polar bears’ homes are disappearing and that animals are in danger.

“Olivia came to school with a plan, and from there our Pennies for Polar Bears campaign started and became a school-wide effort,” said Stephen. “Being an International Baccalaureate World School, we encourage students to take action to help others around the world.”

The campaign to raise pennies began on International Polar Bear Day (Feb. 27) and ran through Earth Day (April 22). Garber and a friend, Juliana Boatwright, appeared regularly on the school’s closed-circuit television program to update students on their fundraising efforts.

“Olivia and Juliana lovingly became known as the Polar Bear Girlsacross campus,” said Stephen. “They also informed students about ways they could help at home by powering down, conserving water, and turning down the thermostat. The girls researched all about polar bears and checked out books from our media center. They created posters to display around our campus to encourage others to conserve energy whenever possible.”

Stephen said her class became known as Polar Bear Central as students dropped off donations and asked questions about how they could help. She submitted a first-person account of the project to the Polar Bears International website that included this paragraph:

“Thanks to your wonderful organization we were able to bring awareness (of the plight of polar bears) to over 740 students! The students in my class decided to raise $400 so they could “adopt” a polar bear in each category. We decided to adopt "Twin Cubs," "Mother and Cub" and "Cub of the Year."

“The students in my class decided that we would display our certificates in the front office. They also made cards to thank all our sponsors (which were many) and I was even able to find stuffed polar bears for each student in my class so that they would remember this wonderful project. Thank you for all that you do to educate children on how to help polar bears.” 

Phillippi Shores Elementary School is located at 4747 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.  

High school students head to national speech and debate contests

 Permanent link

SHS senior Esther Jaffee-debate champ Feb 2015

SPEECH AND DEBATE STANDOUT: Sarasota High School senior Esther Jaffee displays her trophy as Florida Forensic League State Champion in Varsity Congressional Debate. Jaffee and other Sarasota County high school students will compete in national speech and debate events this summer.

SARASOTA, May 7, 2015 – Students from Sarasota High, Pine View School, Venice High and North Port High are advancing to national speech and debate tournaments in May and June, based on results of previous matches. Among those students is SHS graduating senior Esther Jaffee, who was named the Florida Forensic League State Champion in Varsity Congressional Debate at the state competition, held in Orlando in late February.

The Congressional Debate category follows parliamentary procedures. Students write bills and resolutions similar to those proposed in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures, then debate the bills in legislative chambers. Students had to qualify at the regional level to compete at the state level. Jaffee’s resolution proposed the elimination of the Selective Service System, an agency of the U.S. government which maintains records on Americans who are eligible for military service.

“It was completely amazing and intensely validating to compete in the tournament alongside my teammates and friends,” said Jaffe. “I am grateful to my coach, Dr. Terri St. John, and the Florida Forensic League.”

This is Jaffee’s second year on the team. She won Congressional Debate on the varsity state level last year as a novice. In her two years on the team she has placed at every tournament she has entered in Congressional Debate, including the National Catholic Forensics League (NCFL) Grand National Championship last year and the Florida Blue Key, University School and Harvard Invitational tournaments this year. She was named the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) District Student of the Year based on her commitment to the forensic community and her community service.

In October 2014 Jaffee also served as a commentator on the SNN TV/Sarasota Herald-Tribune team coverage of a debate between Florida governor Rick Scott and challenger Charlie Crist. Her plans include earning a doctorate in the health field, focusing on global health issues and policies.

St. John, who teaches speech and debate at SHS and coaches the team, said Jaffee is a good example of a student who has developed skills through the disciplines learned through speech and debate.

“Fostering these talents helps students develop research, writing, critical thinking and communication skills,” said St. John. “I strongly recommend that all high school students take Debate as an elective. This course helps students learn how to research properly and write discursively, teaches all the reading and writing requirements for the new Florida State Assessments and helps students with essay writing for other tests and assignments, including the Advanced International Certificate of Education exams for the Cambridge AICE program.”

The Sarasota High Debate Team also competed at the Florida Gulf Coast Catholic Forensics League Grand Finals Tournament, held in Tampa in March. As a result, five SHS students qualified to compete in the NCFL Grand National Tournament, set for May 23-24 in Ft. Lauderdale. In addition to Jaffee, who will compete in Congressional Debate, junior Ashley Nguyen and senior Bailey Yelding will compete in Public Forum Debate, freshman Katelin Nguyen will compete in Extemporaneous Speaking and freshman Rachel Mallett will compete in Original Oratory.

Pine View School students competing in the NCFL Grand National Tournament include freshman Thomas Allen in Lincoln Douglas Debate; juniors Aravind Byju and Sho Szczepaniuk in Public Forum Debate; senior Bailey Macejak in Congressional Debate, senior Naba Rahman, sophomores William Wang and Ben Carry, and freshman Sana Rahman in Extemporaneous Speaking; senior Marigo Rometo in Dramatic Performance; sophomore Jack Fitzgerald in Declamation; and, in Duo Interpretation, seniors Sydney Straschnov and Sammy Gogola, and seniors Sam Schimek and Chris Winton-Burnette.

Traveling to the tournament with the Pine View team is senior Lily Desenberg of Venice High School, who will compete in the Dramatic Performance category.

North Port High School sophomore Kaitlyn Gardner also will compete in the tournament in the Original Oratory category.

At the National Speech & Debate Association National Championship, scheduled for June 15-19 in Dallas, SHS students scheduled to compete are Jaffee in Congressional Debate/Senate, Yelding in Congressional Debate/House, Ashley Nguyen and freshman Charles Karcher in Public Forum Debate, and Mallett in Original Oratory.

Pine View students set to compete in Public Forum Debate at the NSDA event include seniors Carlos Sanchez and Kaleta Arase. Naba Rahman and Carry will compete in Extemporaneous Speaking; Macejak will compete in Humorous Interpretation; juniors Max Chern and Jonathan Charles will compete in Duo Interpretation, as will Schimek and Winton-Burnette. Also attending from Pine View as part of a five-person regional team in a new event called “World Debate” are sophomores Jack Fitzgerald and Grace Wickerson, along with three members of the team from Tampa Jesuit School. Venice High student Lily Desenberg will travel with the Pine View team to compete in Dramatic Interpretation.

North Port High junior Serena Hitt will compete at the tournament in Dramatic Interpretation.

Gocio students to present ‘Disney’s Aladdin KIDS’ May 20-21

 Permanent link

Gocio-Alladin actors May 2015 SMALL

ALADDIN ACTORS: Gocio Elementary students Marisa Cruz-Solis, at left, and Sara Vitale prepare for their respective roles as Jasmin and Jafar in the school’s production of “Disney’s Aladdin KIDS,” set for May 20-21.

SARASOTA, May 6, 2015 – The Gocio Elementary School Performing Arts Company will perform the musical “Disney’s Aladdin KIDS” for fellow students, parents and school staff at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., Wednesday and Thursday, May 20-21, in the school cafeteria. Students will welcome the public to a performance at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 21. The company consists of young actors in grades two through five.

“The Aladdin Production will take the audience on a mystical and magical trip to an exotic, faraway land,” said drama teacher Dawn Burns.

Popcorn and special “genie treats” will be available during the performance. T-shirts also will be sold. A donation of $5 per family is suggested to see the show.

Gocio Elementary offers students music, visual arts, dance and drama, and integrates the arts into the curriculum. The school has received the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network's Creative Ticket National Schools of Distinction Award and was one of only a dozen schools in Florida to earn the Arts Achieve! Model School designation in 2014. 

The school is located at 3450 Gocio Road in Sarasota. 




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