Sarasota County Schools News

Pine View fourth-graders donate veggie plants to fire station

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Pine View garden 5-25-17Firefighters at Station 14 CROP 5-25-17

HOT DONATION: TOP PHOTO-Pictured from left in the Pine View school garden are fourth-grade students Mikey Cochran, Gigi Mattison, Caroline Steinwachs, Gryffin Tizes and Wesley Wehlage. They will donate veggie plants to Fire Station 14. BOTTOM PHOTO-Firefighters Aaron Obluck, at left, and Sidney Evans are ready to roll at a moment’s notice at Fire Station 14 of the Sarasota County Fire Department.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 25, 2017 – Seven fourth-grade students from Pine View School will donate plants for a vegetable garden at Sarasota County Fire Station 14, 8825 S. Tamiami Trail. Students will present the plants to firefighters at 4:30 p.m., Friday, May 26. The gift will include red robin and red round tomatoes, red okra, green bell peppers, hot sunset peppers, eggplant, parsley, basil and tomatillo — some of which may make its way into firehouse chili or other firefighter specialties.

At Pine View, volunteers like Valerie Rupp and local chef/restaurateur Paul Mattison of the Pine View Garden Committee help students plant, cultivate and harvest vegetables in the school garden and cook creative dishes with the fruits of their labor. Rupp said students are thrilled to contribute plants for a garden at the fire station. She has met some of Station 14’s firefighters and told them about the donation; she said they are also excited about the students bringing plants to the station.

Rupp said teachers use the garden as an outdoor classroom at Pine View, which serves intellectually gifted students in grades two through 12. Students, staff and parent volunteers enjoy the garden, a relaxing place that connects the campus with the natural world. Classes have salad parties and many harvests are donated to All Faiths Food Bank.

“At Pine View we learn together,” Rupp said, “sometimes by putting our hands in the dirt.”

The school uses locally produced Florikan fertilizer in its garden. The Sarasota company is one of the garden’s many supporters. Florikan is a controlled release fertilizer that helps optimize plant nutrition while reducing environmental impact. It is used on the International Space Station to grow “space veggies” and was inducted into NASA’s Space Technology Hall of Fame in April. 

Other supporters of Pine View’s school garden include the Pine View Association (funding), Sweetgrass Farms (hydroponic towers and plants), Your Farm and Garden (seeds), Fivestarr (picnic tables), Venice Lawn Care (soil and mulch) and Lowe’s (garden supplies).

“This year we grew many different vegetables in the garden,” said Rupp, “including many of the same ones grown on the space station.”

Rupp says they are seeking a business partner to help expand the garden by moving the existing chain-link fence out several feet to expand the garden.

“Expanding the garden footprint is an important step in advancing our Garden to Cafeteria program,” said Rupp. “In addition to allowing for more abundant harvests, it will lead to more student learning and involvement and let us grow additional healthy produce. Please help us!” 

Among other upcoming activities, Rupp said the Pine View Garden Committee and Mattison will host the school’s annual Stone Soup event. Mattison will cook onsite using fresh vegetables grown from the garden: carrots, onions, okra, bell peppers, sunset peppers, plum tomatoes and zucchini. That event is set for 2:30 p.m., Thursday, June 1, on the Pine View campus.


Sarasota County School District celebrates 20 years of summer meals

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 25, 2017 – For the 20th consecutive summer, the Sarasota County School District will operate summer food programs at various schools and community sites. Starting Monday, June 12, the district’s Food and Nutrition Services Department will provide free breakfasts and lunches to children and teens throughout Sarasota and DeSoto counties. Click here for a list of locations, dates and times

Locations and schedules are available by downloading a free mobile app, School Lunch by Nutrislice; or at Times and dates vary by location; meals are served at some locations through Friday, Aug. 4. The 2017-18 school year starts Monday, Aug. 14 in Sarasota County.      

The program provides nutritionally balanced meals to children, regardless of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin. Any child 18 or younger 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 serve only the children enrolled in the program(s) offered at these sites.

All Faiths Food Bank is also making food available for families at several sites and the Sarasota County Library System is joining the partnership again this year.

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

Click here to read the Sarasota County Schools Food and Nutrition Services non-discrimination statement. 

Scholarship recipients honored at School Board meeting

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Town Hall Scholars 5-16-17SDS-SBA Scholarship winners 5-16-17

SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS: TOP PHOTO-Town Hall winners: Front row, from left: Kim Nguyen, Pine View School; Angela Potier, Venice High; Bailey Jordan, Venice High; Aubrey Kilduff, Sarasota High; Joshua Mendieta, Suncoast Polytechnical High; Grace Gerdes, Booker High; Jessica O’Dell, Booker High; Eryn Lin, Pine View. Back row: Matthew Twargoski, Cardinal Mooney High; Timothy Mirnyi, Pine View; Brady Schwabach, Booker High. Not pictured: Bernard Chajkowski, St. Stephens Episcopal; Abigail Hostetler, Pine View; Nicholas Murphy, Out of Door Academy; Ian Sharff, St. Stephen’s; Livia Qoshe, Pine View. BOTTOM PHOTO-School District Administrators/School-Based Administrators scholarship winners: Alesandro Giannni, Riverview High; Randell Penaso, Suncoast Polytechnical High; Brandon Muniz and Brooke Fisher, North Port High; Patch Chen, Venice High; Sierra Pittman, Sarasota High. Not pictured: Odane Lennox and Melissa Roberts, Booker High; Jessica Koerner, North Port High; Jade Fischer and Neysa Rogers, Pine View School; Charles Arnold, Sarasota High; and Emma Gallagher, Bryana Mammana and Caroline Jones of Venice High.

SARASOTA, May 24, 2017 – Sixteen high school seniors were honored at the May 16 Sarasota County School Board meeting for receiving Town Hall Scholarships. Fifteen seniors were recognized for winning scholarships sponsored by the School District Administrators and School-Based Administrators organizations.

The Town Hall Scholars are high school seniors who attend the 2017 Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series, held January 23 through March 22. More than 140 seniors from public and private schools in Sarasota and Manatee counties attended the lectures by former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, actress and activist Geena Davis, photographer and climate-change chronicler James Balog and technology innovator Jared Cohen. Student tickets were provided by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Students wrote about their experiences attending the Town Hall lectures this year in essays submitted with their academic and extracurricular information. The 16 winning essays were chosen from 101 received this year. The winning seniors each received a $2,000 college scholarship. Ten scholarships were funded by the Lou and Rosemary Oberndorf Town Hall Scholarship Fund and six were funded by the Dorothy B. Templeton Scholarship Fund. Both funds are administered by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

This year’s Town Hall Scholarship winners are Grace Gerdes, Jessica O’Dell and Brady Schwabach of Booker High; Matthew Twargoski of Cardinal Mooney High; Nicholas Murphy of Out of Door Academy; Abigail Hostelter, Eryn Lin, Timothy Mirnyi, Kim Nguyen and Livia Qoshe of Pine View School; Aubrey Kilduff of Sarasota High; Bernard Chajkowski and Ian Sharff of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School; Joshua Mendiata of Suncoast Polytechnical High; and Bailey Jordan and Angela Potier of Venice High.

The SDA/SBA organizations are made up of administrators throughout the Sarasota County School District who work together on fundraising events, including an annual golf tournament, to help fund the scholarships and support employee recognition programs.

This year the SDA/SBA team received applications, transcripts and essays from 53 high school seniors and awarded 15 $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors: Odane Lennox and Melissa Roberts of Booker High; Brooke Fisher, Jessica Koerner and Brandin Muniz of North Port High; Jade Fischer and Neysa Rogers of Pine View School; Alessandro Giannini of Riverview High; Charles Arnold and Sierra Pittman of Sarasota High; Randell Penaso of Suncoast Polytechnical High; and Patch Chen, Emma Gallagher, Bryana Mammana and Caroline Jones of Venice High.


North Port High junior named Sunshine State Scholar

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Caleb Walton

North Port High School junior Caleb Walton receives congratulations from NPHS principal Brandon Johnson for being named a Sunshine State STEM Scholar.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 23, 2017 – North Port High School junior Caleb Walton was one of 11 outstanding juniors from Southwest Florida recognized May 20 at the Sunshine State Scholars Conference in Tallahassee for outstanding performance in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. 

The awards were presented by the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Education Foundation. The two-day conference, sponsored by Lockheed Martin, celebrated the accomplishments of Florida’s best students and provided an opportunity for the state’s colleges, universities and employers to recruit their talents.

State Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said, “I am pleased to congratulate each of these Sunshine State Scholars for receiving this tremendous academic accomplishment.” She said she hopes these talented students choose to remain in their home state to attend college and pursue their careers.

To qualify for a scholar’s award, a student must be a junior with a minimum 3.9 grade-point average, have demonstrated an interest in STEM subjects, and plan to pursue higher education in Florida. NPHS also considered the student’s standardized test scores, coursework, competitions, awards, and extracurricular activities in STEM disciplines.

Caleb is enrolled in the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program. AICE Counselor Julie King described Caleb’s accomplishments and expressed high praise for his character.

She said he is ranked third academically in a class of 540 students.  He is taking advanced placement, dual enrollment, honors and AICE classes. He excels and tutors other students after school every day in several subjects, including chemistry, French and calculus. 

He is the captain of the school Academic Olympics Team. He also has competed in the Multi-Media Math Challenge and the Math Quiz Bowl at Suncoast Technical College and the Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry Challenge at Florida Gulf Coast University. He plans to major in biomedical engineering at the University of Florida.

King said, “Caleb is always prepared and willing to help others. He is brilliant and driven, but sincerely compassionate, humble and kind. He seeks no credit as he just wants to see others be successful.” 

District’s third-grade FSA English Language Arts results improve over 2016

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 19, 2017 – The performance of Sarasota County third-grade students who scored as proficient in the Florida Standards Assessment in English Language Arts rose by three percentage points compared to 2016 district results: 71 percent proficient in 2017 compared to 68 percent in 2016. The district’s 2017 percent proficiency rate is ­­13 points higher than the statewide average of 58 percent. The assessment tests proficiency in reading and writing.

In Sarasota County public elementary schools, 3,354 third-grade students participated in the April 2017 Florida Standards Assessment in English Language Arts. The results reported are based on all students tested, including students with disabilities, English-language learners and third-grade students retained from 2016.

The percentage of third-grade students scoring in achievement Levels 1, 2, and 3-5 are provided for the district and the state in the table below. Students must attain a score of Level 3 or higher to be considered proficient and must achieve a score of Level 2 or higher to be promoted to fourth grade, or meet other legislated requirements for promotion.

About Sarasota County Schools

Dedicated to academic excellence, Sarasota County Schools is home to 52 schools, 43,000 students and 5,000 employees. It is one of only three “A” districts in the state designated by the Florida Department of Education, and one of only two districts to be graded “A” every year since grading began in 2004.


Bus driver and attendant honored for keeping Oak Park students safe

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Dunns-Lempe-Girard Hero Award 5-16-17Hero Award for Dunns-close-up 5-16-17Oak Park bus accident 4-11-17

EVERYDAY HEROES: Top photo-At the May 16 School Board meeting, Chris and Dan Dunn, center, accept the first-ever Sarasota County Schools Hero Award from Assistant Superintendent-Chief Operations Officer Scott Lempe, at left, and Transportation Director Ellery Girard. Middle photo-close-up of Hero Award. Bottom photo-aftermath of April 11 bus accident. No one was seriously injured.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 17, 2017 – A Sarasota County school bus driver and attendant were honored at a regular meeting of the School Board May 16. Driver Dan Dunn and attendant Chris Dunn, who are husband and wife, were praised for their heroic action in a crisis by Assistant Superintendent-Chief Operations Officer Scott Lempe and Transportation Director Ellery Girard. Lempe and Girard presented the Dunns with the first-ever Sarasota County Schools Hero Award. The inscription includes their names and the reason for the recognition: “For Keeping Oak Park Students Safe, April 11, 2017 — And Every Day.”

On the morning of April 11, Dan was driving and Chris was assisting 12 students with special needs as their bus approached the intersection of Proctor and Gantt roads in Sarasota, not far from Oak Park School.

“I got to the intersection and the driver of a car pulled in front of us and hit the bus,” said Dan. “He later said he couldn’t see us. There was nothing I could do. It was like an explosion when it happened. It was like a bomb went off.”

The bus hit a light pole near a sidewalk. Dan said he saw Chris on the floor with blood running down her face and smoke filling the bus. He remembers that Chris said, “We’ve got to get these kids out of here.” Chris later said, “It’s because I’m a mama. Your kids come first.” The Dunns have been married for 36 years; they have three adult children and five grandchildren.

Oak Park Principal Edwina Oliver said that when she heard about the accident, her fear was that there would be serious injuries or even fatalities. “But the Dunns got every single student off the bus and into the arms of helpful neighbors and first responders. I don’t say this lightly — I really think they saved students’ lives that day.”

Sheri Karasick, the parent of a student who was on the bus that day, said, “I felt so fortunate that everyone was so prepared. Even though they were hurt in the accident and the front of the bus was on fire, the Dunns helped the students vacate the bus and get to the curb safely. To know that they were still able to attend to the needs of kids…they are heroes in my eyes.”

Chris Dunn said, “I don’t feel like a hero.” Dan agreed: “We didn’t even think about that. We just wanted to help the kids; they were crying and bleeding.”

After first responders assisted the students and directed traffic at the scene, some students and the Dunns sustained relatively minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals. Most were released the same day with a few cuts and scrapes, but the Dunns’ injuries meant they could not go back to work right away.

Before giving the Dunns their award at the School Board meeting, Lempe noted that Dan was concerned because the timing was in the middle of the couple’s afternoon bus route and they would be anxious to get on the road. Lempe said, “Dan asked, ‘Is there someplace near the meeting room where I can park the bus?’ I think those concerns really speak to their character.”

Girard said school district employees such as bus drivers “are judged by how we respond in a crisis. I think the Dan and Chris did a great job handling this one.”

After thanks and praise from School Board members, the Dunns quickly headed for the door to do what they love to do — drive a school bus full of students and keep them safe. 

LINK TO VIDEO STORY: At the School Board meeting, the Dunns’ story was told in a video produced by The Education Channel, the TV station of Sarasota County Schools (Comcast 20, Frontier 33, streamed live and on demand on Here is a link to the video:





Title I kindergarteners receive literacy enrichment materials

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Literacy Bags

Brentwood Elementary School pre-kindergarten students Janylah Belvin and Treyvon Dove check out some of the materials in the Literacy Bags they received to help them prepare to succeed in kindergarten next year.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 17, 2017 – The Sarasota County Campaign for Grade Level Reading Subcommittee for Early Learning is working with the Patterson Foundation to ensure children entering kindergarten have enriching literacy materials that can support their learning the months before school begins.

Title I elementary schools will distribute a Literacy Bag to each family that registers an incoming kindergarten student this spring and summer. Each Literacy Bag includes alphabet flash cards, first-word flash cards, number flash cards, color and shape flash cards, jumbo crayons, a Childcraft English Alphabet Literacy Chart, a set of upper- and lower-case alphabet magnets, drawing paper, and an English/Spanish picture book.

For more information, parents may contact Patti Brustad Folino at 941.650.6828 or

Sarasota High team to represent Florida at national FBLA conference

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SCS News

SARASOTA, May 17, 2017 – Sarasota High School students attended the State Leadership Conference of the Future Business Leaders of America in Orlando with 4,900 other Florida FBLA students in March. They attended workshops and competed in business-related events such as business communication, business presentation, business procedures, business law and programming events.       

An SHS team of Jan Fic, Hailey Ballard and John Peachey placed second in the state in the computer game development competition. They will represent Florida at the FBLA National Leadership Conference June 29 in Anaheim, Calif.

The game the students created is called Crime Time. It is an animated computer game that requires players to complete five missions. The object is to have a robber collect as many coins as possible as they run through each level while being pursued by police. 

The students developed the game from September through December 2016.  They won first place in a district contest to qualify to compete at the state conference.

Teacher Jennifer Blasdel is requesting contributions to help defray expenses for students to attend the Anaheim competition. She can be reached at

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

Garden Elementary students complete in Girls on the Run program

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Garden runner

Garden Elementary School fifth-grader Alexa Sollas displays her medal after completing the Girls on the Run 5 K in St. Petersburg on May 6.

SARASOTA COUNTY, VENICE, May 17, 2017 – On Saturday, May 6, 26 girls from Garden Elementary School completed the spring season of Girls on the Run with their culminating 5K at Poynter Park in St. Petersburg.

Girls on the Run is an after-school activity which runs for 10 weeks at Garden Elementary. The goal of Girls on the Run is to promote active, joyful, healthy girls in grades three-five through a series of lessons that focus on current issues pre-teens face.

Garden art teacher and head coach Joanna Davis said, “It has been a joy to run, walk, and laugh with these girls this spring. They have learned so much and have come so far physically and mentally. I am so proud of them and their achievements."

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

‘Most Improved Students’ to be honored at award events May 18 & 23

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SCS News

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

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 15, 2017 - High school students who have overcome challenges to make positive changes in their lives will be honored with the Most Improved Student Award during two ceremonies in May. The names of the students will be announced at each event.

The 10th annual Most Improved Student Award event for North Port High School will recognize 10 seniors at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, May 18, at a luncheon at Heron Creek Country Club.

A second awards event will recognize 40 students from Booker, Riverview, Sarasota and Venice high schools at 11 a.m., Tuesday, May 23, at Michael’s On East in Sarasota. Philip A. Delaney Jr., president of Norther Trust; Todd Bowden, superintendent of Sarasota County Schools; and Jennifer Vigne, president of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, will speak. In its 20th year, the Most Improved Student Awards Luncheon is hosted by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County in partnership with Sarasota County Schools and Northern Trust.

The program is made possible through the generosity of The Hunkle Family Foundation and Northern Trust, with additional financial support from The Harold C. and Jackqueline F. Bladel Foundation, Inc., The Evalyn Sadlier Jones Foundation, the Annette J Hagens Memorial Foundation, and the Eluned and Edward Russell Charitable Foundation.

About the Education Foundation of Sarasota County

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County is a supporting partner that exponentially enhances the educational experiences available to the children of Sarasota County. Its mission is to strengthen the community by investing in educational opportunities for the students, teachers, and schools. The Foundation works to match donor’s passions with high-impact projects and initiatives that help every child in Sarasota County rise to their full potential. It achieves this mission through scholarships, access to advanced technology, supplies needed for creativity to flourish, and funds for educators’ professional development. The Education Foundation of Sarasota County and its philanthropic investors are champions for students, teachers, and schools. For more information on the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, visit                          


New principal named for Ashton Elementary

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Kristi Jarvis

Kristi Jarvis

SARASOTA, May 12, 2017 – Superintendent Todd Bowden has named Phillippi Shores Elementary School Assistant Principal Kristi Jarvis as the new acting principal of Ashton Elementary School. Current Ashton Principal Christopher Renouf has been appointed to a district position as executive director of elementary schools.  Both Jarvis and Renouf will begin their new duties June 7.

Jarvis, 39, has been assistant principal at Phillippi since 2015. She was an assistant principal intern at Tatum Ridge Elementary School from 2012-15.

She taught third and fourth grade at Brentwood Elementary School from 2005-12. She also served Brentwood as a literacy/data coach, a reading /math resource teacher and testing coordinator.

Before joining the Sarasota County Schools, she taught grades one-three and served as an intervention specialist for students with special needs at Twin Oak Elementary School in Mt. Vernon, Ohio.

She holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Jones International University in Centennial, Colo., and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Specific Learning Disabilities from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio. She also has studied in the Ohio State University Literacy Collaborative program, which focuses on coaching and modeling early reading skills.

While serving as a school administrator, she also has taken an active role in Sarasota County School District leadership. She has been active in the Report Card Committee and the Textbook Adoption committee.

She served on the district task force to improve early learning that helps preschool students make a smooth transition to kindergarten. She currently chairs the district Achievement Gap Task Force Attendance Committee.

Jarvis is a Sarasota native who attended Garden Elementary School and Venice Middle School before graduating from Venice High School. She and her husband, David Jarvis, have a nine-year-old son, Landon, who attends Pine View School and a five-year-old daughter, Lily, who will start kindergarten at Ashton in August.

Jarvis said she is thrilled to have been chosen to lead Ashton Elementary School. “Ashton Elementary is recognized in the county and around the state as an outstanding elementary school,” she said. “Ashton has superior achievement test scores, amazing extracurricular activities, tremendously supportive parents, and a dynamic leadership team. I am looking forward to serving the families and community of Ashton Elementary while continuing to support the great work that is currently in place.”

Acting district Executive Director of Elementary Schools Wendy Katz worked with Jarvis in the district Leadership Academy and was involved with her selection for Ashton. “Kristi is brilliant educational leader who brings a diversity of experience to her new position, having served at Brentwood, Tatum Ridge and Phillippi Shores,” Katz said. “She is a strong advocate for children and builds meaningful relationships with staff and families. She leads with both her head and heart.”



Booker High teacher aide named School-Related Employee of the Year

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SREOY with wife and C Zucker 2017SREOY with Toyota of Sarasota Sales Mgr Scott Foster

HONORED EMPLOYEE: In top photo, teacher aide Anthony Chioccarelli, center, celebrates being named the 2017 School-Related Employee of the Year with his wife Deirdre, at left, and School Board Chair Caroline Zucker. Bottom photo: Toyota of Sarasota Sales Manager Scott Foster, left, hands Sarasota County School-Related Employee of the Year the keys to a 2017 Corolla LE to School-Related Employee of the Year Anthony Chioccarelli. The Booker High School teacher aide will have the use of the car for a year.

SARASOTA, May 11, 2017 — The Sarasota County School District has named a Booker High School teacher aide the School-Related Employee of the Year. The announcement that Anthony “Tony” Chioccarelli Jr. was this year’s top honoree was made today at a luncheon at Michael’s on East in Sarasota. School Board Chairwoman Caroline Zucker, Superintendent of Schools Todd Bowden and last year’s winner, Administrative Assistant Betsy Hooper, were among the speakers.

Chioccarelli, 62, was among the 50 nominees selected from over 2,000 support staff members who work throughout the district’s schools and departments. He will serve as a goodwill ambassador for the district until spring 2018. All the nominees received awards at the luncheon.

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 teachers’ aides, clerical workers, bus drivers, food service workers, custodians and groundskeepers, to name a few.

Accepting the top award, Chioccarelli was effusive about the influence of his wife, Deirdre. “I have to thank her; she’s the light of my life and the love of my life,” he said. “My son tells me, ‘Dad, you’re the Bill Gates of love — you struck it rich.’ I would not be here without my wife and Dr. Shelley.’” Rachel Shelley is the principal of Booker High School and a finalist for this year’s state Principal of the Year award.  

Chioccarelli said Shelley “took a chance on a retired businessman who wanted to reinvent himself. I couldn’t be more grateful.” For 30 years, Chioccarelli was a healthcare executive and consultant. He said being a teacher aide for students with learning differences, many of whom face a number of challenges, has given him a renewed sense of purpose in his life.

“A lot of what we do is to help teachers motivate students,” he explained. “Sometimes I feel guilty because students give me more than I give them. Those magic moments when a kid walks up to me in the hallway and shakes my hand ‘old-man style,’ are — as they say in the credit card commercials — priceless.” In a conversation after the ceremony, Chioccarelli did his own commercial. “Please let people know that we need more teacher aides in the classroom,” he said. “Special things happen in the classroom when aides work with our students and our dedicated teachers.”

After learning he was the winner, Chioccarelli was handed the keys to a 2017 Toyota Corolla SE to drive for a year, courtesy of Toyota of Sarasota. For the 11th consecutive year, the dealership is the Lead Sponsor of the School-Related Employee of the Year program.

The event’s Platinum Sponsors are the School Based Administrators organization, the School District Administrators organization, Harvard Jolly Architects, Neal Communities, ProFloors, Tampa Bay Trane, Tandem Construction and School Board member Eric Robinson of Robinson, Hanks, Young & Roberts, P.A. Robinson donated a Club Level weekend at the Ritz-Carlton and a $500 gift certificate for the winner.

Gold Sponsors are the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Florida Blue, Magnum Builders, McIntyre Elwell & Strammer Contractors, Jon F. Swift Construction, Florida Blue, Neal Communities, Sweet Sparkman Architects, Tandus Centiva and Willis Smith Construction.


Silver Sponsors are Bencor, Cristal/Haneian Attorneys at Law, Landscape941, ME 3 Engineers, Publix Super Markets Charities, Re-Ex Insurance Broker and Springer-Peterson Roofing.


Friends of the event are the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association and the Sarasota County Association of Educational Office Professionals.


Suncoast Technical College Digital Video Production Program students photographed and videotaped the luncheon. Booker High School music students provided entertainment. Venice Middle School Young Marines presented the colors. 


11 alums to be inducted in North Port High Academic Hall of Fame May 19

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NPHS Hall of Fame 2017 inductees-class of 2016

GREAT GRADS: Eleven 2016 graduates of North Port High School will become members of the school’s Academic Hall of Fame May 19. From left in photo are, top row: Mallory Alton, Tyler Chase, MacKenzie Combs; second row: John Cresci, Joey Garrand, McKenzie Lane; third row: Joshua Layland, Matthew Menendez, Nicole Polisar; bottom row: Kimberly Polisar, Zachary Wagenbrenner.

NORTH PORT, May 9, 2017 – Eleven graduates from the Class of 2016 will become members of the North Port High School Academic Hall of Fame at a special ceremony at 6 p.m., Friday, May 19 in the school cafeteria.

The inductees are Mallory Alton, Tyler Chase, MacKenzie Combs, John Cresci, Joey Garrand, McKenzie Lane, Joshua Layland, Matthew Menendez, Nicole Polisar, Kimberly Polisar and Zachary Wagenbrenner.

The event is open to the public and will feature 2004 Academic Hall of Fame inductee Nicole (Bates) Galehouse as the guest speaker. Galehouse is the city planner for North Port.

The North Port High School Academic Hall of Fame permanently recognizes students for outstanding academic achievement completed while attending the school. Criteria for induction consideration include: the graduate must be among the top 20 students of each graduating class based on grade-point average, must have attended NPHS for at least three years; and beginning this year, must have earned a minimum college placement score of 1150 on the SAT (critical reading and math) or 26 on the ACT (composite) for tests taken while attending NPHS.

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





Art Center Sarasota showcases Booker High, Pine View, Ringling May 13-18

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Art Center piece

The work above by Grace Gerdes will be part of the Booker High School Senior Thesis Exhibit at Art Center Sarasota May 13-18

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 9, 2017 – As part of its Pop-Up series exhibit titled “Common Ground,” Art Center Sarasota will feature works by students from Booker High School, Pine View School, and the Ringling College of Art and Design in three exhibits from May 13-18.

Art Center exhibitions coordinator Sarah Viviana Valdez said the series offers local high school and college students an unusual opportunity to exhibit in a professional gallery. “We work with them to develop their projects and give them exhibit space and an audience,” Valdez said. “For many, it’s the first time they’ve worked directly with a professional art space or gallery. It’s a real learning experience for them.”

In Gallery One, work by seniors in the Booker High School Visual and Performing Arts program will be featured. The Booker High VPA Senior Thesis Exhibit will include approximately 50 works in various media by 10 seniors. According to an Arts Center Sarasota news release, “The VPA visual art program is directed toward serious and passionate students who want their art work to be an expressive interpretation of their inner thoughts and feelings. Every day the students are encouraged to think differently, to dream, and to go beyond expectations. Teachers provide individual instruction, which helps students develop the skills and confidence they need to acquire for a career in an art profession.”

Two other exhibits will be displayed concurrently with the work of the BHS seniors. In Gallery Two, an exhibition of photographs by Ringling College of Art and Design students titled “All about the Scrim” will be on display. 

In Gallery three an exhibit titled “One Mind” will be displayed. That show was organized by Pine View School student Sy Schimberg to feature the works of 10 artists he asked to create visual art in response to his writing. 

A reception for all of the artists is scheduled for Wednesday, May 17, from 5-7 p.m. Art Center Sarasota is located at 707 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. For more information, call 941-365-2032 or visit


Leadership Academy hosts graduation for aspiring administrators

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 8, 2017 – The Sarasota County School District will host a graduation ceremony for the Leadership Academy at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 9, in the Suncoast Technical College Conference Center.

Superintendent Todd Bowden will address the group of 26 graduates. The theme for the event is “Onward,” based on the title of Starbucks former CEO Howard Schultz’s book; Schultz stepped down as CEO in April and became executive chairman of the company. Each chapter in his book is a lesson in leadership; examples will be shared with the aspiring leaders and each graduate will receive a copy of the book. Caitlin Welke, a local Starbucks supervisor, will be a guest speaker and will share the Starbucks approach to cultivating leaders.

Sarasota County Schools is committed to developing its own high-quality, home-grown leaders. The Leadership Academy is a two-year intensive program for aspiring school and district-based administrators, usually teachers or program specialists in district departments, who have completed an advanced degree in educational leadership or a related field. The program extends the university experience, emphasizing the application of learning in a real-world context.

The focus is on three types of leadership: instructional, operational and global/situational. The curriculum is problem-based, interactive and involves action research. There is an emphasis on coaching, leadership immersion activities, and an action-oriented research project.

Over the course of the two years, Academy participants shadow principals, participate in mock interviews, lead book study groups, problem-solve real-life scenarios and help facilitate summer school programs. Successful completion of the Leadership Academy entitles participants to priority consideration for administrative internships as well as the opportunity to interview for assistant principal vacancies. 

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


District to name 2017 School-Related Employee of the Year May 11

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SCS News

SARASOTA, May 8, 2017 — Each year, the Sarasota County School District celebrates the professionalism and work ethic of its employees by selecting an annual School-Related Employee of the Year. The tradition will continue for the 28th year at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, May 11, at Michael’s on East in Sarasota. School Board Chairwoman Caroline Zucker and Superintendent of Schools Todd Bowden will be among the speakers.

The 2017 honoree will be named from among 50 nominees selected from the approximately 2,100 support staff members who work throughout the district’s schools and departments. All nominees will be honored at the luncheon. After the overall School-Related Employee of the Year is announced at the luncheon, he or she will become a goodwill ambassador for the district for the following 12 months.

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.

Betsy Hooper, the district’s 2016 School-Related Employee of the Year, will be on hand at the luncheon to pass the torch to the 2017 honoree. Hooper is an administrative assistant/bookkeeper.

For the 11th consecutive year, the Lead Sponsor of the School-Related Employee of the Year program is Toyota of Sarasota. As the company has done for the past 11 years, Toyota of Sarasota is honoring all district employees through its sponsorship of the program and by providing the district’s School-Related Employee of the Year with the use of a new car for a year.

The event’s Platinum Sponsors are the School Based Administrators organization, the School District Administrators organization, Harvard Jolly Architects, Neal Communities, ProFloors, Tampa Bay Trane and Tandem Construction.

Gold Sponsors are the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Florida Blue, Magnum Builders, McIntyre Elwell & Strammer Contractors, Jon F. Swift Construction, Florida Blue, Neal Communities, Sweet Sparkman Architects, Tandus Centiva and Willis Smith Construction.

Silver Sponsors are Bencor, Cristal/Haneian Attorneys at Law, Landscape941, ME 3 Engineers, Publix Super Markets Charities, Re-Ex Insurance Broker and Springer-Peterson Roofing.

Friends of the event are the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association and the Sarasota County Association of Educational Office Professionals.

Suncoast Technical College Digital Video Production Program students will photograph and videotape the luncheon. Booker High School music students will provide entertainment. Venice Middle School Young Marines will present the colors. 

 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:


  • Teachers’ aides help instructors implement classroom activities and assist more than 41,275 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. 

NPHS junior selected for University of Chicago summer research program

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SCS News

NORTH PORT, May 8, 2017 – North Port High School junior Jason Gill has been selected to participate in the University of Chicago Research in the Biological Sciences intensive summer research program. The four-week program for high school students is designed to expose students to a broad range of molecular, microbiological and cellular biological research techniques used in modern laboratories.

NPHS teacher Flint Shoop recommended Gill for the UC program. “He is an outstanding student who excels in his college-level academic work while participating in numerous extracurricular activities and while working as a community volunteer,” Shoop said.

Shoop described what a student in the program can expect to experience. “During the summer program,” he said, “students will be immersed in the research experience. Using a project-based approach, the course progresses from a survey of basic lab techniques to the application of current molecular techniques in developmental biology and microbiology.

“Most of a typical day in the program is spent in a research lab. Lectures also provide background and introduce new concepts. Since communication skills are important in science, students will keep lab notebooks and they will make several group presentations. The course ends with a research forum in which the students present the results of their projects.”

The University of Chicago is a leading research institution in cancer treatment, blood preservation and genetic evolution. Students who complete the summer course have the experience and the confidence they need to work in a research laboratory, Shoop said. Students who excel in the program may be invited back the following year to work in the lab of a University of Chicago research scientist.

Gill said he plans to pursue a career in medical research in neuroscience. “This program has a great connection to my future career plans,” he said. “I believe this intensive experience will help to confirm those plans." 

Brookside Middle School team places in World Robotics Competition

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Brookside Robotics World 2017

Brookside Middle School Robotics team advisor Joel Kaplan, left, works with team members Armand Segui, center, and Cannon Spencer on adjustments to their Rawr XD robot during the VEX Robotics World competition in Louisville. Ky.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 8, 2017 – Brookside Middle School placed 25th in the World VEX Robotics Competition in Louisville, Ky., on April 23. One hundred sixty middle-school teams and 1,200 high school teams from 44 countries participated in the world competition.

The members of the team are Quinn Coomer, Cannon Spencer, Armand Segui, Rafael Treminio-Bravo and Andreas Zeitler. Joel Kaplan is the team faculty advisor.

Brookside qualified for the world competition by winning the VEX Robotics Excellence Award and being named the top team in Florida for robot skills in the state contest in Tampa on Feb. 17.     

VEX Competitions are presented by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation. The contests require teams of students to design and build a robot to play against other teams in a game-based engineering challenge.

Brookside team advisor Joel Kaplan said the robot his team built for the competition is a Rawr XD. It was designed and programmed to throw objects over a fence autonomously and under operator control. The teams got three tries in operator control and three tries in autonomous control. Brookside scored 54, which placed them 25th in the world for Robotic Skills.

Team advisor Joel Kaplan said the team worked hard every day at the competition, practicing problem solving, competing at qualification rounds and meeting and collaborating with other teams from around the world.

“It was a great experience for all of my students and something most other students will not get to be part of in their school career. Immediately after the announcement of next year’s competition my students started planning their new robot and hoping to qualify for the World Competition again.

Brookside is a Sarasota County School District middle school located at 3636 S. Shade Avenue in Sarasota.






Registration open for girls' Tech Savvy Workshop May 13

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Tech Savvy Workshop 2016

Girls in grades five-nine program and drive VEX IQ robots during the 2016 Tech Savvy Workshop at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

SARASOTA, May 4, 2017 – Girls in grades five-nine from Sarasota and Manatee counties and their parents are invited to participate in a daylong Tech Savvy Workshop on Saturday, May 13, at the University of South Florida Sarasota- Manatee campus at 8350 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. The workshop will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.

The event is being co-hosted by the Sarasota County Schools Career and Technical Education Department, the Manatee County School District and the American Association of University Women. It is one of 18 similar events being hosted by colleges and universities across the United States to encourage girls to study science and technology and to inform parents about the career possibilities for women in technology-related fields.

The students’ day will focus on classes and presentations in a variety of science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, known as the STEM subjects. Workshops will be offered in robotics, coding, rockets, crime scene investigation, marine biology and other tech-related subjects.

A study by the Girl Scouts of America reported that girls are underrepresented in STEM-related college programs and careers for three reasons: Teenage girls often do not feel welcome in STEM classrooms. They do not see the connection between what they are learning in the classroom to the careers they want to pursue. They do not have role models for many STEM careers such as engineering or computer programming. 

Linda Guilfoyle, the AAUW Bradenton Branch president and a retired executive director with the Manatee County Schools, encourages area girls in grades five-nine to attend the Sarasota-Manatee Tech Savvy event because it will provide role models and experiences to show all girls that STEM careers are exciting and within their reach.

The parents’ portion of the program will feature speakers on STEM education and careers and helping parents prepare their students academically and financially for post-secondary education. Featured speakers will include Giti Javidi, an assistant professor of information technology in the USFSM College of Business and Diana Greene, the superintendent of the Manatee County School District.

The registration fee is $5. It includes registration for the workshops, a t-shirt, breakfast and lunch. Students may attend the workshop on their own if parents are not available to join them.

Parents and students can register online at the AAUW Tech Savvy link at They also may call Martha Flynn at 941-924-1365, extension 62107 or email for more information. The deadline for registration is Wednesday, May 10.





Venice Elementary presents 1,500 books to Tuttle Elementary students

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Up With books

BOOK BONANZA – Tuttle Elementary School second-graders Haley Urquiza-Varela and Landon Waters look over the bags of books delivered to their school by teachers and volunteers from Venice Elementary School. Teacher Bethany Burnett, in foreground, and parent volunteer Chandra Reilly helped with the collection and distribution of the books.

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 3, 2017 – Venice Elementary School partnered with Tuttle Elementary School in April for a district program called “Up With Books.”

During National Literacy Action Week in January, Venice Elementary held a book drive that collected more than 1,500 new and gently used books. The books were placed in bags that each contained three books, a personal note and a bookmark for each student at Tuttle Elementary School. More than 60 volunteer hours were dedicated to the project.

On April 5, Venice Elementary volunteers, teachers and Principal Erin Del Castillo delivered books to Tuttle Elementary School students. The partnership will close with fourth and fifth grade classes reading the same book and blogging with each other via classroom email regarding the book they read.

The “Up With Books” project was initiated by Laura Kingsley, The Sarasota County Schools Assistant Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer, in support of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

Chandra Reilly, the Venice Elementary Volunteer of the Year, was instrumental in organizing the project. “What a great initiative to be involved with,” she said. “Delivering our finished book bags was the best part of the event! We love Tuttle Elementary students!”


Venice Elementary School is located at 150 E. Miami Ave. in Venice.
Tuttle Elementary School is located at 2863 Eighth Street in Sarasota.



Pine View student thanks superintendent, School Board for promises kept

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Todd and Bare

Superintendent Todd Bowden and Barett Mancinni

 SARASOTA, May 3, 2017 – At the May 2 School Board meeting, Pine View School seventh- grader Barett Mancinni thanked Superintendent Todd Bowden for keeping a promise he made to Barett at a community forum when Dr. Bowden was a candidate for his current job. Barett asked the candidate why nobody explained to students what was going on when school flags are flown at half-staff.

Dr. Bowden said if he became superintendent, he would make sure that information was shared. On April 6, when flags were flown at half-staff in honor of memorial services for astronaut John Glenn, Dr. Bowden arranged with Pine View Principal Stephen Covert to have Barett read the Presidential Proclamation that flags were to be flown at half-staff during Pine View’s morning announcements. Barett said his classmates cheered him when he returned to class.

Dr. Bowden said Barett’s curiosity and question has led to a district-wide directive from the superintendent to principals that whenever flags are flown at half-staff, the reason should be explained to students and staff in the morning announcements. He noted that Barett’s efforts to better inform his fellow students will be an activity that will help him earn his Citizenship in the Nation merit badge and take him a step closer to becoming an Eagle Scout.

Barett also thanked the School Board for allowing him to take a number of advanced virtual school classes. He said he is working with his guidance counselor to navigate being a middle school, high school and college student all at the same time.

Van Wezel teaching artists to join Alta Vista Family Literacy Night

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SCS News

SARASOTA, May 3, 2017 – Teaching artists from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall will lead a workshop for second graders and their families at a special Family Literacy Night at Alta Vista Elementary School. From 5:30-7:30, Wednesday, May 3, second-grade students and teachers will participate in reading activities with Van Wezel teaching artists. The evening will include a dinner for participating families.

The second-grade students and teachers also will take part in a follow-up literacy activity on May 8 at the Van Wezel They have been invited to attend a performance of “The Teacher from the Black Lagoon,” a play based on a popular children’s book.

The Junior League of Sarasota and the Van Wezel Foundation are the sponsors of the event. The Junior League and Van Wezel already have presented books to more than 325 pre-kindergarten through first-grade students at Alta vista and provided their families with new tools to help their children learn at home as well as at school. One hundred and twenty-five additional books will be distributed to second-graders during the Family Literacy Night.

The Junior League and Van Wezel also offer workshops at the Van Wezel for Alta Vista teachers. Alta Vista Principal Dr. Barbara Shirley said, “We are grateful to the Van Wezel and the Junior League of Sarasota for providing opportunities that promote a love of reading and encourage family involvement in their child’s education. Our teachers have attended professional development workshops and received training to create and implement arts-integrated learning experiences that enhance reading.”

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


Booker High graduation ceremony set for June 3, tickets are required

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Booker High graduation 2016-Robarts Arena

HATS OFF TO THE GRADS: New graduates celebrate the traditional way at the 2016 Booker High School graduation ceremony at Robarts Arena.

SARASOTA, May 2, 2017 – For the first time in its history, Booker High School will have limited tickets available to the public for its commencement ceremony. The tickets are free; the event is scheduled for 9 a.m., Saturday, June 3, at Robarts Arena in Sarasota.

The limited availability of graduation tickets is a result of growing interest in the school. Principal Rachel Shelley attributes the growing attention to increased enrollment and graduation rates. Shelley notes that the school has been moving in a positive direction with its new Cambridge University AICE program, revived Law Academy, and popular Career Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs.

“In addition to parents, siblings and other relatives of our graduating seniors, there’s a lot of general community interest in the ceremony because of all the exciting opportunities we have to offer,” Shelley said, adding that “the word is getting out, and we are attracting a lot of students.”

Shelley said this year 310 seniors will graduate, the highest number in recent memory. The number includes several juniors who are graduating early, thanks to advanced and rigorous coursework available through the State College of Florida and flexible options to get ahead such as the Sarasota Virtual Academy, which allows students to earn extra credits each year.

In the past the event has not been ticketed. Friends and families have come in large numbers to support their graduates. Booker High also has a history of attendance by other people from the surrounding Newtown community.

“It’s not uncommon to have people show up, even if they don’t know anyone who is graduating,” Shelley said.

Assistant Principal Darby Larkin, who is overseeing the commencement procedures, said the kind of support Booker High receives is remarkable. She echoed Shelley’s remarks that the interest in tickets is a sign of strong community support for the school, although some people may find the limited tickets inconvenient. “It’s a nice ‘problem’ to have,” Larkin said.

Robarts Arena holds about 4,500 people; 4,200 tickets will be distributed. Graduating students will get 10 tickets each. Students needing extra tickets will be able to request them through Larkin’s office.

Community members are eligible to receive two tickets each, free of charge. They can pick them up at the Booker High administration building beginning Monday, May 22.

Entrance into the arena is by ticket only. Attendees should arrive before 9 a.m., at which time the doors will be locked. Tickets are general admission and seating is first come, first served.

Other graduation ceremonies scheduled for traditional public high schools are as follows; anyone with questions should contact the schools directly:

  • North Port High School: 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 1, Robarts Arena


  • Suncoast Polytechnical High School: 6 p.m., Friday, June 2, Sarasota Opera House


  • Sarasota High School: 8 p.m., Friday, June 2, Charlie Cleland Stadium at Ihrig Field


  • Venice High School: 8 p.m., Friday, June 2, Powell-Davis Stadium


  • Riverview High School: 3 p.m., Saturday, June 3, Roberts Arena 

  • Pine View School: 2 p.m., Sunday, June 4, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall


Bay Haven and Booker elementary students to visit USF May 12

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SCS News

SARASOTA COUNTY, May 1, 2017 – Fifth-grade students from Emma E. Booker Elementary School and Bay Haven School of Basics Plus are scheduled for a four-hour pre-college experience at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus on Friday, May 12. Organizers hope that the experience, titled “What I can be with a College Degree,” will give the students a glimpse into college life and help them envision themselves as college students.

The event will include a tour of the USFSM campus led by undergraduate student ambassadors, a presentation by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, class simulations presented by professors, and career-building activities led university staff. The day will end with the students eating lunch with Rocky the Bull in the campus courtyard. 

Bay Haven Principal Chad Erickson said of the event, “Our goal is to create a vision in our fifth-grader’s minds of what college looks like and also provide for them a confident pathway to higher education. In preparation for this event, each fifth-grader has created a framed self-portrait with captions describing their career aspirations.”

Emma E. Booker Elementary Principal Dawn Clayton said she also believes the event will help her students see greater possibilities for their futures. “More than ever, I am encouraged about every child at Emma E. Booker being college and career ready,” she said. “I know that this experience will produce future USFSM Bulls who will proudly and confidently navigate their future career choices.”  

The USFSM campus is located at 8350 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. 

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