Sarasota County Schools News

Tuttle Elementary builds a ‘Lowe’s Labyrinth’ on campus

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Tuttle student works on labyrinth spring 2015Labyrinth at Tuttle Elem-completed June 2015

A-MAZING LABYRINTH: Above, Tuttle Elementary School fourth-grade student Shirley Porlles Vergara works on the Lowe’s Labyrinth at the school. Below, the labyrinth was completed in June.

SARASOTA, June 25, 2015 – Tuttle Elementary School received a $4,500 Toolbox for Education grant from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation to fund the construction of a “Lowe’s Labyrinth” adjacent to the school’s playground.

The goal of a Lowe’s Labyrinth is to have a student and community space on the campus that allows for creativity, contemplation and a connection to the visual and language arts curriculum. The project is designed to provide a hands-on, real-world application of students’ critical and creative thinking skills. The labyrinth on the Tuttle campus is made of recycled rubber mulch and red cypress mulch.

Because the labyrinth is adjacent to the playground, students can explore it during and after the school day. Students also will study labyrinths in historical contexts, including fictional and non-fictional accounts keyed to the curriculum at each grade level. For example, students who read about the Minotaur in the Greek story of Theseus can write about their experience in the labyrinth in comparison to the story. Benches also will be installed along the walkway to allow for students to read and write during their experience in the labyrinth.

“We’re excited that we just completed the part of the Lowe’s Labyrinth that was funded by the grant,” said Tuttle Elementary Principal Tomas Dinverno. “We will continue to build on the project, with students collecting plastic caps so a recycling center can convert them to benches to place nearby. We are encouraging local businesses to donate plants to help with the landscaping.”

“The Lowe's Toolbox for Education program delivers on Lowe's commitment to improve the educational environment for students across the country,” said Maureen Ausura, chairwoman of the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation. “We're honored to work with Tuttle Elementary to support the needs of our local students, teachers and families.”  

About Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grants

Tuttle Elementary is one of more than 500 schools across the U.S. to be awarded a Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant this fall for improvement projects during the 2014-15 school year. Since its inception in 2006, Lowe’s Toolbox for Education has provided more than $42 million in grants to 9,600 schools, benefiting more than 5.5 million schoolchildren. Grants are available to K-12 public schools in the U.S. for a wide range of improvement projects. Schools may be eligible to receive Toolbox grants up to $100,000. Parent groups and educators can apply by visiting The spring cycle is currently open and will close Feb. 13, 2015. To view a full list of projects by state, visit Since 1957, the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation has helped improve communities across North America through financial contributions and support for employee volunteerism.

About Lowe’s in the Community

Lowe’s, a FORTUNE 100 home improvement company, has a 50-year legacy of supporting the communities it serves through programs that focus on K-12 public education and community improvement projects. Since 2007, Lowe’s and the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation have contributed nearly $200 million to these efforts, and for more than two decades Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers have donated their time to make their communities better places to live. Details are at and


Ashton Elementary Choir named Grand National Champion of festival

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Ashton Choir OrlandoFest April 2015

HAPPY TUNE: In June, judges named the Ashton Elementary School Choir the Grand National Champion of OrlandoFest in the elementary school category. The choir competed at the music festival at Universal Orlando Resort in April.

ORLANDO, June 25, 2015 – The Ashton Elementary School Choir was named the Grand National Champion of OrlandoFest in the elementary school category. OrlandoFest is a national music competition held over 12 weeks at Universal Orlando Resort.

In April the school learned that the 55-student choir had received a Superior rating to capture its second consecutive first-place finish at the annual event and the second-highest score in the school choir competition at all levels, including middle and high school choirs.

At the end of all 12 weeks of the festival, judges compare all the first-place winners from each competition period and award a Grand National Champion Award to the highest scoring school in each category (elementary, middle and high). Ashton was the highest-scoring elementary school in the contest.

Assistant Principal Jacob Ruscoe said, “We are so excited that our school represented Sarasota County at OrlandoFest and won this prestigious award. We’re so proud of the children and the choir’s director, Joi Chapman.”

Sarasota High School duo goes to national robotics contest

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SHS robotics team Nicholas Greb-Joey Martineau 2014-15

GRAPEVINE, Texas, June 1, 2015 — A two-person team from Sarasota High School will take their robotics engineering skills and competitive spirit to the National Technology Student Association Conference and VEX Robotics Competition. The TSA/VEX contest will be held Sunday through Thursday, June 28-July 2, at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, just outside Dallas.

Nicholas Greb and Joey Martineau, SHS sophomores in 2014-15, are competing in VEX Robotics for the second year. After winning the Judges’ Award at the Florida VEX Robotics Competition in February, they took third place for the highest overall award (VEX Excellence) later than month at Florida TSA State Conference in Orlando in February, becoming one of three of the teams from Florida that qualified to compete at the TSA Nationals.

The duo raised almost $4,000 to cover their expenses for the national contest through Gulf Coast Gives, a website run by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation that pairs local causes with donors. 

“We have seen Nick and Joey excel in our STEMsmart high school competitions, and they deserve to test their talent against the best students in the country,” said Teri Hansen, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “The best part is that nearly two dozen donors, including individual community members and a local business, funded their travel expenses through our charitable crowdfunding website. That’s using technology to connect our community to our classrooms in a new way that we all can feel good about.”


Gulf Coast Gives is a charitable crowdfunding platform that connects community members with the immediate needs of local nonprofit organizations and schools from Boca Grande through Manatee County. Featuring urgent charity and classroom projects with 45-day fundraising deadlines, the website enables online donors to make easy, secure online donations in any amount to help organizations meet their goals. More information is at

About Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Gulf Coast Community Foundation is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital. Since then, it has become the philanthropic home of more than 600 families who have established charitable funds through the Foundation, and has invested over $193 million in grants in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. Learn more at

County's Florida History Fair winners compete in national contest

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Ignacio Balasch SMS-FL History Fair winner 2015Pine View Harvey Milk team-BTTER PHOTO-History Fair 2015

HISTORY FAIR WINNERS: Top photo, Sarasota Middle School student Ignacio Balasch received the first-place award in his category at the Florida History Fair for his website about the explorer Ferdinand Magellan. He will compete at the National History Day Contest in College Park, Md., in mid-June. In bottom photo, pictured from left are Pine View students Aravind Byju, Aria Pegah, Austin Rockwood, Zachary Jordan and Jacob Evans. Their website about activist Harvey Milk, displayed on the screen behind them, won the second-place award in their category at the Florida History Fair. The Pine View team placed ninth in this category at the National History Day Contest.

COLLEGE PARK, Md., June 1, 2015 — Students from Sarasota County public schools received awards at the Florida History Fair state competition, held in May in Tallahassee. State winners from Sarasota Middle School and Pine View School also competed in the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest, held June 14-18 at the University of Maryland in College Park.

At the Florida History Fair, Sarasota Middle School 2014-15 eighth-grade student Ignacio Balasch took first place in the Junior Individual Website category for the site he created, “Magellan’s Journey to the End of the World: The Man that Dared to Go Further.” 

A team of 2014-15 Pine View juniors — Aravind Byju, Austin Rockwood, Zachary Jordan, Jacob Evans and Aria Pegah — won the second-place award in the for their Senior Group Website category. Their website is titled, “Giving them Hope: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Ongoing Struggle for Equality.” UPDATE: The Pineview team placed ninth in this category at the National History Day event.

Additional awards were received by Sarasota County students at the Florida History Fair. Olivia Schmeits, a 2014-15 seventh-grade student at Sarasota Middle, was honored with the Holocaust Education Award for her exhibit, “Gerard Schmeits: One Man's Perseverance to Defy the Nazis.” The project was a state finalist in the Junior Individual Exhibit category. 

Pine View 2014-15 juniors Broderick McCurdy, Andrea Munoz and Gabriela Munoz were the recipients of the Native American Heritage Award for their Senior Group Exhibit titled, “Osceola: A Leader Shrouded in Myth and Legend.” 

Curstin George, a 2014-15 sixth-grade student at Sarasota Middle, was the recipient of the Outstanding County Award for her Junior Individual Website titled, “Andrew Jackson: The Battle of New Orleans.”

Blake Jackson, a 2015-15 Pine View junior, was a finalist in the Senior Historical Paper category. His project was titled, “The Legacy of Neurosurgery: Harvey Cushing.” 

Several district teachers, including Jennifer Jaso at Sarasota Middle and Patricia Ann Regan at Pine View School, are dedicated to helping students research and prepare their projects for the history fair at the local, state and national levels, and helping coordinate the competitions.


District students win national art awards, will travel to NYC

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Mallori Johnson PV-Drifting-Scholastic Award 2015Margaux Albiez SHS-Impressions of Bosch-Scholastic Art 2015Jordan Oye RHS-Queen of Mice-Scholastic Award 2015Elena Bodor PV-Robotics Guy-Scholastic Award 2015

AWARD-WINNING ART: From top, artwork by Mallori Johnson of Pine View School, Margaux Albiez of Sarasota High, Jordan Oye of Riverview High and Elena Bodor of Pine View have won 2015 National Scholastic Art Awards.

NEW YORK, N.Y., June 1, 2015 — Four young artists from Sarasota County public schools will travel to New York City to be honored among other students from throughout the U.S. as National Scholastic Art & Writing Award winners.

A week of celebratory events begins Friday, June 5, hosted by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. The award-winning student work will be featured in the 2015 National Exhibition at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at The New School’s Parsons School of Design and at Pratt Institute’s Pratt Manhattan Gallery. The displays will showcase more than 1,000 visual and literary creations. The awards ceremony will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, June 11, at Carnegie Hall.

The winners from Sarasota County are all visual artists: From Pine View School, 2014-15 junior Mallori Johnson won a Gold Medal after earning a regional Gold Key Award. Of the more than 300,000 submissions to the national competition, less than 1 percent are national medal winners. Johnson explained the inspiration behind her award-winning photo, “Drifting”:

“This past summer I had the opportunity to travel with Mote Marine Laboratory’s Eugenie Clark on a research expedition to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. While there, I island-hopped aboard a boat. The locals often paddled out to our boat to sell us fresh produce. This was my inspiration for taking the photo ‘Drifting,’ which highlights the simple way of life of the Solomon Islanders.”

As it turned out, this was Clark’s last expedition. The world-renowned oceanographer died in February 2015 at the age of 92.

Margaux Albiez of Sarasota High received a Gold Key at the national level for her illustration entitled “Impressions of Bosch,” inspired by the work of 15th-century Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch. Her art teacher, Debra Markley, said she is the first student from Sarasota High to receive this top honor. 

“Margaux is one of the most creative illustrators I have ever had the privilege to teach,” said Markley.

Jordan Oye, a 2014-15 junior at Riverview High, will receive an American Visions Award for her work, “The Queen of Mice.”

“My inspiration came from my desire to study anatomy of human form. I wanted to use blues and browns to help people recognize the emotion that can be evoked through lighting. The mice I added represent the ‘hate’ people feel on a daily basis. The woman I’ve depicted is the queen of everything that is dirty, but she stands up for it and makes it beautiful.”

Elena Bodor, a 2014-15 eighth-grade student at Pine View, will receive a Silver Medal for her sculpture, “Robotics Guy.”

“I've always thought bugs were cool, especially the predatory ones such as dragonflies, assassin bugs, spiders, wasps and praying mantises,” said Bodor about why she created the sculpture. “I also love sci-fi and fantasy books, movies, and TV shows. I am inspired by monsters and mythical creatures.”

“I never imagined that one of my sculptures would win a national award,” said Bodor. “I'm going to Carnegie Hall, all because of 5½ inches of scrap metal. This is fantastic!  

About the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards    

Since 1923, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have recognized the vision, ingenuity, and talent of our nation’s youth, and provided opportunities for creative teens to be celebrated. Each year, increasing numbers of teens participate in the program: young artists and writers, filmmakers and photographers, poets, and sculptors, along with countless educators who support and encourage the creative process.

Students across America submitted 255,000 original works during the 2014 program year.

The awards are presented by The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to identify students with exceptional artistic and literary talent and present their remarkable work to the world through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Students receive opportunities for recognition, exhibition, publication, and scholarship.

Since its founding the awards have helped identify the early promise of the nation’s accomplished and prolific creative leaders. Alumni include artists Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein, Robert Indiana and John Baldessari; writers Truman Capote, Bernard Malamud and Joyce Carol Oates; photographer Richard Avedon (who won for poetry); actors Frances Farmer, Robert Redford, Alan Arkin and John Lithgow; and filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Ken Burns and Richard Linklater. Outside the arts, awards alumni employ their creativity to become successful in any number of ways — leaders in fields including journalism, medicine, finance, government and public service, law, science, design and more.


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