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Ground broken for tech college, library, conference center in North Port

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STC-NP groundbreak-Todd and Sarabeth 9-29-16STC Groundbreaking-Shannon Staub 9-30-16

CELEBRATING A COLLABORATION: Top Photo: Master of ceremonies Todd Bowden thanks Sarasota County libraries director Sarabeth Kalajian for her role in developing the public library portion of the Suncoast Technical College-North Port project during a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 29. Bottom Photo: Former Sarasota County Commissioner Shannon Staub enjoys an architect’s rendering of the Shannon Staub Public Library during a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 29.

NORTH PORT, Sept. 29, 2016 – Hailed by everyone involved as a model for government collaboration in Florida and beyond, the project to build the Suncoast Technical College-North Port campus, Shannon Staub Public Library and North Port city conference center was officially launched with a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 29. The project is being jointly funded by the Sarasota County School District, Sarasota County, the city of North Port and the state of Florida.

The new school will be located at 4901 N. Cranberry Blvd. near the Toledo Blade-I 75 interchange. The $25.3 million, 80,000-square-foot facility will include career, technical and adult education instructional spaces; a full-service public library and a joint-use conference center.

Todd Bowden, the executive director of career, technical and adult education for the Sarasota County Schools served as the master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking. He asked the audience to count how many times he used the word “excited” in his remarks because he was so pleased to be involved in a project that brought four government agencies together for the good of the community.

Bowden explained that the project started in 2013 with a discussion of the need to build a branch campus of what was then the Sarasota County Technical Institute “someday.” As the idea was discussed among elected officials, the need for a new library and a conference center for North Port became part of the conversation, as did the need for “someday” to be “yesterday.”

The project was fast-tracked through all of the agencies involved, but came up short on funding. The group appealed to the State Senator Nancy Detert, who persuaded the state Legislature to make up the shortfall.  

Bowden said he appreciates all of the agencies that came together to support the project, but is particularly grateful for the support of the Sarasota County School Board. He said the Sarasota Board is unique in the state in its commitment to career, technical and adult education. 

Many school boards see their job as educating students through grade 12, but the Sarasota County Board believes its mission is to ensure that its students are ready for fulfilling careers, college or whatever post-secondary education they want to pursue. That commitment to career and technical education is unparalleled anywhere in Florida, he said.

 STC Groundbreaking

DIGGING IN: Sarasota County School Board members, County Commissioners and North Port City Commissioners join in the groundbreaking ceremonies for a new joint-use educational and conference facility in North Port.

County Commissioner Christine Robinson said North Port is growing as a city for families. She said facilities like STC-North Port will encourage young people to stay in North Port and Sarasota County. She said the project addresses three areas she believes are essential: quality of life, economic development and workforce training. “North Port will be the diamond in the Sarasota County treasure chest,” she said.

Robinson said the first conversation she had with Shannon Staub after taking her seat as a county commissioner in 2010 was about building a library in North Port. It was a distant possibility in the economic circumstance of the time, but one that neither commissioner forgot.

Robinson said naming the library for Staub was a perfect choice because Staub is both a champion of libraries and a champion of collaboration.  She also is a great community leader widely known for her cheery optimism and love of community service.

Staub shared a personal story about going to the library with her mother before she was old enough to read, of being in awe of the place and spending spellbinding hours with her mother reading picture books. “The library became part of my soul,” she said. “It became part of my life. It is where I discovered what I could be and the goals I wanted to reach.”

Staub had special praise for the County Commissioners for their efforts to bring the library to fruition. She said the library shows them to be good leaders with good vision. “They also showed good taste in naming it after me,” she quipped.

North Port Mayor Jaqueline Moore said she believes that education is the heart of a thriving community and that having a new library for the 10,000 students living in North Port will instill in them a love of reading that expand their world view and lead to brilliant futures. “The possibilities are way beyond what we are thinking today,” she said.

Sarabeth Kalajian, the director of Sarasota County Libraries and Historical Resources, said that the technical college and library project will be a launch pad for many collaborations to come. “Having a dream become a reality creates a heightened sense of possibilities,” she said.

Bowden said he is excited about the possibilities of offering North Port students the opportunity to prepare for a “Career in a Year” in a wide range of professions. He said he is looking forward to convening back on the new STC-North Port campus for the opening day of the 2017 school year.



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