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Gulf Coast's Veronica Brady to get national literacy leadership award

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Veronica Brady award surprise-with Lisa Fisher 11-17-17Veronica Brady-surprise group 11-17-17

SURPRISE! In top photo, Reading Recovery lead teacher Lisa Fisher and others surprise Veronica Brady (at right) of Gulf Coast Community Foundation with the news that she will receive the 2018 Excellence in Literacy Leadership Award. BOTTOM PHOTO: Staff from Sarasota County Schools and Gulf Coast Community Foundation were joined by Gulf Coast donors who support Reading Recovery to congratulate Veronica Brady. Pictured from left are Lisa Fisher, Teri A Hansen, Chris Renouf, Todd Bowden, Wendy Deming, Brady, Mark Pritchett, Keith Monda, Lin and Bob Williams, and Laura Kingsley.

This news release is from Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

SARASOTA, Nov. 17, 2017 – Veronica Brady, senior vice president for philanthropy at Gulf Coast Community Foundation, will receive the 2018 Excellence in Literacy Leadership Award presented by the Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders.  The prestigious award will recognize Brady’s vital role in implementing and expanding Reading Recovery in Sarasota County Schools and promoting the successful literacy program beyond the region.

A group of school district administrators, teachers, and donors surprised Brady with the news of her selection on Friday afternoon, November 17, at Sarasota County School District headquarters.  The award will be presented in February before more than 2,000 attendees at the National Reading Recovery & K-6 Literacy Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

“Reading Recovery is changing the lives of young students in our school district, and Veronica Brady is the driving force that has made it happen,” said Laura Kingsley, assistant superintendent of Sarasota County Schools. “From rallying donors to supporting and celebrating our teachers to championing access for even more students, Veronica has been a dynamo.”

Reading Recovery is an intensive, short-term intervention for first-graders who struggle in learning to read and write. Specially trained literacy teachers provide daily, individual lessons designed to accelerate students’ progress to grade level within 20 weeks. Created in New Zealand in the 1970s and introduced to the United States in 1984 through The Ohio State University, Reading Recovery is the world’s most widely studied early reading intervention.

Brady first learned about the program a few years ago from philanthropists Keith and Linda Monda, who supported Reading Recovery through Ohio State and envisioned replicating it in Sarasota County. Believing it could play a key role in reducing the achievement gap by helping the lowest-performing first graders quickly catch up to their classmates, Brady spearheaded a partnership with Sarasota County Schools. She secured funding commitments from the Mondas and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and with additional funds and administrative support from Gulf Coast, Reading Recovery was introduced in fall 2015 at three Title I elementary schools.

“Not only did Veronica line up the seed capital to launch Reading Recovery in our school district, but she organized and delivered hundreds of books and stacks of training materials over the last two weeks of that summer so the program was ready to go when school reopened,” recalls Mark Pritchett, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

As Reading Recovery quickly showed promise of success, Brady led the charge to expand it to all 10 of the district’s Title I elementary schools in 2016, including securing philanthropic support from several additional donors. The results in year two bore out the partners’ confidence, with 86 percent of the students who received a full complement of Reading Recovery lessons reaching average grade levels for reading and writing. The national success rate for the highly touted program is 75 percent.

Recognizing that many students in non-Title I schools also would benefit from Reading Recovery, Brady advocated for further expansion to all 23 Sarasota County elementary schools. With additional funding from the Barancik Foundation and the school district totaling more than $1 million, Reading Recovery was implemented district-wide this school year. Highly trained teachers in every school now work with Reading Recovery students throughout the morning and then assist many more students as school-based literacy experts the rest of the day.

To further leverage the extensive training received by these teachers, Brady helped create a summer-reading program that stipends district teachers to work with incoming kindergartners and first-graders at local summer camps. Piloted at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex in Newtown, the Kids READ summer program was expanded to all Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County thanks to Brady’s efforts.

In addition to maintaining and expanding the high standards of Reading Recovery locally, recipients of the Literacy Leadership Award are also recognized for “significant contributions to implementation beyond the local level.” To that end, Brady is developing a “playbook” to help other school districts that are considering Reading Recovery learn from Sarasota County’s experience. She also presented a session at the statewide Florida Reading Conference earlier this month. Sarasota County is currently the only school district in Florida to offer Reading Recovery.

“This is a program worth investing in, and Veronica shares that message everywhere she goes,” said Keith Monda. “We see the difference Reading Recovery is making for Sarasota County students, and we would love more communities throughout Florida to achieve that same success for their children.”

 

 

 

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