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2 AUGUST 2013 


GIVE YOUR CHILD THE WORLD Class of 2013 Notable Accomplishments

• 1 National Merit Scholar and 3 National Merit Commended Scholars • Last year, 91% of our students who took AP exams scored a 3,4, or 5 on at least one of those exams • Our students will be attending universities such as University of Virginia, Brown, Notre Dame, Rice, Georgetown, Boston University, Tufts, Middlebury, UCLA, University of Southern California, University of California at Berkeley, and the United States Naval Academy. In addition to UF, UCF, FSU, and other Florida schools. • 64% of our graduating seniors were offered a college scholarship based on merit. • 16 students will be participating in intercollegiate athletics in football, soccer, volleyball, golf and tennis.

WELCOME BACK! APPLY TODAY Pre-K3 through 12th grade 941-746-2121

A World-class Education


LET'S DO IT AGAIN! 2013-2014




Sarasota County Schools look forward to another great year.



Even after more than 30 years as a professional educator, I am still excited to start a new school year. School starts Monday, Aug. 19. Teachers and administrators in the Sarasota County Schools have been working hard all summer to make sure that every student has the most successful year ever. A flurry of construction and maintenance work is getting the facilities in top condition. More than 650 teachers have volunteered dozens of hours of their own time to take classes to improve their skills and prepare for new instructional standards. The Florida Department of

Education has graded Sarasota an 'A' district. We also are leaders in innovative instruction and technology that supports student achievement. Last year, we opened 50 TechActive Classrooms of Tomorrow in our middle schools. They provide the perfect environment for collaborative learning and engaging more students in the crucial STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). We are expanding our use of digital textbooks and mobile communication devices. We have created the website to connect teachers and families to exciting educational activities in the arts, science, culture and history local organiza-


tions offer. We also have created a ABOUT THE COVER website at for This summer, Jacob individuals, businesses and Schillings, 6, attended organizations to learn how Eagle Academy at Alta their skills and resources can Vista Elementary. Eagle help students succeed. This year, we also will conAcademy is a free program tinue to implement the new for incoming kindergartners national academic standards and first-graders. For more called Common Core. The new about the Eagle Academy, standards promise to estabvisit sarasotacountyschools. lish consistent expectations for what students will learn net/schools/altavista. • St. in public schools, no Boniface matter Preschool has been a part of the Siesta K where they attendcommunity or graduate. for over 30 years organizations. That support They set rigorous expectations is the of our sucfor traditional studies andnow acceptingcornerstone • We are children from 1- 5 years old cessful efforts to ensure that place new emphasis on critievery student in our care cal thinking, problem • Our solving teachers have at least a Bachelor’s degree achieves his or her full acaand practical application of demic and personal potential. knowledge. They• also Our provide Small class size ensure individual, as well as, qual I am deeply grateful to live essential guidance to teachers instruction and work in a community that and parents who want to help values and supports educastudents succeed in school. • We pride ourselves an environment for c tionin soproviding highly. I know that the Students and educators in continuing enthusiasm of our that supports their desire for learning and exploration Sarasota County are extremely parents,appropriate, staff and fortunate that ouraward community winning, students, developmentally play-ba community will help every values and supports public curriculum student in our district have a education through individual 2013-14 school year packed contributions, volunteer time, • We provide parent informational and play classes bas with discovery, achievement, voter support and generous needs of the preschool community inspiration and fun! community foundations and

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Join usgymnastics at St. and Boniface include karate • Ouryear, mission iswhere to be Southwest Florida’s Premier Epis this a love for learning begins Siesta Key’s Premier Early Childhood Center


Did you know … • St. Boniface Preschool has been a part of the Siesta Key community for over 30 years • We are now accepting children from 1- 5 years old • Our Small class size ensure individual, as well as, quality group instruction • We pride ourselves in providing an environment for children that supports their desire for learning and exploration, with award winning, developmentally appropriate, play-based curriculum • We encourage parent involvement … after all it takes a village to raise a child • Our mission is to be Southwest Florida’s Premier Episcopal Preschool

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4 AUGUST 2013 


HELPING HANDS by Nick Friedman | Community Editor

Gulf Coast Gives bridges gaps between teachers and donors The Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s crowd-funding website helps schools and teachers raise funds for specific projects. In a city with such a rich philanthropic culture, it’s easy for potential donors to be intimidated or feel as though they can’t make a difference without a substantial contribution. In March 2011, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation created the Gulf Coast Gives initiative, in an effort to open more avenues for donors. The program, which is similar to the popular projectfundraising site, Kickstarter, is a crowd-funding website,, in which people

can make donations to support the specific needs of local non-profit organizations and schools. The site is set up so a donor can pledge anywhere from $25 to $150, or specify which amount they want to donate to a specific project. According to Kelly Romanoff, strategic engagement officer at the foundation, it’s the only community foundationrun program of its kind in the country. “We hear these huge numbers here from some of the

philanthro pists in town, in terms of donations,” says Romanoff. “And, obviously, that’s wonderful, but we wanted to create an opportunity for people to make a donation to a nonprofit at any level that’s comfortable to them, and for specific requests.” The website hosts projects in the categories of arts, environment, human services, civic affairs and schools. Since its inception, Gulf Coast Gives has helped schools and individual teachers fund more than 60 projects. At no cost, teachers can post a description of their projects to the site, along with

a description of how much they hope to raise. Donors have 45 days to help them reach the goal. Kate Kramer, an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) resource officer at Emma E. Booker Elementary, funded eight projects last year through the site. She recently launched another project to raise money to help pay for puppets that she can use to better facilitate communication with students. “Being a teacher, there’s never enough time,” says Kramer. “Every teacher has creative ideas and things they want to do for their students. We all wish we had unlimited


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SARASOTA OBSERVER • BACK TO SCHOOL GUIDE time, money and resources. This helps us fund some of those projects and reach a wider audience to promote them.” Judy Alexander, of Every Child Inc., has used the website three times to raise money to donate backpacks filled with school supplies to needy children. “It’s wonderful,” she says. “They help us set everything up and promote the projects, and it gives us an opportunity to get our name and projects out in the community.” Romanoff says Gulf Coast Gives hopes to continue to grow and partner with more schools. “It’s great to be able to connect with people who have these meaningful projects,” she says. “There are hundreds of teachers out there who could do a lot with a few hundred dollars. These projects can make a huge difference to them and their students. It just shows what’s possible if we all give.” See sidebar at right for a few recent project examples.



Visit to make a donation. = fully funded project

Gulf Coast Gives has helped teachers and schools fund more than 60 projects since its inception in 2011. Current projects listed on the site include.

Laurel Nokomis School: STEM: Watch them grow

This project hopes to raise $250 to purchase flatworms, yeast, termites and mealworms, as well as quail and duck eggs, to help students learn about reproduction, development and life cycles. 10% RAISED. $225 TO GO.

$250 GOAL

Emma E. Booker Elementary: Puppets as positive partners ESE resource officer Kate Kramer hoped to raise $150 to purchase puppets, which students can use to communicate their feelings and needs, and which can help engage them in their education. 100% RAISED

$150 GOAL

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the SunCoast: New tools for back to school This project had a $1,500 goal, which will help purchase 100 backpacks filled with school supplies for needy children within the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ programs. 100% RAISED

$1,500 GOAL

arel p p ’s A .99 n e r 0 ld Chi art at $ st


S v------ -k--------------------------------*-*-----------* ------* -- -----!


*Please visit our website for a list of locations.

6 AUGUST 2013 




Just the facts Principal: Dr. Barbara Shirley Mascot: Eagles Colors: Blue and white Open house: 4 to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 15


Projected enrollment: 565 PTO president: Debbie Beese FCAT (2012-13): A

Welcome FROM THE to Alta Vista, PRINCIPAL: home of the proud Eagles! We are committed to ensuring that all of our students receive an education with the highest academic standards in a caring and safe environment. The Alta Vista teachers, staff, parents and community share a common vision: high-quality classroom instruction; students who are motivated to learn; and a warm and nurturing learning environment with supportive and encouraging parents and volunteers — all who make “Alta Vista a

great place to be!” We are proud to be a Community of Caring School, where we incorporate the five core values of “caring,” “respect,” “responsibility,” “trust” and “family” into our daily lives. These five values enhance our positive learning environment and serve as a foundation for all activities and initiatives in our school. Our Parent University offers free classes, family events and activities that provide families with new or additional skills, knowledge, resources and confidence. Alta Vista is a happening place, and there is a “place” for each of you to get involved in the school. We are looking forward to another successful school year! — Dr. Barbara Shirley

Fun fact: The Eagle Academy is a free, seven-week summer, academic-and-enrichment program for students entering kindergarten and first grade at Alta Vista. This program provides students an opportunity to successfully continue their educational journey by increasing academic achievement and preventing loss of learning during the summer.

Why I love my school I love my school because I like to learn. We do fun activities, and all of the teachers are really nice and caring. Reading is my favorite subject because when you read a book it takes you into different worlds to meet many people and characters. I love math because it makes you think. Alta Vista is a ‘great place to be!’ — Avria Stringfellow, fifth grade


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4380 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, FL 34232 941.953.4181

May 12, 2012 - Golf Tournament • 941.953.4181


I love Ashton Elementary School because all the staff is so nice, and the teachers make learning fun! This makes me excited to come to school every day. Thanks to them, I will be prepared for anything that comes my way. — Anya Studebaker, third grade

I 438 Strength in Faith | Excellence in

Teachers of Mathematics.







Strength in Faith | Excellence in Knowledge | Character in Service


Why I love my school

multi-purpose room for all school Masses, Physical Education classes, After School Activities, Book and Science Fairs, Assemblies, Ceremonies, and Special Events



s f St ill enable u The vision o plan that w ic g te ra st r ou ps to enjoy outlined(Treeinof Life and Memorial Bricks) nomic grou co -e o on the goals ci so all udents from . vite more st tionBricks) (Tree of Life and Memorial ucaClassroom ed Mascot: Astronautin Resources) olic and athTechnology a C(for f o its ef en Colors: Red, the b white and blue ased Principal: Christopher T. Renouf, Ed. S.


ful year at Ashton Elementary. As you know, the combination of talented students and supportive parents and staff has created a phenomenal team atmosphere on our campus that produces both incredible citizens and remarkable academic achievement. Recognizing this track record of accomplishment, we need to take time to celebrate our students’ success and embrace the spirit of continuous growth. Our staff will continue to focus on connecting the essential pieces to enhance teaching and learning; high and clear expectations; relationship building; alignment and monitoring; and continuous learning celebration. Ashton is proud to represent the schools in Sarasota County and across Florida as a “State Recognized Model School” as noted by the Florida School Report, as well as a five star, “A”-rated

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Dreams Are Free School has 50 stu

941.953.4181 Helped us Raise $ Strength in Faith | Excellence in Knowledge | Character inYou Service 45,000 sq. ft. campus located on 17 Acres at the corner of Fruitville Road and McIntosh Road, completed in 2001, consisting of four dome shaped buildings and one great hall Dome 1 houses the Offices, Chapel and Middle School Classrooms for St. Martha Dome 2 contains the St. Martha classrooms of Jr. Kindergarten through 3rd grade Dome 3 is utilized by Dreams Are Free School for children with special learning needs Dome 4 holds the Cafeteria, Art, Music, Spanish, Science, and Social Studies classrooms St. Anne Hall connects the four domes and currently serves as the main throughway and multi-purpose room for all school Masses, Physical Education classes, After School Activities, Book and Science Fairs, Assemblies, Ceremonies, and Special Events St. Martha School has 450 students and 50+ faculty/staff with two homerooms at each grade level from JK to 8th Dreams Are Free School has 50 students and 10+ staff

45,000 sq. ft. campus located on 17 A Road, completed in 2001, consisting o Dome 1 houses the Offices, Chapel an Dome 2 contains the St. Martha classr Dome 3 is utilized by Dreams Are Free

Strength in Faith | Excellence in

8 AUGUST 2013 


By Nick Friedman | Community Editor

The kindergartner Parker Lee, age 5


How did you spend your last summer before you start school? I went to adventure camp. Today, we went swimming. I also went to Yosemite, Calif., with my grandparents. We rode horses on the sand dunes. School is starting soon. Do

you know how you’ll get there on the first day? I’m going to ride my bike with my mom and dad. What do you want to learn at school? I want to work on my reading. I hear you like to play sports. What do you like to play? I play basketball with my dad, and I like to ride my bike. What's your favorite sport? I like soccer the best. What kind of school supplies do you have? I have a blue lunchbox, and I want a camouflage backpack, because it will match my camouflage clothes. What do you like to do for fun? I like to ride my bike and my scooter, and I like to play sports.

Nick Friedman

Five-year-old Parker Lee enjoys riding his bike with friends. He will begin school at Tatum Ridge Elementary this year.

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As children head back to school this month, some are preparing to take their first steps inside a classroom. Five-yearold Parker Lee will begin kindergarten at Tatum Ridge Elementary this year, and he says he's excited to make new friends, read and, of course, explore the playground. Parker’s mother, Laura Lee, says he’s had an adventurous summer before school starts. He’s taken a trip to California; gone snorkeling and horseback riding; and enjoyed playing sports and riding his bike in their new neighborhood.

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Just the facts Principal: Chad A. Erickson

Celebrating Over 21 years of Educating Young Minds!

• Ages 2 years to 5 years • Whole Child Development • Age Appropriate Activities • Emphasis on Critical Thinking Skills • Creative Play and Art Encouraged • Professional, Dedicated Staff • Fun Family Events


Mascot: Manny the Manatee Colors: Blue and gray Open house: 1:30 to 3 p.m. Aug. 16


Projected enrollment: 600 PTO president: Joel Freedman FCAT (2012-13): A

ney of continued academic excellence, social well-being and emotional health. Go Manatees! — Chad A. Erickson

Why I love my school

941.366.7890 • 117151

1773 Morrill Street • Sarasota, FL 34236


Bay Haven is the best! At Bay Haven, we cherish our student and family relationships; we teach and FROM THE expect posibehavior PRINCIPAL: tive choices; we challenge all students with rigorous academic standards; and we celebrate our cultural diversity. We are proud of our history of success, and we are ready to move to the next level of accomplishment. Our talented staff is honored to work with such a fantastic group of children each year. We are excited to partner with our families and students on this jour-

Serving Students in an Intimate, Residential Campus with Small Classes and Loving Teachers.

2901 W. Tamiami Circle, Sarasota • 359-5800

My Bay Haven experience was great! I loved all of my teachers and making friends. I enjoyed getting to do a lot fun science experiments and learning more Spanish. I am going to miss Bay Haven for a lot of reasons, but I will miss my teachers, friends and PE the most. — Enrique Santa Maria (Bay Haven graduate)




School forSchool for SuncoastSuncoast School for Suncoast InnovativeInnovative Studies Innovative Studies Studies Elementary School Campus Middle School Campus

frEE School of choIcE Free School of Choice no tuItIon No th Tuition

VPK Through 5 6th-8th VPK Through 8th GRADE GRADE GRADES

• Free and Reduced Breakfast & Lunch Program • Foreign Language Program • Advanced Classroom Technology • Bus Transportation • Before/After School Programs • Technology Assisted Learning • Creative Arts

• Student Government • School Uniforms • Differentiated Learning • Focus/Fair/FCAT Testing • Sports Programs • Interactive Classroom Technology • Gifted Program

Elementary School Campus: 845 South School Avenue Sarasota, FL 34237 office: 941-953-4433 • fax: 941-953-4435

SSIS mIddlE School offErS: • Free and Reduced Breakfast & Lunch Program • Heavy emphasis in Technology • Bus Transportation • Before/After School Programs • Technology Assisted Learning • Advanced Placement • Creative Arts • Student Government

• Community Youth Development Program • Differentiated Instruction • Advanced Classroom Technology • Advanced Courses: Algebra, Spanish (High School Credit) • Student Academic Organization Programs • Virtual Classes

Middle School Campus: 4311 Wilkinson Road Sarasota, FL 34233 office: 941-342-0963 • fax: 941-342-0967


SSIS ElEmEntary School offErS:

12 AUGUST 2013 




Principal: John Weida Mascot: Superstars Colors: Red, white and blue Open house: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 Projected enrollment: 631 PTO presidents: Nick Mavrikas and Candice Gough FCAT (2012-13): A

Why I love my school Some kids are Turtles, others are Eagles or Lancers, but I am a superstar! What kid wouldn’t want to be a Brentwood Superstar? I love being a Brentwood Superstar because it is an awesome school! A few things that make Brentwood so great are the smart teachers, the fun Renaissance program and the nice friends I have made since kindergarten. I also really like the Community of Caring because I feel safe and I don’t get bullied.  Brentwood is a really fun school!  — Carson Spence, fourth grade

AUG. 2-11

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Dine-in only. Limit 2 FREE Kid’s Meals per each adult entrée and drink purchase. For kids 12 and under. Children must be present to receive discount. Not valid with other discounts. Good only at these participating locations: Dine-in only. Limit 2 FREE Kid’s Meals per each adult entrée Sarasota | 5231 University Pkwy. @ Honore and drink purchase. For kids 12 and under. Children must be Port | US Hwy. 41with & 776 present toeach receiveadult discount. Not valid other FREE Kid’s Meals perCharlotte entrée discounts. GoodMeals only at Dine-in only. Limit 2 FREE Kid’s perthese each participating adult entrée locations:

Dine-in only. Limit 2 and drink purchase. For kids 12 and under. Children must be and drink purchase. For kids 12 and under. Children must be Sarasota | 5231 University Pkwy. @ Honore present to receive discount. Not valid other presentDine-in to receive discount. Not valid with only. Limitwith 2 FREE Kid’s Mealsother per each adult entrée Good only at Charlotte these For participating Port Hwy. 41 & 776 and drink purchase. kids |12US andlocations: under. Children must be discounts. Good onlydiscounts. at these participating locations:

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Sarasota | 5231 University @ Honorelocations: discounts. Good only Pkwy. at these participating And so much more... Dine-in only. Limit 2 @ FREEHonore Kid’s Meals per each adult entrée | 5231 University Pkwy. Port Charlotte | US Hwy. & 776 We’re social! Find us: and drink purchase. For kids41 12 and under. Children be Sarasota | 5231 University Pkwy. @ Honore present to41 receive Not valid with other Charlotte | US discounts. Hwy. &discount. 776 Port Charlotte US Hwy. 41 &We’re 776 social! We’reFind social!us: FindAnd us: so much more... Good only at|these participating locations: 117382


with a focus on academic excellence, character development, healthy living and community involvement. At Brentwood, we've incorporated thinking maps in our learning; embraced the Community of Caring philosophy to develop our character; sustained one of the largest-run clubs in the county to promote a healthy lifestyle; and involved our community in multiple avenues through our Parent Teacher Organization. Everyone is welcome in the Brentwood family. — John Weida

Sarasota | 5231 University Pkwy. @ Honore Port Charlotte | US Hwy. 41 & 776 We’re social! Find us:


Just the facts

I would FROM THE like to welPRINCIPAL: come each and every one of you to Brentwood Elementary School. Brentwood is the home of the “Superstars” and is an “A”-rated neighborhood school. Our success is the result of our hardworking students, staff, parents and community.  We are a school community


2500 Vinson Ave., Sarasota • 361-6230





ELEMENTARY Martin Luther King Jr. SCHOOL 2350 Way, Sarasota • 361-6480

Just the facts

I believe knowledge is great power. I want to be well educated. I will learn the basic skills and beyond. I will complete all assignments. I will strive for punctuality and good attendance. I believe I can do anything if I work hard. I pledge this to my school, my family, and myself. Today’s students, tomorrow’s leaders!

Principal: Dawn Clayton Mascot: Tornadoes Colors: Purple and yellow Open house: 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 16


— Dawn Clayton, principal

Projected enrollment: 519 FCAT (2012-13): C

FRUITVILLE ELEMENTARY Honore Ave., Sarasota • 361-6200 SCHOOL 601 schools/fruitville

Just the facts Principal: Dr. Laura Kingsley Mascot: Treasure chest Colors: Blue and white


Open house: 9 to 11 a.m. (K); 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (first to fifth grade) Aug. 16 Projected enrollment: 765 PTO presidents: Jan Sutter and Andrea Johnson FCAT (2012-13): A

I feel so blessed to be the principal at Fruitville Elementary School. I love working with our incredible staff, our dedicated families and our precious children. FROM THE For me, PRINCIPAL: this is the “Year of the Child.” Nothing else really matters … not money, not test scores, not having the latest toys or the best car.  This is the time to make our children our top priority. Now is the time to read to, listen to and encourage our children.  Nothing else matters, really.    — Dr. Laura Kingsley

WHY DO I LOVE ODA? “I love ODA because I met my best friends there. The teachers are the best. I have gone to ODA since I was five-years-old. I wish ODA had a college so I would never have to leave.” - Grade 4 “ODA allows me to be who I am and encourages me to do my best.” -Grade 8 “The teachers and students gave me the confidence that I needed to be successful.” - Grade 10 “My teachers at ODA have influenced my life profoundly, and for the better.” -Class of 2013 Graduate attending Georgetown U. Faculty at Out-of-Door inspire their students to love learning and to achieve at the highest level, resulting in a 100% matriculation rate to four-year colleges and universities and an average merit award of $150,000 per Out-of-Door graduate. Siesta Key Campus: Pre-K-Grade 5 | Uihlein Campus at Lakewood Ranch: Grades 6-12 | Sarasota, FL | 941-554-3400




14 AUGUST 2013 


By Yaryna Klimchak | Community Editor

The NEWBIE It's a good thing Chad Erickson has an inviting smile. As the new Bay Haven School of Basics Plus principal, Erickson says his main priority is building relationships with parents, students and staff. “In my book, relationships are No. 1, along with making those connections with people,” Erickson says. With more than 15 years of experience, he has learned that teachers and principals must meet the needs of parents and students, even if it means going out of their way to do so. “It’s important to be approachable and accessible to all parents," says Erickson. "I try to have a real open-door policy.” Colorful children’s drawings and inspirational quotes, such as “Falling down is not failure, not getting back up is,” line the walls and cabinets of his office. His favorite childhood book,


Yaryna Klimchak

“Green Eggs and Ham,” by Dr. Seuss, sits on his desk. “It teaches you that change is healthy,” Erickson says. “And, that trying new things is healthy and to be persistent

g Celebratin

and not give up.” Erickson and his wife, Stephanie, embraced change when they relocated to Sarasota with their three children Payton, 7, Cooper, 5, and Bennett, 3, from

his hometown of Eau Claire, Wis., where he served as principal at Sherman Elementary School for 12 years. In his new role, Erickson hopes to take Bay Haven to the next level academically; build relationships with students and families; and encourage teachers to be innovative and take risks. “We never want to be happy with good enough,” Erickson says. When he is not acting as principal, Erickson enjoys running and reading. He also considers himself a family man and says his regular family activities are bound to change in Sarasota. “This is going to be a big transition,” says Erickson. “Last year, I would say we love sledding, building snow forts and having snowball fights. But we are an outside family; now we go biking and play in parks.”


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3450 Gocio Road, Sarasota • 361-6405 schools/gocio

Just the facts Principal: Dr. Pamela Buchanan Mascot: Owl Colors: Red, white and royal blue Open house: 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 16


Projected enrollment: 780 PTO president: Joelle Young FCAT (2012-13): C

We’re "Turning Up the Heat" this year at Gocio Elementary School. With a talented faculty; supportive parents; eager students; and a great community, we are under on our FROM THE way journey to PRINCIPAL: promote an environment of academic excellence. We cordially invite you to be a part of our great Gocio family. Whether it is by volunteering your time, serving on our School Advisory Council or by visiting your child’s classroom, everyone within our Gocio family plays an integral role in our success. — Pamela Buchanan, Ed.D.


McIntosh Middle

Address: 2250 Myrtle St., Sarasota Phone: 359-5824 Website: sarasotacountyschools. net/schools/bookermiddle Orientation: 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 14 (sixth-graders); 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15 (seventh-graders); 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15 (eighth-graders) Open house: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 5 Principal: LaShawn Houston-Frost 2012-13 FCAT Grade: C

Address: 701 S. McIntosh Road, Sarasota Phone: 361-6520 Website: sarasotacountyschools. net/schools/mcintosh Orientation: 4 to 4:55 p.m. (sixth grade) Aug. 15; 4:55 to 5:50 p.m. (seventh grade); 5:55 to 6:45 p.m. (eighth grade) Principal: Dr. Harriet Moore 2012-13 FCAT Grade: B

Address: 3636 S. Shade Ave., Sarasota Phone: 361-6472 Website: sarasotacountyschools. net/schools/brookside Orientation: 9 to 11 a.m. Aug. 15 (sixth grade); 1 to 3 p.m. Aug 15 (seventh- and eighth-graders) Open house: 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 3 Principal: Kristine Lawrence 2012-13 FCAT Grade: A

Sarasota Middle Address: 4826 Ashton Road, Sarasota Phone: 361-6464 Website: sarasotacountyschools. net/schools/sarasotamiddle Back-to-School Days: 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 13 (eighth-graders); 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 (seventh-graders); 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 15 (sixth-graders) Principal: Karen Rose 2012-13 FCAT Grade: A 116912

Brookside Middle

16 AUGUST 2013 



Gulf Gate ELEMENTARY School 6500 Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota • 361-6400

Mascot: Tigers Colors: Blue and white Open house: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 16


Projected enrollment: 711 PTO president: Corrie Scott FCAT (2012-13): B

Welcome to the 20132014 school year. Many diverse learning experiences are in place for your children this year. Our goal is to challenge your children intellectually, grow them socially and guide them toward independent thinking and problem solving through the use of the Common Core Standards. As we strive to promote healthy development in all aspects of each student’s life, we also strive to develop a community of students of good character. We encourage students to demonstrate

Why I love my school I love Gulf Gate because it has nice teachers and lunch-room ladies. I’m excited to be in the fifth grade because I get to be an anchor on the Tiger Town News. At Gulf Gate, we do many fun things like Tiger Trot, which raises money for the school. We also have a fall carnival with a lot of cool games. You learn things like math, science and reading. I’m excited to go back to school and see all my friends. — Shepard Condon, fifth grade


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Just the facts

the best of themselves every moment of every day, and to make positive contributions to our school. We strive to instill within our students a sense of personal pride, as well as collective pride and love for our school and community.  I am looking forward to this school year. The staff at Gulf Gate works tirelessly on behalf of all of our students throughout the school year. Communication is so important, so please feel free to contact your child’s teacher if you have any questions or concerns. Working together, we can ensure the success of each one of our students. Good things happen at Gulf Gate Elementary School — every day! — Robin L. Magac





By Yaryna Klimchak | Community Editor


Yaryna Klimchak

Mike Moran hopes to join First Robotics in the fall at Mooney.

Fourteen-year-old Mike Moran is constantly thinking of ways to rebuild, reconstruct and redesign just about anything. He jokes that his parents complain about computer parts being strewn about the house. “It’s considered learning, but it doesn’t feel like it, “ Mike says. Mike’s love for technology began in sixth grade, with the Technology Student Association at Sarasota Middle School. He was club president for the 2012-2013 school year. Mike had no intention of joining TSA, but a few of his friends convinced him. “It’s funny. I joined because of my friends, but they dropped out in a few weeks,” Mike says. At the beginning, the club suffered from a lack of funding. But, Mike thanks parents and teachers, such as TSA adviser and technology teacher James VanFleet, who contributed


money out of their own pockets, for helping to get his team to competitions. Under VanFleet's instruction, Mike’s love for inventions continued to grow throughout his time at Sarasota Middle. He'd get to school an hour early and stayed an hour late almost every day to work on TSA projects, such as the VEX Robot that won him and his teammates sixth place in the nation in July for VEX Robotics Driving Skills. His team designed the VEX robot to pick up and drop beanbags into a trough. “TSA is the kickstarter to all I know,” Mike says. “Building a robot with friends is trial and error. We laugh when it breaks apart, and it is fun to get together with a group of people who have the same interests as you.” In April, the Sarasota-Manatee Chapter of the Air Force Association recognized Mike

at the Sarasota Regional Science, Engineering and Technology Fair Ceremony, for his science project, “Reinventing the Wing.” Mike investigated how different wing shapes and positioning of the fuselage would affect the flight of a glider. It took him about a month to complete the project. He'd never participated in a science fair before. Mike said goodbye to the middle-school club before summer and will attend Cardinal Mooney this fall. This summer, he has been learning Dreamweaver web design and application development at Ringling College of Art and Design, and he hopes to join the First Robotics Club as a freshman at Mooney in the fall. Mike’s ultimate hope is to build robots for the military. “If you like what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” Mike says.



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18 AUGUST 2013 




I have FROM THE missed you PRINCIPAL: so much this summer! I hope you spent the past two months learning new things, reading great books and having lots of fun with your family and friends. I am really looking forward to hearing all about your summer adventures! Your teacher is very excited to meet you at our Meet Your Teacher Day from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 16. The first day of school is Aug. 19. Starting day one, be sure to come to school on time and ready to learn. This school year will be your very best yet. Let’s get started, Lancers! — Joan Bower

Just the facts Principal: Joan Bower Mascot: Lancers Colors: Blue and silver Open house: 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 16


Projected enrollment: 590 PTO president: Anne McFall FCAT (2012-13): A

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Why I love my school Lakeview is the best school in Florida for three reasons: First, we get snow cones every report card. I love snow cones and Lakeview. Second, I like art. It’s super fun to paint. Mrs. Rittmeyer, the art teacher, taught us how to make a dog. And third, I like Ms. Bower. She is the best principal in the world. Ms. Bower is sweet as a gumdrop and good as chocolate. I love my little old Lakeview Elementary School! — Sofia Francois, second grade


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SARASOTA PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS* Sarasota High Address: 1000 S. School Ave., Sarasota Phone: 955-0181 Website: schools/sarasotahigh Principal: Jeff Hradek Make-up orientation: 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 15 Open house: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 18

Pine View School Address: 1 Python Path, Osprey Phone: 486-2001 Website: Principal: Steve Largo Open house: 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 29

Riverview High Address: 1 Ram Way, Sarasota Phone: 923-1484 Website: sarasotacountyschools. net/schools/riverview Principal: Linda Nook Make-up Orientation: 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 16 Open House: 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 5

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Address: 4650 Beneva Road, Sarasota Phone: 921-3981 Website: schools/suncoastpolytechnical Principal: Dr. Jennifer Putnam Freshman orientation: 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 15 New student potluck barbecue: 3 to 5 p.m. Aug. 15

*Venice High School is located at 1 Indian Ave., Venice. Phone: 488-6726; website:

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Booker High Address: 3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota Phone: 355-2967 Website: sarasotacountyschools. net/schools/bookerhigh Principal: Dr. Rachel Shelley Freshmen orientation: 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 18


20 AUGUST 2013



Phillippi Shores IB World School 4747 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota • 361-6424

Principal: Dr. Allison S. Foster Mascot: Falcons Colors: Royal blue and white Meet the teacher: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 15


Projected enrollment: 765 PTO president: Lona Voigt FCAT: (2012-13) A

There are many schools in Sarasota, but I love Phillippi Shores! Phillippi does many fundraisers and community-service projects.  One was for a student who used to go to Phillippi. His name was Branson, and he needed heart surgery, so Phillippi did a fundraiser to raise more than $9,000 for Branson and his family.  — Megan Mohrmann

in the community to one of our biggest annual events, the Phillippi 7K and One-Mile Fun Run Oct. 12. I am excited to start the year and to see all of our Phillippi Falcons. — Allison Foster

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Just the facts

The 2012FROM THE 2013 year was PRINCIPAL: an outstanding one at Phillippi! Our school continues to soar “Up and Beyond,” which is reflected in the accomplishments and achievements of our students. This year, Phillippi will continue to offer a rigorous academic program and to develop knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded and wellbalanced students through the International Baccalaureate program.  The 2013-2014 year will be an exciting one at Phillippi. We have many wonderful schoolwide events planned, including Pumpkin Night, Storybook Night, the Spring Fling and more.  I want to invite everyone

151 McIntosh Road, Sarasota, 34232





Southside ELEMENTARY School 1901 Webber St.. Sarasota • 349-3223

Just the facts Principal: Steve Dragon Mascot: panthers Colors: Blue and white Meet the teacher: 4 p.m. Aug. 15


Projected enrollment: 813 PTO president: Paula Ippolito FCAT: (2012-13) A

Wow! FROM THE The 2013PRINCIPAL: 14 school year marks Southside’s 88th year providing an exceptional educational program for elementary students. We’ll soon be celebrating its 90th birthday. We’re excited to begin the new school year as we continue to provide our students with an optimal learning experience. Our PTO and foundation (thanks to our parents and business/community partners) continue to provide our students with “All the Arts” and so much more. This year, we’re adding technology to the “specials wheel” and

Why I love my school

will be creating an Internet Café within that space. Afterschool clubs will be in full force, once again offering something for every student. We hired new teachers who are extremely talented and will beautifully complement our seasoned pros. I look forward to seeing our returning friends and can’t wait to make new ones. Enjoy the remaining days of summer break. — Steven E. Dragon

Southside is not just a place to learn, it is like my second home. Southside combines wonderful educational experiences and fantastic fun. The teachers always lend a hand for academics. Southside takes learning to an adventurous level. Learning is an amazing, handson experience at Southside. Southside may be a historic building filled with classrooms to some, but, to me, the people and experiences make it the most wonderful place to be — just like home. — Kate DeLuca, fifth grade

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22 AUGUST 2013 


By Yaryna Klimchak | Community Editor

The VOLUNTEER dressed as Old MacDonald and his students dressed as farm animals to re-enact “Old MacDonald had a Farm.” McDonald also leads by example. He is a devoted volunteer and spends at least 12 hours a week giving back to his community. “One of my goals, which is hard to do in one school year, is to teach (the students) to be good people; to give back and be the best they can be,” McDonald says. The St. Louis native started volunteering early in his youth. His Catholic all-boys high school required each student to volunteer 150 hours a year. McDonald spent his Saturday mornings reading to children in a pediatric ward of a hospital. After that experience, he thought he wanted to be a pediatrician, but after taking a children’s literature course at Westminster College, as part of

the pre-med program, he decided to be a teacher, instead. McDonald started teaching at ODA in 2005. Currently, he volunteers at Big Brothers Big Sisters and ALSO Youth regularly and tries to fit in at least one trip in a year building homes for Habitat for Humanity. He has built homes in Uganda, Thailand, India, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri., Florida and North and South Carolina. After McDonald went through his first cancer scare at 19 years old, he began to volunteer for Relay for Life. Then, in 2008, McDonald was diagnosed with cancer and went through chemotherapy. He is cancer free today but still volunteers for Relay for Life. “The places I volunteer are near and dear to my heart,” McDonald says. “If everyone volunteers an hour a week, we can all give back.”

• • • • • • • •

Montessori § College-Preparatory 18 Months to 12th Grade Celebrating Our 30th Year in Sarasota


Yaryna Klimchak

ODA teacher Sean McDonald says he has always wanted to work with kids and claims he is a kid at heart.

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Sat: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM • Sun: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM Fax: 941-364-4371


Fax: 941-364-4371


Sean McDonald is the kind of person who still hand-writes letters to his friends and family and performs random acts of kindness for strangers. At first, he may look tall and intimidating to The Out-of-Door Academy second-graders he teaches, but they soon realize he is a 6-foot-5-inch teddy bear. McDonald makes it his priority for his students to enjoy what they are learning. One of his favorite things is to teach his class letter writing. “I let them pick anybody they want and they go nuts," says McDonald. "I tell them you can even write to my parents, and they ask the funniest questions; and my mom will write back.” His classroom features a camping theme, and children occasionally read in a set-up tent. “I don’t always want to be serious,” McDonald says. For Halloween, McDonald

Sean McDonald




Tatum Ridge ELEMENTARY 4100 Tatum Ridge Road, Sarasota • 316-8188

Principal: Eric Jackson Mascot: Eagles Colors: Yellow and teal Open house: Aug. 16


Projected enrollment: 670 PTO president: Laura Paolercio

FCAT (2012-13): A


Just the facts

It is my pleasure to extend a warm and heartfelt welcome to you as we begin the 2013-2014 school year at Tatum Ridge Elementary School.  Throughout the summer, our staff has been hard at work in preparation of your arrival back. To those students and parents who are new to the Tatum Ridge community, we extend an especially warm welcome and wish for you to have a positive and productive year. You will find our school offers a safe, welcoming and studentcentered environment where students can grow and learn. We have maintained a familylike atmosphere and have continued to make outstanding academic achievements.  We are fortunate to have a staff that embraces this philosophy while also setting extremely high standards for student learning. We look forward to working in partnership with you to support our students in their journey as learners. — Eric Jackson


24 AUGUST 2013


By Nick Friedman | Community Editor

The INVOLVED PARENT Stacey Stroth remembers the moment she knew she wanted to work in education. While attending Riverview High School, the Sarasota native says the guidance of one of her teachers had a lasting impact on her life. “In high school, I probably could’ve chosen a much different path for my life,” says Stroth. “But she helped keep me on track, and she taught me a lot of things. She ended up coming to my wedding, and we still keep in touch. She was the person who made me want to be a teacher.” Stroth went on to study education and earn her master’s at the University of Central Florida. She taught elementary school in Tampa and locally at the Goldie Feldman Academy for seven years. After the birth of her first daughter, Riley, she decided to step back from work to raise her family, but she remained passionate about education. When Riley was ready to begin kindergarten at Ashton Elementary, Stroth felt it was important to be a

part of her daughter's academic life, so she began volunteering as a class mother. “I was a little nervous about sending her off to school for the first time,” says Stroth, with a laugh. “I didn’t want to be one of those hovering parents, but we both loved it, and I want to be able to do this while I can.” Stroth now has three children attending Ashton, and she continues to be involved. She’s served as the president and as a board member of the Parent Teacher Organization, and she says she enjoys building relationships with other volunteers at the school, as well as the chance to have daily interaction with her children at school. “They warned me that once you start volunteering, you get sucked in,” says Stroth. “And it’s true, but I love it. There is such a great group of teachers, staff and volunteers at Ashton, and I’ve built some great friendships over the years. And, I like knowing that my kids will always remember me being there.”

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Stacey Stroth

Nick Friedman

Stacey Stroth with her children, Ava, going into fifth grade and Cason, going into kindergarten, both at Ashton. Her eldest daughter, Riley, will attend Sarasota Middle School this fall.


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Tuttle ELEMENTARY 2863 Eighth St., Sarasota • 361-6433 •

Just the facts Principal: Dr. Tom Buchanan Mascot: Turtles Colors: Green and white Open house or meet the teacher: 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 15


Projected Enrollment: 665 PTO contact info: Call the school. FCAT (2012-13): B

We are looking forward to starting the new school year by welcoming eight new staff members to the Tuttle family. When searching for new staff, our search for excellence knew no boundaries. We found some outstanding experienced teachers locally and out of state. Some of our new staff previously taught in Manatee County, one teacher will be coming from Michigan and another from Louisiana. Our new hires bring with them a wealth of experiences, talents and positive energy. We will be continuing with our theme of “Building Better Futures.” The theme was developed with the input of our parents, who represent a variety of cultures and nationalities. The one thing our parents have in common is the hope for greater opportunities for their children. Tuttle Elementary School has


gained the reputation of having a hard-working staff with a passion for learning. As an example, the Positive Behavior Support program at Tuttle is has been recognized as a model program. Students now understand that behaving well in school is expected and celebrated. While our test scores are headed in the right direction, new curriculum standards known as the Common Core State Standards will require students to demonstrate greater thinking skills, deeper understanding of key concepts and the ability to write more persuasively. I have a special request for our families. First, please do all you can to have your students attend school regularly and be on time. Second, please attend as many school events as possible and stay in touch with your child’s teacher by either phone, student planners or in person. Volunteers are needed and welcomed at Tuttle Elementary School. Anyone interested can call 316-8261 to find out more. — Thomas W. Buchanan, Ed.D.

Sarasota Christian School Christ-Centered Education Pre-K through 12th Grade

Academically Challenging, Biblically-Infused Curriculum Competitive Athletics Beginning in Middle School

Certified 4-StAr VPK ProgrAM Odyssey of the Mind Program Ranked 4th in the World

Schedule a Tour Today! 371.6481 ext. 238


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26 AUGUST 2013



Wilkinson ELEMENTARY School 3400 Wilkinson Road, Sarasota • 361-6477

Mascot: Wildcats Colors: Green and white Meet the teacher: 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 15


Projected enrollment: 495 PTO president: Erika Berrones FCAT (2012-13): A

Girl Scouts!

Why I love my school Wilkinson Elementary Is the best school to me. Everything we learn about Makes me want to scream and shout. From FCAT to essays I might say That you will have a great day. Everything that you see, All of it is here for thee. The playground is the best place to play At the end of every day. All that I have to say Is this is where I want to stay. — Lucas Sickler

Please get involved. We have many opportunities for volunteering and business partnering, as well. We are so proud of our “A” school. Our outstanding staff is dedicated to provide diverse instructional experiences with the individual learner in mind. We provide differentiated instruction and act as facilitators in the classroom. Students have opportunities to engage with each other and become independent, critical thinkers. We also use Positive Behavior Support to promote rolemodel citizenship. I look forward to an outstanding school year. Please contact the school if you have any questions. — Ruth Thomas

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Principal: Ruth Thomas

Welcome to FROM THE the 2013-14 PRINCIPAL: school year! It is always exciting to begin a new school year. We have had time to relax, enjoy summer activities and spend time with our friends and families. We have so many events planned for this school year, such as chorus, drama, Reading Counts and Student Ambassadors. We also have family-involvement nights, such as International Night and Fall Carnival! And don’t forget grade-level performances and, of course, our annual Reading Writing Celebration. I would like to encourage all of our families to become involved in our school. We have a newly organized PTO and president, Erika Berrones, and PTO Board. They are eager to make this school the best experience for your child.


Just the facts

SArASoTA, fL 941-822-0357




By Nick Friedman | Community Editor

The Entrepreneur J.R. Kennelly has been interested in politics for as long as he can remember. He recalls that when he was 6, he would wake up early every morning, not to watch cartoons, but to watch the morning news. Now, entering his senior year at Pine View, the 17-year-old student says his interest in political issues is stronger than ever. His biggest focus is on economic issues, specifically the shortage of jobs in the U.S. and the lack of American-made products. After a discussion among friends at school last year, Kennelly decided to do his part to combat the problem. He developed a way to combine his interests in business and politics into a unique endeavor, by launching

his own clothing line. “Because of my political background, I was looking to do something that would promote American jobs,” says Kennelly. In October, Kennelly began to research the clothing industry and its suppliers, and he says previous jobs helped provide him with knowledge of the wholesale industry. By June, he was ready to officially launch the company. The clothing line sells patriotic tank tops, T-shirts and Oxford dress shirts geared toward a politically savvy college demographic, and all the products are made in America. “There is so much outsourcing, and it’s hurting our economy, " says Kennelly. "I wanted to make a positive change, and mak-

ing sure that the clothes were made in America might mean less profit for me, but I think it’s the right thing to do.” Since its launch, Kennelly says the response has been positive. “I think some people were skeptical when I first started talking about it," he says. “But the first few days of sales proved to be successful.” This summer, Kennelly has toured several Southern colleges in an effort to promote the brand and make licensing agreements with fraternities to sell customized apparel. After graduation, Kennelly says he plans to pursue a double major in business management and political science and that, one day, he’d like to hold political office.


Courtesy photo

J.R. Kennelly plans to market his clothing line to college-aged, politically savvy customers.

Announcing Fall Registration The only school on the west coast of Florida affiliated with a professional ballet company. The Sarasota Ballet School offers the best ballet training by an exceptionally qualified faculty. All of our faculty are certified educators. LoweR Division | Ages 3-7

Creative Dance, Pre-Ballet and Primary Classes. Students learn technique, discipline, creativity and self-confidence. MiDDLe Division | Ages 8+

Students take multiple classes per week. Focus on ballet, jazz, pre-pointe, pointe, character, flamenco. RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) accreditation available. UppeR Division | Ages 11+

Students continue to perfect technique and artistic skills learned in the middle division. The ADULT pRogRAM | Ages 18+

Provides dance and fitness classes to all ages and levels. Classes are available in beginner ballet, intermediate ballet, advanced ballet, jazz, and stretch & tone.

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28 AUGUST 2013 





The Achievement Center

Address: 6220 McIntosh Road, Sarasota Phone: 923-1125 Website: Principal: Alisa Wright Meet and Greet: 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13 (middle school); 5:30 p.m. Aug. 14 (pre-K through second grade); 5:30 p.m. Aug. 15 (third through fifth grade)

Island Village (Montessori)

Address: 801 Orange Ave., Sarasota Phone: 926-1700 Website: sarasotamilitaryacademy. com Headmaster: Daniel Kennedy Parent and student orientation day: 8 a.m. (A-J) and 11 a.m. (K-Z) Aug. 16 Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences

Address: 11011 Clark Road, Sarasota Phone: 484-2150 Website: Principal: Kym Elder

Address: 645 Central Ave., Sarasota Phone: 330-1855

Address: 1999 Lincoln Drive, Sarasota Phone: 365-3330 Website: Grades: First to 12th

Sarasota Suncoast Academy Agape Christian Address: 8084 Hawkins Road, School Sarasota Phone: 924-4242 Website: suncoast Principal: Steve Crump Back to School Night: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15

Address: 150 N. Shade Ave., Sarasota Phone: 894-3053 Website: Principal: Cindy Showalter Grades: Kindergarten to 12th

Brickhouse Academy

Suncoast School for Innovative Studies

Sarasota Academy Sarasota School of the Arts of Arts And Address: 4466 Fruitville Road, Sarasota Sciences

Address: 3552 Webber St., Sarasota Phone: 924-7681 Website: Principal: Allison Detra Grades: Kindergarten to 12th

Address: 845 S. School Ave. (elementary campus); 4311 Wilkinson Road (middle school campus), Sarasota Phone: 953-4433 (elementary), 952-0055 (middle) Website: Executive director: Stephen Evans

Cardinal Mooney High School Address: 4171 Fruitville Road, Sarasota


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Phone: 371-4979 Website: Principal: Cecilia Blankenship

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Sarasota Military Academy


SARASOTA OBSERVER • BACK TO SCHOOL GUIDE Phone: 371-4917 Website: Principal: Steve Christie Grades: Ninth to 12th

Website: Principal: Mary Eisenbise Grades: Sixth to 12th

St. Martha Catholic School NewGate School

NewGate School (montessori) Cardinal Mooney High School

Dreams are Free Catholic School Address: 4380 Fruitville Road Phone: 366-4010 Website: Principal: Rebecca Shields Grades: Kindergarten to eighth

Julie Rohr Academy Address: 4466 Fruitville Road, Sarasota Phone: 371-4979 Website: Director: Julie Rohr McHugh Grades: Preschool to eighth

Address: 5237 Ashton Road, Sarasota Phone: 922-4949 Website: Headmaster: Tim Seldon Grades: Early childhood to 12th

The Out-of-Door Academy

Address: 4380 Fruitville Road, Sarasota Phone: 953-4181 Website: Principal: Siobhan M. Young Grades: Pre-K to eighth

Sarasota Christian School Address: 5415 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota Phone: 371-6481 Website:

Address: 444 Reid Road, Siesta Key Phone: 349-3223 Website: Head of school: David Mahler Grades: Kindergarten to fifth Back to School Night: 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12

Superintendent: Jeffrey Shank Grades: Pre-K to 12th

Sonhaven Preparatory Academy Address: 3560 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota Phone: 360-2000 Website: Founders: Thomas and Carolyn Hilt Grades: Kindergarten to 12th

Goldie Feldman Academy at Temple Beth Sholom Address: 1050 S. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota Phone: 552-2770 Website: Director: Kavita Vasil Grades: Preschool to eighth

West Florida Christian School

The Prew Academy Address: 5020 Fielding Lane, Sarasota Phone: 921-7739


Out-of-Door Academy

Address: 4311 Wilkinson Road, Sarasota Phone: 921-6311 Website: Pastor/school administrator: Rick McGowan Grades: Kindergarten to 12th

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30 AUGUST 2013 


By Nick Friedman | Community Editor

The retiree Valerie Donahue When Valerie Donahue was 15 years old, she began volunteering for a program that worked with children with cerebral palsy. Watching the children make progress and seeing the look on their parents’ faces, Donahue knew this type of work was her calling. “That really was a turning point for me,” she says. “I saw that I could make a real difference. I struggled with reading when I was in school, and I remember having to stay inside to practice. I think that also had a big impact on why I wanted to pursue special education. I wanted to help other kids with whatever they’re struggling with.” She went on to earn her degree in special education and elementary education, and, in 1974, she and her late hus-

band, Jack, moved from Detroit to Sarasota; her parents owned a condo on Longboat Key. She devoted her time to raising her four sons until December 1998, when she began teaching at the special education program for Southside Elementary. “I remember being scared to death,” says Donahue. “But seeing the enthusiasm on all the students’ faces, I knew I could do it.” Donahue worked as an Exceptional Student Education teacher at Southside for 14 years. Her job was to identify the special needs of her students and find the best way for them to learn. “I have a lot of tricks,” she says. “I used a lot of movement, visuals and tactile aids. It’s different for each student, and, after a while, you start to pick up on what each kid needs more quickly. When you see that

Nick Friedman

After 14 years in special education, Valerie Donahue is entering her first year of retirement this fall. sparkle in their eye, you know it’s finally clicked.” Now, heading into retirement, Donahue says she looks forward to having time to relax and to playing a big role in raising her granddaughter, who will be born this fall. She says she’ll still volunteer at the school.



“I’ll miss the kids,” she says. “I love the feeling of doing something for someone else, and it’s rewarding to know that I helped make a difference for them. I’m going to take more time for myself. I’m even going to take piano lessons. I’m looking forward to new adventures.”

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Back to School 2013  

Back to School 2013

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