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competitive edge By Pam Eubanks | News Editor

Manatee TSA teams sweep states Manatee County schools took five of six top-ranked posts during the 2012 Florida TSA Competition last month. MANATEE COUNTY — As students in Justin Devine’s technology class at Nolan Middle School hovered around computer screens, manipulating images, the excitement from weekends past still hadn’t worn off. On Feb. 26, Nolan’s Technology Student Association team not only came back from the state TSA Conference and Competition with 16 first-place finishes but also with a state championship title. “It really motivated us to work harder for the national conference and to try to keep our reputation,” said 13-year-old Sofia Atz-

rodt, who, with teammates, took home several awards. Manatee County Public Schools dominated the competition, held Feb. 22-26, on Amelia Island, with Manatee high schools sweeping the top-three overall championship spots. Southeast High took first, while Braden River High followed closely behind, and Lakewood Ranch High placed third. In the middle school contest, Nolan came home as state champions, earning more than five times as many first-place finishes as any other Manatee County middle school and 24 total topthree finishes. Johnson Middle

School, a magnet school, placed third overall with 11 top-three finishes, while Haile Middle School placed fourth. More than 1,000 middle and high school students from across Florida’s 67 school districts competed in 68 events during the competition. “This is an amazing accomplishment, and one that shows just how hard our teachers and students are working,” said Doug Wagner, director of Adult, Career and Technology Education for the school district. “We won more trophies than any other school district in the state, and we re-

campaign trail By Pam Eubanks | News Editor


Wagner noted that East County schools performed exceptionally well, and success at the high school level, in particular, may stem back to the implementation of a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, program at the elementary level. McNeal and Freedom elementary schools were the first elementary schools to offer the program.

ally won more than all the other school districts combined. “For me, the most impressive result we had (was that) we had


581 top-10 finishes from our students in Manatee County,” he said. Manatee’s top finishers in June will head to the 2012 National TSA Conference in Nashville to compete for the national championship. Wagner said STEM programs and organizations such as TSA are important to Manatee students because they help prepare children to be college and career ready upon graduation. All Manatee schools have TSA chapters, Wagner said, and seven district elementary schools have engineering programs in place, including McNeal, Freedom and Braden River elementary schools in the East County. Contact Pam Eubanks at

By Pam Eubanks | News Editor

Barbecue cook-off needs more chefs Main Street is seeking amateur cooks to compete in its High on the Hog event.

School Board candidates Robert Moates with Jeff Zientara and Steve Litschauer

Manatee School Board candidate rallies in Ranch

Gregg and Ruth Anderson

Michael Terry with campaign manager Rochelle Dudley

Supporters of Manatee County School Board District 2 candidate Robert Moates gathered Feb. 29, at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing for a fundraising meet-and-greet event. Moates, a government and economics teacher at Lakewood Ranch High School, is hoping to oust long- David Wick with Manatee County time School Board Commission District 5 candidate member Harry Kinnan. Vanessa Baugh

Jackie Smither, Chris Reynolds and Carrie Russ served drinks.

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Summerfield Bluffs resident Charlie Morse has been told many times his barbecue is better than average. In fact, it’s gotten rave reviews. “Everybody says it’s the best they’ve ever had,” Morse said. “I guess it’s time to find out.” Morse, with his son, Connor, was the first barbecue-enthusiast to sign up as a contestant for the High on the Hog Barbecue Contest, an amateurs-only, people’s choice barbecue competition slated for April 29, on Lakewood Ranch Main Street. And although a few competitors have stepped up to the challenge, event organizer Julia DeCastro is seeking more amateur cooks to heat up their grills and compete in the contest, which has a grand prize of $1,000 for the winning chef. “It’s going to be fun,” DeCastro said. “I’m excited about it.” Grill teams of up to four people will have less than six hours to set up and grill up enough barbecue to offer 500 2-ounce portions to event-goers. Teams must provide their own tent and grill as well as cooking rigs. Organizers will supply a 12-foot-by-15-foot space and one 8-foot table to each competing team. DeCastro said the idea for the competition came as a result of the annual barbecue cook-off between Lakewood Ranch Main Street restaurants each summer. Each year, residents, she said, call hoping to participate but previously have not been able to do so. “We thought it would be fun to open it up to backyard barbecueers,” DeCastro said, noting the annual restaurant competition will continue as usual. “(Contestants) cannot be a professional (chef). That’s the only rule we have.” Entry fee for the contest is $125 per team by April 1. They also will be responsible for providing 500 2-ounce portions for the competition. DeCastro noted aspiring chefs who are concerned with the entry

Pam Eubanks

Summerfield resident Charlie Morse, and his son, Connor, are teaming up for the barbecue competition.

if you go High on the Hog Barbeque Contest WHEN: April 29 WHERE: Lakewood Ranch Main Street REGISTRATION $125 per team by April 1. For a registration form, visit www. and click on April 29 on the events calendar. Main registration and entry fee should be sent to: Main Street at Lakewood Ranch, Attn: High on the Hog Event, 14400 Covenant Way, Lakewood Ranch, 34202. costs can ask for business sponsorships from their employer or other companies as a way to defer personal costs and provide a valued marketing tool for the businesses. At the event, attendees will pay $5 for a card that allows them to sample barbecue from all the competing teams. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund. Contact Pam Eubanks at

East County Observer 03.08.12  

East County Observer 03.08.12