Award winning projects celebrated by VGTI scientists

Award winning projects celebrated by VGTI scientists

Seventh grade students in Claudy Bois’ and Joshua Burgess’ classrooms at Palm Pointe Educational Research School at Tradition were recently celebrated with a visit by Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) scientists for being named the overall district winners in the VGTI Grand Challenge! The challenge, posed to all seventh grade science classes in the district, invited students to complete a collaborative project aligned to genetics and ecology course standards. Students were awarded prizes emblazoned with the STEM logo signifying the district’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics initiative. The scientists talked with students about their projects and also answered student questions about work at VGTI as research scientists. The winning projects exhibited creative problem-solving and a deep understanding of science content. Mr. Bois’ third period class designed a biological control on invasive snails and Mr. Burgess’ second period class developed a plan to combat exotic pythons. The teachers received a gift certificate to ScienceKit science supply company. On hand for the celebration were district Science Curriculum Supervisors Cristina Veresan and Steven Shotola, as well as Palm Pointe Principal Debra Snyder and Assistant Principals Latricia Thompson and Kathleen Perez. Pictured is a group of the budding scientists!

Manatee Academy kindergartners enjoy Fancy Nancy day

Manatee Academy kindergartners enjoy Fancy Nancy day

Kindergartners at Manatee Academy recently dressed to impress and celebrated Fancy Nancy Day in the media center by exploring (that’s a fancy word for discovering) a Fancy Nancy glitter puzzle, listening to an original story by Media Specialist Debbie Remington titled “Radical Tad”, playing the Rad Tad fishing game, listening to the latest Fancy Nancy chapter book, “Nacy Clancy” and of course sipping sweet tea, pinkies up of course!

Portable AED donated to Fort Pierce Central

Portable AED donated to Fort Pierce Central

Through the continued generosity of Cheryl and Ray Lalloo, who lost their daughter Jessica several years ago, Laura Lenihan, who lost her husband, the Jessica Clinton Foundation and the cooperation of AED provider Cardiac Science, a portable AED was donated to Fort Pierce Central High School at the June 12, 2012, St. Lucie County School Board meeting. Pictured, from left, front row, FPCHS ROTC instructor First Sgt.(Ret.) Darin Randall, Cheryl Lalloo, Lenihan, Assistant Principal Susan Seal, Ray Lalloo, Assistant Principal Arthur Jamison, and Rob williams of Cardiac Science. Back row, from left, Principal Todd Smith, school volunteer Tom Estep, Athletic Director Jay Stewart, and Assistant Superintendent Bill Tomlinson.

Fort Pierce Central’s Ortiz participated as College Board AP exam reader

Fort Pierce Central’s Ortiz participated as College Board AP exam reader

Fort Pierce Central High School AP World History teacher and department chair Sharon Ortiz recently participated in the College Board’s Annual AP Reading in World History. Each June, AP teachers and college faculty members from around the world gather in the United States to evaluate and score the free-response sections of the AP Exams. AP Readers are high school and college educators who represent many of the finest academic institutions in the world. The AP Reading is a unique forum in which an academic dialogue between high school and college educators is both fostered and encouraged. “The Reading draws upon the talents of some of the finest teachers and professors that the world has to offer,” said Trevor Packer, Senior Vice President, AP and College Readiness at the College Board. “It fosters professionalism, allows for the exchange of ideas, and strengthens the commitment to students and to teaching. We are very grateful for the contributions of talented educators like Sharon Ortiz.”
The Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) enables willing and academically prepared students to pursue college-level studies – with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement or both – while still in high school. Through AP courses in 34 subjects, each culminating in a rigorous exam, students learn to think critically, construct solid arguments, and see many sides of an issue – skills that prepare them for college and beyond. Research indicates that students who score a 3 or higher on an AP Exam typically experience greater academic success in college and are more likely to earn a college degree than non-AP students. In 2011, more than 11,000 AP Readers evaluated more than 3.4 million AP Exams. Pictured with Ms.Ortiz, second from left, are fellow readers.

St. Lucie School Board earns prestigious distinction

St. Lucie School Board earns prestigious distinction

The distinction of “Master Board” was awarded to the St. Lucie County school district leadership team by the Florida School Boards Association at their Annual Spring Conference, held June 13 – 15, 2012, in Tampa. The St. Lucie County school district is one of only thirty-five (35) school districts in Florida to currently hold this prestigious award, or about half of the state’s school districts. The Master Board Program is a voluntary program which provides opportunities for the leadership team (defined as the superintendent and the school board) to engage in training that enhances its capacity to provide visionary leadership for the school district. The Master Board Program concentrates on the leadership team’s governance roles for enhancing student achievement, fostering connections and empowering collaboration between schools and the community, and creating a learning organization to advance excellence in public education. The leadership team completed twenty-two (22) hours of learning activities in a state-wide forum and onsite trainings to earn this distinction. Pictured, seated, from left, Chairman Carol Hilson, Vice Chairman Debbie Hawley, School Board Member Kathryn Hensley. Back row, from left, are School Board members Troy Ingersoll and Dr. Donna Mills, and Superintendent Michael Lannon.

Students continue learning through the summer at 21st Century camps

Students continue learning through the summer at 21st Century camps

Students are busy learning at The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) summer programs at several school sites in St. Lucie County. These programs are supported by a federal grant with the school district, and are offered at no cost to students or families, and provide additional education opportunities in a safe and nurturing environment. Each summer, the 21st CCLC operates a unique range of services based on the needs of the community, with the same set of goals as its premise: Academic Enrichment in Reading and Language Arts, Academic Enrichment in Science and Mathematics, Personal Enrichment, and Educational Services to Adult Family Members. This year we have collaborated with the Girl Scouts of America, Treasure Coast Wildlife Hospital, St. Lucie County Camp Water Safety, L & G Camp of Champs, and Treasure Coast Hospice to provide a wide array of exciting educational opportunities for our students. Priority of services is offered to students of Title I eligible schools, with academic needs in reading and/or math as identified by FCAT scores. The program is limited as to the number of students that can be served and continued funding is contingent on student attendance each day of the program. Students in this photo are working on reading and math skills at a program at Samuel S. Gaines Academy in Fort Pierce. Other sites are Weatherbee Elementary School in Fort Pierce, and Oak Hammock K-8 School in Port St. Lucie.

Girl Scouts collaborating with St. Lucie Schools during summer programs

Girl Scouts collaborating with St. Lucie Schools during summer programs

The Southeast Florida Council of the Girl Scouts of America, with financial support by the St. Lucie County Children’s Services Council, is sponsoring workshops during St. Lucie County Schools’ 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) summer programs at several school sites in St. Lucie County. These programs are supported by a federal grant with the school district, and are offered at no cost to students or families, and provide additional education opportunities in a safe and nurturing environment. One of two programs is an experiential workshop where girls learn what bullying really is, leaarn that it is not acceptable, and learn how to stop bullying through role playing. Girls are divided into groups by age. Another program the Girl Scouts sponsor is a four-hour hands-on exploratory science and math program that promotes partnerships between girls ages 5-10 and adults to encourage interest and excitement and science and math learning. Pictured is Brittany Wilson, a paraprofessional at Samuel S. Gaines Academy, facilitating a workshop at that site in Fort Pierce. Programs are sponsored also for summer programs at Weatherbee Elementary School in Fort Pierce and Oak Hammock K-8 School in Port St. Lucie.

Education leaders caution comparing 2012 school grades due to credibility issues of revamped accountability system

Education leaders caution comparing 2012 school grades due to credibility issues of revamped accountability system

Fort Pierce, FL — School grades for Florida’s public schools for the 2011-2012 school year are expected to be released in early July, according to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE). The announcement of school grades was delayed this year from FLDOE compared to previous years’ release schedules due to the implementation of significant changes this year and the complexity of the new Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT 2.0), its higher scoring scale, new high school end-of-course core subject testing procedures, and higher cut scores for school grades.

However, for months, public school leaders across the state have consistently cautioned communities to not indulge in comparisons to previous years’ results.

St. Lucie Public Schools Superintendent Michael Lannon noted the caution is due to “the rules being changed in the middle of the game. This is a new day, and comparisons to the past are inaccurate and inappropriate,” Lannon said. “We as Florida’s public education leaders overwhelmingly support increasing rigor and relevance in curricula across core subject areas, but the necessary time to make adjustments was not taken in implementing the new standards. We should set a new baseline with this year’s results, not compare to any other year,” he added.

Thousands more students statewide this year were, surprisingly to them, described as not proficient based on their FCAT reading score, but would have scored at proficient, or grade level, in the previous scoring scale to move to the next grade level or to earn credit for graduation. School letter grades, based mostly on FCAT results, also determine some funding provisions, so school districts will see a negative impact on resources from the state if their students’ FCAT scores cause a drop in their school’s letter grade. Teacher evaluations, and thus compensation, are tied for the first time beginning this year to FCAT scores of students at their schools, even for those who teach such subjects as physical education, music or art, which are not FCAT-tested.

School accountability specialists cite the opportunity to accurately measure achievement growth going forward, both for individual students and schools, as the value of setting the new baseline, explained St. Lucie’s Director of Assessment and Accountability Kathleen Dailey.

But since the Florida legislature enacted radical changes to the state’s public school accountability system in the 2012 session, and FLDOE was directed to implement the changes and their consequences simultaneously this school year, there has been tremendous outcry from public school leaders and communities statewide about the impending impact those changes will have on school districts. Many question the validity of the new testing and scoring process, especially since FLDOE changed the proficiency scoring rubric for the FCAT writing test when so many students scored so poorly, and weakened the consequences for school grades so that no school would suffer their grade dropping more than one letter, contrary to what the original grading rubric dictated.

Testing experts agree with those questions of legitimacy. In an article published May 25, 2012, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers quoted Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing in Massachusetts, who said, “The FCAT is a black box (that) produces numbers that have been massaged by politicians to get desired outcomes.”

Other large Florida media outlets have also reported the frustration of Florida’s on-the-ground education leaders, who are disturbed with the continually expanding accountability system. A June 28, 21012, Orlando Sentinel article quoted two Central Florida schools superintendents who stated that Florida’s ”“runaway school accountability system is destined to fail and take with it the positive goals it was intended to accomplish.”” And, ““Orange Superintendent Ron Blocker and Bill Vogel, superintendent of Seminole schools, said the state’s school districts are being overwhelmed by demands of the continually expanding accountability system. Teacher evaluations based in large part on student test scores — the latest requirement imposed by the Legislature — are unworkable and may be the tipping point, they said.””

National online newspaper The Huffington Post published an opinion piece June 26, 2012, which refuted public claims by Florida’s Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson that vocal opponents just “don’t like testing.” The journalist countered that the push-back is “not an anti-testing resolution,” but a reaction of exasperation at how “FCAT has evolved into a system of monetary consequences and stringent penalties. Somehow, children were forgotten along the way.” What began a decade ago as a means to assess student learning has come to “determine a school’s funding, a child’s retention, teachers’ salaries, teachers’ jobs, closing neighborhood schools, and attracting new business to the area.”
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Port St. Lucie High biology teacher earns recognition

Port St. Lucie High biology teacher earns recognition

Port St. Lucie High School biology teacher Leslie Taylor was nominated to receive the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award (OBTA), sponsored by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), which recognizes an outstanding biology educator grades 7-12 in each of the 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C, Canada, Puerto Rico, and overseas territories. Candidates for this award do not have to be NABT members, but they must have at least three years public, private, or parochial school teaching experience. A major portion of the nominee’s career must have been devoted to the teaching of biology/life science, and candidates are judged on their teaching ability and experience, cooperativeness in the school and community, inventiveness, initiative, and student-teacher relationships. Congratualtions to Taylor for adding to her list of professional recognitions.

St. Lucie Public Schools 2012 Annual Report posted online

St. Lucie Public Schools 2012 Annual Report posted online

The 2012 St. Lucie Public Schools’ Annual Report to the Community focuses on the value of the school system to the greater community. The report has been published and posted on the school district website. To view the publication, click on the following link: http://www.stlucie.k12.fl.us/pdf/AnnualReport2012.pdf.

St. Lucie West Centennial cadets attend leadership academy

St. Lucie West Centennial cadets attend leadership academy

Shortly after school ended, St. Lucie West Centennial High School Navy Junior ROTC proudly sent seven cadets to Leadership Academy to learn how to become the future leaders of their unit. Pictured, rom left, Cadets Dane Tushinski, Devin Spellman Michael Battaglia, Johnna Moody,Luis Still and Ro-aine Graham, along with Chester Merrill who is not pictured, were selected to attend due to their achievement in academics, athletics, and military aptitude. Training at the academy began with chaos and yelling from retired Marine Corp Drill Instructors, as they instilled attention to detail and discipline in each cadet. Throughout the training sessions, the academy had a boot camp atmosphere as the cadets learned that in order to become a good leader, one must first become a good follower. The classes they attended included leadership studies, military etiquette, orienteering, military customs, water survival, and sailing. Physical training also played a major role at leadership academy. Each day began before sunrise with calisthenics and sprints, and the day ended with a two or three mile run. All seven cadets passed their physical fitness and academic tests with flying colors. Congratulations to Eagle Navy’s newly minted leaders.

District summer programs enrich, educate, enlighten

District summer programs enrich, educate, enlighten

The school district’s 21st Century Learning Centers summer programs just completed last week and served over 200 children in a wide variety of activities to enrich, educate and enlighten. Four sites hosted the programs, including C. A. Moore and Weatherbee elementary schools, Garden City Early Learning Academy, and Sam Gaines K-8 School. Activities ranged from a wildlife hospital presentation, swimming and basketball camps, Girl Scouts’ leadership and positive character empowerment, and a community gardening project where children not only learned how to grow vegetables, but utilized literacy and math skills in the process. Hands-on science activities involved project in robotics and solar powered ovens. Children also presented a musical tribute to the classic play “Annie,” and a recorder recital to close out the program. The 21st Century Learning Centers program is a federally funded program guided by Michael McCarthy and Fred Woltjen.

Port St. Lucie High grad earns national recognition

Port St. Lucie High grad earns national recognition

Port St. Lucie High School (PSLHS) 2012 graduate Diamond Salazer was recognized at the July 31, 2012, St. Lucie County School Board meeting for her outstanding performance during the national SkillsUSA career and technical education competition this past school year. She was awarded by the Florida Masonry Apprentice and Educational Foundation. Pictured, from left, are mother Mrs. Lambert, Ms. Salazar, Director for Career and Technical Education Kathie Schmidt, School Board Chairman Carol Hilson, PSLHS career/technical teacher Bob Rossbury, and Superintendent Michael Lannon.

New teachers welcomed to St. Lucie School District

New teachers welcomed to St. Lucie School District

Approximately 250 new teachers who will be in classrooms in St. Lucie County public schools on August 20 when students begin the 2012-2013 school year were welcomed with great celebration on Tuesday, August 7, by school board members, administrators, and a wide variety of community members, including local elected officials. A tunnel of well wishers ushered the teachers into the event, as pictured in the photo, to two days of orientation to district policies, procedures, to review curriculum, as well as network with new colleagues. Photo provided by Christine Epps, executive director of the Roundatable of St. Lucie, which will sponsor similar Kids at Hope tunnels at local schools on the first day of classes.

Student Code of Conduct booklet to be available electronically

Student Code of Conduct booklet to be available electronically

To save money and printing resources, the annual St. Lucie School Board Student Code of Conduct booklet, which outlines expectations and consequences for students and parents, will be available electronically on the district website. An electronic copy of the Code can be located online at http://www.stlucie.k12.fl.us/pdf/codeofconduct.pdf. If parents require a paper copy of the Code, they can indicate in the online form, sign and return to the district office, and one will be provided to their child. Paper copies are also available upon request at the child’s school and at the District Administration Office located at 4204 Okeechobee Road, Ft. Pierce, Florida. District Administrative Office hours are Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This Code has been adopted to help students gain the greatest possible benefit from his/her school experience. Parents/guardians are responsible for the actions of their children and should be involved in the education of their children. Parents will be notified at school open house events, as well as via email notices and automated telephone calls.

Three local schools recognized for quarter century of excellence

Three local schools recognized for quarter century of excellence

Three St. Lucie County public schools were recgonized at the August 14, 2012, St. Lucie County School Board meeting for continuously maintaining accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS-CASI) for 25 years. Windmill Point Elementary, Village Green Environmental Studies, and Northport K-8 Schools were presented a plaque to commemorate the achievement. While the highly regarded accreditation is a set of rigorous protocols and research-based processes for evaluating an institution’s organizational effectiveness, accreditation also examines the whole institution — the programs, the cultural context, the community of stakeholders — to determine how well the parts work together to meet the needs of students. Pictured, from left, with their school’s plaques are Windmill Point Elementary principal Jonetha Maness, Village Green Environmental Studies School principal Aretha Vernette, and Northport K-8 principal Glenn Rustay.

Port St. Lucie High cadets attend leadership programs sponsored by American Legion

Port St. Lucie High cadets attend leadership programs sponsored by American Legion

Boys’ and Girls’ State are summer leadership and citizenship programs for high school students between their junior and senior years. American Legion post 318 sponsored Posrt St. Lucie High School cadet First Sergeant Troy Conover and cadet Second Lieutenant Jeremy Dardon for Boys’ State, while Girls’ State Chairperson for American Legion Post 318 Ladies Auxiliary Ms. Rita Woodburn sponsored Port St. Lucie High School cadet Devynn Rhodes to participate in Girl’s State. The students had the opportunity to go to Florida State University in Tallahassee, where they learned government processes and earned college credits. Pictured, from left, are cadet First Sergeant Troy Conover, cadet Second Lieutenant Jeremy Dardon, and cadet First Lieutenant Devynn Rhodes.

Student wows trainer and Village Green teachers

Student wows trainer and Village Green teachers

Although Josiah Fullwood is a first-time kindergartner who is scheduled to attend Frances K. Sweet, he has already made a huge impression on teachers at Village Green Environmental Studies School during the opening professional development day.

As 100 Book Challenge trainer Meighan Radigan models how teachers should level an incoming kindergarten child for his appropriate reading level, teachers and administrators were both stunned and thrilled that Josiah continued to ascend the reading levels to match first grade reading fluency and comprehension!

Josiah shared with the group that he enjoys reading about animals and even pointed out that he saw a fish in the pond before entering the beautiful facilities of the Botanical Gardens where the training took place. That drew a chuckle from the audience.