District Receives Department of Education Approval for Spring 2021 Education Plan
The Martin County School District has received approval from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) for its Spring 2021 Education Plan. A continuation of the District’s 2020-2021 Reopening Plan that was approved by FLDOE in August, the plan places emphasis on targeted intervention for struggling students, opportunities for increased communication and engagement with families, and encouragement for parents/guardians to select traditional (in-person) learning for their children when possible.
"We know that the majority of students perform best when they are physically present in classrooms and receiving instruction from highly-qualified teachers," Superintendent John D. Millay said. “The District will follow the requirements issued by the Florida Department of Education, offering targeted intervention and support to students who are struggling to make adequate progress. We remain committed to partnering with our families to ensure that every child is learning, demonstrating growth and achieving success."
District Outperforms State, High Schools See Increase In Graduation Rate
The Martin County School District earned a graduation rate of 90.2% during the 2019-2020 school year according to data released on January 7, 2021, by the Florida Department of Education. The graduation rate for the three traditional, District-operated high schools increased to 95.3% during the same time period, a 1.7 percentage point increase over last year’s rate and a 5.3 percentage point increase above the state’s overall graduation rate of 90%.
Graduation rates are based on students who finish high school "on time," within four years of entering ninth grade. In order to count as graduates, students must obtain a standard high school diploma (18 or 24 credit hours) or be enrolled in an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) program and eligible for graduation but electing to defer receipt of their diploma to return and attend school under FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education).
A standard Florida high school diploma requires a student to earn 18 or 24 prescribed credits, maintain a GPA of at least 2.0, and pass both the Grade 10 Florida Standards Assessment for English Language Arts (or earn a concordant score on an ACT or SAT/be eligible for an ESE assessment waiver) and the Algebra I End-of-Course Exam (or earn a comparative score on an ACT, SAT, PSAT or PERT/be eligible for an ESE assessment waiver). The Florida Standards Assessments that were scheduled to be administered in spring 2020 were canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the Class of 2020 were issued an assessment waiver by the Florida Department of Education, which meant that no seniors graduated with a Certificate of Completion and were instead able to receive a diploma.
“In our mission of educating all students for success, we always begin with the end in mind,” Superintendent John D. Millay shared. “We remain committed to providing each student with the effective instruction and learning opportunities he or she needs to achieve the goal of high school graduation. While we still have work to do to ensure all of our students become graduates, I remain confident that we are headed in the right direction. I am extremely proud of our students, faculty, staff and families for their hard work and commitment to achieving success.”
2019-2020 graduation rates for Martin County schools are as follows:
Clark Advanced Learning Center - 100%
Jensen Beach High School - 95.1%
Martin County High School - 94.5%
South Fork High School - 96.5%
**Graduates who attend an alternative school are included with graduates from their comprehensive high school for the purposes of reporting the graduation rate. **
The Paulie Strong Charitable Foundation Establishes the Paul Lefavi Scholarship Fund at Indian River State College
Fort Pierce - The Paulie Strong Charitable Foundation, whose mission is to raise funds for Indian River State College (IRSC) Scholarships in the name of Paul Lefavi, collected $10,000 at the inaugural #PaulieStrong Golf Tournament held November 21, 2020. The money established the Paul Lefavi Scholarship Fund at IRSC; an endowed scholarship that will be awarded annually to one student enrolled in the IRSC Digital Media program.
Lefavi, a beloved employee of Indian River State College for more than 20 years, passed away in 2019 due to complications from Mantle Cell Lymphoma. Lefavi served as the College’s Director of E-Learning, providing technological support for faculty, students and courses. He was also an instrumental part of the IRSC 40th, 50th and 60th anniversary productions. The Paulie Strong Charitable Foundation was created by Lefavi’s friends and family to commemorate his passion for creative learning, the digital arts, and for the students of Indian River State College.
“Paul Lefavi came to IRSC as an experienced videographer for the United States Air Force. He demonstrated utmost devotion to his profession, and his one-of-a-kind ‘Paulie’ disposition made you want to be his friend,” remarked colleague and friend Mike Pelitera, Instructional Technology Trainer at IRSC. “He is missed every day, but his legacy will now live on forever.”
The Paul Lefavi Scholarship—available through the IRSC Foundation—is a $500 award presented to a student in the IRSC Digital Media program. The first scholarship will be awarded for the 2021–22 academic year. Students interested in applying can complete the scholarship application process by signing into MyPioneer Portal and selecting the “IRSC Scholarships” box. The application deadline is January 31, 2021.
“We are humbled by the generosity from the family and friends of Paul Lefavi in establishing an endowed scholarship in his honor,” stated Ann Decker, Executive Director of the IRSC Foundation. “What better way to memorialize him than to create a scholarship that serves students pursuing what he loved doing at a place he called his second home.”
To donate to or find out more information about the Paulie Strong Charitable Foundation, visit https://www.paulie-strong.com/. For questions regarding this scholarship, contact Sherri Monds, Scholarship Development Coordinator, in the IRSC Foundation office at 772-462-4786 or visit www.irscfoundation.org.
St. Lucie Public Schools Announces Teacher of the Year Finalists
St. Lucie County – Superintendent E. Wayne Gent, accompanied by School Board Chairman Debbie Hawley, School Board Vice Chairman Dr. Donna Mills, Board Member Jennifer Richardson, Board Member Jack Kelly, Assistant to the Superintendent Dr. Kevin Perry, and last year’s Teacher of the Year Melissa Nelson, paid surprise visits to this year’s finalists for Teacher of the Year (TOY). Victoria Pease, a Master Math teacher at St. Lucie Elementary School; Lauren Kappler, a Civics teacher at West Gate K8; and Kristin Lee, a third-grade teacher at Morningside Elementary are the finalists who have the distinction of representing the School District at this year’s Night of the Stars event.
St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said, “Our Teacher of the Year finalists represent what’s best about our team of 2,500 dedicated and committed teachers who change the lives of students every day in St. Lucie County. The impact they are making is evidenced by the School District’s continual academic growth.”
Locally, one of the three finalists will be selected as the SLPS Teacher of the Year during the Night of the Stars event scheduled for February 6, 2021. The winner will then represent SLPS in the Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year Program.
The local Night of the Stars annual event is sponsored by the Education Foundation of St. Lucie County. Thom Jones, president of the Education Foundation, explained that MIDFLORIDA Credit Union is the sponsor of the local Teacher of the Year category. “This is an exciting year. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors we will honor our winners with very special recognitions this year.”
About the Teacher of the Year Finalists
Victoria Pease - St. Lucie Elementary
Mrs. Pease’s influence and contributions were recognized immediately when she joined the team at St. Lucie Elementary School three years ago. Her instruction and leadership were a substantial contributing factor to the school’s success earning the highest percentage point gain of all the schools in St. Lucie County. It is refreshing to walk into Mrs. Pease’s classroom and see children authentically engaged in the lesson. Her students are turned on to, excited by, and drawn into an academic vortex where questions are being asked and feedback is spontaneous. She often makes home visits to conduct parent conferences or to surprise students and their families with good news and rewards. Victoria Pease is a natural leader who has a knack for offering solutions to any problems that arise in her classroom, on her team, or in her school.
Lauren Kappler, West Gate K8
Mrs. Kappler’s kind and caring demeanor are unparalleled. She works diligently to help build students’ confidence and competence. She refuses to let any student fall behind. She is proud of each success and celebrates her students’ growth continuously. Her impact is not only felt by her students, but she has had a tremendous impact on the teachers at her school as well. With the shift to some classes being taught virtually this year, Mrs. Kappler has taken the lead to train the teachers at West Gate on Nearpod. This instructional platform makes virtual lessons extremely engaging for students and the teachers at her school have stated that the new skills that they have learned from her are a “game-changer.” Lauren Kappler’s extraordinary knowledge, skills, and ability to teach effectively make her most deserving of this recognition.
Kristin Lee, Morningside Elementary School
Mrs. Lee’s heart and soul lies in education. She has a strong knowledge base of differentiation and data tracking that aligns with the schools’ Single School Culture. In her role as a third-grade teacher, she supports her team with breaking down data to create small groups and to identify areas of opportunity for learning gains. Walking into Mrs. Lee’s class, it is evident that students take responsibility for their learning by setting their own goals and tracking their own progress. She has high expectations for her students, and she does not let them “off the hook” but also pays close attention to their social-emotional needs and is able to build relationships with them and their families. Kristin Lee is a kindhearted, passionate teacher who loves her job.
Treasure Coast Food Bank’s Winter Culinary Training Academy Begins Feb. 8
Fort Pierce - Applications are being accepted for the next session of Treasure Coast Food Bank’s Culinary Training Academy, which begins on Feb. 8. The job training program prepares graduates for careers in the food production industry, one of the fastest-growing industries on the Treasure Coast.
Students learn principles of cooking, but also emerge from the course with an understanding of how to manage a food service operation – including hands-on experience in planning, designing, and executing a menu.
The program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation and aligned with the National Restaurant Association. Each student going through the program may obtain the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Food Protection Manager and the Manage First Nutrition 2.0 certifications as part of the course.
The Culinary Training Academy is now in its fourth year and has positioned numerous adults to take on management positions in food service operations. In December, the most recent cohort of students graduated from the 12-week course.
“Congratulations to all of our newest graduates who walk out of the program with knowledge, credentials, and hands-on experience in food service,” said Judith Cruz, President and CEO of Treasure Coast Food Bank. “We know that some of our graduates moved immediately into better jobs or new careers, and that’s what this program is all about. Food service and hospitality are some of the most in-demand job opportunities on the Treasure Coast, and this program prepares people to run major food operations such as those in catering, banquet halls or hotels.”
Students in the Culinary Training Academy learn principles of cooking, such as how to prepare stocks, soups and sauces, as well as the management end of running a food service operation and meeting customer needs. Each session also includes a hands-on component where students work in a real-world kitchen setting and learn how to plan, design, and execute a menu.
The 12-week course takes place at the Sunshine Kitchen in Fort Pierce. Classes are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Deadline to apply is Feb. 5. more information or to apply, visit visit stophunger.org/culinary.
In Photo: Natasha Morrison & Gustavo Soto
In Photo: Austin White & Shanique Jackson
In Photo: Culinary Training Academy Fall Graduation
weVENTURE WBC Launches Regional Workdays in Indian River,St. Lucie Counties
Sebastian-based Program Director Amber Batchelor Leads Expansion of Services
Florida - weVENTURE Women’s Business Center (WBC) in the Bisk College of Business at Florida Tech, which offers services and support to entrepreneurs in Brevard, Indian River and St. Lucie counties, will start offering weekly consultation
opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs from locations in Port St. Lucie and Vero Beach.
These regional workdays will allow local entrepreneurs to have in-person or virtual consultations with Program Director Amber Batchelor or a weVENTURE WBC business coach. weVENTURE WBC also plans to begin hosting in-person training for limited
groups of clients in compliance with social distancing guidelines.The Sebastian-based Batchelor, who joined weVENTURE WBC in June 2020, is former president and CEO of the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce. She serves on
the boards of United Way of Indian River County, Sebastian River Medical Center, Vero Beach Wine + Film Festival and the St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce and has been named a member of Impact 100 of Indian River County.
Batchelor brings local know-how and a national business resume, including past work at Oracle in Silicon Valley and UPS, to the new regional workdays program. The Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, 500 NW California Blvd. in Port St.
Lucie, will host Batchelor with office and conference room space during the first and third weeks of every month. COLAB, Vero Beach's downtown work and communitybased office space located at 1150 19th St., will host the workdays on the second and
fourth weeks of the month. “With our headquarters in Brevard County, we believe it is essential that we meet our clients and prospective clients safely where they are, in their own communities,” said
Kathryn Rudloff, executive director of weVENTURE WBC. “We want the business communities across our service region to know we are within reach when they are ready, and this is an example of our commitment to expanding services on the Treasure
Coast in 2021 and beyond.” Peter Tesch, president of the St. Lucie EDC, said he welcomes the services, outreach and passion weVENTURE WBC brings. “We were amazed at the willingness and enthusiasm that weVENTURE WBC displayed
in helping our local businesses hardest hit during the pandemic,” he said. “It is our great pleasure to collaborate with these resourceful business experts in their upcoming educational and technical assistance series. The EDC applauds their efforts to support
the growth and prosperity of women-, minority- and veteran-owned enterprises.” weVENTURE WBC is a program of Florida Tech’s Bisk College of Business. It is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration
and is focused on providing technical assistance, business education and entrepreneurial training to women interested in launching a new venture or growing their existing businesses. The public is invited to schedule a free business consultation session with Batchelor or
business coach Jeannette Kraar by calling 321-674-7007 or emailing email@example.com.
Clark Advanced Learning Center’s Barry Bicksler Named Finalist for Martin County Teacher of the Year
Stuart — Clark Advanced Learning Center math and science instructor, Barry Bicksler, is one of 20 teachers labeled “best of the best” vying for Martin County Teacher of the Year. Bicksler was selected by his peers for this outstanding recognition, which is presented by the Education Foundation of Martin County in cooperation with the Martin County School District in an effort to recognize outstanding teaching.
“Mr. Bicksler is an exemplar of how Clark instructors go above and beyond for their students,” says Clark’s Principal Debra Kohouth. ”This is a great honor for any teacher in K-12, and Mr. Bicksler is certainly deserving. His approach to teaching math and physics classes and his dedication to student success are exceptional and unwavering!”
Bicksler is in his ninth year of teaching at the Clark, IRSC's charter high school in Stuart, Florida. He teaches both high school and Dual Enrollment college-level courses.
To determine the Martin County Teacher of the Year, the Education Foundation is soliciting votes through January 20 at https://www.educationfoundationmc.org/p/327/place-your-vote#.X_22KehKg2w. The winner, revealed during the Foundation’s Martin County Teacher of the Year Celebration, will represent the Martin County School District in the competition to become the Florida Department of Education's Teacher of the Year.
St. Lucie Public Schools Names the 2020-2021 Outstanding First Year Teacher Finalists
St. Lucie – Today, Superintendent E. Wayne Gent accompanied by School Board Chairman Debbie Hawley, Board Member Jennifer Richardson, Board Member Jack Kelly, Thom Jones from the Education Foundation, and Dr. Kevin Perry, Assistant to the Superintendent, paid surprise visits to this year’s finalists for Outstanding First Year Teacher (OFYT). Tyler Evans, a Music Teacher at Mariposa Elementary School; Jewel Edwards, a U.S. History Teacher at Creative Arts of St. Lucie; and Alyssa Fairbrother, an English Language Arts and Social Studies Teacher at Rivers Edge Elementary School are the finalists who have the distinction of representing the School District at this year’s Night of the Stars event. Two of the finalists, Tyler Evans and Jewell Edwards, are graduates of St. Lucie Public Schools and were a part of the “A Promise is a Promise” program. The program was established to recognize future educators and provide them with guaranteed employment upon successful completion of a college degree that leads to teach
“The OFYT finalists represent the best of our talented and committed rookie teachers. Embarking on a teaching career under the most ideal conditions can be a challenge, however, these teachers have taken on this challenge during an unprecedented year and flourished. I appreciate their hard work and dedication to our students,” said Superintendent E. Wayne Gent.
The Outstanding First Year Teacher is a program in St. Lucie Public Schools where first-year teachers are recognized who demonstrate a superior ability to foster excellence in education and contribute to the continuous improvement of student learning and the school environment. One individual will be selected as St. Lucie Public Schools Outstanding First Year Teacher during the Night of the Stars event scheduled for February 6, 2021.
Tyler Evans, Mariposa Elementary School
Even though Mr. Evans is a new teacher, there is no hesitation on his part to jump in and share his ideas with colleagues. His excitement and passion for music make him a standout teacher and a quick favorite among the students at Mariposa. Students love attending his music class because they never know what is in store for them. Whether it is learning a new song or getting to play a unique instrument, the students are always looking forward to their music class with Mr. Evans.
Jewel Edwards, Creative Arts Academy of St. Lucie
When you walk into Ms. Edward’s classroom you can feel the excitement and warmth of Ms. Edward’s teaching style. She may be a first-year teacher; however, her leadership qualities are clearly evident. She is a strong contributor to her Social Studies team and the school as a whole. She not only makes an impact in the classroom, her volunteer work in the community does not go unnoticed. In her spare time, she prepares food bags for the homeless, registers people to vote, and is involved in many community events.
Alyssa Fairbrother, Rivers Edge Elementary School
Mrs. Fairbrother’s classroom is engaging and interactive. She employs a variety of teaching and learning strategies to increase engagement and maintain a positive environment. Through the seamless integration of technology, Mrs. Fairbrother is able to provide learning centers that are both rigorous and challenging but fun ensuring her students are being pushed to reach higher levels of achievement.
Martin County School District Announces Enrollment Periods For Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) And Head Start Programs
The Martin County School District's Head Start and Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten programs will begin accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year in February.
• Head Start helps prepare 3 and 4-year-olds for kindergarten
• The program encourages parents to become partners in education as their child’s first and most important teacher
• Head Start helps with education, health, nutrition, social skills, and other services
• Breakfast and lunch are included
• Registration begins February 1, 2021
• The school year begins August 11, 2021
Beginning February 1, 2021, parents may apply for the Head Start Program online by visiting the Preschool & Head Start Department's website. In-person applications will also be accepted by appointment only.
Parents should contact the site nearest them to schedule an in-person appointment:
Perkins Early Childhood Center
16868 SW Palm Beach Street
Indiantown, FL 34956
(772) 597-2645 ext. 46112 or 46105
Salerno School House
3940 SE Salerno Road
Stuart, FL 34997
(772) 219-1893 ext. 44110
Stuart Learning Center
1050 SE 10th Street
Stuart, FL 34994
(772) 219-1580 ext. 43182
Salerno Learning Center
3400 SE Lionel Terrace
Stuart, FL 34997
(772) 219-1620 ext. 38257 or 38256
The District's Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program (VPK) will begin accepting applications for the 2020-2021 school year on February 2, 2021. The program is available at select schools with limited enrollment.
VPK is an early learning program that provides developmentally appropriate instruction and activities to prepare children for kindergarten and beyond by building a solid foundation for school success. To be eligible, students must be four years of age on or before September 1 of the school year in which they attend VPK and must reside within an eligible home school zone.
The three-hour VPK program is provided at no cost to parents and the full school day program is available for a monthly cost of $234.00* (*subject to change).
Parents will be able to apply for a seat in the District’s 2021-2022 VPK Program during Open Enrollment. Open Enrollment will take place in two phases beginning February 2, 2021 at 8:00 am. Open Enrollment will be completed online using the links below.
For Bessey Creek, Citrus Grove, Crystal Lake, Felix A. Williams, Hobe Sound, Jensen Beach and Palm City elementary schools, the link below will be open for responses on February 2, 2021, at 8:00 am:
For J.D. Parker Elementary School, Salerno Learning Center and Warfield Elementary School, the link below will be open for responses on February 9, 2021, at 8:00 am:
Martin County's Teacher of the Year Awards Program
For as little as $250, you can help make our phenomenal teachers feel honored and appreciated through the Education Foundation of Martin County Teacher of the Year program.
The Education Foundation of Martin County's Teacher of the Year Awards Program is designed to celebrate each of the nominees for their unique contributions to the classroom, their students, and our community. This year, due to COVID-19 concerns, the celebration event has been postponed until May 28. The winners will be announced prior to that time to allow the districtwide winner time to submit their application to the state as they vie for the Florida Teacher of the Year title.
Your support will allow us to continue recognizing and celebrating our amazing teachers throughout this unprecedented school year. Our teachers need our support more than ever.
Please email Lisa Rhodes at LRhodes@EducationFoundationMC.org or call the foundation office at 772.600.8062.
Thank you for your consideration.
St. Lucie Public Schools Spring 2021 Education Plan Receives DOE Approval
St Lucie County – St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) recently received approval for its Spring 2021 Education Plan from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE). The plan focuses on the continuation of the District’s 2020-2021 Reopening Plan that was approved by the FLDOE at the start of the school year. Specifically, the Spring Plan focuses on four areas; Interventions, Communication to Targeted MySchool Online Students, Enhanced Outreach, and Professional Development.
St. Lucie Public Schools will focus on closing achievement gaps, especially those expanded due to the 2020 spring virtual instruction, and for students who fell behind. After School and Summer School programs will be provided to target and remediate skills or gaps created by the interruption of face-to-face instruction. Furthermore, students needing remediation will be closely monitored to ensure that they are getting the needed support in reading and/or mathematics.
MySchool Online Student Communication
St. Lucie Public Schools will continue to offer MySchool Online, our Innovative Learning Modality. However, personalized contact was made, prior to winter break, to the parents of MySchool Online students who were not making adequate academic progress, notifying them that they must return to the traditional learning modality through a formalized process with standardized notification and a district-wide monitoring plan. Parents who chose not to have their child return to school in-person were required to provide written acknowledgment verifying the receipt of the information and their intent to have their child remain in the innovative learning modality.
St. Lucie Public Schools has identified vulnerable students who have had limited or no contact with the district and transitioned them to the appropriate learning modality, including students who have yet to appear or enroll for the 2020-21 school year, through a variety of strategies. Furthermore, Student Services staff will maintain their focus on attendance and truancy through their commitment to working collaboratively with the Boys and Girls Club Truancy Project funded by the Children's Services Council. Attendance Advocates from the program work alongside school social workers to conduct outreach to families whose children are exhibiting problems with attendance. These students are targeted through specific school interventions to reduce absenteeism. SLPS has also increased the number of School Social Workers and the frequency of attendance meetings to determine needs.
The Talent Development Department has focused on teacher support in virtual learning since the switch in March of 2020 and that focus will continue throughout the spring of 2021. MySchool Online teachers and traditional teachers continue to collaboratively plan together and follow the same District Scope and Sequence which has allowed students to stay on track with pacing regardless of modality. Training and support for MySchool Online teachers will continue with more advanced training on digital tools as well as targeted support, if needed, including one-on-one support from district Talent Development experts.
Chief Academic Officer Dr. Helen Wild commented, “Our plan focused on identifying MySchool Online students who were not making adequate academic progress and getting them back to in-person learning so that our highly qualified teachers can provide them with the face to face, differentiated support they need to be successful.”
The approved plan can be accessed here: SLPS Spring 2021 Education Plan
St. Lucie Public Schools Graduation Rates Continue to Improve
St. Lucie County - St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) earned a graduation rate of 93.2% while the six traditional high schools boasted a rate of 98% for the 2019-2020 school year. These rates exceed the state average of 90%. This is the 4th consecutive year that the graduation rate for SLPS is above 90%. SLPS improved its state ranking to 10th in the state out of 67 districts.
Furthermore, St. Lucie Public Schools continues to close the achievement gap as demonstrated by improvement in the graduation rate of Black, Hispanic, and Exceptional Education students. The graduation rate for Black students improved from 85.7% to 92.5%; Hispanic students improved from 92.4% to 94%; Exceptional Education Students improved their graduation rate from 88.3% to 91.6%. Moreover, all subgroups continue to rank among the highest in the state.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment as our trend continues to increase for all students. I commend our students, teachers, administrators, and staff. All demographic groups continue to perform at very high levels and our students are graduating from high school prepared to enroll in college or directly enter the workforce due to our strong career and technical programs as evidenced by the robust number of industry certifications earned by our students,” said Superintendent E. Wayne Gent.
Treasure Coast Teachers Benefitting from Free Support from Tykes & Teens
Virtual Meetings on Second Tuesday of Each Month at 4:30 pm
Palm City – Teachers across the Treasure Coast are taking advantage of and benefitting from free support provided by Tykes & Teens, a leading mental health provider for children and adolescent evidence-based programs and services for nearly 25 years. TEAMS – Teacher Empowerment And Meaningful Support – is a confidential virtual teacher support group provided the second Tuesday of each month by Tykes & Teens with the support of Children’s Services Council of Martin and St. Lucie Counties. The next TEAMS meeting is Tuesday, January 12, 2021 at 4:30 pm.
As children and families are continuing to struggle with increased anxiety and added pressures caused by COVID-19, teachers are on the frontlines adjusting to providing both virtual and in-person education and care for children, while also balancing their own challenges during the current pandemic world.
“We know our teachers are working harder than ever and facing even greater pressures during a pandemic, and we want you to know we are here for you,” says Dorothy Oppenhesier, Tykes & Teens Trauma-Informed Care Coordinator who leads TEAMS. “TEAMS is an excellent opportunity for teachers to have a safe place to share their personal experiences and feelings and receive coping strategies in a confidential space of mutual understanding and support.”
“As a long-time educator and Tykes & Teens’ Trauma-Informed Care Coordinator, Dorothy personally relates to what teachers are going through and provides excellent support and guidance through our TEAMS support group,” says Tykes & Teens Director of Prevention Services Dr. Agnieszka Marshall, Psy.D., CAP.
Teachers participating in the group are encouraging others to take advantage of the TEAMS support group, saying: “TEAMS has been so helpful;” and “I wish more teachers would take advantage of this group.”
Tykes & Teens’ TEAMS virtual group is open to all teachers and meets the second Tuesday of each month at 4:30 pm. To register, email Dr. Agnieszka Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Tykes & Teens’ Trauma-Informed Care, visit www.tykesandteens.org/trauma-informed-care/.
Dorothy Oppenhesier is Tykes & Teens’ Trauma-Informed Care Coordinator, as well as a long-time school educator and administrator. She provides training in trauma-informed care, motivational interviewing, mindfulness and compassion fatigue. She is an experienced educational consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the education and healthcare management industry, and is skilled in career education, special education, child advocacy, staff development and student counseling. She is a former middle and high school teacher and was also a high school assistant principal and principal. In addition, she has worked with 50 school districts to evaluate and implement comprehensive health education curriculum that included social emotional health. She received her Bachelor of Science, Health Education and Sociology certification in teaching from Western Michigan University and her Graduate in Public Administration with an emphasis in health care from the University of Michigan-Flint. She holds a School
Principal Certification and is a certified Mental Health First Aid Trainer and Michigan Model for Health Trainer.
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Port St. Lucie High School Receives School of Excellence Award
St. Lucie – Port St. Lucie High School will receive the inaugural School of Excellence award on behalf of the Florida College Access Network (FCAN) and the American College Application Campaign (ACAC) for their work around the Apply Yourself Florida college application completion campaign. Only one school from each state across the USA is being recognized with this award and Port St. Lucie High School has been nominated and selected as the Florida school to receive this honor.
The School of Excellence award was launched by ACAC to recognize the thousands of schools across the country that are helping students achieve their postsecondary goals. Port St. Lucie High School was nominated for serving as an exemplary model for the Apply Yourself Florida initiative last year, and the partnership with Indian River State College.
Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Helen Wild stated, "This recognition is special because it honors the hard work of our counselors in ensuring that students have the support needed to navigate the college application process. Port St. Lucie High has done a fantastic job in following up with students beyond the event, especially for first-generation college students. Our schools have been doing a big push in helping students plan for their future as our graduation rates have skyrocketed."
The goal of ACAC and Apply Yourself Florida is to increase the number of first-generation students and students from low-income families who pursue postsecondary education by assisting high school seniors as they navigate the college admissions process, ensuring each participating student submits at least one college application.
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St. Lucie Public Schools Increases Starting Teacher Salary to $44,600 and all Employees Will Receive a Minimum 2% Raise
St. Lucie County – District and Union Leaders successfully completed salary compensation negotiations for the 2020-2021 school year. The starting teacher salary in St. Lucie Public Schools will increase from $38,375 to $44,600.
Teachers making under $44,600 will receive an increase to get to that minimum amount. In addition, teachers making more than $44,600 will receive a 2% increase on their current base salary. Superintendent Gent said, “We are pleased to be able to reward our employees during these difficult financial times when we know the work is more challenging than ever. We are committed to recruiting and retaining the very best teachers for our students.”
Through Florida House Bill 641, a new Teacher Salary Increase Allocation provides funding to increase starting teacher salaries and includes restrictions on how the money is used, with the bulk of it aimed at increasing classroom teacher’s starting salary. Each district receives an allocation aimed at getting the starting salary as close as possible to $47,500. However, no funds are provided to increase salaries for more experienced teachers.
Education Association of St. Lucie Union President David Freeland stated, “Although the statute has caused concerns with experienced teachers statewide, this agreement has attempted to address it and ensure that all teachers receive a raise during these challenging times. We have worked hard with the district to address at least some of the inequity in the Governor’s plan. During these uncertain financial times, we are pleased to be able to negotiate an overall 2% raise for our Classified and Protech units.”
Despite a challenging revenue picture, this agreement has been possible due to the Board’s proactive budgeting plan. The Teacher Salary Increase Allocation Plan will be sent to the Department of Education for approval which will determine the timeline for implementing the increases.
Hobe Sound Early Learning Center Builds Capacity through Collaboration with the Hobe Sound Community Chest “Strong Start Initiative”
Article by: Louise Murtaugh, APR
Hobe Sound – Hobe Sound Early Learning Center Board President, Rob Kloska was honored to announce the expansion of the Hobe Sound Early Learning Center’s capacity to enroll more young children through the foresight and generosity of the Hobe Sound Community Chest’s “Strong Start Initiative”.
After determining a significant number of young children are not benefiting from early childhood education, the Hobe Sound Community Chest launched their “Strong Start Initiative” with the goal of providing children in need, birth to four, access to early learning opportunities. In partnership with the Hobe Sound Community Chest, the Hobe Sound Early Learning Center has undertaken a transformational phased strategic initiative to enroll more children through capacity building efforts.
“Children will be left behind if they not engaged in learning opportunities by the time they reach 1st grade,” stated Mary King, Executive Director of the Hobe Sound
Early Learning Center. “Early learning is the foundation for all children, so they become successful in school and in life”.
These classrooms are a gift from the Hobe Sound Community Chest and made possible by the bequest of Joan Dillon Hay Madeira. The new building was constructed to add two more spacious classrooms to educate more children. Additionally, the modular has space for the Small Group Instruction program, therapies and a workspace for the teachers. Hobe Sound Community Chest “Strong Start Initiative” will provide funding for scholarships for families who qualify and are 200% Florida Poverty Level so their children will be prepared for Kindergarten and academic success.
The Hobe Sound Community Chest philanthropy has helped the Hobe Sound Early Learning Center for many years and continues to provide the community with needed programs and services.
The modular classroom was recently “christened” by many happy youngsters who are thoroughly enjoying their new spacious rooms.
Hobe Sound Early Learning Center provides early education, nurturing and nutritious meals to children ages 1 -5 and is a Voluntary Pre-K provider. HSELC incorporates Small Group Instruction into its curriculum to provide children 3 - 5
years of age that are struggling in specific skills to gain additional educational time in these areas. This program is a key to our success in graduating Kindergarten ready students.
Founded in 1962, the Center now has the capacity to enroll up to 160 children. The center provides full-day programs in its child-friendly Center in Hobe Sound, FL. The Center provides families, regardless of income, an affordable early-education program incorporating nurturing, education, and recreation to stimulate their children’s healthy emotional and social development and help them excel in school and life. Our vision is for children to realize their full potential in an impactful high-quality, high yield early learning environment.
In Photo: Hobe Sound Early Learning Center students at the entrance to the new classroom, thanking Hobe Sound Community Chest
In Photo: The Explorers in the new modular classroom, thanking Hobe Sound Community Chest.
Should You Pay Off Student Loans Early or Save More for Retirement?
For adults with student debt and extra money on hand, deciding whether to pay off student loans early or put those funds toward retirement can be tricky. It's a financial tug-of-war between digging out from debt today and saving for the future, both of which are very important goals. This decision is relevant today considering that roughly 65% of college graduates in the class of 2018 had student debt, with an average debt of $29,200.1 This amount equates to a monthly payment of $295, based on a 4% interest rate and standard 10-year repayment term.
Let's assume you have a $300 monthly student loan obligation. You have to pay it each month — that's non-negotiable. But if you have extra money available, what's the better course: pay more toward your student loans each month to pay them off faster or contribute extra funds to your retirement? The answer comes down to optimizing how those dollars can be put to work for you.
The first question to consider is whether you are taking full advantage of any 401(k) match offered by your employer. For example, let's say your employer matches one dollar for every dollar you save in your 401(k), up to 6% of your pay. If you make $50,000 a year, 6% of your pay is $3,000. So by contributing $3,000 per year to your 401(k), or $250 per month, you will get the full employer match of $3,000. That's a 100% return on your investment.
If you are already contributing enough to get the full match, next compare the interest rate on your debt to the rate of return you could be earning on any extra funds you invest. When you make extra payments on a specific debt, you are essentially earning a rate of return equal to the interest rate on that debt. In the student loan example, the interest rate is 4%, so by applying extra money toward that debt you are "earning" a 4% return. If you think you can earn a higher rate of return by investing extra money in your retirement account, then those funds might best be put to work for you there.
Of course, no one can predict their expected rate of return with certainty. But generally speaking, if the interest rate on your debt is relatively low, the potential long-term returns you might earn in your retirement account could outweigh the benefits of shaving a year or two off your student loans. If you have time on your side when saving for retirement, the long-term growth potential of even small amounts can make contributing to your retirement account a smart financial move.Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.
The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal professional.
LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Out2News. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
St. Lucie Public Schools Awarded the STOP School Violence Grant for $496,311
St. Lucie County – St. Lucie Public Schools (SLPS) was just awarded the STOP School Violence grant in the full amount requested, $496,311. This coveted Grant Award, follows other recently obtained, large dollar federal grants. This time, the grant award will fund the Helping Every Adolescent Recover from Trauma Project (The H.E.A.R.T. Project). This project is a unique approach to providing a trauma-responsive environment in two alternative education settings serving students who have experienced trauma as a result of either witnessing or being a victim of violence, requiring an alternative school setting.
The program will be fully funded through a grant from the United States Department of Justice in the amount of $496,311 over a three-year period. The H.E.A.R.T. Project will provide intensive support to students through six cognitive behavioral techniques to regulate emotions, react to trauma in a healthy manner, and learn social problem-solving skills to prevent future acts of violence against themselves and others.
Separately, students identified as having witnessed or been a victim of sexual violence will have an opportunity to engage in an intensive 16-week therapeutic program to help them move beyond the specific effects of sexual trauma. Additionally, parents will receive training to ensure they are able to support their children outside of the school environment.
The district expects the project to decrease the rate of student violence both in the school environment and in the surrounding community since students with the highest needs, and who are at the greatest risk for being a victim or perpetrator of violence, will receive the support they need and deserve.
Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Helen Wild noted, “We are so pleased to receive this recognition and funding for the HEART Project to provide these much needed services to our students and families in crisis. It is a true collaboration between District Departments and an endorsement of their quality work on behalf of the community.”
FIFTEEN SCHOOLS EARN FLPBIS MODEL SCHOOL DESIGNATION
Time to celebrate! Fifteen Martin County School District-operated schools have been recognized for their work in implementing a school-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) framework. PBIS is a set of strategies based in behavioral and biomedical science that enhance students' quality of life while also reducing problem behaviors. National research shows that full implementation of this framework leads to improved student outcomes.
By establishing this framework, schools are developing student skills, making changes to the learning environment, acknowledging appropriate student behavior, and using data to identify needed supports for students.
As a result of this work, the following schools have been recognized by the Florida Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (FLPBIS) Project for achieving PBIS Model School status for the 2019- 2020 school year:
Citrus Grove Elementary School - Gold
Crystal Lake Elementary School - Gold
Dr. David L. Anderson Middle School - Gold
Jensen Beach High School - Gold
Palm City Elementary School - Gold
Port Salerno Elementary School - Gold
Riverbend Academy - Gold
Stuart Middle School - Gold
Bessey Creek Elementary School - Bronze
Hidden Oaks Middle School - Bronze
Indiantown Middle School - Bronze
J.D. Parker Elementary School - Bronze
Martin County High School - Bronze
Pinewood Elementary School - Bronze
Warfield Elementary School - Bronze
OUTSTANDING SENIORS SELECTED AS DISTRICT'S NOMINEES FOR U.S. PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLARS PROGRAM
Established in 1964, the United States Presidential Scholars Program was established for the purpose of recognizing and honoring our nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. Each year, up to 161 American students receive this prestigious honor for their academic achievements, talents in the visual, creative or performing arts, or abilities and accomplishments in career and technical education (CTE) fields.
The Martin County School District’s selection committee received many outstanding recommendations this year, making the task of narrowing down nominees to just two exemplary students quite difficult. After careful deliberation, Gigi Copeland of Jensen Beach High School (JBHS) and Spencer Hackler of South Fork High School (SFHS) were selected to represent Martin County in this year’s competition. Both students excel inside and outside of the classroom, serving as leaders in their schools and in our community.
Gigi Copeland (Academic Award Nominee)
“Gigi’s best attribute is her tenacity and positive spirit,” Jennifer Ali, JBHS guidance counselor, wrote in her letter of recommendation. “If she is interested in something or sets a goal, she will do her research and try to fulfill that quest or goal.”
Gigi has a genuine love for learning that extends beyond academic subjects into the world around her. She has attained a weighted GPA of 6.05 and has never scored lower than a 4 on the eight Advanced Placement (AP) exams she has taken thus far. The founder of Jensen Beach High School’s chapter of TASSEL (Teaching and Sharing Skills to Enrich Lives), Gigi has spent countless hours teaching English to elementary school students in rural Cambodia via video calls. While many students use the summer months to relax and unwind after the school year, Gigi spends her summers honing her skills. Prior to her sophomore year, she attended the Startalk Language Camp for Chinese at Arizona State University, where she participated in immersive Chinese language classes, cultural activities and presentations. Before beginning her junior year, she attended the AMP Global Scholar Camp, where she visited embassies and cultural centers in her quest to learn more about international relations and social justice. She is an active member of Jensen Beach High School’s chapter of the National Honor Society, Chinese Club/Chinese Honor Society, Debate Club and Art Club/Art Honor Society. She has earned the Florida Gold Seal of Biliteracy and also volunteers through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“Gigi was one of my rare students to reach out during the summer before her freshman year to discuss if she was making the right decisions about her courses,” Ms. Ali said. “She wanted to make sure they were appropriate for the trajectory she had in mind, but she also wanted to make sure she would enjoy them. She has maintained that same level of intrigue every year.”
Spencer Hackler (CTE Award Nominee)
Spencer has been a student in South Fork High School’s Academy of Landscape & Turfgrass Management for four years. “In that time, he has learned to correctly identify more than 250 plants, become a Florida Certified Horticulture Professional and competed in a collegiate-level sports turf quiz bowl,” Academy instructor Wendy Schepman wrote in her letter of recommendation.
Spencer achieves his goals while diligently working to develop and display positive character. A member of the Boy Scouts of America’s local Troop 774 since the first grade, he earned the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout in September of this year. He has earned the rank of Cadet First Sergeant as a member of South Fork’s JROTC program, where he enjoys participating in physical activities that require him to exhibit exemplary teamwork and leadership skills. Academically, Spencer maintains a 3.02 GPA and is dual-enrolled at Indian River State College, where he eagerly takes advantage of all of the turfgrass management courses available to him. In his free time, he continues to prepare for his future as an intern at Lost Tree Club in North Palm Beach.
“My current position requires me to pursue a career in turfgrass science and to have basic experience in golf course maintenance,” Spencer shares. “By successfully completing this internship, I will have the skills and knowledge to transition into a management position either at my current place of employment or at a different course.”
Gigi and Spencer’s names have been provided to the Florida Department of Education for consideration as state-level nominees for the award. If chosen to move forward in the competition, their applications will be sent to the national program in January 2021. Presidential Scholars will be announced at the beginning of May 2021. For more information about the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, please click here.
Become a Substitute Teacher!
Article by: Lydia Martin
St. Lucie Public Schools has opportunities for qualified candidates to join our substitute teaching team. Interested candidates will hold a minimum of an Associate’s Degree or 60 college credits and must agree to work at least two days per month.
· Substitute teachers in Long Term Assignments (21 days or more) earn $100.00 per day.
· Substitute teachers in our Critical Needs sites earn $90.00 per day for day to day substituting.
· Our substitute teachers earn a base rate of $71.00 per day and receive a rate increase to $90.00 per day after meeting our frequency requirements.
We value our substitute teachers and provide free tutorials and guidance to those individuals who wish to pursue teaching as a career.
Process for Becoming a Substitute
To apply as a Substitute, click the here: https://business.stlucie.k12.fl.us/scripts/wsisa.dll/WService=wsFin/rapplmnu03.w
Once you have submitted your completed application, it will be processed by the Human Resources Department.
Once you have been hired, you will receive an email with instructions to schedule and pay for your photo ID badge, fingerprint and drug screen appointments. A link will be included for you to schedule your appointment to complete your on-boarding packet in the Human Resources Department.
Upon completion of the steps above, you will be contacted by the department of which you applied, and they will assign you accordingly.
SLPS Comprehensive Mental Health Plan Receives DOE Approval
The 2020-2021 Comprehensive Mental Health Plan submitted by SLPS recently obtained approval from the Florida Department of Education.
This plan provides a comprehensive overview of an established infrastructure designed to address the mental, social and emotional, and behavioral needs of all children.
Included in the plan is a synopsis of the many existing programs and services currently available in SLPS, as well as plans for the district’s expansion of services
utilizing the Mental Health Services Allocation and the dollars generated through the passage of the voter referendum in St. Lucie County which provides additional dollars to support mental health.
Establishing these guiding principles allows SLPS to maintain a systematic process to meet the many needs of our students through access to mental health services and to provide timely feedback to our families and community partners. Based in a multi-tiered system of supports, our infrastructure includes a continuum of services that meets the needs of all students.
The Mental Health Services Allocation and the dollars from the district voter referendum have allowed SLPS to expand the services we provide. This expansion of services allows us to offer a more immediate response to the students and families we serve. An intentional focus on the social and emotional well-being of all children will result in increased student achievement, increased attendance and engagement in school, and a reduction in negative outcomes for students such as poor attendance, out-of-school suspension and office discipline referrals.
Congratulations to Bill Tomlinson, Executive Director of the Exceptional Student Education and Student Services Department and his entire team for a job well done!
For questions about the Comprehensive Mental Health Plan, please contact Heather Clark, Director of Student Services at 429-4521 or Dr. Michelle Gillard, Coordinator of Mental Health at 429-4559.
Our Dollars, Our District: Replacing Jensen Beach and Palm City Elementary Schools
Samuel S. Gaines Academy of Emerging Technologies Selected to Join the 2020- 2021 Incubator Path of the Microsoft Showcase School Program
St. Lucie County - Samuel S. Gaines Academy of Emerging Technologies was selected by Microsoft to join the 2020–2021 Incubator Path of the Microsoft Showcase School program for their commitment to education transformation to drive student learning outcomes. Led effectively by Principal Keith W. Davis Sr., Samuel S. Gaines Academy of Emerging Technologies provides both inspiration and motivation to all schools to see and experience the future of digital transformation in education.
Samuel S. Gaines Academy of Emerging Technologies joins an exclusive community from around the world, recognized and celebrated for their educational transformation which includes vision and innovation in teaching, learning and assessment, focus on future-ready skills such as computational and critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, using data to support decision-making, and promotion of growth mindset among staff, educators, and students.
“Three years ago, we started our transformation journey by getting all of our teachers trained in Microsoft and STEM content integration. Part of our vision has always been to become a Microsoft Showcase School. The work of transformation is always challenging, however, due to the passion for improvement and dedication of our teachers and staff to a growth mindset, we can embark on the next part of the journey as a Microsoft Incubator School with the same confidence that helped us make history when we became a B school in 2019,” said Principal Davis.
As a school in the Incubator Path of the Showcase School program, Samuel S. Gaines Academy of Emerging Technologies will work closely with Microsoft on a journey to lead innovation in education transformation and communicate an education transformation vision, enabled by technology, to help students excel and develop the skills needed for the future. The journey culminates with the opportunity to earn Microsoft Showcase School status.
“Microsoft Showcase Schools are shining examples of those applying purpose-driven innovation in a variety of ways to build connections, motivate students and to create community in and out of school,” said Anthony Salcito, Vice president, Worldwide Education, Microsoft. “These schools are truly transforming learning and providing more personalized education to students, empowering them to achieve more.”
The global Microsoft Showcase School community comes together as a group to tackle challenges, celebrate successes, share learnings, and try new solutions in a vibrant online community through Microsoft Teams. As schools in the program continue their education transformation journey, they are supported by Microsoft, their partners, and each other through capacity building, transformation guidance, peer learning, amplification opportunities, and early access to research and solutions.