EdExploreSRQ Showcased at School Board Meeting

Posted on September 16, 2011 by Laurey Stryker, Ed.D., Digital Access for All Initiative Manager

With leaders from several cultural and science organizations in attendance, Sarasota County School Board members received an  EdExploreSRQ.com demonstration at their  Sept. 6  meeting.

School board member Carol Todd hoped we would promote the platform with parents.

Ms. Zucker congratulated the staff and organizations and said she’d be looking as a grandparent for the theatre experiences her grandchildren love. During many outreach sessions with community members, including the school board members last summer, we heard stories from Board Chair Kovach about the influence of the music program at Riverview High School. We knew the Board understood the value of the arts and community connections. They see that EdExploreSRQ could clearly increase the numbers of students who’ll benefit.

Recognizing Excellence in Arts Education and Integration

It was serendipitous that at the same Board meeting, Booker Middle Principal Joe Bazenas was  recognized for receiving the Florida Alliance for Arts Education 2011 School Administrator award. FAAE Executive Director Susan Burke told the Board that the award recognizes school administrators who provide leadership in decision-making that "ensures the inclusion of arts education in the basic curriculum and demonstrate strong support for use of best practices in educational processes."  We're excited that Joe agreed to write a guest blog in the near future on his school approach to integrate the arts and giving his often financially needy children unique community experiences.

I reminded the Board that it was just one year ago that The Patterson Foundation described the initiative to them. One of the ideas stemming from teacher and district staff feedback was to make it easier for teachers to find quality experiences that were connected to the classroom.

EdExploreSRQ.com was the result.

It couldn’t have happened without support from Superintendent Lori White and her staff, Nancy Roberts, The Patterson Foundation's district liaison; Angela Hartvigsen, project manager; and IT designer Todd Alexander. Manager Joe Binswanger was actively involved. Mina Ajrab designed the logo featuring the fibanacci spiral – a common concept in art and nature.

Education Foundation Exploration Grants for Teachers

Cindy Kaiser, executive director of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, told the Board that while many explorations will continue to be funded by student fees, PTO and school funds as well as organization support – there’s a new opportunity with exploration grants.  These grants are up to $1,500 for individual teachers and $5,000 for schoolwide or other broader projects.   The Patterson Foundation announced a matching gift of up to $500,000 for new and increased gifts for the exploration grants over the next three years.

At the Board meeting, the Verizon Foundation presented a $20,000 gift with $12,500 going to exploration grants. With The Patterson Foundation match, that means $25,000 for exploration grants – this amount will fund some 17 teacher grants impacting almost 500 students!

Verizon's Debby Kampert, director of external affairs for Verizon’s Southeast Region, presented the check at the school board meeting to Mike Bryant, Education Foundation Board Chair. Ms. Kampert told the Board that, “Verizon is honored to continue to partner with the Education Foundation to provide resources and tools for teachers be more effective in their classrooms which ensures their students are successful and are ready to compete in the 21st century global economy.”  Hopefully, Verizon’s early gift will inspire more corporate philanthropy.

I concluded my remarks to the Board with a new announcement regarding the Cultural Connections with Students Initiative. Superintendent White told us that she saw an opportunity to take a few district priorities and work with relevant community organizations to tailor experiences that support them. The goal is not only to engage the community with district priorities but also to model a process for developing collaborations in the future.

The Patterson Foundation has agreed to support this idea through engaging former Sarasota Superintendent and national education consultant Wilma Hamilton to work with the district to identify these priorities and develop a plan. The work will begin this fall.  I’ll write more on this new part of the  journey in the upcoming weeks.

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