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SRQ DAILY Feb 16, 2019

Saturday Perspectives Edition

Saturday Perspectives Edition

"These highly trained literacy specialists work one-on-one with first-graders who struggle the most with reading and writing."

- Mark Pritchett, Gulf Coast Community Foundation

[Argus]  Water quality timing is urgent
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

On March 15, The Argus Foundation in partnership with South County Tiger Bay will host a water quality meeting called, “Water Quality: What is Sarasota County doing about it?” As red tide has faded, and tourist season has set in, the memories of some are beginning to fade from the very prolonged red tide episode we just experienced. The Argus Foundation continues to advocate that we keep this item on the front burner though.

We congratulate the Sarasota County Commission for making water quality a priority both in their strategic planning and also in their legislative asks with the state. County administration has bought into the priority and has already generated proposals and recommendations for the commission to act on.

Short-term planning, long-term planning, and prioritization are important. As the county plans capital projects for the next five years, their stated priorities should be reflected budgetarily not just for taxpayers, but to show the legislature that they are serious. Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Bill Galvano, and House Speaker Jose Oliva have all committed to water quality infrastructure under their leadership. 

Timing is important because while legislative leadership spans over the next 2 years, the reality is that the 2019 legislative session will end in May and the 2020 legislative sessions will end 13 months from now. We have a little over a year before this window comes to a close.

As the distance between this last awful bout of red tide and future sessions grows, there is no guarantee that this issue will remain a priority for future leadership. So, we must carpe diem. We believe that will happen with the recent discussions by the county commission. Policy follow-through and active direction after serious discussions will be important though.

Outside of session, the good news is that water quality is not something that just got on the county’s radar. There are innovative and important county government water legacies that started decades ago that are still being carried on today in this county.

At the joint water quality meeting, Sarasota County staff will go through some of the water quality efforts and science they are using to improve our waters. This luncheon meeting will be held conveniently right off the Laurel Road interstate exit at Venetian Golf and River Club. Red tide had the most pro-longed effect in south county.

We invite you to attend and hear about the programs and science. Go to http://argusfoundation.org/events/ for more information and ways to reserve seats.

The county is moving in the right direction despite time working against them, voters should encourage the county, express gratitude, and let them know they support their efforts.

Christine Robinson is executive director for The Argus Foundation. 

Photo Courtesy Sarasota County Health Department

[Gulf Coast]  Can Inclusive Excellence Be Our Gold Standard?
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

Last month, I touched on the concept of “inclusive excellence” championed by many higher education institutions and leaders. Put simply, it involves integrating efforts that promote diversity and inclusion with the highest standards for excellence and achievement in service of promoting success for all throughout a community or organization. Among its most compelling advocates is Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who will visit our region next month.

Hrabowski is widely hailed for transforming a largely commuter school into a research powerhouse across all disciplines and, especially, for guiding minority students to advanced degrees and careers in science and engineering. Speaking here on the Gulf Coast, he will discuss the potent combination of access, opportunity, and expectations that can lead to success in education and in life.

Listening to some of his past talks and reading his work in anticipation of that visit, I’ve become more attuned to the creative ways that local nonprofits make excellence inclusive in our community every day. In fact, the day before I wrote my last column, I witnessed two such examples within a few hours.

It started at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, with the launch of a new class of Beyond School Walls. This workplace-based mentoring program of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast matches at-risk high-school students with adult mentors at an area business. The “Littles” meet the “Bigs” regularly at their place of employment, so the students can see what it means to work for a successful business. Not only do they gain an adult coach, confidante, and friend at a critical time in their lives, but they also learn by experience about diverse career options and the education and skills needed to achieve them.

The new class paired seven Booker High students with Ritz-Carlton staff, including general manager Damien O’Riordan. The students—some of whom said they had never stayed at a hotel before—are now experiencing the world-famous “Ritz-Carlton way” from the inside. The Ritz’s Gold Standards of service, values, and employee empowerment have been the focus of countless business articles, case studies, and high-end leadership seminars. Thanks to the generosity and belief of Damien and his team, these teenagers get to learn about it firsthand. Not through a lecture or presentation, but through a real relationship—one I hope lasts much longer than the duration of the program for each of these matches.

As the newly matched Bigs and Littles headed off to different areas of the hotel to spend their first day together, I headed down to Venice for a lunch with several dozen Reading Recovery teachers from Sarasota County Schools. These highly trained literacy specialists work one-on-one with first-graders who struggle the most with reading and writing. The proven program had a nearly 85 percent success rate last year in catapulting students—some of whom started school unable to read at all—to grade-level proficiency within 20 weeks of lessons.

A highlight of the lunch, for me as well as for donors on hand like Keith and Linda Monda, who helped make Reading Recovery possible here, was the stories shared by the teachers at each of our tables. They talked eloquently about their own experiences, school-level results, and individual children whose lives they’ve seen transformed.

A theme I kept hearing was the joy and enthusiasm that students brought to their lessons every day, and the excitement and confidence they brought back to their classrooms. There is no stigma attached to leaving class each day to work with their Reading Recovery teacher. Rather, that’s the highlight of their day—and their classmates wish they could go too! For a student who doesn’t see reading modeled at home or can’t get help with homework for any number of reasons, the attention, encouragement, and expectations of their dedicated literacy teachers opens up a new world and future for them. The students learn that they can read because they learn to read. And they soon recognize that their ability to read means they can learn anything.

One youngster I heard about was Dillon. He entered first grade at Fruitville Elementary as a non-reader, but within 20 weeks he reached the level of his average-age peers thanks to Reading Recovery. The first time he voluntarily read from the white board at the front of the room, a classmate cheerfully affirmed, “Dillon, you can read now!” And Dillon hasn’t stopped.

I also learned about a committed group of volunteers who supplement the work of Gocio Elementary’s two Reading Recovery teachers. These community members come in weekly to assist current Reading Recovery students and work with second-graders who graduated from the program last year. For kids who don’t have anyone at home to listen as they read and correct them when they stumble, these volunteers fill a critical gap while also demonstrably wrapping our community’s arms around its next generation.

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski’s success at making his university a model for inclusive excellence has relied on strategies like eliminating historical barriers to access, fostering a mutually supportive community, exemplifying grit, and aspiring to the highest standards. Innovative programs in our community that encourage these same practices show our youth that anything is possible with hard work and then give them the opportunity to achieve it.

Mark S. Pritchett is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

Gulf Coast Community Foundation will present Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III at its Better Together luncheon on March 8 at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Reservations are available at GulfCoastCF.org.

[KUDOS]  Female Veterans Celebrated

High School staff and several cadets attending Sarasota Military Academy recently created a documentary honoring local female veterans who were some of the first to serve in the United States Military. Upon completion the documentary was presented to the veterans and their families at a luncheon event hosted by Atria Senior Living.  “At a time when women’s positions in society were more defined and traditional, these strong and inspirational women became role models - not just for those around them, but for our young cadets today,” said SMA Captain Jennifer Vanston. “ It was an honor for all of us to meet these amazing women and learn about some of our country’s history through their life stories.” 

[]  Children First Strives to Help Local Families

Children First services a diverse population across 13 locations as the exclusive provider of Head Start in Sarasota County. The children involved with the agency are some of the most at-risk youth in our community and often face barriers as they go through the stages of their developmental growth. 8% of Children First families are homeless and 90% live below the Federal Poverty Level of $21,330 for a family of three. With obstacles like these, it is vital for the children and families that we serve to feel hope, love, and support as they strive for financial independence and educational success. 

[KUDOS]  Take a Seat on a Upcycled Tervis Park Bench

Tervis will be partnering with the county to place recycled amenities such as benches in county parks. Each bench takes hundreds of tumblers and lids to create and made with 100% recycled Tervis products. Two of the benches are currently available to see at the Tervis store in Osprey. Tervis products are made to last a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean tastes stay the same. On February 16 and 17 at select stores only, customers can trade in any of their classic drinkware regardless of condition to receive $5 off any new classic tumbler for each trade in.  

[SCOOP]  County's First Biplane Interventional Radiology Suite Opens

According to the American Stroke Association, in the United States someone suffers a stroke every  40 seconds and it is the leading cause of serious long-term disability among Americans. In an effort to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of stroke among our area residents, Manatee Memorial Hospital is proud to announce the opening of the county’s first Biplane Interventional Radiology Suite featuring the Azurion image guided therapy system from Philips Healthcare. This flexible system can aid in the diagnosis and treatment of a range of patient conditions. 


[SOON]  For the First Time Since 1995, Welcome Back Nabucco

Almost twenty-five years after the production in 1995, under the stage direction of Martha Collins (Carmen, Dialogues of the Carmelites), Nabucco promises to dazzle and inspire Sarasota audiences once again. Victor DeRenzi—the only conductor in the world to have led all of Verdi’s operas, choral and orchestral works—leads a stellar cast of debut artists and returning favorites.In one of the many highlights, patrons can look forward to hearing one of the most famous choruses in all of opera—“Va pensiero”— in the third act. 


SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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