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SRQ DAILY Apr 18, 2020

"Many of our nonprofit partners have transformed their operations to meet urgent new community needs."

- Mark Prichett, Gulf Coast Community Foundation

[Higher Education]  SCF Tips for Online Learning
Carol Probstfeld, presidentsoffice@scf.edu

At the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, we take pride in our ability to offer classes at the time, place and delivery method that best suits our students’ busy lives. We typically offer in-person, online and blended (combination of both) courses that allow our students to work, raise families and attend classes.

To meet the requirements of social distancing to flatten the curve and hopefully lessen the impact of the Coronavirus on our community, we have converted almost all our offerings to online. Our goal is to allow our students to continue to pursue their degrees and gain a sense of accomplishment when so much else of their lives is interrupted.

SCF is not new to online courses and many of our professors have extensive experience with online classes. Normally about 32% of our courses are online. SCF Associate Professor of Political Science Danny Fuerstman has been teaching online since 2009 and finds that students appreciate its flexibility. That is optimal for students today who are working long shifts in essential occupations or parents at home remotely working and trying to continue their education.

Professor Fuerstman, SCF’s 2019 Outstanding Faculty Award winner, told me that there are a few keys to being successful in an online environment. First, it’s important to be self-motivated. When you are in a physical classroom multiple times a week it is easier to keep yourself accountable. That is much harder to do when you don’t have that physical reminder on a weekly basis.

Second, it is important to stay organized. Look over your syllabus and the course layout. Make sure you know what is required each week, where you can find it in your learning management system and how you need to go about doing it.

Finally, doing the work early is huge. Procrastination is a natural tendency and when there are so many other urgent things going on right now it is understandable. But leaving assignments to the last day means you probably won’t put as much time into your work as you normally would, leaving you with little leeway if technology fails or life gets in the way.

As students – and parents – across our service area experience online learning in our school districts and colleges, the best advice from Professor Fuerstman is to not let the challenge overwhelm you. Make sure you can figure out how to get on to your school’s learning management system and navigate within it. Take it one day at a time.

Some people may be intimidated by the technology, but this can help you become comfortable with the kinds of technologies and skills you will need in the workplace – things that many of us are using to telework today.

If you are worried about not getting the work done on time or have trouble sticking to the deadlines, find a friend or family member who you can share your assignment due dates with and ask them to keep you accountable.

We are posting additional online learning tips on the SCF social media sites. Please let us know what is working best for you.

We are all a little out of our comfort zone right now but taking classes and pursuing an educational goal can provide a sense of progress and normalcy. We hope to get SCF students back in the classroom as soon as safely possible, but until then, we are available to our students online for all their academic and student support service needs.

Dr. Carol Probstfeld, is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. 

[Gulf Coast]  Optimism and Courage in the Face of a Crisis
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.

Over the past several weeks, many of our nonprofit partners have transformed their operations to meet urgent new community needs. More so, they have done it amid staggering hits to their own operations, personnel and even future viability.

It has been inspiring to work with these organizations, as well as with the generous Gulf Coast donors who are co-investing in their innovations. Together, we have granted over $1.8 million these past few weeks to help strong nonprofits provide childcare for first responders, telemedicine and remote counseling for patients and basic needs like food for families of laid-off workers.

As demands on first responders and front-line healthcare workers increased, the closure of our schools left nowhere safe for many of their children during the day. The SKY Family YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County both stepped up to help meet those dire childcare needs. SKY Y is providing all-day youth relief care at eight locations across three counties. Boys and Girls Clubs launched a First Responder Program with free childcare for Sarasota County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office employees, Sarasota Memorial Hospital staff, and essential City of Sarasota workers. I love what SKY Y CEO Gene Jones told us: “Fighting this virus is a community effort, and those on the front lines cannot play their roles if we don’t play ours.”

Besides childcare, necessities like food and shelter have been among the most critical needs so far in this crisis. Almost 40% of the funding we’ve directed from our COVID-19 Response Initiative—a joint initiative with Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—has been for such emergency aid. All Faiths Food Bank, the backbone of our region’s hunger-relief system, has transformed its operations and activated new collaborations to meet the growing need.

When physical distancing and sanitation guidelines stymied its traditional sorting and distribution approach, the Food Bank began building pre-packed boxes of food that can be distributed with bags of produce or meat. It also accelerated its Campaign Against Summer Hunger, so children who lost access to free or subsidized meals at school could still be fed. The Food Bank has partnered with the school district to help safely feed children at eight area schools, as well as through Boys & Girls Clubs, Children First, Girls Inc., and the Early Learning Coalition. Past innovations in its programs and partnerships made the Food Bank’s pivot possible, and I have no doubt that new lessons learned will only further enhance its service models.

Likely the biggest change many businesses have made is the shift to remote work environments. For health care and behavioral health providers, that means telemedicine and virtual counseling. Several of our partners have boldly made the move to maximize technology in order to sustain patient care. CenterPlace Health, which provides affordable healthcare in Sarasota County, quickly developed telehealth services so patients who experience symptoms, live in outbreak areas, or have ongoing medical issues can keep getting the quality care they need. First Step of Sarasota implemented virtual strategies for many of its addiction-recovery services too. By increasing its telehealth capabilities to 42 professionals, First Step has ensured that all of its programs remain operational.

Technology plus creativity is also sustaining vital social supports. Women’s Resource Center, for example, anticipates a whole new set of needs among women and their families because of this crisis. The agency has moved what counseling services it can to a virtual format. And it’s not just a stopgap. CEO Ashley Brown sees an opportunity for WRC to serve even more women by transforming the way it delivers its programming in the future. Talk about opportunity (for our community) out of chaos.

An interesting new article from McKinsey & Co. on planning for the “next normal” suggests that optimism and courage will be essential to the decision-making that shapes our future. From executive directors to support staff, our region’s nonprofit organizations are epitomizing those qualities, every day, in responding to urgent new community needs and preparing for those yet to come.

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

[Argus]  Staying Politically Informed In A Pandemic
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

The COVID-19 crisis has consumed our daily lives, and rightfully so.  As we manage our lives, our work, our family, the most basic things we took for granted are taking extraordinary amounts of effort. As we have uncomfortably adjusted to our new realities, we know that some have been harder hit than others.

However, all of us are facing some very important decisions in August and November as to our local leadership in terms of elections. Now would normally be the time politicians are shaking hands, attending events, going door-to-door and seeking petition cards to get onto the ballot. It is an important time as the voter begins to understand who the candidates are and what they represent. It is the beginning of the voter formulating their electoral decisions. 

Exactly four months from today is the primary election. Domestic vote by mail ballots will be sent out in less than two and a half months. We must set aside the time to seek out these candidates and their positions on issues. We know that is difficult right now, as most of us are stuck at home, and those who are not at home are busier than ever.

To that end, The Argus Foundation is here to help and we want to make it easier for voters to make their choices at a time when it is difficult to get to know candidates. We are pleased to announce that last week, we successfully held our first Zoom candidate forum for the Sarasota County Commission District 5 candidates.

From the comfort of your home, you can view the forum at a time convenient for you and you can compare and contrast the candidates and their positions on issues affecting you.

While it does make for great political theater to ask candidates questions on the spot and without warning, in reality, snap uninformed decisions are not what we want from our elected officials. All of us want our elected officials to study issues and understand them before voting or taking a position.  In order to encourage that and see how well candidates prepared their positions, the questions were provided a week ahead of time. The end result was a very thoughtful discussion that leads the viewer to understand the logic behind each candidate’s positions.

We covered a wide range of topics from taxes to budget to water to transportation to municipal relations and more. We heard about the economy and how the candidates wanted to move us beyond COVID-19 and we heard the candidates thoughts on growth.

For the first time since 1994, not all of the county will get to vote for the county commission candidates that will affect their daily lives.  Only North Port and Englewood will get to vote in this race. However, it is an important discussion that everyone in Sarasota County should hear, as this election and the commissioner elected will affect everyone in the county. Citizens should understand where our community is headed.

To view this important forum, head to The Argus Foundation YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/lPCKOidx68A.

Christine Robinson is the executive director of The Argus Foundation. 

[Merger]  Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Adopts Historic Spanish Point as a Companion Campus to its Downtown Location!

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Board of Trustees today is pleased to announce that Historic Spanish Point will be joining its organization as a companion campus as of May 1, 2020. Combining two nonprofits with similar missions, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will showcase air plants of the world, native nature, and regional history through both its Downtown campus and its new Historic Spanish Point campus. Historic Spanish Point (“HSP”), a hidden 30-acre gem on Little Sarasota Bay in the Osprey area of Sarasota County, is one of the largest waterfront preserves showcasing native Florida plants in the state. With an archaeological record that encompasses approximately 5,000 years of Florida history, HSP is one of the largest intact and actively preserved archaeological sites on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Similar to Selby Gardens Downtown campus, HSP was owned by a forward-thinking woman of her time, Bertha Palmer (1849-1918), a Chicago native who became a Florida real estate pioneer.

Despite concerted efforts, Historic Spanish Point has not been able to grow sustainable revenue streams enough to cover its operating budget. In seeking a way forward that would keep HSP as a natural site that honors Florida’s history, HSP, through Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Invest in Incredible program, approached leaders at Selby Gardens to explore possibilities. While conversations began in February, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting financial challenges at HSP made the situation more urgent.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will now be an umbrella organization with two distinct campuses – Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota location and Historic Spanish Point. The Gulf Coast Heritage Association, which has run HSP, has now been adopted as a supporting organization to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. “It is always our hope to find win-win solutions for organizations,” said Mark Pritchett, President|CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “The mission and vision of Selby Gardens and Historic Spanish Point are extremely compatible. And we are confident this merger will allow Historic Spanish Point to reach its full potential, in turn allowing Sarasota residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy two significant cultural resources for generations to come.”

Selby Gardens, located less than 10 miles to the north of HSP with a membership base of 14,000 households, is uniquely positioned to grow HSP’s visitor engagement and turn the financial situation around at HSP, which has 750 member households. Over the past five fiscal years, there has been a dramatic financial turnaround at Selby Gardens’ Downtown campus resulting in the elimination of Selby Gardens’ debt for the first time in its history. During the same time period, admissions have grown by 55%, memberships by 67%, and earned revenue by 70%.

Similar to HSP, Selby Gardens is a bayfront oasis gifted to the community by a founding pioneer, Marie Selby (1885-1971). While Selby Gardens has always been internationally-renowned for the study and display of the world’s best scientifically-documented collections of orchids and bromeliads, in recent years, visitors have also been attracted by The Living Museum® operating model with rotating exhibitions featuring horticultural and garden displays tied to works by well-known artists.

While the potential to similarly tell the story of Florida’s native plants and peoples at the HSP campus is endless, some ideas the team plans to implement as soon as possible include:

— Creating joint summer camps and children’s education programs;
— Creating joint adult education programs;
— Expanding the butterfly garden to include an interactive butterfly house;
— Creating connectivity between both campuses by boat.

“The Board of Directors at the Gulf Coast Heritage Association carefully explored alternative ways to sustain Historic Spanish Point, and unanimously agreed that having Selby Gardens adopt HSP was the best path forward,” said Pat Ball, Chair of the Gulf Coast Heritage Association, which previously operated Historic Spanish Point. “We are confident that this bold move will allow Historic Spanish Point to realize its full potential and remain an important resource and attraction for the region.”

While mergers are a common tool for growth and financial sustainability in the for-profit sector, nonprofit mergers could become more prevalent this year, especially in light of the economic challenges related to COVID19. Mergers provide economies of scale that can enable organizations to become much more efficient and help them expand their services in new geographic areas, in turn gaining vital donor support and increasing impact.

All staff at Historic Spanish Point will be retained, and current Executive Director John McCarthy will become Vice President of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Historic Spanish Point campus. Additionally, two members of the former Gulf Coast Heritage Association Board of Directors will join the Selby Gardens Board of Trustees. “We are so excited to have Historic Spanish Point join us as our companion campus,” said Jennifer Rominiecki, Selby Gardens President and CEO. “We look forward to honoring HSP’s history and character, while finding ways to make the location financially sustainable. The real winners in this are the residents of the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County, who will be able to visit two campuses as part of their Selby Gardens memberships.” The adoption of the Historic Spanish Point campus will not impact the Master Plan at Selby Gardens’ Downtown location. At this time, $35 million in contributions are currently committed and specifically restricted for the purposes of the Selby Gardens’ Downtown Master Plan. With the current economic downturn, Selby Gardens’ hope is that the project will be approved so that it can benefit Sarasota’s local economy as soon as it is safe for work to begin. 

Click to see a message from Jennifer Rominiecki, President and CEO of Selby Gardens

[COVID19 Relief]  FSU Expert Ready To Provide Perspective On Impact Of Coronavirus Related IRS Changes

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has granted broad relief for tax filing and payment deadlines that fall between April 1 and July 15, 2020. This move comes amidst a host of measures included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law last month. Tax credits, refunds, and waivers included in the bill were designed to make an immediate impact and serve as a lifeline to a flagging economy. Economic and tax legislation is confusing at the best of times. When it’s been drafted and passed expeditiously, clarity is especially important. To help provide perspective on the CARES Act, assistant lecturer Nathan Wadlinger of Florida State University's College of Business is ready to help. Wadlinger is an expert in federal income taxation (Individual and Business), tax research and writing, and tax aspects of buying and selling a business. “The COVID-19 crisis spreading across the globe has come at crunch time for U.S. taxpayers but the CARES Act provided many changes beyond just taxes. While taxpayers should consult their CPAs or other tax professional to determine the specific outcome to them, the overall effect of these changes is that there are more favorable rules for taxpayers.”  Nathan Wadlinger, assistant lecturer, College of Business 850-644-3066;  nwadlinger@business.fsu.edu 

[Education]  New Sarasota County Student Registration and Existing Student Re-Registration for the 2020-21 School Year

Sarasota County Schools is encouraging all parents and guardians to begin registering first-time students, as well as re-register existing students, for the upcoming school year. The following links and information will assist parents and guardians with the registration of a new student or re-registration of an existing student for a traditional public or charter school in Sarasota County:

Parents and guardians that did not participate in school choice, or who are not electing to send their student to their choice school, will need to determine their student’s attendance zone based on their residential address. First-Time Students must fill out a registration form
Online Registration Form, available in English and Spanish. Once the form is submitted, a representative from the school will be in contact regarding further details and when the office will be open

Existing Students must also fill out a re-registration form Online Registration Form, available in English and Spanish. SNAP codes for existing students were sent out beginning April 15th using the Family Access Portal email to the registering parent/guardian of existing students. Registering parents/guardians that did not have a Family Access Portal account will be receiving their student’s SNAP code in the mail soon

For questions or issues with the form, contact your child’s school’s registrar via email. To find your registrar’s email address, please visit the Employee Directory on www.sarasotacountyschools.net, linked at the bottom of every webpage on the school district’s website. All positions in Sarasota County Schools can be searched by position title or location (school or department). 

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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