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SRQ DAILY Aug 1, 2020

"The need to act expeditiously for our students has become clear. For our community's and students' future, we all need to lean in, collaborate, co-design and innovate together."

- Brock Leach, Chair of the Board of Directors for Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

[Community]  Celebrating Students with a Virtual Toss of the Cap
Roxie Jerde, roxie@cfsarasota.org

For our community’s teachers, students and families, it’s been a long, tumultuous summer. As conversations about reopening schools become increasingly complex, the usual back-to-school feelings of eagerness and excitement are understandably tinged with apprehension of the unknown, for all ages. While there are very real challenges and divisions facing our education system, there is also an undeniable common goal across the community to provide the best care possible for the emotional, social, physical and academic well-being of our children, no matter the platform or setting.

The thoughtfulness and openness to innovation of our students, parents, teachers, and providers working together to create an engaging learning environment reassures me about our community’s future. From pre-k to university, we are seeing the current generation boldly embracing optimism, adaptability and resiliency as they work towards fulfilling their unique dreams, even as cap and gown ceremonies transform into drive-thru parades and virtual commencements.

This summer, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County was able to celebrate student success and support their future dreams for a still hazy future by surprising 407 scholarship recipients with more $1.3 million in support via Zoom calls to hand-delivered plaques and yard signs. These virtual celebrations allowed students to meet fellow scholarship recipients, as well as the donors and volunteer committee members who make these scholarships possible. Over smiles, laughs and some tears, these celebrations remind us that meaningful relationships and connections, even digital ones, can inspire joy and sustain hope – two emotions that are requisites for future success.

Though many of these scholarships were awarded to students planning to attend traditional two- and four-year college programs, several other scholarships recognized the unique interests of our students:

  • 47 future nurses were supported by Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition BSN and Doctoral Scholarships
  • 15 future community leaders were recognized with Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Scholarships
  • 14 future artists found the means to inspire through Performing Arts Scholarships; and in the upcoming weeks many more scholarships for adults taking part in continuing education and certificate programs will be awarded.

All these opportunities are thanks to the passion and vision of donors who recognize that education is and will continue to be (regardless this pandemic), the gateway to a lifetime of success. This same commitment to the next generation also inspired nearly $400,000 in School Readiness and Summer Education grants, focused on strengthening early childhood learning and mitigating learning loss.

While there is clearly much to celebrate, the coming weeks will undoubtedly be trying for countless students, families, and educators. As we look for solutions, I believe there is a great deal we can learn from the experiences and insights of our students themselves. Their willingness to overcome and persevere in a new landscape is a valuable lesson we can all learn from and take to heart. In many ways, adults are, in spirit, participating in the same classroom as our students, learning and growing with one another as we navigate this new reality. Class is in session and we all have something to learn.

Roxie Jerde is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. 

[Education]  The Right Time And Place For Students To Launch Their Future
Jennifer Vigne, jvigne@edfoundationsrq.org

We believe that old adage that there’s “no time like the present!”

In announcing the exciting opening of LaunchPad4U, a beta space described below, we are acknowledging that, despite all challenges and changes of this time, we together have a unique opportunity to solve problems in innovative ways. It’s a moment to reimagine how we prepare our youth to navigate the new world they will inhabit.

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,” Albert Einstein said.

For some time, we at the Education Foundation of Sarasota County have recognized that we must think about how to build a network of support for students to creatively tackle 21st century challenges that we are just beginning to grasp. After all, we are depending on them to lead us into the future, and they are relying on us to prepare them to graduate with purpose, fully ready for life.   This obligation, by itself, is not new; each generation inherits the responsibility from the one before. The difference is that the present disorder, hastened by the coronavirus, has made it clear that today’s unprecedented challenges cannot be met by falling back on traditional solutions that worked in the past. These challenges can be daunting. We need to respond to the pandemic and its unsettling effects on students and families. Yet the coronavirus also has served to focus and speed up plans that were already in motion.

Over the last several years we have conducted focus groups, surveys, interviews and one-on-one conversations with people across our community to learn how we might help better prepare students for life. More recently, we convened a consortium of community and education partners — people with diverse talents and perspectives who committed to listen carefully and try out different strategies.

Together, we asked: What if our strategy included an approach to help students uncover their purpose and develop resilience through experiential learning and mentoring? What if every student had the resources they needed, whether they be personal advising, 1:1 mentoring, or practical resources to enable them to optimize their full potential by creating an actionable plan beyond high school? What if parents had easy access to parenting education and enrichment and social-emotional learning opportunities for their children? What if teachers had a place to further their professional learning and support and share with their colleagues?

Of course, we don’t have all the answers yet, but it has become clear there is a need for a space that would provide the critical ability to work creatively with students, families and teachers in real time to find them. The in-person aspect is especially important right now. While quickly adapting to the pandemic shutdown and making many of our resources available in digital format, we realized that not all students have access to technologies to meet virtually for services. And they tend to be the students and families who need our services the most.

We’re proud to announce the opening of LaunchPad4U, a beta site, or learning lab, that will allow us to try out potential solutions that help students, teachers and parents, with a focus on helping prevent students from falling behind. LaunchPad4U is designed to serve as an extension of the effective work being done in the Student Success Centers in partnering high schools, fulfilling the “what if?” questions we posed during reimagining exercises. We also anticipate providing students and volunteer mentors with meeting space where they can build relationships with one another; using workshop space for experimental learning activities; and convening community partner work groups that are members of the collective, PLANit Sarasota.

In short, LaunchPad4U will expand our impact and outreach by creating a collaborative space where students, families, and teachers can connect with mentors, educators and professionals from our community to make informed decisions about their academic and personal future. The diligence and commitment of our board of directors and many volunteers have helped bring this important and timely concept to life. It will take community involvement to sustain it and realize its full potential. The need to act expeditiously for our students has become clear. For our community’s and students’ future, we all need to lean in, collaborate, co-design and innovate together.

We invite your input and support as, together, we claim this as the right time to make a real difference for our students and support them as they launch their futures. Please visit EdFoundationSRQ.org/LaunchPad4U to learn more.

Brock Leach is chair of the board of directors, Education Foundation of Sarasota County. Jennifer Vigne is president and CEO, Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

[Politics]  Show Me The Money
Cathy Antunes, cathycantunes@gmail.com

Aug. 18 is election day for the Sarasota School Board. Among the candidates running, Eric Robinson is the only incumbent. Robinson’s tenure on the school board includes an unusual salary proposal, negotiation strategy, and uncommon, concurrent work as a PAC administrator and campaign treasurer. He is a man who wears many hats and voters may wonder whether these other roles compromise his ability to be an effective public advocate on the School Board.  Eric Robinson works for so many people, but does he work for us?

Robinson is listed as the treasurer of 92 PACs (political committees) in the state of Florida.  Over $23 million from special interest donors have been contributed to PACs Robinson administers. Among these donors is Gary Chartrand, a board member of KIPP Charter Schools in Jacksonville. Chartrand is a well known advocate for corporate charter schools. Chartrand and his wife have contributed over $460,000 to PACs Robinson administers. 

Eric Robinson claims he is just the accountant for these political committees. However, a review of state records show his accounting businesses have contributed over $230,000 to PACs he manages. 

Managing PACs has been lucrative for our School Board representative. Between 2013-2019, Eric Robinson received over $700,000 in accounting and consulting fees from political committees.

His income from managing PACs doesn’t include lucrative work as a campaign treasurer for numerous political campaigns. In a 2012 race, Robinson was treasurer for a candidate who faced no opposition. That candidate, former Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, gathered over $78,000 in campaign contributions. Chappie paid Robinson over $19,000, (25% of his campaign contributions) for campaign accounting. Another 2012 Manatee County Commission candidate, Betsy Benac (who actually had an opponent), paid Robinson less than $3,000 for his services as campaign treasurer.

This opportunity Robinson has to receive compensation tied to the political fortunes of public officials (as a campaign treasurer,) or compensation tied to political donors (as a PAC treasurer), clearly has the potential to impact his take on public policy, like school board compensation.

As a School Board member, Robinson proposed that school board salaries across the state be eliminated. That way, Robinson said people would run “for the right reasons.”

“When it’s unpaid, you’re going to get people who are more passionate,” Robinson said. 

Or, you’re going to get people who work for someone else. 

When the School Board was negotiating with Sheriff Tom Knight about who would pay for enhanced school security, Eric Robinson’s texts to the Sheriff undermined the negotiating position of the School Board. “Make us pay 100 percent.” Robinson texted Knight, adding  “F them,” a reference to his fellow school board members.

Clearly Eric Robinson gets confused about what his job is, who he works with, and he’s willing to forgo the salary we pay him to represent us. He clearly doesn’t need the money. With so many others who pay him, who does he work for?

Cathy Antunes is host of The Detail. 

[In This Issue]  Mom's World Mid-Pandemic

Five local mothers celebrate Mother's Day in a whole new way. 

Click here to read the full article from SRQ's Summer 2020 edition.

[COVID-19]  SMH Update from CEO David Verinder

The Latest COVID Positive Patient Numbers at SMH: The hospital continues to admit a steady stream of patients infected with COVID-19, but the rate of infection has shown signs of leveling off in recent days. Hospital and ICU capacity are improving, and SMH is continuing to perform non-emergency surgeries and procedures.

SMH Employee Health & Wellness: As the pandemic stretches on, SMH is taking additional steps to support staff and prevent burnout and fatigue. In addition to bringing contract staff on board to relieve employees working overtime, the hospital has a team focused on employee wellness. Hospital leaders also announced a special appreciation payment to staff for their diligence and dedication throughout the pandemic (separate news release is attached).

The Community Effort: While the spike in hospitalizations appears to be leveling off, we urge continued diligence by community members to prevent new outbreaks. We ask everyone to wear a mask in public places and to take all proper precautions including hand hygiene, social distancing when possible and staying home when sick to stop the spread of the disease. 

Click here for the video.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Online: Florida Studio Theatre Presents Suffragist Saturdays: In Conversation with Jane Plitt , August 1, 4pm

FST invites you to join us for Suffragist Saturdays, a casual conversation series featuring leading women in our area. Come connect, learn, and celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote as well as the real people who made it all possible. Featured guest: Jane Plitt, first Executive Director for the National Organization for Women (NOW). Suffragist Saturdays are free to attend, though registration is required. Presented as part of FST’s Suffragist Project: Celebrating 100 Years of the Woman’s Right to Vote. Suffragist Saturday with Jane Plitt will be held exclusively online. After registering for this virtual event, you will receive an email the day before the event from Florida Studio Theatre containing information about joining the online Zoom event.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Drive-Thru Career Fair , August 1, 9am-12pm

PGT Innovations (NYSE: PGTI), a national leader in the premium window and door category, is partnering with Adecco Staffing to host a Drive-Thru Career Fair to interview potential candidates for temporary-to-hire opportunities at its North Venice-based headquarters. The company is searching for manufacturing technicians, material handling technicians and loading technicians for night and weekend shifts. These positions will build WinDoor luxury windows and doors and PGT Custom Window & Door products, the nation's No. 1 brand of impact-resistant windows and doors. During the Drive-Thru Career Fair, candidates will park in designated spaces located in the company’s main facility parking lot and complete the approximately one-hour process from their vehicle. An Adecco Staffing agent will first conduct a COVID-19 and pre-interview questionnaire, then evaluate the candidate’s application and facilitate the interview. If approved, the interviewee will receive an on-the-spot offer and will begin completing the onboarding process and paperwork using their smartphone. A tablet will be provided for those without a smartphone. While the candidate is completing the onboarding process, Adecco Staffing team members will circulate between the parked cars to answer any questions. PGT Innovations and Adecco Staffing will be taking precautions to protect staff and candidates from being exposed to COVID-19 during the process. Safety measures include temperature checks of all staff and attendees prior to entering the property, requiring masks to be worn by all parties throughout the process and practicing social distancing. Candidates with all types of work backgrounds and skill sets are encouraged to apply for the career opportunities available with the innovative team that manufactures impact-resistant window and door products.

PGT Innovations – Venice campus, 1070 Technology Drive North Venice, FL 34275

[SOON]  HEALTH: Lakewood Ranch Barre in The Park , August 2 – August 16, 9am-10am

Join us for free barre class in the beautiful setting of Bob Gardner Community Park just off of White Eagle Blvd. Please visit the ‘tickets‘ link to RSVP and complete the online waiver agreement before the event. barre3 will host Sunday morning classes at 9 am. Please bring your own mat and water bottle. Mats must be placed at least 6-feet apart from others and we ask all participants to closely follow all social-distancing guidelines. Parking is extremely limited. If you live in close proximity to Bob Gardner Park, we encourage biking or walking to the event.

Bob Gardner Community Park, 2710 White Eagle Blvd Bradenton, Florida

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: LWR Business Alliance Presents Meet the Candidates: 2020 Primary Elections , August 4 – August 11, 4pm-5pm and 4pm-5:30pm

Join us for a special virtual meet and greet with candidates running in the 2020 state and local primary elections. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Candidates on August 4: Manatee County: 4:05 - 4:20PM County Commissioner, Dist. 7 Edwin J Hunzeker (REP), 4:22 - 4:37PM County Commissioner, Dist. 7 George W Kruse (REP). Sarasota County: 4:40 - 4:55PM County Commissioner, Dist. 1 Michael A. Moran (REP). Candidates on August 6: 4:05 – 4:20 PM FL Senate, Dist. 21 Jim Boyd (REP), 4:23 – 4:38PM FL Senate, Dist. 21 John Manners Houman (REP), 4:40 - 4:55PM FL House, Dist. 72 Donna Barcomb (REP), 4:58 – 5:13PM FL House, Dist. 72 Fiona McFarland (REP), 5:15 – 5:30PM FL House, Dist. 72 Jason M. Miller (REP). Candidates on August 11: 4:05 -  4:20PM FL House, Dist. 70 Keisha Bell (DEM), 4:22 - 4:37PM FL House, Dist. 70 Michelle Grimsley (DEM), 4:39 - 4:54PM FL House, Dist. 70 Mark Oliver (DEM), and 4:56 - 5:10PM FL House, Dist. 70 Michele K. Rayner (DEM).

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: IQuest: Ocean Motion: Mapping Aquatic Animals , August 8, 4pm-8pm

IQuest — our monthly program for smart, curious middle school students in grades 6 through 8 — is back and in-person at The Bishop. On August 8, kids can join us as we dive into an underwater world previously inaccessible to humans and look at how scientists discover and interpret the movement of ocean animals. Then, we'll try some creative solutions of our own. During IQuest, kids can expect challenging projects and games that inspire out-of-the-box solutions to real-world problems. Please note: Due to limitations on attendance and staffing, attendees must pre-register by 11am on Saturday, August 8. We will be adhering to social distancing measures during all activities and the class size will be limited to 10 children. Masks will be required for all staff and students, and all students will be temperature-screened upon arrival.

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, 201 10th Street West Bradenton, FL 34205

[SOON]  HEALTH: Fox Yoga at Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary , August 7, 8:45am-10am

Join Big Cat Habitat for our Fox Yoga fundraising event in collaboration with instructor Erika Cain. This is a unique interactive animal experience with gentle yoga weaved into the adventure. Erika will guide you through a yoga flow in our intimate encounter area, while Stormy and Miko, 2 silver foxes, freely play and connect with you. Allow yourself to be transformed by this exclusive experience as you become immersed in the outdoor environment and powerful energy of the foxes. This alignment-based class synchronizes breath with movement for you to deepen the mind-body connection and tune into your spirit animal. Practice is for most levels, giving you the opportunity to be gentle on your body. We will be practicing social distancing throughout the class and mats will be placed 6ft apart. Masks are required for this event. Big Cat Habitat hopes that this event will help guests connect with our majestic animals in a new way and support our mission to provide a safe, loving and permanent home for big cats and other exotic creatures in need. We take pride in educating our guests on the importance of species preservation to ensure the survival of these magnificent animals for future generations and to keep alive the human-animal connection in our world and in our community. $125 per person; includes interactive animal encounter, yoga flow and a single day pass to return to the habitat during normal business hours. Only 6 spaces available. Advanced reservations only. Bring yoga mat, towel and any props to assist your practice. Complimentary refreshments and light snacks available.
Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary, 7101 Palmer Boulevard Sarasota, FL 34240

Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary, 7101 Palmer Boulevard Sarasota, FL 34240

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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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