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SRQ DAILY May 21, 2022

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[Argus]  Sarasota Schools Data Dig
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

Data is important to determine how you are doing and where you need to improve. Businesses use data every day and very regularly to identify weaknesses, trends and improve upon their product or service. If you are not using data frequently and monitoring trends, you will never improve and will likely eventually fail.

Last month Argus wrote a column using data from the Florida Department of Education website about the Sarasota County School District. We received a very strong reaction once that column was published. We had people from both within and outside of education reach out to Argus out of concern for this School District we all deeply care about.

This public response led to Argus creating a new social media campaign called “Sarasota Schools Data Dig.” On Mondays and Thursdays, we are releasing data on our school district obtained directly from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE). Many of the charts are simply screenshots from the FLDOE website. This campaign, which can be searched using #SarasotaSchoolsDataDig, is available on our Facebook page and Twitter account, both at @ArgusFoundation.   

Our very first post was a comparison of our individual school grades from 2018-2019 and 2020-2021. It reached over 22,000 people, with over 4,000 post clicks. There were 761 who liked, commented or shared the post. All of this was organic, none of it was paid. There is clearly a public desire to understand the data for our district.

This data is important for our community, to understand what is happening in our district and to hold our elected officials and administration accountable. While we remain an “A” school district, we have some disturbing numbers from 2018-2019 to 2020-2021, and we also have disturbing numbers in comparison to the state average. 

A stand-alone number that should disturb everyone is our “Grade 3 English Language Arts Achievement.” In 2020-2021, our “A” District had 68% of students at grade level reading or above. Put another way, 32% of our then-third graders, now-fourth graders, in Sarasota County were behind last year. 

There were no scores or grading in the 2019-2020 year. To receive a letter grade in the 2020-2021 school year, individual schools had to opt into receiving a grade. Only five schools opted to receive letter grades last year. However, you are still able to see the scores of the schools and grade them yourself unofficially using the grading scale. 

We hand-scored each individual school in Sarasota County, and compared the grades from 2018-2019 to 2020-2021, and discovered that Sarasota County lost over half its “A” schools. This translates to 18 schools dropping from an “A” grade. Sarasota tripled its “C” schools, increasing from 4 schools to 12 schools. We also now have 2 “F” schools.

When you examine subgroups within these scores, there are important and disturbing revelations. Comparing data from 2018-2019 to 2020-2021, Hispanics dropped a letter grade from and “A” to a “B” and Students with Disabilities went from a “C” to a “D” grade. 

We have a disturbing number that will affect us for years to come, “Grade 3 English Language Arts Achievement” for Blacks/African Americans dropped from a “C” to a “D” grade. Only 36% of Blacks/African Americans in Sarasota County were on grade level or above last year. 

Argus believes we must find a better way to support our hard-working teachers and struggling students. This issue lies squarely on the laps of those in the Landings. We must begin to talk about academics and curriculum in a more meaningful way and address the ugly numbers and not just cheer for the good ones. We must come together as a community and make sure this generation is not left behind because political rancor on both sides is taking center stage. This is an important moment for our district.

Watch for more information on #SarasotaSchoolsDataDig on The Argus Foundation Facebook page and Twitter account.

Christine Robinson is executive director for The Argus Foundation. 

Graphic courtesy The Argus Foundation

[Gulf Coast]  Feel Your Best: Youth Mental Wellness
Jennifer Johnston

On Saturday, May 7, the Wellness Fest, hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties, featured dancing, art therapy, yoga, snow cones, Drago the therapy dog, a photo booth and more. “Feel Your Best at our Mental Wellness Fest” was the theme. It was planned by and for teens in collaboration with Youth MOVE Suncoast of NAMI Sarasota and Manatee Counties and sponsored by the Here4YOUth Initiative of Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. 

May 7 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, but it’s a topic that is appearing frequently in the national news. On May 8, “60 Minutes” aired an in-depth look at children struggling with depression, anxiety and feeling unable to cope. Demand for help, from youth and adolescents nationwide, far outweighs access to mental health treatment, and there are long waiting lists to see a clinician. Many viewers wrote to CBS about the story and said the brave young people who shared their journeys will give life-saving hope to others.

The Here4YOUth Initiative of Gulf Coast and Barancik foundations launched in 2018 because stakeholders told us one of the biggest needs in our community is access to quality mental health care for children and young adults. Since that time, youth needs have increased.

The Here4YOUth Initiative identified best-practice recommendations for Sarasota County by commissioning research reports from the University of South Florida and a national firm. Nonprofit service providers, the school district, Bayside Behavioral Health, county staff and foundations have worked together to begin to fill gaps. We have made some progress. Thanks to generous donors, NAMI Sarasota and Manatee Counties now has a Family Navigator to help with finding services, support groups and building a sustainable recovery plan. NAMI has expanded to offer Day Center services, programming for youth and families, and more Peer Specialists. They are hiring Parent Peer Specialists to come alongside parents in the child welfare system, to offer support. There are more mental health therapists in schools. First Step of Sarasota has Student Assistance Program Specialists in middle and high schools, building relationships with students to address issues right away.

The Sarasota County Commission took the innovative step of creating a Mental Health District to address overwhelming demand for quality mental health services, particularly in youth when challenges first arise. Federal American Rescue Plan Act funds have been made available to begin to address the need, but those funds expire in three years. Both research reports commissioned by the Here4YOUth Initiative point to the need for recurring, sustainable funding to provide support as early as possible to prevent crises and long-term negative outcomes.

Resources, especially when they’re informed and chosen by the people who use them, make a positive difference. Maybe for a lifetime. Students said this about the Student Assistance Program Specialists at their high schools: “Ms. P has put me in treatment and is available to me daily. I feel much more confident I can get through my senior year.” 

“She was very understanding of my behavior and things I’ve said and didn’t judge me for my past or what I’ve been through. I am very grateful that I met her.”

“I almost got into fights. Anger is my biggest issue. I took the anger management group and learned so much. Now I think before I act and go to her or reach out to an adult.”

Positive change is happening. Brave young people are sharing their experiences, eliminating the stigma around seeking help, and working together to help one another feel their best. An effective, funded Mental Health District will help bring life-saving supports to them, when they need it — making every day Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

Jennifer Johnston is the director of Community Leadership for Gulf Coast Community Foundation. 

Photo courtesy Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

[SOON]  THEATER: Florida Studio Theatre: The Legend of Georgia McBride , April 6 – May 22, Varies.

He's young, he's broke, his landlord's knocking at the door, and he's just found out his wife is going to have a baby. To make matters even more desperate, Casey is struggling with his gig as an Elvis impersonator in a run-down, small-town Florida bar. When the bar owner brings in a B-level drag show to replace his act, Casey finds that he has a whole lot to learn about show business - and himself. The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez will play beginning March 30, 2022 through May 22, 2022 in FST's Gompertz Theatre.

[SOON]  FILM: Summer Movies at Sarasota Opera House , May 22 – September 23, Varies.

Sarasota Opera is pleased to announce the lineup for the 2022 summer movie series: HD at the Opera House and Classic Movies at the Opera House. HD at the Opera House featuring filmed performances of opera and ballet from around the world will open on Sunday, May 22nd at 1:30 p.m. with Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, with tickets at $22, and $20 for Sarasota Opera subscribers. The Classic Movies at the Opera House series will open with In the Heat of the Night on Friday, July 8th at 7:30 p.m. with tickets at $12. (Tickets will go on sale starting Monday, May 2nd.)

[SOON]  GALA: MLK Scholarship and Awards Gala , May 22, 6pm

The Sarasota MLK Celebration Committee is hosting the MLK Scholarship and Awards Gala at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 22 inside the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, located at 1534 Mound Street in Sarasota. Multiple academic scholarships will be awarded to graduating high school seniors who have a dream of obtaining a post-secondary education. Additionally, selfless individuals and organizations will be recognized for their unwavering public service. Tickets are available for purchase online at srqmlkgala.eventbrite.com/. For more information, contact Nicole Brown at 941-281-0520 or srqmlkcelebrationpr@gmail.com.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Passport to The Bazaar , May 26, 5-7pm
On Thursday, May 26 you could win a Sarasota Staycation ($1,000 value)! The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime is turning four and they want you to celebrate with them from 5-7pm. While you wander the 40 creators and curators you will enjoy complimentary champagne, live music from Hot Club of SRQ, activities, and other fun surprises. After getting your Bazaar passport stamped, you will be entered to win the grand prize. Includes: a hotel stay at Home 2 Suites; dining from First Watch ($100) and Bavaro’s ($50); passes for Discover Sarasota Tours, Mote Marine, and A.J. Electric Bike Tour; theatre tickets to Westcoast Black Theatre and Players Centre; rum from Siesta Key Rum, and other goodies. No purchase necessary.
[SOON]  GALLERY: Art Uptown Gallery: Different Strokes , April 30 – May 27, Gallery hours.

The newest artists at Art Uptown Gallery will be featured in the May exhibit, "Different Strokes," showcasing their paintings. Diane Boone, intuitive abstract painter, and Gillian St. George, hard-edge abstract painter, are both local, full-time residents of national recognition. Meet the artists on May 6 from 6pm to 9pm at the First Friday public reception at the gallery and Saturday, May 7 from 11am to 5pm, The exhibit opens on Saturday, April 30 and runs through Friday, May 27. Art Uptown Gallery welcomes patrons and friends at 1367 Main Street where the diverse art works of local, award-winning artists are exhibited. Telephone 941-955-5409 or visit www.artuptown.com for hours and further information.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: FST Improv: Comedy Freestyle , April 2 – May 28, 7:30pm

FST Improv Presents Comedy Freestyle Beginning on April 2 and through May 28, 2022 at 7:30pm. What happens when you take some of your favorite improv games…and remove all the rules? Anything goes at Comedy Freestyle, an off-the-wall improvisation potpourri. Featuring a mashup of both short-form and long-form styles, audiences get the best of the art form when styles and techniques collide! We’ll set our performers free from all of the traditional dos and don’ts of improv, and you get to watch them figure out what comes next, completely on the spot. Tickets are $15 per person and the performance will take place in FST's Bowne's Lab.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe: From Birmingham to Broadway and Float Like a Butterfly , May 4 – May 29

This season, WBTT is also thrilled to present two world premiere one-act plays under the auspices of its New Playwrights Series. Tarra Conner jones has written and stars in an ode to Nell Carter, titled “From Birmingham to Broadway.” Nate Jacobs and his brother, Michael, have written a play about Muhammad Ali, titled “Float Like a Butterfly”; staring Darius Autry. These plays will be presented together from May 4 to 29, 2022. Ticket sales are scheduled to begin in the late summer. Call the Box Office at 941-366-1505 or visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.

[SOON]  THEATER: WBTT's One-Act Plays , May 4 – May 29, Varies.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will close its 2021-2022 season with two world-premiere one-act plays, under the auspices of its New Playwrights Series. These plays, "From Birmingham To Broadway” and “Float Like A Butterfly," will be presented together May 4-29. "From Birmingham to Broadway," an ode to Nell Carter, was written by and stars popular WBTT artist Tarra Conner jones. "Float Like a Butterfly," which examines the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali, was written by WBTT founder/artistic director Nate Jacobs' brother, Michael Jacobs, and stars Darius Autry. Call the Box Office at 941-366-1505 or visit westcoastblacktheatre.org

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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