A Commitment to Educational Excellence

Guest Correspondence

The Sarasota County community will soon have a pivotal role in sustaining the high educational standards that have been a cornerstone of our community for over two decades. Voters should be informed about how these funds have supported Sarasota County Schools in maintaining its "A" status since the inception of state grades in 2004. 

Referendum dollars are strategically reinvested directly into our schools in ways that yield the most impact for our students, families, teachers, and staff. The current millage referendum annual revenue is approximately $100 million, accounting for about 18.5% of the district's total operating budget. This portion of our budget has expanded and preserved several educational programs and services that benefit our students, equating to approximately 1,000 instructional positions.

Our schools would not be environments of growth and success without our talented teachers. Continuing the referendum would assist the district in recruiting and investing in high-quality educators by providing competitive salaries, maintaining additional instructional time (equivalent to 18 extra school days), and supporting professional development. These measures ensure we retain the best educators — the number one factor impacting student achievement.  

Sarasota County Schools is committed to elevating workforce education by enhancing initiatives that foster skill development, practical application and workforce expertise. This involves supporting career and technical education instructors, facilitating dual enrollment at Suncoast Technical College, employing career advisors and school counselors, and funding programs at Suncoast Polytechnical High School. These efforts – sustained for many years due to the community's continuation of the referendum – prepare our students for life, equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to positively impact our local economy.

The continuation of the referendum supports our safety and security plans by funding school resource officers, security aides, behavior specialists, and technology staff. These roles are integral to maintaining a secure and supportive school environment. Safety is non-negotiable; these roles are necessary in creating a safe learning environment for our students.

Additionally, the district assigns referendum funds to preserve programs that promote creativity, innovation, and knowledge in fields such as the arts, music, technology, and science. This includes sustaining prekindergarten, supporting accelerated coursework, promoting STEM education, and preserving arts and music instruction. 

As educators, we aim to promote student achievement by investing in evidence-based instructional approaches, ensuring that resources – such as the continued referendum – are thoughtfully applied where they can make the most impact. This involves supporting literacy coaches and interventionists, enrichment science teachers, and school choice offerings, among other focus areas. These initiatives are pivotal for ensuring successful academic outcomes.

Quality educational outcomes impact everyone in our community, even those who do not have children in schools. Today's students are tomorrow's doctors, electricians, and financial advisors. This investment in our educational system is not just for the present but for the future of our community. 

Be informed when voting on November 5, 2024 — learn more about the priorities supported by the continuation of the millage referendum by visiting www.sarasotacountyschools.net/referendum.

Terry Connor is Sarasota County Superintendent of Schools.

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