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April 2014

School-Related Employee of the Year

Danielle Cook, executive secretary for the St. Johns County School District’s (SJCSD) Community Relations Department, has been named St. Johns County’s 2013-2014 School-Related Employee of the Year. Her selection was announced by last year’s School-Related Employee of the Year Gloria Gatewood at a reception held Tuesday, April 15 at First Coast Technical College.

Cook was selected from 41 nominees for her exemplary job performance, dedication, interpersonal skills, leadership ability and training to upgrade skills as well as her contributions to individual schools and the district office.

She has been employed as an executive secretary in the Community Relations Department for four years, and has worked for the SJCSD for 13 years. She assists the Community Relations Director and staff members in overseeing the department’s budget, developing the Superintendent’s Weekly Report and collateral materials, coordinating the district’s recognitions and awards presentations at monthly School Board meetings, and organizing multiple district focus groups. She has an integral role in the production of events including the CHARACTER COUNTS! 6 Pillars 6K/3K run/walk and the American Youth Character Awards banquet.

“Mrs. Cook embodies such a wonderful attitude and enthusiasm for her work and is always willing to go the extra mile to get the job done right,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner. “She is extremely responsible and always looks for ways to positively impact the district.” She possesses exemplary interpersonal and communication skills. Cook is a very loyal member of the Community Relations team and works tirelessly to help her coworkers on events, activities and tasks that do not fall within her job description. In addition, she is constantly looking for opportunities to gain more knowledge and then to share that knowledge with others. Her enthusiasm for the school district and the community is evident in everything she does.

Cook’s name and information packet has been forwarded to the Florida Department of Education as SJCSD’s representative.

Outstanding School Volunteers of the Year

Three individuals were honored as St. Johns County’s 2013-2014 Outstanding Volunteers of the Year at the seventh annual Outstanding School Volunteer reception held recently at First Coast Technical College. Cheryl Freeman, volunteer coordinator for the St. Johns County School District served as emcee and Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner announced the school volunteer coordinators.

Outstanding Senior Volunteer, Elizabeth Smallridge, shows that readers are leaders in the St. Johns County School District. For the last 17 years, she has shared her love of books with students at Ocean Palms Elementary School where she has coordinated the Readers Aloud program since 1996. Smallridge takes on administrative tasks such as guaranteeing that all volunteers have proper clearance, as well as training senior volunteers. Smallridge communicates with teachers so that she can choose books that the students will love and that relate to what they are learning in school. For example, when the students were studying life science, Smallridge read a book about Ivan, a gorilla in captivity. The students were so touched by Ivan’s story that they collected money to make a donation to the World Wildlife Federation and adopt a lowland gorilla in Smallridge’s name.

Outstanding Youth Volunteer, Mimi Haley, a senior at Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS) who was nominated by both Ocean Palms Elementary School (OPES) and PVHS, was also selected as the Outstanding Youth Volunteer of the Year for Region II by the Florida Department of Education earlier this year. This honor makes Haley one of the top five youth volunteers in the state. At OPES, Haley serves as a role model for younger students by reading with them and helping them with technology. She also assists OPES teachers by working in their classrooms, organizing materials and demonstrating new technology.

At PVHS, she is an active member of the English Honors Society, Science Honors Society and Senior Women as well as being the vice president of the National Hispanic Honors Society. Currently Haley is collaborating with the Mayor’s Hispanic American Advisory Board in Jacksonville to help compile and evaluate resource guide information which offers services to those of all ages. In addition, she has demonstrated remarkable leadership by organizing events and promoting awareness of the dangers of texting and driving. She has coordinated events and letter writing campaigns in support of Senate Bill 52 which bans texting while driving that became law on October 1 of last year.

Outstanding Adult Volunteer, Corey Walker, is pursuing the call to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. He has served as both mentor and coach to over 45 boys in the last year, many of whom did not have strong male role models in their lives, through The Webster School’s Camp Champion which provides mentoring and tutoring to its students after school. Walker volunteers in a number of additional school district and community capacities. In addition to coaching two recreation department basketball teams in Hastings as well as AAU travel basketball team, he and his wife are active members on The Webster School Advisory Council and in their church.

These Outstanding Volunteers of the Year will be recognized at the May 13 School Board meeting.

Awards were also presented to runners-up in each category. In the Youth Category, Michael “Hank” Mengel of Creekside High School and St. Augustine High School student Savanah Harget, a volunteer at Sebastian Middle School, were recognized for their efforts. Susanna Vance of Creekside High School and Lindsey Waggoner of Fruit Cove Middle School were honored in the Adult Category. The Senior Category honored Salvatore Iaropoli of Pacetti Bay Middle School, Roy Harvey of Creekside High School, Dorothy Barrett of The Webster School and Rene Patricia Naughton of St. Augustine High School.

The event included the announcement of the district-wide Parent Involvement Award winners. These awards are presented to an elementary school and a secondary school each year for innovative school practices that increase family involvement. This year’s district winner at the secondary level was Creekside High School for its “Creekside Community Collaboration Project.” The elementary winner was Hickory Creek Elementary for its “Hickory’s Heart” project.

In addition to the announcement of these outstanding volunteers and the Parent Involvement Award winners, the school volunteer coordinators were also recognized. The 122 individuals honored at this event were just a few of the 16,773 volunteers who contributed 300,375 hours of service to district schools during the past year. This week marks National Volunteer Week, observed April 6 – 12.

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STAR Awards

Seventy-four of St. Johns County Schools’ best and brightest were honored by the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce and the St. Johns County School Board at the annual Students Taking Academic Responsibility (STAR) Awards Banquet held Tuesday, April 1 at the World Golf Village Renaissance Resort.

The STAR Awards recognize the top 3 percent of all graduating seniors in the county. Thirteen students from Bartram Trail High School, one from Beacon of Hope Christian School, 10 from Creekside High School (CHS), 10 from Pedro Menendez High School (PMHS), 13 from Allen D. Nease High School (NHS), 12 from Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS), 12 from St. Augustine High School (SAHS), and three from St. Joseph Academy received commendation for their outstanding academic performance.

During the recognition ceremony principals introduced each student and then a special mentor selected by the student. Principals shared their STAR students’ future plans and why they selected the teacher they chose to honor. In addition to making top grades, these students are involved in athletics, performing groups, school clubs and community service.

The STAR students and their mentors are as follows:

Bartram Trail High School – Evangeline Borngesser with Melissa Roughan; Jesse Burkett with Ronald Reagan; Jacob Coley with Jean Spiwak; Taylor Dumdei with Glen Cole; Madison French with Benjamin Windle; Hannah Giangaspro with Sharon Rizzuto; Davis Gilmore; Samantha Johnson with Julie Tugya; Lily Peterson with Ramona Deese; Amanda Rorabaugh with Jacob Teuscher; Carsen Smith and Haley Japer; Savannah Stephens with Robert Bruns; and Brianna Warwick and Miriam Green.

Beacon of Hope Christian School – Blair White with Jeremy Dowler

Creekside High School – Maria Cirillo with Kelli Knowles; Allison Davanzo with Megan Bowers; Eva Dohogne with Joseph Byrns; Shannon Grew with Justin Vogel; Connor Michalski with Amy Cocchiola; Logan Peck with Troy Keefe; Bailey Ranson with Kelly Gooding; Morgan Richburg with Aletha Dresback; Madeline Williams with Kelly Gooding; and Paige Zyserman with Rick Fowler.

Pedro Menendez High School – James Alvarez with Vicki Murphy; Morgan Brown with Amy de Vries; Gini Duong with James Gordon; Caleb Freeman with Jonathan Higgins; Christopher Frego with Kristen Mullins; Megan Lescroart with Grady Fischer; Evdokia Ptitsyna with Paul Villavisanis; Lara Saikaly with Joan LeBoss; Emily Shirley with Becci Smith; and Anissa Zacharias with Gwen Westfall.

Allen D. Nease High School – Diksha Brahmbhatt with Rosamaria Weaver; Jesse Chen with Vickie Hall; Robert Cunio with Nancy Williams; Lilian Dove with Michael Rivera; Erica Herrin with David Maynard; Nadia Hossain with Ashley Woolston; Farina Khandadia with Matthew Augenstein; Andri Kokoshi with Derek Coghlan; Diana Oum with Craig Binns; Aparna Sethumadhavan and Jaqueline Ashcroft; Madison Stenzel with Captain Robert Young; John Thompson with Kim Hollis; and Yuchen Wang with Troy Keefe.

Ponte Vedra High School – Allison Duncan with Jennifer Lee; Sophia Erhard with Betsy Kasting; Julia Kaufman with Karen Ford; Melissa Nicandri with Arleen Chiclana; Grace O’Hara with Arleen Chiclana; Benjamin Ohno with Randy Blake; Marissa Rice with Steve Lyons; Hannah Santillo with Catherine Snowden; Maria Sardari with Jennifer Lee; Lilia Tabassian with Kathryn Kehoe; Morgan Trimas with Randy Blake; and Ailish Ullmann with James Johnson.

St. Augustine High School – Thomas Baier with Warren McCrary; Katherine Benton with Sara Bailey; Gavin Canan with Ken Maas; Jimi Hutchings with Jeff Dodd; Austin Kubart with Rob Gober III; Julian Long with Christine Mars; Austin Lovelace with Curt Stewart; Ethan McLeod with Leea Galloza; Alexandra Munoz with Steven Ladwig; Priyam Patel with Gail Cullom, William Sapp with Janice Forson; and Taylor Smith with Chip Johnston.

St. Joseph Academy – Madeline E. Albertson with Sarah Borns; John R. Supina with Brian Larkin; and Lee Williams with Enrico Filippini.

Isabelle Rodriguez, interim president of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, served as emcee. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Joyner and School Board Members were also in attendance.

The annual event is produced by the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the STAR Committee Members including Daniel Burkert, PVHS; Jennifer Fornera, CHS; Melissa Roughan, BTHS; Wanda Logan, SAHS; Kristine Novelly, NHS; Stephanie Jones, PMHS; Jeri Williar, St. Joseph Academy; Mary Whitfield and Cindy Pryor, Beacon of Hope Christian School and Debra Bulak, St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. The event was sponsored by Flagler Hospital, Wayne Hogan of Terrell-Hogan, Bozard Ford Lincoln, VIP Presentation Products, iPhotobooth.com, Pop-A-Lock, Tobacco Free St. Johns, Tour St. Augustine, St. Augustine Sunrise Rotary and St. Johns Celtics.