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New Principal Appointments for 2019/2020

Superintendent Tim Forson has announced two principal appointments for the 2019/2020 school year. Travis Brown, assistant principal at St. Augustine High School, has been selected to be the principal of R.J. Murray Middle School (MMS). Brown will replace Paula Steele who has been serving as interim principal at MMS. She will resume her duties as the director of Leadership Development within the St. Johns County School District (SJCSD).

Kirstie Gabaldon, principal at Switzerland Point Middle School (SPMS), has been selected to be the principal of Sebastian Middle School. She will replace Wayne King who was recently appointed as associate superintendent of Accountability and Intervention Services at the SJCSD. Both of these nominations will be presented to the School Board at their June meeting.

Brown began his teaching career as a social sciences teacher at Omaha South High School in Nebraska. He joined the SJCSD in 2006 and was a social sciences teacher at Bartram Trail High School and then Creekside High School (CHS). In 2012 he became a program specialist for secondary studies and advanced programs at the district office followed by his most recent position as assistant principal at SAHS.

“Travis possesses a strong focus on students and their individual needs,” said Forson. “He will be an excellent principal who understands the importance of continuous learning and collaborative school environments. In addition, I am extremely grateful for the leadership Paula has provided to MMS as its interim principal. I look forward to having her back at the district office to develop leaders at all levels.”

Brown holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s degree from the American College of Education.

With more than 22 years of experience, Gabaldon has spent her entire career serving the students in St. Johns County. She started as a teacher at Nease High School and then went on to be the registrar at Bartram Trail High School before joining CHS as an assistant principal. She also served at Murray and Sebastian middle schools as an assistant principal before becoming the principal at SPMS.

“Kirstie has been an exceptional leader at SPMS,” said Forson. “I am confident she will continue to create opportunities for success and leadership at SMS whether it is for her students or the staff she serves.”

Gabaldon has a bachelor’s degree from the University of East Anglia, England and a master’s degree from UNF.

District administrators will gather input from staff and the community for the new principal of SPMS on Thursday, May 16 at 2:15 p.m. at SPMS.

Early Registration

The St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) will begin early registration for the 2019-2020 school year March 1. This registration is only for children new to the school district, including those entering kindergarten.

Early registration can be completed online at or by visiting the student’s assigned school website. To find the assigned school, enter your street address on the Attendance Zone Locator.

To be eligible for public kindergarten in the SJCSD, children must be 5 years old on or before September 1 and must reside in St. Johns County.

Other requirements for registration:

  • Birth certificate/Guardianship Documents
  • Documentation of a health examination performed within one year of enrollment
  • Proof of completed required immunizations on Form DH680
  • Proof of residence per the Residency and Guardianship Policy.

For additional information on registration, contact the Student Services Department at 547-7598 or the assigned school.

Teacher of the Year 2018-2019

Danny Erb, a math teacher at Pedro Menendez High School, has been chosen as the St. Johns County School District’s (SJCSD) 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year. The announcement was made by Superintendent Mr. Tim Forson at the annual Teacher of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year Banquet held on Thursday, January 17 at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village. He will go on to compete in the Florida Department of Education-Macy’s Teacher of the Year.

Erb has been teaching for 18 years with 4 of those in the SJCSD teaching at Pedro Menendez High School. Prior to his teaching career and following graduation with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State, he was an engineer with Steam Services and an operations supervisor with Gas and Electric, both in Con Edison of NY, New York, NY.

He loves math and helping his students love it too, no matter their level of understanding or ability. He says that teaching them how is easy, and teaching them why is the challenge, though that is his favorite part. Having a background in engineering, Erb enjoys analyzing data though what gets him excited to teach each day is to expose students to new ideas and perspectives. He believes this is how the foundation of respect for learning is laid and love grows from it. When his students leave his class they leave with respect for learning and confidence in their ability to solve problems.

“We must teach the whole child; and sometimes it is necessary to zoom out and take a step back from curriculum and content mastery, and focus on the growing human beings in front of us,” said Erb. “Every age is an important age in a student’s life and at every single one of those stages, there is an educator there to help guide the way.”

Erb never thought he would call another school home after teaching at his alma mater for as long as he had, but this is exactly what he has done at PMHS. He has built relationships and rapport with faculty, students and families. He takes part in every school wide activity to celebrate school spirit and serves as the senior class sponsor. His list of involvement in school activities that extend beyond the campus and school day is endless, and he’s always looking for ways to do more.

“It is such an honor to have a teacher of Mr. Erb’s caliber represent our district at the state level,” said Superintendent Tim Forson. He is truly one of a kind and embodies all the traits possessed by great teachers. I am in awe of his ability to not only teach and inspire, but also connect and build lasting, positive relationships with his students.

Investing in Kids (INK) produces this celebration with the support of many community and business partners to recognize excellence in the teaching profession. This year featured past Teachers of the Year, Amy Grimm who introduced the evening and Dana Kelley, who performed a special presentation with her students. School Board Chair Kelly Barrera announced the Rookie Teacher of the Year Kristen Meidling who teaches fifth grade at Mill Creek Academy.

 

High School Showcase

Middle and high school students and their parents are encouraged to attend the High School Showcase from 3:30-7 p.m. Thursday, January 24 at the World Golf Village Convention Center. Programs of Choice are offered to support a student’s interests, career plans, or advanced academic needs. A student who enrolls in a Program of Choice participates in theme-related classes over a multi-year time period. More than 40 percent of high school students in St. Johns County are enrolled in various Programs of Choice which include Junior ROTC, St. Johns County Center for the Arts, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education as well as 19 Career Academy options.

Students and staff from each high school will be on hand to provide information and answer questions about the Programs of Choice offered at their schools. Information about program requirements and registration will also be available. Any student who meets an individual program’s requirements and who can provide his/her own transportation may be approved to attend any high school, on a “space available” basis.

For additional information about SJCSD Programs of Choice, please call the Career and Technical Education Office at 904-547-4870.

CHARACTER COUNTS! Six Pillars 6K/3K Run/Walk

The CHARACTER COUNTS! Steering Committee is calling all walkers, runners and fitness enthusiasts to participate in the CHARACTER COUNTS! 6 Pillars 6K/3K Run/Walk on Saturday, February 2, 2019 at 9 a.m. The run/walk will begin and end at Palencia Elementary School located at 355 Palencia Village Drive, St. Augustine.

Walkers and runners will enjoy a course running through the neighborhoods of Kensington and Las Calinas and can choose to participate in the 6K (3.73 miles) or 3K (1.86 miles) distance. Registration fees are as follows:

6K-$25 before January 1, $30 January1-February 1, $35 on race day
3K-$20 before January 1, $25 January 1-February 1, $30 on race day

Registration forms and more information are available online.

Race proceeds will support CHARACTER COUNTS! initiatives throughout the St. Johns County School District (SJCSD). The run/walk is open to all ages, and the top three winners will be awarded in each of the age categories as well as the overall male and female finishers. A cash donation will be awarded to the top three to five schools with the most registrants. Last year these schools were Ocean Palms Elementary, Alice B. Landrum Middle and Valley Ridge Academy. All race registrants will receive a tech t-shirt and lots of other goodies from area businesses and organizations. At the finish line, each race participant will receive a commemorative dog tag which is the fifth design in its series.

This event is produced by the CHARACTER COUNTS! Steering Committee and is presented by Beaver Toyota with support from businesses and community groups. Action News Jax CBS47/FOX30 is the official media sponsor of this run/walk.

The SJCSD, along with area businesses, youth organizations and civic groups, selected the national character education program of CHARACTER COUNTS! as a countywide initiative to instill positive character traits in young people throughout the county. Additionally, the SJCSD became the first school district in Florida to implement Pursuing Victory With Honor in all of its athletic programs. Character education is an important part of every School Improvement Plan and a major component of the Student Code of Conduct and the school district’s Strategic Plan.

Children having fun at the CHARACTER COUNTS! Six Pillars 6K/3K Run/Walk

Lifetime Achievement Awards

Mr. Vernon Davis and St. Johns County Commissioner Paul Waldron were honored as the recipients of the 2018 Learning Legacy Lifetime Achievement Awards. These awards are presented annually to former St. Johns County public school students who have returned to the area and dedicated their time and talents to serving their community. A presentation was made to Davis and Waldron by Superintendent Tim Forson on Friday, October 19 prior to kickoff at the football game between St. Augustine and Allen D. Nease high schools.

Mr. Vernon Davis graduated from St. Augustine High School (SAHS) in 1960 as a student in its first graduating class. He was also the first starting quarterback ever to play on the SAHS football field. He enjoyed sports and played football, basketball and baseball during his high school career. After graduation he served in the Marine Corps for four years and then earned a degree in building and construction from the University of Florida.

He joined the family business, A.D. Davis Construction and served as its president from 1983 to 2004. In this role Davis was a building contractor for several school district construction projects including the Orange Street Administration building renovation and canopy, Crookshank Elementary cafeteria, Murray Middle School roof replacement and St. Augustine High School’s locker room renovation, just to name a few.

In 2011 he was inducted into the St. Johns Builders Council Hall of Fame, recognizing his 40-year career in construction. He served on the Pedro Menendez Trade School committee, the St. Augustine Little League Board of Directors, and the St. Johns Builders Council. Davis was a volunteer for Project Swing and the head baseball coach at St. Joseph’s Academy.

He and his wife, Donna have three sons, Todd, Michael and Rhett and one daughter, Courtney. They are also blessed with 11 grandchildren.

Commissioner Waldron graduated from St. Augustine High School in 1986 where he played golf all four years. He stayed local and attended Flagler College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

He is an owner and operator of Harry’s Curb Mart and also works in real estate. Waldron served as the assistant girls soccer coach at Pedro Menendez High School for six years and coached youth soccer in the community for 12 years.

His involvement in clubs, councils, committees and boards includes the Friends of A1A, Public Safety Council, St. Johns County Cultural Resource Review Board, Juvenile Justice Council, Kiwanis and the Northeast Florida Regional Council Executive Committee. He is the Past President of the St. Augustine Shrine Club, Past Master Ashlar Masonic Lodge number 98 and the past Zone 3 Chairman for youth activities for the Masonic Grand Lodge of Florida.

Commissioner Waldron was elected to the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners to represent District 3 in 2016 and serves as the liaison to the school district. He and his wife, Stephanie, have two daughters, Ashley and Kati.

Past recipients of the Learning Legacy Lifetime Achievement Award are former Superintendent of Schools Otis Mason, the late Judge Richard Watson, former Pedro Menendez High School (PMHS) Principal and School Board Member Bill Mignon, Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind teacher-coach Hank White, the late Sheriff Neil Perry, former basketball coach Doris Blackshear, former Representative Doug Wiles, former PMHS football coach Dwaine Fisher, School Board Member Tommy Allen, St. Johns Technical High School and St. Johns Virtual School Principal Cynthia Williams, retired Assistant Superintendent Martha Mickler, CPA Brad Davis, former St. Augustine High School (SAHS) Principal Tyrone Ramsey, former Chamber of Commerce President Robin Burchfield, retired Barnett Bank President Bill Young, former St. Johns County Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Nancy Birchall, Allen D. Nease High School Dean of Students Kelvin “Bernie” Blue, SAHS Yellow Jackets broadcaster Barry Kass, author and board of trustees member for the St. Augustine Historical Society Beth Rogero Bowen, former Alternative Schools Teacher of the Year Rocky Merrill, retired banking executive John W. Daniels, Terrell Hogan attorney Wayne Hogan, Judge Clyde Wolfe, the late SAHS teacher Hattie Jenkins, former-Mayor Len Weeks, retired Director of Risk Management Carol Holtz, Speech-Language Pathologist Katherine Batenhorst, president of The Browning Agency of Ponte Vedra, Inc. Jim Browning, retired teacher and guidance counselor Barbara McClain, Pastor Smiley Sturgis, Dr. Leonard Pellicer, St. Johns Sheriff’s Office Deputy Anthony Coleman, Commander Michele Perry and Ponte Vedra High School Assistant Principal Guy Harris.

All recipients’ names are inscribed on a perpetual plaque that hangs outside the Superintendent’s Office.

Community Eligibility Provision Update

St. Johns County School District announces an amendment to its policy for serving meals to students under the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs for the 2018-2019 school year. All students will be served lunch and breakfast meals at no charge at the following sites:

John A. Crookshank Elementary School R.J. Murray Middle School
Otis A. Mason Elementary School Gamble Rogers Middle School
Osceola Elementary School Sebastian Middle School
South Woods Elementary School St. Johns Technical High School
The Webster School The Transition School

 

For additional information, please contact:

Sean Prevatt
Food and Nutrition Services
40 Orange Street
St. Augustine, FL 32084
904-547-8931

 

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

mail:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410

fax: (202) 690-7442 or email: [email protected]

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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Outstanding School Volunteers

Three individuals were honored as St. Johns County’s 2017-2018 Outstanding School Volunteers of the Year at the 11th annual Outstanding School Volunteer reception held recently at First Coast Technical College. Cheryl Freeman, volunteer coordinator for the St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) served as emcee and Superintendent Tim Forson announced the winners.

Rohan Bhargava, a senior at Allen D. Nease High School, is this year’s Outstanding Youth Volunteer. Rohan works tirelessly to ensure that students who need it get food on the weekends by helping pack and deliver Blessings in a Backpack bags at The Webster School. In addition, he created a food pantry there and participated in a back-to-school event to provide school supplies for students in need.

Diane Grant, from Creekside High School, is the district’s Outstanding Adult Volunteer. Diane created a welcome program that provides much-needed school information and helpful tips to new families. She has also implemented a student video contest with important topics such as mental health, safe driving, relationship issues, and conflict resolution among others. The contest is followed by a red carpet gala awards night for the winning students.

This year’s Outstanding Senior Volunteer is Norm Perkins from Otis Mason Elementary School. Norm has been volunteering for 11 years.  He provides 24 hours of service per week in the Physical Education department, and more than 6,600 students have been impacted by him. Behavior referrals during PE are virtually non-existent due to his attentive on-the-spot coaching and support.

In addition, the SJCSD Family and Community Involvement Awards were presented to one elementary school and one secondary school for innovative school practices that increase family and community involvement. This year’s winners are Hickory Creek Elementary School and Pacetti Bay Middle School.

The SJCSD boasts more than 24,200 volunteers who contributed 257,843 hours of service to district schools this past year.

 

Planning and Zoning Agency Seeking Applicants

The St. Johns County School District is seeking applicants interested in serving on the St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency (PZA).

Florida growth management legislation requires all counties to have a School Board appointment as a non-voting member to participate in discussions on rezoning amendments to the land use plan that impact density. The St. Johns County Commission has agreed to go beyond the legislative requirements to make the School Board appointment a full voting member of the PZA.

Applicant must be a resident of St. Johns County.  Selection will be based on a number of factors including the applicant’s involvement in the county and in public education. Deadline for applications is noon May 18.

Each applicant will need to attend the workshop with the School Board Tuesday, June 5 at 8:30 a.m. The School Board plans to make the appointment at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, June 12 at 9 a.m.

Applications may be obtained on the School District website or by calling Judith Harvey, executive secretary for Planning and  Government Relations, at 547-7680 or in person at the School Board Administration building at located at 40 Orange Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084.

School-Related Employee of the Year 2018

Miriam Testasecca, the executive secretary for the School Board of the St. Johns County School District (SJCSD), has been named the SJCSD 2018 School-Related Employee of the Year (SREY). Her selection was announced by Superintendent Mr. Tim Forson at last week’s SREY reception held March 15 at the World Golf Hall of Fame Museum. Testasecca was selected from 44 nominees for her exemplary job performance, dedication, interpersonal skills, leadership ability, training and contributions to the SJCSD and the community.

Testasecca has been employed as the School Board’s executive secretary for six years and has 17 years overall with the school district. She is a dedicated and efficient professional who serves all five board members with varied requirements and expectations. Her excellent organizational skills enable her to handle multiple tasks of differing levels of complexity. Her welcoming demeanor and service attitude are characteristic of her encounters with the general public. She is also the bookkeeper for 19 internal district accounts and prides herself on the attention to detail to avoid deficiencies and errors. She has never had a deficiency noted in an audit of those accounts.

“Mrs. Testasecca is totally responsive and supportive to our needs as a school board, and as individual board members,” said School Board Chair Bill Mignon. “She helps to keep us all on track and the service she provides is invaluable. Her loyalty and commitment to the school district and the community is a reflection of her steadfast dedication.”

In addition, she has been mentoring two students for the past four years and also is the district office Wellness Coordinator. She has volunteered her time to run exercise and weight loss programs for district employees and is active with fundraising projects for the district’s ASSIST program and The Shriner’s Hospital for Children.

Testasecca’s name and information packet has been forwarded to the Florida Department of Education as SJCSD’s representative and for consideration as the SREY representative at the state level.

Naming of New K-8 Schools “KK” and “LL”

The St. Johns County School Board approved the name Palm Valley Academy for the school previously known as K-8 “KK” and Freedom Crossing Academy for the school formerly known as K-8 “LL” at its School Board meeting held today. During community meetings held recently, Principals Jessica Richardson and Allen Anderson, respectively, collected input from the public and provided the suggested names to school board members during their workshop held March 6.

The two additional schools are under construction in the fastest growing areas of the county and are scheduled to open for the 2018-2019 school year.  The new schools will relieve overcrowding for kindergarten through eighth grades in northern St. Johns County.

Palm Valley Academy is located in Nocatee at 2135 Palm Valley Road, Ponte Vedra, Florida 32081 and Freedom Crossing Academy is in Aberdeen located at 1365 Shetland Drive, Saint Johns, Florida 32259.

Both of the new schools include high-quality learning areas that feature movable walls between two classroom teams as well as extended learning areas for collaboration opportunities. Each facility includes state-of-the-art technology and excellent core facilities with a media center, cafetorium, playgrounds and physical education fields.

The design used for both K-8 schools is a modification of Patriot Oaks and Valley Ridge academies with the addition of a third floor that will house eight classrooms, three science labs, ESE classrooms, a technology lab, business lab, skills lab and a resource room. The planned capacity for these two schools is approximately 1,490 students per school.