SR 4-14-16 Volume 5, Issue 17

It was a pleasure to recognize our 2015-2016 Outstanding Volunteers of the Year during our ninth annual celebration last week.

Jasraj Raghuwanshi , a senior at Pedro Menendez High School (PMHS), is this year’s Outstanding Youth Volunteer. Jasraj was also selected as the Region II Outstanding Youth Volunteer by the Florida Department of Education.  This makes him one of the top five youth volunteers in the state. He created a public relations campaign as an ambassador for the International Baccalaureate program at PMHS helping to dramatically increase the number of students in the program.  A highlight of his volunteer work has been creating and coordinating the annual Cultural Fair for the last three years.  This event is still going strong, drawing hundreds each year.

In support of the school district’s CHARACTER COUNTS! program, Jasraj, as a junior, became an inaugural member and the president of Link Crew, a student-to-student mentoring program, and is continuing this year.  He helps new students navigate their first year as they enter the academic and social high school environment and serves as a resource for information. He is an original member of LIMBS, helping to raise money for prosthetic limbs for amputees in developing countries, and also helps to fight Multiple Sclerosis.  Providing more than 650 hours of volunteer service while in high school, Jasraj has taken part in Model United Nations, National Honor Society, Athletic Leadership Council, varsity swim team, Camp Corral, Camp Ocala, Special Olympics, peer tutoring, and tutoring elementary students.

Outstanding Adult Volunteer Heather Mowrey, a volunteer at R.B. Hunt Elementary School (RBHES), has made a lasting impact on students, as well as systemic advancements for her school.  Through Ms. Mowrey’s involvement and presidency of the PTAO, funds were raised to purchase student computer stations, iPads for teacher and student use, Smart Boards, and ceiling mounting of LCD projectors in classrooms.  Putting this technology in the hands of students was a critical component of preparing students for the rigor of FSA testing.  Funds raised through her leadership have also been used to purchase student periodicals, paid for teachers to attend workshops, and helped to pay for the Accelerated Reader program.  Hundreds of students have been helped through her academic tutoring and she has brought a Girls On The Run club to RBHES. Volunteering for nine years, and contributing 695 hours of service in the last 18 months alone, she is the embodiment of servant leadership.

This year’s Outstanding Senior Volunteer is Tera Hunt who volunteers at W.D. Hartley Elementary School (HES).  Ms. Hunt has impacted 30 students who have reading challenges in one-to-one and small group settings.  On many occasions, she has spent time with troubled students giving each one the time, attention and genuine love needed to be successful while forming friendships for life.  She has donated 204 hours of service in the last 18 months through direct student support, as well as coordination of PTO events and fundraisers, creating bulletin boards and assisting with clerical tasks.  One of the most unique tasks included arranging to have a piglet on the HES campus for the principal to kiss as an incentive for raising funds for technology.  She participates in many community efforts as well, including Leadership and Youth Leadership St. Johns.

The evening included the announcement of the district-wide Family and Community 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. The elementary winner was Timberlin Creek for its family literacy night. This year’s district winner at the secondary level was Allen D. Nease High School (NHS) for its SOUPer Bowl event. This event raised funds to assist Blessings in a Backpack, which provides food to hundreds of students in St. Johns County.  The NHS SOUPer Bowl event was also chosen as the Region II winner by the Florida Department of Education.  This distinction makes it one of the top five programs in the state for middle/high schools.  NHS will be honored at the PTA State Leadership Conference this summer. In addition, volunteer coordinators from each school were recognized.

The individuals honored at this event were just a few of the 20,597 volunteers who contributed 298,559 hours of service to our schools during the past year.  Cheryl Freeman, volunteer coordinator for the St. Johns County School District, served as event coordinator.

In addition, I am pleased to announce new principal appointments.

Wayne King, principal at Valley Ridge Academy (VRA), has been selected to be the principal of Sebastian Middle School (SMS). Ryan Player, principal at White Knoll High School in Lexington, SC, has been selected to be the principal of Alice B. Landrum Middle School (LMS). Sandra McMandon, principal at Durbin Creek Elementary, has been selected to be the principal at VRA. Their nominations will be presented to the School Board at its May 10 meeting.

Mr. King will replace current SMS Principal Kelly Battell who will be joining the district office as Director of Student Services replacing Sallyanne Smith who is retiring in June.

Mr. Player will replace LMS Principal Jewel Johnson who will be joining the district as Director of Instructional Personnel replacing Cathy Geiger who is retiring in May.

Executive Cabinet Update

Information Technology

Security Awareness

The district has had a few recent cases of email spoofing.  Spoofing occurs when email is sent to you that looks like it is from a friend or co-worker but is really from someone looking to do harm.  This can fool most people because it looks official.   When you look at these spoofing messages carefully they are usually a little off in terms of format or language used or signature and by what is being requested.  The tell tale sign will be a request that is out of the ordinary or just wrong.

For example, if you receive an email to provide a list of all students in your school to provide their name, SSN, birth date, address, grade and phone number in an attachment, employees know that most of that information is confidential and would not be requested in that way.   Furthermore, when sending confidential information in an email as an attachment, it must be encrypted (using AES 128/256 bit encryption per District Security Awareness Note).

The district employs SPAM and JUNK Mail filters to help weed out harmful and unwanted email.   Algorithms and blacklisted sites are used to filter and block unwanted email.   Thousands of spam email messages are blocked each day that employees never see.

In the end, you must make the call whether something looks official (by its appearance or by what is being requested and how it is being requested) or not.  If there is any doubt, please call the individual to verify the request.   In addition, please avoid clicking any links in email from someone you do not know or suspect is not official (this action will most likely lead to a virus from a harmful source).

Network Upgrades

We continue to upgrade out network each year.  This year we are upgrading six sites to IP-based phones (Mill Creek, John A. Crookshank, Cunningham Creek and Julington Creek elementary schools, The Webster School and the Evelyn B. Hamblen Center).  This upgrade greatly improves efficiency and lowers cost.  In addition, this new IP-based phone system will make supporting personnel moves and changes much easier.

The same six sites are also being upgraded to the new “ac” wireless standard that is several times faster than the previous system. This will enable students and teachers to access the Internet at much faster speeds.

The district’s Internet connection speed was recently doubled.  This expansion will enable much improved upload and download speeds for students and staff.   In addition, this upgrade included adding another Internet host which will soon provide fail over if either connection to the Internet is lost.   These are all part of the infrastructure and bandwidth upgrade projects that are included in our goals for this year.

On the Horizon


Kindergarten Pre-Registration

Pre-Registration dates for the 2016-2017 school year are scheduled as follows:   

Monday, May 9 1 – 5 p.m.

The list of required documents can be found on the school district website. Updates and changes have been made to the residency process and can be found at

Career Academy Awards

The annual Career Academy Awards to recognize academy business partners is on Thursday, April 14 at the Fullerwood Center at 5 p.m. this event honors partners of the Career Academies of St. Johns and provides the district the opportunity to recognize their efforts and some of the outstanding initiatives of this school year.

American Youth Character Awards Banquet

The annual American Youth Character Awards Banquet will be held on Thursday, April 28 at 6 p.m. at Anastasia Baptist Church. This event recognizes high school juniors and seniors throughout the county who have been nominated by their schools for displaying the Six Pillars of Character — Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship– in their daily lives. Also, two students will be awarded special scholarships, the David Macaulay Mathis Memorial Pursuing Victory with Honor Award for displaying character on the athletic field and the Tucker McCarty Memorial Scholarship for exuding good character in an effort to make the world a better place.

Status Report


National Substitute Teacher Recognition Week

The St. Johns County School District is joining thousands of educators across the country during the week of May 2, 2016, in recognizing substitute teachers as part of National Substitute Teacher Recognition Week. Sub Week is a effort to recognize over 270,000 men and women that fill in for absent permanent teachers every day in the United States.  On a typical day, St. Johns County places approximately 175 substitute teachers in its classrooms. Too often we get so busy and overlook the challenge that exists when taking over a classroom from a permanent teacher and providing a valuable education experience.  Please take an opportunity to say “thank you” to those members of our community who take on this challenge. According to the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University, research shows that because of teacher absenteeism, one full year of a child’s K-12 education is taught by substitute teachers. Thank you to the over 550 substitute teachers who have filled more than 23,737 absences this school year.

Many of the schools in the district have activities planned to honor and recognize their subs during this week.

Middle School STEM Summer Camp Winners

This week the St. Augustine Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) announcing the winners of the 2016 STEM Summer Camp for rising 8th grade girls.  The AAUW interviewed eighteen nominees from St. Johns County and wrote that they were impressed by the students’ self-confidence and enthusiasm about their interests in math, science, and technology.  Seven of the nominees were selected for the week-long camp to be held at Palm Beach State College in Boca Raton.  Only 60 girls were selected for the camp state-wide.  The Florida AAUW and its branches fund raise year-round to fund the $1,000 cost per camper.

St. Johns Nominees

Caeli Benyacko – Liberty Pines Academy

Isabella DiStefano – Alice B. Landrum Middle School

Isabelle Smith – Sebastian Middle School

Kimberly Brooks – Pacetti Bay Middle School

Kira Sass – Valley Ridge Academy

Leighanna Goldman – Patriot Oaks Academy

Mya Helhoski – Sebastian Middle School

 Did You Know…?

  • Do you know kids who can’t get enough of spiders, crickets and lightning bugs? Do they keep creepy-crawly things in glass jars in their bedroom? They might just want to grow up to be an entomologist. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is here to help your budding bug enthusiast follow their passion with a host of activities featured during Bug Week, May 21-27. To get started, check out the Bug Week webpage at

“Every right implies a responsibility, every opportunity an obligation, every possession a duty.”

~John D. Rockefeller, Jr., entrepreneur (1839-1937)