During this time of the year, the spirit of giving is around every corner. Our schools pride themselves with using this holiday season as a time to give back to the community in various ways. Many schools have collaborated with one another through toy drives, collected items for local pet shelters and children’s hospitals, donated to local food pantries and have taken time to plan innovative ways to give back to others in the community. This type of giving teaches students to have empathy and compassion for others in their community and allows The Six Pillars of Character to be practiced within schools.
Community and faith-based partnerships have provided countless and continuous support in helping to meet the needs of students and families within the county. These partnerships are paramount to our student’s success. Annually, Somebody Cares St. Augustine collects and distributes winter coats for students. Hugs Across the County has partnered with schools to serve 1,200 students with its No Hungry Holiday bags. St. Johns CARES giving tree drive collected and donated over $40,000 in wish list items last year for students and community members, with needs that are vast and varied. Our ASSIST program has more than 418 homeless and unaccompanied students identified to date. We are currently working with St. Johns Fire Rescue Department for its Firefighters for Families program. Many schools have Angel Trees and clubs and community organizations are supporting families directly. A huge thank you to all organizations who have provided clothing, shoes, food, school supplies, books, volunteers, mentors and so much more. We look forward to the continual collaboration efforts to benefit and enrich the school community.
On the horizon is the annual CHARACTER COUNTS! 6 Pillars 6K/3K Run/Walk Saturday, February 1 at 9 a.m. beginning and ending at Palencia Elementary School. Online registration is available at RaceSmith.com.
Race proceeds support CHARACTER COUNTS! initiatives throughout the St. Johns County School District. 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 schools with the most registrants. Race participants who preregister will receive a t-shirt and other goodies from area businesses and organizations. At the finish line, each race participant will receive a commemorative dog tag.
Link Crew and Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) are student leadership programs designed to help incoming students feel comfortable throughout their first year of their middle and high school experience. Built on the belief that students can help their peers succeed, Boomerang Project’s proven middle and high school transition program trains older students to mentor others through various leadership roles. These programs help to teach fundamental leadership skills linked directly to the Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. To date, we have over 1,200 Link Crew and WEB leader s in our schools helping to make in impact on school campuses and in the lives of their peers. Many of the programs have hosted events such as Cocoa and Crams, Cookies and Connect, Lunch Bunch, Tie-De of Unity and Thankful Thursdays as a way to connect and build a positive climate for peers on school campuses.
The Community Relations video production team is currently finalizing updates to some of our Career Academy videos for our various programs. The students and teachers within these programs are astounding and we would like to thank them for lending us their time and talents in order to provide our future academy students with the information they need to choose a program. On other fronts, the video team is also involved currently with some technological renovations of a few of our academies as well as the design and configuration of the CCTV studios that will be installed in the new academy and high school for our students’ use.
In October 2019, the District Webmaster began upgrading our school websites to a new mobile-friendly layout. With over 55% of website traffic coming from mobile devices and tablets now, many websites have moved toward “mobile-first” designs which offer a better experience for those users.
Our new layout for school websites is built with accessibility in mind and features a simplified side panel navigation menu and a redesigned home page that organizes the content into logical sections of information. The design is also fully responsive and automatically reformats itself to suit the screen size of the user. For example, while desktop and laptop users may view several columns of information side-by-side, users on smartphones will see that same content organized in a single column.
15 out of 40 school websites have been switched over to the new layout thus far, and all school websites
will be completed by the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
Community partnerships are paramount to student success in the St. Johns County School District (SJCSD). In the summer of 2018, 32 organizations gathered to discuss various opportunities to collaborate with the SJCSD through an event called From Hearts to Hands. Throughout the school year, over 200 needs were met through the work of these partnerships. We look forward to additional collaboration efforts presented this summer through From Hearts to Hands, which will allow us to plan and collaborate with one another to benefit and enrich the school community.
The PLAYERS have become a Champion level sponsor for the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. Through their generous contribution, the CHARACTER COUNTS! Steering committee has been able to award $82,523.86 in grants to further the expansion and enhancement of character education within the SJCSD through projects, programs, and new or existing clubs and athletics. The PLAYERS have also become the presenting sponsor at the Character Cup that is a student-centered, Olympic-style event highlighting physical education and CHARACTER COUNTS! teaching students that Character Builds Champions.
The American Youth Character Awards banquet took place in April, which honored 55 juniors, 30 seniors, 8 athletes and 1 coach for displaying the Six Pillars of Character at their high schools. Scholarships totaling $17,200 were awarded to senior honorees.
Over the last 20+ years, CHARACTER COUNTS! has served as a countywide initiative to instill positive character traits in our young people. This school year has been a year of rebranding for the CHARACTER COUNTS! Initiative. Rebranding has provided new banners in all schools with the updated logo as well as a newly designed website to better communicate with schools and community.
Link Crew and Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) are student leadership programs designed to help incoming students feel comfortable throughout their first year of their middle and high school experience. Built on the belief that students can help their peers succeed, Boomerang Project’s proven middle and high school transition program trains older students to mentor others through various leadership roles. This training process teaches fundamental leadership skills linked directly to the Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. This past semester we have been able to provide funding through grant opportunities and business partnerships to send nine additional adults to become trained coordinators in their schools, which helps to expand the programs in all middle and high schools throughout the district.
The District Webmaster recently worked with the Career & Technical Education (CTE) Department to launch a redesigned version of their website at https://cte.stjohns.k12.fl.us to replace their old website at https://academies.stjohns.k12.fl.us. With a new department logo and modern mobile-first interface, the updated CTE website puts all of the information about our school district’s programs of choice and career academies right at your fingertips.
Our video production department has begun graduation filming and is looking forward to another year of highlighting our exceptional graduates from around the district. We will be producing graduation videos for St. Johns Technical High School (SJTHS), St. Johns Virtual School (SJVS), St. Augustine and Pedro Menendez high schools graduation ceremonies as well as graduate photos for SJTHS and SJVS.
Along with graduations, the Spotlight, which highlights outstanding students/employees of SJCSD, has featured Danny Erb, the SJCSD 2019 Teacher of the Year winner. Mr. Erb believes in connecting with his students on a personal level in order to connect with them on an educational platform. Mr. Erb is truly one of our best in the county. Check out our current and past spotlights on the SJCSD Vimeo channel.