SR 2-10-17 Volume 6, Issue 11

It is my pleasure to announce two personnel recommendations that I will be making at next Tuesday’s School Board meeting.

I will be recommending Jud Strickland, current principal at Cunningham Creek Elementary, as the new principal at Elementary “M” and Kirstie Gabaldon, currently assistant principal at Sebastian Middle School, as the next principal at Switzerland Point Middle School.

Mr. Strickland is a dedicated instructional leader who is focused on building relationships with the staff and community.  His prior background as a regional superintendent, principal and having opened a new elementary school makes him a great candidate.  He has my utmost confidence and respect as he begins his work to prepare for the opening of Elementary “M” in August.

Mrs. Gabaldon brings experience in both middle and high school settings as well as serving as a high school registrar. Along with her wide ranges of experiences in ESE, MTSS, scheduling, PLC’s and building relationships within a school community, it was very clear to me that Kirstie was a perfect match for the school and will take the school to the next level of excellence.

We will begin the selection process by creating a principal profile for Cunningham Creek in the next few weeks.


Academic and Student Services


Early Childhood Services and District Assessment Development 

The Early Childhood Service Department is offering applications for three programs, Summer Voluntary Pre-K, Voluntary Pre-K, and Head Start for the 2017-2018 school year.

St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) Summer VPK Program is offered May 30 – July 21, 2017, five days a week from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. with instruction provided by certified SJCSD teachers. Summer VPK offers small class size with kindergarten readiness activities. To be eligible, children must be 5 years old on or before September 1, 2017.

In addition, parents can begin enrolling eligible students for the 2017-2018 VPK program.  To be eligible, a child must be age 4 on or before September 1, 2017.

To be eligible for the SJCSD Head Start program, a child must be 3 or 4 on or before September 1, 2017, and be income eligible.

Each program offers a tuition-free full school day at an SJCSD facility with regular elementary school hours. All teachers are Florida certified providing an engaging curriculum and kindergarten readiness activities.

Families may apply at the Early Childhood Service Department located at 102 Martin Luther King Avenue, St. Augustine. Contact the Early Childhood Services Department at (904) 547-8965 for more information. Enrollment for all programs is limited and placement is based on a first come, first served basis.

Exceptional Student Education

St. Johns County families with one or more siblings who have developmental disabilities and are ages 8 – 13, now have a program that’s just for them called Sibshops. On February 17 and March 20, they will have a chance to meet other kids whose brothers and sisters have special needs and talk about the good and not-so-good parts of having a sibling with a disability. Most important, they’ll have fun! This wonderful program is offered at no cost to families.  Registration is required.  For February 17, please register online at

For March 20, the registration link is

Federal Programs

In collaboration with Title I and Title II, Early Childhood Services has hired an instructional literacy coach (ILC) to support all early childhood classrooms. The new ILC will provide instructional support to Pre-K ESE, Head Start, and VPK. Additional collaboration between Title I and Early Childhood Services has provided funding to four additional VPK classrooms at John A. Crookshank Elementary and The Webster School.

Planning, Accountability and Assessment

As the spring assessment season is quickly approaching, school testing coordinators are busy training staff and scheduling students for practice testing.  Instruction is at the forefront while there is a great deal of preparation that is taking place behind the scenes. The department always does its best to implement all of the state assessments with fidelity, while keeping the disruption to the daily school schedule at a minimum.  The ability of the St. Johns County educators to conduct this process so seamlessly is one of the many reasons this district continues to be such a leader in student learning and achievement.


Instructional Resources and Media Services

On January 30, the SJCSD held a parent review of the social studies instructional resources currently up for adoption. Interested parents joined Instructional and Media Services in the Fullerwood auditorium to review student materials including access to computer hardware and software as required. Participants also had the opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions.

Instructional Services

Science Fair

The 38th annual St. Johns County Science Fair was held at First Coast Technical College (FCTC) on February 1.  The 123 projects on display represented eight middle schools, two private schools and six high schools.   Students were selected to represent St. Johns County at the State Science and Engineering Fair that will take place March 28-30 in Lakeland.  Adam Snowden of Ponte Vedra High School was selected to represent St. Johns County at the International Science and Engineering Fair that will take place May 14-19 in Los Angeles, California.

Spelling Bee

Sreeniketh Vogoti, an eighth-grade student at Fruit Cove Middle School, won the 2017 St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) Spelling Bee January 18 at First Coast Technical College. He won by spelling the word “fatuous” correctly. Sreeniketh is the son of Padamja and Balasubramanyam Vogoti.

Thirty-three elementary and middle school students from 28 public and five private schools competed for the honor of representing St. Johns County in The Florida Times-Union Regional Spelling Bee Saturday, March 4 at the Jacksonville Main Public Library. If for any reason the winner is not able to attend, runner-up Jackson Willis of Liberty Pines Academy will represent the county.

It took 37 rounds for the winner to be determined. The participants were congratulated by School Board Vice Chair Bill Mignon, School Board Member Kelly Barrera, Deputy Superintendent for Academic and Student Services Brennan Asplen and Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dawn Sapp.

Laurie Hays, program specialist for Elementary Language Arts, served as the Spelling Bee coordinator and the pronouncer was Linda Villadoniga, retired SJCSD teacher. Judges for the event were Jay DiMartino, SJCSD Language Arts and World Languages program specialist; Cheryl Freeman, SJCSD volunteer coordinator; and Sandy Waldeis, community representative.


Guidance and Programs of Choice

Controlled Open Enrollment

Controlled Open Enrollment (COE) is a new process that allows parents to apply to out-of-zone/county schools for their students where there is capacity available.  St. Johns County has four schools that meet the capacity criteria for the 2017-18 school year:  Durbin Creek Elementary, PVPV/Rawlings Elementary, The Webster School, and R.J. Murray Middle School.  Applications for the upcoming school year will be available February 13 to March 10.   Applications for COE will only be accepted during the application window. Once the window has closed, all applications will be randomly numbered with the assistance of a computer program. Complete details and applications can be found at

Health Services

School nurses worked with the Professional Development Department to include non-instructional staff for training/certification in CPR/AED and First Aid.  On the planning day in January, 57 employees from various areas such as Transportation, Food Service and Maintenance participated in a five-hour program to become certified in these lifesaving skills.  This training helps staff to recognize different emergencies so appropriate intervention can take place. It also provides schools with an additional layer of safety and protection for students, families and staff members on school campuses across the district.

Student Services 

More than 130 food baskets were distributed during the holiday season to SJCSD families in need.  In addition, more than 600 children received holiday gifts.  Our sincere gratitude is extended to the following organizations that donated food and/or gifts: A.S.S.I.S.T.; Bartram Trail High School National Junior Honor Society; Firefighters for Families; the Furyk Foundation; the Hollis, Howze, Sutton and the Brindle families; Hugs Across the County; K-Kids at John A. Crookshank, Ketterlinus elementary schools; Timberlin Creek Elementary; The Webster School; Liberty Pines Academy PTO; Lucy’s Kids; the Masonic Lodge; The St. Augustine Catholic Church; the St. Augustine Police Department; St. Johns Cares; the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office; the Tax Collector’s Office; Somebody Cares 4 Kids and the Sunrise Rotary Club. Please contact Kim McNickle, homeless liaison, or Jan Caban, family services facilitator, at (904) 547-7598 to donate or request services.


National Mentoring Month

January was is National Mentoring Month, and this year, Take Stock in Children (TSIC) is celebrating 15 years of mentoring offering quality mentoring opportunities connecting more young people with caring adults.  A Mentoring Month proclamation was read at the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners of meeting January 17. On January 25, at the St. Johns County Tax Collector’s office, TSIC program staff participated in a joint mentor recruitment event with Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Johns County and the St. Johns County RSVP Program. To learn more about the role mentoring plays in our community and to find volunteer opportunities visit

Tools for Schools and The Bailey Resource Depot

Thank you to Kristopher Rule and his high school class at Gaines Alternative and The Transition School for filling all the teacher orders for Tools 4 Schools as a service learning project.  Also thank you to Jennifer Piniarski and Dustin Ducher, teachers at Gaines Alternative and The Transition School, for delivering the teacher orders to the schools.

Five Learning Years (FLY) attended Giving Tuesday at Flagler Hospital and distributed information as well as attained volunteers.  FLY was also given a $3000 donation by a private donor and has hired an additional tutor for the spring semester.

School Services

Out of Zone Transfers

Recently, the district disseminated a district-wide message to all parents and SJCSD employees regarding hardship and employee transfer requests.  The window to apply for an employee transfer opened on January 17 and will close on February 10.  Current hardship requests may be submitted between January 23 and February 10; first-time hardship requests may be submitted beginning March 20.   Attendance zone changes for the 2017-2018 school year, as well as information regarding transfers, can be found on the district website at  Parents and employees are reminded that transportation to and from their requested school is the responsibility of the parent if approved.

School Safety

Annually, each school reviews and updates its Emergency Operation Plan and holds safety team committee meetings.  In addition, schools hold lockdown drills and review evacuation procedures.  The district continues to work closely with local law enforcement to improve emergency preparedness, communication and enhance safety for all students and staff.

New AED machines will soon be ordered and distributed to each of our schools over the next few months.

Athletics Department

Congratulations to all of the fall and winter sports teams on successful seasons.  At the end of the fall season, state championship titles were earned by the Bartram Trail High School Girls Swim Team and the Creekside High School Boys Cross Country Team.

The spring sports season will soon be underway at our district high schools.  Look for spring schedules for baseball, tennis, lacrosse, track/field, softball and weightlifting on each of the high school’s websites.

On the Horizon

Chocolate and Beyond

Chocolate and Beyond, a celebration of chocolate, desserts, and other delectable culinary treats, will be held on Saturday, February 25 from 2 – 4 p.m. at First Coast Technical College, CHARACTER COUNTS! Conference Center in St. Augustine.  Guests will enjoy tasty samples from some of the area’s finest restaurants and specialty shops.  A silent auction and contests will also be part of this fun and exciting afternoon.

Hosted by The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of St. Johns County, proceeds from Chocolate and Beyond are utilized to recruit, train, and recognize senior volunteers in the St. Johns County School District as well as other locations around the county.  Tickets ($20 for adults, $10 for children under 12 years of age) can be purchased on the RSVP website at, at Whetstone Chocolates (139 King Street and 13 Anastasia Blvd in St. Augustine), or by calling RSVP at (904) 547-3945.

The Character Cup

The Character Cup is a student-centered event highlighting physical education which links academics and character education through athletic competition.  In 2016, 200 student-athletes representing 20 elementary schools participated, and this year’s event looks to be even bigger and better.

The 2017 Character Cup will take place Wednesday, March 22 at St. Augustine High School.  Parents, teachers, administrators, school mascots and community members are strongly encouraged to come out in support of these hard-working students. The Character Cup Trophy will once again be awarded to the winning team for display at their elementary school during the 2017-18 school year.

The St. Johns County Elementary Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Fair

The St. Johns County Elementary Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Fair will be held at Palencia Elementary School Saturday, May 13.  The purpose of this event is to encourage and celebrate student interest in STEM, with the primary goal to promote student use of these subjects to solve real-world problems.  Student representation will be decided at the school level.  Teachers, parents, administrators, and community members are welcome to attend.

History Fair

This month the fifth annual St. Johns County School District History Fair will take place, giving students the opportunity to present their extensive research and creative projects.  The theme for this year’s event is “Taking a Stand in History.” Students in grades 6 through 12 researched primary and secondary sources related to this theme. The fair allows them a forum to present their findings in one of the following methods:  a historical paper, an exhibit, a documentary, performance, or website.  The Judging is February 15 from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the CHARACTER COUNTS! Conference Center at First Coast Technical College (FCTC).  There will be a public viewing in the FCTC conference center, February 16 from 6-6:30 p.m., followed by an awards ceremony.   

Job Fairs

The district will be hosting four different Job Fairs in the coming months. The SJCSD is looking for men and women to join the ranks of Florida’s #1 public school district. Job Fairs will be held throughout the spring and summer on the following dates:

Teacher Recruitment Fair
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Location: St. Augustine High School

Invitational Teacher Recruitment Fair (By invitation only)
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Location: First Coast Technical College

Teacher Recruitment Fair
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Location: First Coast Technical College

Non-Instructional Job Fair
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Location: First Coast Technical College

Associate Teacher Expo
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Location: First Coast Technical College

Status Report

St. Johns County School District Teacher and Rookie Teacher of the Year

Rookie Teacher of the Year

The St. Johns County Rookie Teacher of the Year is Kaley Still from Creekside High School. Ms. Still believes that if a student has a hard time with a specific skill then it is the teacher’s responsibility to come up with a different way of presenting the information to achieve success. She teaches ESE for grades nine through 12 for students with intellectual disabilities. Her classroom is one where her students are rewarded for following the rules because she believes that the learning environment should be one where students are motivated to behave and respect not only the teacher but each other.

Teacher of the Year

The St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) Teacher of the Year is Dana Kelly from Cunningham Creek Elementary School. Mrs. Kelly teaches first grade at Cunningham Creek Elementary School. She has 13 years of teaching experience, all within the SJCSD. Since 2010 she has been at Cunningham Creek, most of which has been spent serving first grade. Prior to joining Cunningham Creek, she taught third and fourth grades at Osceola Elementary.

Ms. Kelly’s students become “world changers” while in her classroom striving to make positive impacts in their classroom, school, community and the world. For 180 days, her students are known as the “Pirate Crew” and set sail on the seas of learning. She credits her professional development in Gifted instruction as having a significant influence on her students’ achievement in academics and socio-emotional growth. Earning her Gifted Endorsement taught her that this instruction is simply highly effective teaching for all students. Her first graders take ownership of their learning by helping to select their reading and writing goals helping her to maximize the potential of each student. Lessons on perseverance, teamwork and building confidence have also positively impacted her students’ achievement.

Did You Know…?

  • St. Johns Virtual School (SJVS) has two upcoming opportunities for the community to help support the school. Just make a purchase at Panera Bread, 600 Tingle Ct. in St. Augustine, Wednesday, February 22 from 4-8 p.m. and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to SJVS. Please show the SJVS Fundraising for Panera on 2.22.2017 to participate. On Tuesday, February 28, from 4-8 p.m. Chipotle at 1753 US Highway 1 S. in St. Augustine will host an SJVS Spirit Night. Show the SJVS Fundraising for Chipotle on 2.28.2017 on your smartphone or tell the cashier you’re supporting the cause to make sure that 50 percent of the proceeds are donated to SJVS.

“If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”
~Dolly Parton