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April 2013

Outstanding School Volunteers of the Year

Three individuals were honored as St. Johns County’s 2012-2013 Outstanding Volunteers of the Year at the sixth annual Volunteer Recognition 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, Karen Cantona from Durbin Creek Elementary School (DCES), willingly volunteers to do whatever is needed to make a difference in the lives of students. Her time at DCES is spent assisting students with reading, monitoring the administration of new assessments, working at the Book Fair, taking part in health screenings, and participating in numerous school-sponsored events. The staff at DCES considers her specialty the ability to be available at the right time and place over and over again. By night, Outstanding Adult Volunteer Benjamin (Ben) Walker is a member of the school district’s custodial staff at South Woods Elementary School (SWES). By day, he spends his time helping ESE students in all grades at SWES. The children see him as a role model and mentor and flock to him whenever he is at the school. Walker has also been very active in youth sports throughout his community. He began a girls’ basketball team, not only focusing on the sport, but also inspiring them to pursue victory with honor. He has also provided support to a boys’ youth football league and the Organization of United Resources (O.U.R.) Center after school program. He continually inspires students and faculty to lead with a meaningful purpose, just as he does.

Outstanding Youth Volunteer, Maxwell Ervanian, a senior at Ponte Vedra High School (PVHS), possesses a can-do attitude with regard to volunteering. His philosophy is that if there’s a need, let’s meet it. Ervanian not only volunteers hours to causes that are near to his heart, but he also rallies fellow students and friends to do the same. He serves as a student mentor with the Foreign Youth Exchange through his school’s Interact Club, and works with students during his lunch time which he has been doing since seventh grade. He currently serves as the president of the Best Buddies program at PVHS and coordinates opportunities for fellow students to work with their “buddies” throughout the school day. One of the most impactful projects he has taken on, Helping Homeless NOW Christmas Dinner, started when he was just 12 years old and has provided food and clothing to more than 200 homeless and needy individuals. He has also provided his time and effort to the Sulzbacher Center, The Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, Habitat for Humanity, and American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps.

These Outstanding Volunteers of the Year will be recognized at the May 14 School Board meeting.

Awards were also presented to runners-up in each category. In the Youth Category, Kevin McKernan of Creekside High School and Ryan Quintal of Alice B. Landrum Middle School were recognized for their volunteer efforts. Kristi Mansouri of Alice B. Landrum Middle School, Miles (Buzz) Wood of Ocean Palms Elementary School, Kathy Peeters of John A. Crookshank Elementary School and Laurel Madson of Palencia Elementary School were honored in the Adult Category. The Senior Category honored Susan Slingluff of John A. Crookshank Elementary School and Salvatore (Sal) Iaropoli of Pacetti Bay Middle School.

The event included the announcement of the District Parent Involvement Award winners. These awards are presented to an elementary and a secondary school each year for innovative school practices that increase family involvement. This year’s district winner at the secondary level was Bartram Trail High School (BTHS) for the BTHS Theatre Boosters Association. The elementary winner was DCES for its “Get Your Game On!” project. DCES has also been named the Region II award winner for this project by the Florida Department of Education, making it one of the top five elementary parent involvement activities for the state of Florida.

In addition to the announcement of these outstanding volunteers and the Parent Involvement Award winners, the school volunteer coordinators were also recognized. The 113 individuals honored at this event were just a few of the 13,818 volunteers who contributed 260,485 hours of service to district schools during the past year. This week marks National Volunteer Week, observed April 21 – 27.

Creekside High School Academy Earns Model Status

The Academy of Environmental and Urban Planning at Creekside High School (CHS) has earned national distinction as a Model Career Academy. This is the highest designation awarded by the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC) and brings the total number of model academies within the St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) to four.

“It is evident that the passion of the academy teams, coupled with the support of the school administration, and the intense focus of your business community, has created a stellar program for students, parents, and the community,” said Angie Grasberger, president of NCAC. “The rigor of the curriculum and the depth of your industry partnerships are to be commended.” The SJCSD is known nationally for its high-quality Career Academies. Many academies are reviewed throughout the nation using the National Standards of Practice for Career Academies, but very few reach model status. Other SJCSD model academies are St. Augustine High School’s Aerospace Academy and Academy of Future Teachers; as well as Ponte Vedra High School’s Academy of International Business and Marketing.

“I am so proud of all of those involved with the Academy of Environmental and Urban Planning,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner. “I have had the privilege to listen to teachers and business partners describe the classroom events involving our business partners. This academy truly engages students and challenges them to excel in science, engineering, and technology. Great teachers are the foundation of great programs and Kevin Davenport and Alicia Pressel are among the finest educators in their fields. The business partners, staff and students have simply been amazing and we are very grateful for their support.”

Academies that adhere to all the major components defining academies are far more likely to show positive results for student success. National research has shown that Career Academy students have better attendance, better scores on standardized tests such as FCAT, higher college attendance rates, and often earn higher salaries than the average non-Career Academy student. Local data supports the many benefits associated with student participation in career academies; which has prompted the district to expand career and technical courses to middle schools.

CHS will be recognized and present best practices at the NCAC 2013 national conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The NCAC career academy review process is based on the 10 National Standards of Practice (NSOP), introduced in 2004 in Washington, DC by a consortium of career academy organizations and endorsed by the US Departments of Education and Labor



SJCSD Accreditation Review

The St. Johns County School District has received a recommendation that it be awarded district accreditation as a quality school system. This recommendation was made by the AdvancED External Review Team at a special School Board meeting held April 10.

District accreditation is the highest level of accreditation that a school system can receive from AdvancED, the recognized accrediting agency for K-12 schools internationally. Five years ago, the district received its initial accreditation. Prior to this, all St. Johns County schools were individually accredited.

The External Review Team’s report commended the district for its powerful practices which included its focus on the strategic plan; responsible and effective leadership through the School Board; being committed to a culture that is consistent with the district’s mission and vision, engagement of stakeholders on the system’s purpose and direction; instituting a process to recruit, employ and retain highly effective professional and support staff; focusing on areas defined by the strategic plan that are long-range, dynamic and help to guide resource allocations; having a strong commitment to continuously collect, apply and analyze data sources to support learning; and monitoring and communicating information about student learning, school performance and the achievement of system and school improvement goals to stakeholders.

“The observances of the External Review Team, under the leadership of Dr. George Griffin, are a wonderful affirmation of the hard work and dedication that is shown throughout our district,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner. “I am extremely grateful to the School Board members, principals, district staff, teachers, parents and community members who participated in this process. Their work in this accomplishment is a true testament to our culture of working together to achieve success whether in the classroom or the community.”

In the area of recommendations for improvement, the team made the following suggestions:

  • Establish consistent use of high-yield instructional strategies, high expectations of students, and level of rigor across the district.
  • Design and evaluate structures in all schools whereby each student is well known by at least one adult advocate in the student’s school who supports that student’s educational experience.
  • Implement a comprehensive plan to provide uniform training for professional and support staff on the interpretation and use of data to improve student learning and inform instruction.

A written report of the team’s findings and observations will be sent to the Superintendent within 30 days. The district is then expected to communicate the information contained in the report, initiate steps to address the recommendations, and continue its efforts toward continuous improvement.

The school district has spent several months preparing for accreditation. Last spring, a District Accreditation Leadership Team was established to conduct the guided self-study. The team focused on how departments and schools work cooperatively to support continuous improvement, with student achievement identified as the number one goal.

Employees collected data and relayed information on the five areas being evaluated: Purpose and Direction, Governance and Leadership, Teaching and Assessing for Learning, Resources and Support Systems, and Using Results for Continuous Improvement.

In order to be eligible to apply for district accreditation, every school in the district has to be individually accredited and the district has to have in place a quality strategic planning process focusing on improving student learning. In addition, districts must meet accreditation standards, pursue a process of systematic continuous improvement and implement methods for quality assurance.

Further information can be found at on the district’s website.