SEMINOLE - As of July 1, Seminole Vocational Education Center will have a new name. In an effort to rebrand its image and attract new students, the school will soon be called the Career Academies of Seminole.
“The word vocational has a negative connotation,” said Barbara Clare, the center’s director. “A lot of people in the community think we only serve at-risk students.”
But there’s no truth in this assumption, she said. The school, which offers students from Osceola, Seminole and Largo high schools an alternative, hands-on educational experience, actually draws students from across the spectrum, “from the highest achieving to the lowest achieving.”
“We mirror the populations at the high schools,” she said.
Currently, SVEC, which sits on 47 mostly undeveloped acres, has about 350 and 400 students attending its programs on a part-time basis. But in the past, the center has served as many as 900 students, said Jim Gill, guidance counselor.
Clare hopes the name change will catch the attention of new students and increase the number taking advantage of the center’s diverse programs. They hope to increase the number of students to about 500 at first, but said the current staff can handle about 700 students.
PALM HARBOR - It takes a special person to win an award that 15,000 others could have won. But there is only one Professional Tennis Registry Professional of the Year award.
This year, Palm Harbor’s Robert Carlbo was the winner and to hear those who know him, he is indeed a special person.
Close to home Veronica Condren, the program director of the North Pinellas YMCA, can’t say enough about Carlbo, who is a contract employee there.
“He is amazing, we are blessed to have him,” she said. “He is a huge asset and works with adults as often as with children.”
She says his flexibility and willingness to do anything is what makes him special.
“He does drill classes and cardio classes,” she said. “He gets involved in special events, he helps with fundraising, and he coaches wheelchair tennis. He is an amazing individual.”
The Professional Tennis Registry, headquartered in Hilton Head Island, S.C., is an educational organization that teaches and promotes a high standard of coaching throughout the world. In fact it operates in 117 countries. The award presented to Carlbo represented a myriad of coaching levels achieved by him.
PALM HARBOR - In mid-May, Palm Harbor’s Sweet Caroline’s Bakery got a new neighbor; Sweet Caroline’s Café. It continues the dream of Rich Cannici Jr., a U.S. Marine veteran who opened the bakery nearly four years ago and has now expanded the business.
“If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be operating a bakery I would not have believed you,” he said. “I was always comfortable around the kitchen and food so when the opportunity arose to start this business it seemed to fit.”
Cannici, 33, said his experience in the Marines helped him run the business, as did the three tours of Iraq he served from the time of his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2002 until his military retirement in 2007.
“I always had a passion for running my own show and running a business and the Marines reinforced it a lot,” said Cannici, a retired Marine captain. “I was in charge of young guys. I like being in control.”
Cannici admits it is a lot tougher being in control in Iraq than in the bakery. There is so much more at stake.
LARGO - In many ways, the 99th class of Largo High School is the school’s very best group of graduates.
Aside from various awards, the 303 graduates of the class of 2013 earned more than $1.2 million in scholarships for their next level of education, Principal Brad Finkbiner told their friends and family gathered at Bright House Field for the graduation ceremony June 7.
Furthermore, the class was integral to the high school achieving its highest state rating this year.
“When we first arrived at Largo High, it was a D school and since we started, it has increased all the way up to an A, making us the best class yet,” Valedictorian Steven Higginbotham reminded his fellow graduates. “We’re all winners today, and our school colors prove it.”
In her speech, Salutatorian Adriana Wilson reminded her class of the “times when we thought that we would not make it” and the obstacles they conquered.
“I would like to say to the class of 2013, we finally made it,” she said. “No matter where we stand and no matter where we fall, no one is going to stop us.”
The senior class chose physical education teacher Jeremy Frioud to speak as their faculty representative. Frioud urged the class to remain humble, treat everyone as a fellow brother or sister and live passionately.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - After more than a year, a memorial for the victims of 9/11 will soon be a reality.
On June 7, dozens of residents and dignitaries from all over Pinellas County gathered in front of the fire hall of the Suncoast Fire & Rescue District in Indian Rocks Beach for the groundbreaking for the memorial.
The idea for the project came in 2011 when the district received a piece of steel, which had come from one of the buildings of the collapsed World trade Center. The decision to create a memorial was led by Fire Inspector Bob Hill who drew a concept incorporating the steel.
At the ceremony, Chief Robert Polk praised Hill for his vision.
“This would never have happened without the vision of Bob Hill,” he said. “It had been a mission of his since day one. He was even out here this morning doing a bit of landscaping around the site because he felt it didn’t look good enough for the people who would be coming.”
Polk outlined the process that brought them to the groundbreaking from the day they received the steel.
“This project was a long time in the making,” he said. “Once we got the steel from the New York Port Authority, the owners of the World Trade Center, we then began a fundraising campaign. It has really been a community event, you all recall us selling cookbooks to raise money.”
SEMINOLE - After 28 seasons with the Warhawks, Sam Roper stepped down from his position as head coach of Seminole High School’s football team this past April.
Following a month-and-a-half long search that left eight contenders vying to fill Roper’s shoes, the selection committee hired Chris Miller, former head coach of Admiral Farragut in St. Petersburg. Now Miller is gearing up for his first season leading the team.
Roper, 65, will continue to teach driver’s education at the high school, and said he only relinquished his coaching duties to spend more time with his family.
“I’m the caregiver for my Mom and Dad,” he said. “I’m the only child, so it’s my responsibility. I’m not sure people really realize what a coach goes through and the number of hours they put in, the hours they spend away from home, the hours they put into somebody else’s kid and not their own.”
Seminole won’t be alone in feeling the loss of Roper - he was a mainstay of the Pinellas football community. In addition to coaching high school football in the county for 41 years, Roper founded the Pinellas Suncoast Coaches Association and played a key role in the formation of the county’s senior all-star game in 1993.
The first nests found on North Redington Beach and at Fort De Soto Park mark the start of sea turtle season.
Residents and owners of beachfront properties are reminded of the “lights out” ban. Most of the Pinellas County beach communities have ordinances in place prohibiting lighting that casts glare onto the beach during turtle nesting season, from May 1 to Oct. 31.
Florida’s beaches are essential for nesting loggerheads. The Pinellas County beachfront area averages about 120 nests per season and each nest can contain, on average, 100 to 110 eggs. The last nest is expected to hatch by the end of October.
Each May and July, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium conducts a beach lighting survey to identify problem lighting that may not comply with turtle protection ordinances. Properties with lights shining on the beach at night are reported to Pinellas County Coastal Management and the local code enforcement agency.
While conducting the lighting surveys, the aquarium staff provides educational posters and brochures to visitors and residents explaining the “lights out” policy during nesting and hatching season.
The aquarium monitors nearly 26 miles of coastline and reports on sea turtle nesting activity. The staff engages in early morning patrols to locate new nesting sites and late night patrols to check existing nests for hatchlings and watches the nests from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. to make sure that hatchlings make it to the water safely.
PINELLAS PARK - Most children have an active imagination, but Bethany Bach, 8, of Pinellas Park takes it a step further.
The third grader has self-published two books using CreateSpace.com based on stories she came up with when she was 4 years old. In the first book, “Welcome to Kid’s World: Where the Impossible Becomes Possible,” Queen Bethany takes readers on an introductory tour of Kid’s World.
“You can fly, you can swim, you can visit all kinds of different universes,” Bach said. “It’s a world where the impossible is now possible and kids can be happy and have fun.”
She added, “There are so many different places to explore in this world.”
The second book in the series, “Queen Bethany Speaks on Being a Kid,” provides readers with a more in-depth view of Kid’s World.
“It’s really fun and exciting to see people read and like the books,” she said.
Both books, which can be purchased on www.amazon.com and found by searching for her name on the website, are written for a kindergarten through second grade reading level.
LARGO - The much anticipated Highland Recreation Center - complete with an interactive game room, fitness facility, indoor and outdoor basketball courts and a three-story indoor playground - will open for tours on Sunday, June 2, noon to 5 p.m.
Krista Pincince, the center’s recreation program manager, said the updated center will become as much of a draw for the city as the popular Largo Central Park. The 40,000-square-foot facility at 400 Highland Ave. offers a unique array of recreation options.
“I don’t think there’s anything like it in the Tampa Bay area, let alone Pinellas County. I think it will definitely be a destination for people from several areas,” Pincince said.
The city has been developing and building the project for about a decade. Its total cost, including the site work, construction, permitting, furniture and furnishings, is $17.15 million, Pincince said.
The facility now boasts the largest municipal slide in the county, the focal point of the PlayWorld playground. A double gymnasium includes a lofted indoor walking track along its perimeter.
A traditional fitness center features several types of cardiovascular equipment and strength machines. But the city also will encourage active lifestyles with unique equipment in the Exerplay Game Room. The room will boast a Lightspace wall and floor, an Express Bike, a Makoto Arena 3 Kick, Konami Dance and Xbox Kinect gaming system.
CLEARWATER - As the day began to wind down in downtown Clearwater May 24, patrons of the shops in the Cleveland Street District between Myrtle Avenue and Osceola Avenue were greeted with live jazz ensemble music as well as extended hours and discounts from some of the merchants in the area.
These initiatives are part of the Live After Five series, created by the Cleveland Street District Business Alliance, that will run each Friday through June 21.
Bill Sturtevant, Clearwater Downtown Partnership chairman, said the event came about to bring more visitors to the Cleveland Street District on a weekly basis and to have the people who work downtown to stay in the area after their shifts are over.
“The event was created to benefit the merchants,” Sturtevant said. “If you think about it, all cities in the Bay Area created economic development with events, large and small. Dunedin is a classic example. They have a very strong merchants’ association, all very active. They are a very cohesive group.”
Sturtevant said the Cleveland Street merchants are in charge of selecting the bands which will play in the street from 5 to 8 p.m., and more bands will play in participating restaurants and bars from 8 to 11 p.m.
SEMINOLE - Like his fellow St. Petersburg College Class of 2013 graduates, May 4 - this year’s graduation date - will long stand out in the mind of Richard Stetsky. For both Stetsky and his classmates, the day marked the culmination of years of hard work as they furthered their education.
But unlike the other graduates, Stetsky’s degree is more than 50 years in the making.
Stetsky, 77, a Seminole resident and New York native, attended City College in the 1950s, but didn’t make it past his first year there.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - The city of Belleair Bluff’s Fourth of July celebration this year will likely be missing one of its most touted elements.
A parade honoring Belleair Bluffs’ 50th anniversary tied in with the Independence Day festivities had been seen as one of the more significant parts of the yearlong schedule of fiftieth birthday activities.
But it probably won’t happen, event coordinator Taylour Shimkus said at the June 17 City Commission meeting. The reason is, not enough participants have signed on.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - What was thought to be a resolved issue between Belleair Beach and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over the number of parking spaces required for funding of beach renourishment has spurred discussion again.
Now Belleair Beach wants support in its renewed fight with the state.
Indian Rocks Beach Mayor R.B. Johnson told the commission meeting on June 11 that he had received a letter from Belleair Beach asking for help.
CLEARWATER - Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri fired a 13-year veteran June 14 for violation of various general orders and policies, including the use of excessive force.
Detention Deputy Elizabeth Kretzer, 40, an employee since Oct. 4, 1999, also reportedly falsified information on her report of the incident, which occurred on Dec. 23, 2012 at the county jail.
Internal Affairs Investigators said Kretzer slapped an unidentified inmate on the side of the head and then reported that the inmate grabbed her, which was untrue. Kretzer also misrepresented and omitted facts in her report, including the use of force.