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School News
DUNEDIN - In the back of the Garrison Jones Elementary School library, guidance counselor Vanessa Lofstedt’s office has all the toys you’d expect in an elementary school, but not for the reason you’d expect.

The toys are for play therapy, as a way for her students to express emotions in ways they don’t otherwise understand.

“They think they’re coming here to play,” Lofstedt said.

In February, Lofstedt was named the best elementary school guidance counselor in Pinellas County, nominated by Principal Karen Buckles and selected by the Florida School Counselor Association.

“I was shocked. I’ve only been doing this for four years,” Lofstedt said. “But it shows how much passion I have for what I do.”

Part of that passion came from Lofstedt’s work in child protection in New Hampshire, but she said she didn’t feel like she was helping enough people.

So she got her master’s degree in counselor education with a focus in school counseling from the University of South Florida and joined the staff at Garrison Jones.
 ... Read More 
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DUNEDIN - Patti Walker, Our Lady Of Lourdes Catholic School’s kindergarten teacher, has been named city of Dunedin’s 2015 Teacher of the Year Award.

“Thank you so much. I have enjoyed every day of the last 22 years working in this parish/school community. Our Lady Of Lourdes Catholic School is truly my second home. The children and families are remarkable and have made my time here a joy. The support and love is felt each and every day. I look forward to many more wonderful years at OLL,” said Walker, in a press release.
 ... Read More 
LARGO - The Pinellas Education Foundation hosted its annual Career Education Breakfast March 18 where community, business and educational leaders came together to raise funds for career education programs and initiatives in Pinellas County Schools.

Keynote Speaker Johnnie Rush, vice president of Retail Innovation for HSNi, shared an informative presentation on bridging the gap between the art and science of the complete retail experience. In addition, the event recognized business, educator, and school leaders in several career education categories.

Curt Engel, director and general manager for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, announced the inaugural Outstanding Achievement in Information Technology Awards. The award recognizes Pinellas County High School students for their performance in IT. Matthew Sala, Patrick Inglesby and Matthew Hamilton, from Lakewood High School, won in the category of Best Technical Design for “Virus Attack.” They will share a prize of $1,000. Michael Malkiewicz won in the category of Best Product for “Test Builder” and Kevin Duff won in the category of Best Process for “Weighted Grade Calculator.” Michael and Kevin, both from Lakewood High School, will receive a $1,000 prize.
 ... Read More 
Wednesday, March 19
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PALM HARBOR - Many believe that the future of local communities and those across the world rests heavily on the ability to work together to make innovative strides in the field of robotics.

Companies like Tesla Motors have already created a car that saves fuel and eliminates our need to participate in the physical act of driving. At the same time, major retailers and distributors like Amazon have begun to fight the regulatory battles necessary to bring even more amazing bots into daily business operations.
 ... Read More 
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PALM HARBOR - Most of the students in this year’s spring musical at Palm Harbor University High School had to do extensive research into their characters before rehearsals began; most iterations of the Addams family have been off the air for years.

But, starting April 23, almost 35 high school students will take the stage as Morticia, Wednesday and Uncle Fester.

“The Addams Family,” music and lyrics written by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, is based on the original characters created by Charles Addams in his cartoons, rather than those from various films and television shows. In the musical, Wednesday Addams has fallen in love with a boy from a respectable family and begs her father, Gomez, not to tell her mother, Morticia. But everything changes when Wednesday’s boyfriend and his parents come for dinner.
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TARPON SPRINGS -- At the end of last school year, during their annual banquet, East Lake High School drama teacher Brad Brady sent his students home with a summer project: learn to tap dance.

It wasn’t advice for their future theatrical careers or a subtle reminder to work on their dancing. It was a tip for their auditions for the spring musical next year: “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”
 ... Read More 
TARPON SPRINGS - Rehearsals for the Tarpon Springs High School spring play, “Defying Gravity,” began last week and the students have found themselves in unfamiliar territory: space.

“Defying Gravity,” written by Jane Anderson, looks at the 1986 Challenger disaster and seven characters affected by it: the teacher who died on the space shuttle and her 5-year-old daughter, a painter, a NASA mechanic and his girlfriend and two elderly tourists who drove to Florida to watch the launch.

The show first opened off-Broadway at The American Place Theater in New York City in November 1997.
 ... Read More 
LARGO - Pinellas Virtual School, a local online Pinellas County K-12 school, will host a series of meet-and-greets throughout the county for prospective students and their families through July.

The events will give families an opportunity to speak with school administrators and ask questions. Part-time enrollment in Pinellas Virtual School is underway through March 27 and full-time enrollment begins in April.

The meet-and-greet events will be presented from 9 to 11 a.m. at the following Pinellas County Panera Bread locations:
 ... Read More 
PALM HARBOR - Palm Harbor University High School medical magnet students Rylee Gorman, Anna Davis, Robin Cutts and Clarissa Benzarti, all members of the school’s HOSA chapter, a national organization for future health professionals, recently earned first place at a HOSA competition at USF for their strategy and implementation of bringing stress awareness to the forefront in the community.

The team of four sophomores branded themselves “4 Girls 4 No Stress” with the slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Their research showed that young children and the elderly are often forgotten when it comes to educating these groups about what stress is, and ways to manage it.

The team created multiple activities focusing on yoga, pet therapy, healthy eating and journaling as a way to relieve stress. They are now strategizing and gearing up for the state competition in Orlando March 26-29. They have started a running club and are creating “Yoga Stress Relief Kits.”
 ... Read More 
Tuesday, March 11
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SEMINOLE - Schools in the Seminole area have banded together to create a new entity - the Seminole Community Educational Ecosystem - to focus on the success of local students and to help them transition as they move from one school to the next.

The program got its start a little over two years ago, when Dr. Jesse Coraggio, an associate vice president at St. Petersburg College, volunteered for the School Advisory Committee at Bauder Elementary School, which his daughter attended.
 ... Read More 
It’s almost everywhere you look these days - technology. Today’s students have grown up with it at their fingertips. They rely on technology to learn, from surfing the Web and conducting research to communicating and sharing information. Students have more online learning options than ever before. In fact, there are more than 67 K-12 virtual school districts across the state including Pinellas County Schools Pinellas Virtual School.

Pinellas Virtual School is a local online K-12 Pinellas County public school. Because of this, Pinellas Virtual School can offer students benefits state and nationally affiliated online schools cannot. For example, Pinellas Virtual School’s curriculum is the same as the school district’s brick-and-mortar schools. Its courses are taught by highly qualified, Pinellas County schoolteachers. Students can partake in local extracurricular activities such as field trips with their fellow virtual classmates or participate at their neighborhood school in programs such as music and athletics.

While online learning continues to grow in popularity, the U.S. Department of Education has found that students who took all or part of their classes online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction. Although the research sounds promising - virtual school is not for every student. As parents, you want to be sure a virtual school will be a good fit for your child. Here are five criteria to consider when selecting an online K-12 school.
 ... Read More 
PALM HARBOR - Even though this was Westlake Christian School’s first time competing in the Odyssey of the Mind competition, it did not stop the school’s students from taking home several awards.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competitions on the local, state, and world level. Thousands of teams from throughout the United States and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.

Dedicated parent volunteers, Westlake’s academic competitions coordinator, and a former Westlake teacher spent many hours working with the teams and preparing them for this challenging competition. The hard work paid off, and Westlake came home with multiple awards.
 ... Read More 
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