Saturday, January 30, 2010

Watergrass Elementary School Recognized With Top Environmental Status

The District School Board of Pasco County is delighted to announce that Watergrass Elementary School has recently earned the prestigious Gold LEED certification. “LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.” This is the most recent in a lengthy list of honors the District School Board of Pasco County has received for its eco-friendly operations. The District has a long-standing commitment to environmental education, energy and water conservation, green cleaning practices and recycling. The District’s sustainable conservation methods and energy efficient operations have yielded significant savings of financial and environmental resources. By meeting the high standards of Gold LEED certification, the District has made yet another long-term investment in energy efficiency that will continue to benefit students and the environment for many years to come. “We are thrilled to be developing healthy, efficient and productive learning environments for our students,” stated Superintendent Heather Fiorentino. “Our efforts extend beyond the design of this specific school, as our entire team is also committed to equipping our future generation with an understanding of how they can protect and preserve our precious natural resources. We look forward to using this same eco-friendly design as we address future facility needs,” she added.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Vending Program and Machines Get a New Look

Vending machines throughout Pasco County Schools are getting a new look! Recently, the Food and Nutrition Services Department received a grant from the Dairy Council of Florida to help launch the District’s new healthy vending program. The Food and Nutrition Services Department purchased 60 new vending machines for secondary schools. The vending machines will be installed the first week of February, and should be available for use the following week. This is just one of the District’s many approaches to provide healthier snacks and a healthier school environment for our students. Thirty of the new vending machines were purchased with assistance from the Dairy Council of Florida. These vending machines are refrigerated and will be easy to identify, sporting the dairy council’s classic “got milk” cow pattern. The other 30 Nutrition Zone vending machines will feature a new matrix-style design, highlighting healthy messages and images. Each middle and high school will be receiving a pair of the new vending machines. The machines will be located in areas where school meals are either sold or eaten. The Food & Nutrition Services Department is planning to stock the refrigerated cow-patterned vending machines with organic items; nutrition and sports bars; fresh fruit and vegetables; lowfat milk and dairy selections, such as yogurt and cheese sticks; fresh sandwiches; bagels with cream cheese; soymilk; bottled beverages and more. The Nutrition Zone vending machines allow students a more convenient and faster way to purchase healthy snack favorites, such as low fat and whole-grain chips, pretzels, and other non-refrigerated items. All vending and snack choices continue to meet the Alliance for a Healthier Generation guidelines, which limits the portion sizes and establishes nutritional parameters. The guidelines recommend that snack and beverage choices provide less than 35% calories from fat, less than 10% calories from saturated fat, and no more than 35% sugar by weight. Calories per serving are limited by grade level. As a part of the District’s and the Food and Nutrition Services’ continued efforts to create healthier school environments, the new vending machine program supports the District’s Wellness Policy and Guidelines established by the District Wellness Committee. This is the second year of the tiered implementation schedule of the District’s Wellness Guidelines. Last year, schools were asked to meet the District’s established goal of having 50 percent of the foods and beverages available at any school-based event or activity to meet the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Guidelines; with a goal of 75 percent of food and beverages offered this year. As the District’s exclusive beverage provider, Coca-Cola agreed that all items provided in the Coca-Cola vending machines would also meet the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Guidelines. The District’s Wellness Policy and Guidelines are available on the District’s website home page. The District’s Wellness Committee was formed three years ago in compliance with the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act that required all school district’s throughout the United States to have an established district wellness policy and implementation guidelines. The committee consists of members from the community, parents, teachers, school and district administrators, registered dietitians, nurses, and other health professionals. The committee meets regularly and continues to work at establishing wellness policies, procedures, and guidelines that can assist schools in making changes to the school environment and culture. Each year, schools must assess its growth toward creating a healthier school environment and also assess its compliance with the District’s Wellness Policy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Race to the Top Update - January 28, 2010

On January 12, 2010, the District School Board of Pasco County submitted its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to the Florida Department of Education. The MOU was signed by Board Chairman Altman and Superintendent Fiorentino. In Florida, 60 school districts, three lab schools and the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB) signed on to be included in Florida’s grant application. Florida’s application was delivered to the U.S. Department of Education on January 19, 2010. To view a copy of the application, visit the Florida DOE web site. Award notifications are expected to be announced in April 2010.

It is widely believed that Florida has a strong likelihood of having its application funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Therefore, the District has moved forward in the planning process and begun initial investigation of the major areas outlined in the Exhibit I of the MOU, “Preliminary Scope of Work.” Each segment of the document has been assigned to a District Department for the purpose of analyzing the following key questions:

  • How does this requirement align with the District’s Strategic Plan?
  • Is the District already required to implement this requirement (or elements of this requirement) under existing state or federal regulations (i.e., Differentiated Accountability, K-12 Reading Plan, IDEA, Response to Intervention, NCLB/ESEA)?
  • To what extent is the District already in compliance with this requirement?
  • What resources does the District have in place to support implementation of this requirement?
  • What additional resources will be required to fully implement this requirement?
  • Who are the key stakeholders who are needed in order to ensure collaborative implementation of this requirement?
  • What barriers exist to full implementation of this requirement?
  • Is there information or further clarification that is needed before the District can move forward with the implementation of this requirement?

Teams will be assembled in the coming weeks to work on each segment of the plan. The District looks forward to working with all stakeholders to develop an action plan that aligns with the goals, philosophies and vision of the District while meeting the requirements of the Race to the Top Grant. The desire is to use the Race to the Top Grant funds to support the District’s progressive vision of creating a community that works together so all students reach their highest potential.

For more information on Race to the Top, please see our District RTTT education page.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

School Board Approves Change to Next Year’s Student/Teacher Calendar (2010-2011)

Due to a change to the Advanced Placement Examination dates recently announced by the College Board, the May 6, 2011 non-school day for students and teachers has been shifted to April 29, 2011. This change was approved at the January 19, 2010 School Board meeting. The District school year calendar has been adjusted to reflect this change. Prinicpals and teachers should share this information as necessary.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tips for Parents: Help Your Child Cope with Natural Disasters

As with any natural disaster, the recent earthquake in Haiti will affect far more people than those caught directly in its path. Those with friends or family living in the area of a disaster will certainly experience serious concern or grief, but even people with no direct connections to the affected region may find themselves distressed by non-stop news coverage and disturbing images shown on television. Your own child may be feeling quietly frightened by what he or she has seen or heard, even though you may notice no outward signs of concern. Please refer to the links below for information on helping your child navigate the emotions he or she may be feeling at this time. If your family has been seriously affected by this or any natural disaster and you feel your child needs additional assistance, do not hesitate to contact our Student Services Department: (813) 794-2362. From the source:
  • Take a news break.  Watching endless replays of footage from the disaster can make your stress even greater.  Although you will want to keep informed – especially if you have loved ones in Haiti – taking a break from watching the news can lessen your distress. 

  • Control what you can. There are routines in your life that you can continue such as going to work or school and making meals.  It is helpful to maintain these routines and schedules to give yourself a break from constantly thinking about the earthquake.

  • Engage in healthy behaviors. Eat well-balanced meals, engage in regular exercise like going for a long walk, and get plenty of rest. Bolstering your physical well-being is good for your emotional health and can enhance your ability to cope.  

  • Keep things in perspective. While an earthquake can bring tremendous hardship and loss, remember to focus on the things that are good in your life.  Persevere and trust in your ability to get through the challenging days ahead.

  • Find a productive way to help if you can.  Many organizations are set up to provide various forms of aid to survivors. Contributing or volunteering is a positive action that can help you to make a difference. 

  • Strive for a positive outlook.  Many people who have experienced tragedy find that they grow in some respect as a result of persevering through the hardship.  Over time, people can discover personal strengths and develop a greater appreciation for life.   

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