January 13, 2017

January 13, 2017

January 13, 2017

January 13, 2017

In observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, our schools and offices will be closed on Monday, January 16.


Superintendent's Message

I hope everyone enjoyed their winter break!  I had a great break, but something I saw during my time off is really bothering me.  Too often these days, people take to Facebook and Twitter to air their concerns and complaints before they attempt to address them with their sources.  If you have an issue with an employee, school, or department, please contact that source directly to try to work out your problem.  We have wonderful problem-solvers in this district who are willing to bend over backward to help people resolve their issues.  Let us try to work together first to fix your problem before launching attacks on social media.  If that doesn’t work, then I couldn’t blame you for sharing your frustrations with your friends and followers.  

This semester will be a busy one, and I know that everyone already has hit the ground running.  I’m confident that our teachers, staff and administrators are going to do what it takes to support our students and increase their achievement.  Stay focused on our mission to provide a world-class education, and the rest will fall in place.  Have a terrific semester!


Legislative Update

Senate Appropriations PreK – 12 Education Subcommittee Chairman David Simmons invited me to participate in an assessments panel discussion this past Wednesday. I was joined by Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and fellow superintendents from Okeechobee, Pinellas, Seminole, and Volusia. I, along with the other superintendents, assured the committee that we support a meaningful accountability system and believe that assessments play a vital role in the education process. We delivered the following four recommendations:

  1. Provide greater flexibility for districts to utilize paper and pencil assessments.
  2. Eliminate state geometry, algebra II, civics, and U.S. history end-of-course (EOC) exams, as well as the 9th grade english language arts assessment. These assessments are state required, and go above and beyond federal law.
  3. Examine the flexibility that the new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), provides for districts to use nationally-recognized assessments, such as the SAT or ACT.
  4. Repeal V.A.M. and return teacher and administrator evaluations to the local districts.

If you would like to view our panel discussion, please click here and fast forward to the 22:52 mark.



Five Star Schools

The Florida Department of Education recently announced the names of schools in the Tampa Bay area that have earned the Five Star School Award for the 2015-16 school year. The award is bestowed upon schools that are committed to incorporating family and community members into the school environment to enhance student learning. Statewide, nearly 700 schools earned the recognition. To earn Five Star School recognition, a school must show that it has achieved all of the benchmarks and criteria in five categories – Community/Business Partnerships, Family Involvement, Volunteerism, Student Community Service and School Advisory Council. Schools must also earn a grade of “C” or above or a school improvement rating of “Maintaining” or “Improving” for the year being recognized. Below are the schools in Pasco County that received the Five Star School Award for the 2015-16 school year:

  • Elementary
    • Cotee River, Cypress, Deer Park, Double Branch, James M. Marlowe, Mittye P. Locke, New River, Oakstead, Odessa, Pine View, San Antonio, Sanders Memorial, Seven Oaks, Trinity Oaks, Veterans, and Watergrass elementary schools
  • Middle
    • River Ridge Middle School
  • High
    • Gulf, Land O' Lakes, Pasco, River Ridge, Sunlake, Wesley Chapel, and Wiregrass high schools

To view the entire list of schools awarded, please visit Five Star School Award.


Meet the District’s New Marketing Expert

Mark Wolfenbarger is the new communications and marketing specialist in the Communications & Government Relations Department.  He will be working with the department’s photographers and graphic designer to help market our schools and programs.  If you or someone at your work site is planning any marketing, contact Mark to let him know and to coordinate your project with him.  He can be reached at mwolfenb@pasco.k12.fl.us or 42303.





Called to Washington as Exemplars

Vanessa Hilton, assistant superintendent for student achievement, travelled with a team from St. Leo University to Washington, D.C. They were invited by the U.S. Department of Education to talk about technological innovation in the classroom. Click here to learn more about their trip.


Disney Marathon

Congratulations to Lauren Moore, school nurse, and Brenda Ausmus, PVES 2nd grade teacher, for completing the Disney Marathon on Saturday, January 8! If there are other employees who completed this race, please accept our sincere congratulations as well.


BroadwayWorld St. Petersburg/Tampa Awards Winners

Two of our faculty are recognized as BroadwayWorld St. Petersburg/Tampa Awards Winners. Their names, and respective categories won, are:

  • Diana Rogers, River Ridge High School: Best Actress in a Musical (local) - Always...Patsy Cline
  • Rick D'Onofrio, Center for the Arts at River Ridge Director: Best Director/Musical (local) - Always...Patsy Cline



Benefits Update

Florida Blue Benefits (Medical and Pharmacy)

Employee Benefits learned over winter break that some employees experienced a problem accessing their medical and/or pharmacy benefits.  We are working to resolve any issues that you may have experienced and should have them resolved.  All employees will receive a new Florida Blue ID card.  Your ID (subscriber) number will not change; therefore, if you have not received your new Florida Blue ID card, you may continue using your current ID card.  You will receive two new cards with your name on the cards (ID cards will not be issued in your dependents’ name).  Effective January 1, Florida Blue is the district’s pharmacy benefits provider (no longer Envision), and the new Florida Blue cards will contain pharmacy information used by the pharmacist to process your pharmacy claims.  If you have not yet received your new card, you should provide your current FL Blue ID card, along with the following pharmacy group information:

  • Your FL Blue Member ID (subscriber number available on last year’s card or by calling 1-800-507-9820)
  • Group #:  60664
  • BIN:  012833
  • PCN:  FLBC

The pharmacist may also contact FL Blue at 1-800-507-9820 to obtain this information and confirm eligibility. If you paid out-of-pocket for a prescription, you may email Patty Nguyen for assistance with requesting a reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses in excess of your copayment.  You may also contact Patty Nguyen if you need assistance prior to receipt of your ID Card.


2017 Benefit Payroll Deductions

Employees are strongly encouraged to review their 2017 benefit elections for accuracy in Employee Self-Service (ESS) by Friday, January 27. If your current benefit elections shown in ESS do not match your final benefit election summary printed during open enrollment, please email Employee Benefits for help.  Please identify in your email any benefits that are listed incorrectly and the correct benefit election.  Be prepared to scan and email  or fax a copy of your benefit election summary from open enrollment to Employee Benefits. You may only make “corrections” to your benefits, as changes to benefit elections are not allowed outside of open enrollment without a qualifying change in status event.  Any request for changes that are not reflected on your open enrollment elections summary must comply with the change in status (mid-year) guidelines.  Click here for additional information about making mid-year changes. All corrections must be emailed by Friday, February 3.


2017 403(b) and 457(b) Maximum Allowable Contributions

You are encouraged to meet with your investment provider representative at least once a year to review your voluntary retirement savings plan.  If you are increasing your contributions, ask your representative for a Maximum Allowable Contribution “MAC” Calculation form.

Contribution 403(b) & Roth 457(b) Limit
Annual Basic $18,000 $18,000
“Catch Up”
$3,000 N/A
(Age 50 or older)
$6,000 $6,000

403(b) and 457(b) contributions are deducted twenty (20) times per calendar year. All employees, regardless of their benefit eligibility status, can participate in the district’s Voluntary Retirement Savings Program upon hire.


Magnet School Application Period Open

The Pasco County Schools magnet application period opened on December 15, 2016, and ends on Friday, January 20, 2017. Parents who are interested in enrolling their students in one of our specialized magnet programs can find out more information and complete an application here.  All properly completed applications will be entered into a lottery.  Families will be notified of their acceptance status by mid-February, so that those who are not accepted have time to complete the traditional school choice open enrollment application during the February 1 to March 1 application window. Pasco County Schools magnet options currently include:

  1. Sanders Memorial STEAM Elementary Magnet School, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.  These subjects are infused throughout the curriculum, which still is based on the Florida State Standards.Centennial STEM Middle
  2. Magnet School, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.  These subjects are infused throughout the curriculum, which still is based on the Florida State Standards.
  3. Bayonet Point STEM Middle Magnet School, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.  These subjects are infused throughout the curriculum, which still is based on the Florida State Standards.
  4. Families that don’t have computer access can complete applications at their local school or public library.

If you have questions, email magnetschools@pasco.k12.fl.us.


Student and Employee Opportunities

VFW Teacher of the Year Award Contest

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is accepting nominations for the 2017 VFW Smart/Maher National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. Nominations can be submitted by fellow teachers, supervisors, or other interested individuals.  Self nominations are not eligible. The annual award contest recognizes three exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students. Each year, a classroom elementary, junior high, and high school teacher whose curriculum focuses on citizenship education topics, for at least half the school day in a classroom environment, can be nominated. Winners will receive:

  • A $1,000 award for professional development expenses
  • A $1,000 award for his/her school
  • Two award plaques (one for the teacher and one for his/her school)
  • An all-expenses-paid trip to a VFW conference to receive their award.

Teachers who promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette, and patriotism are ideal candidates for the award. If you know a teacher who plans field trips to city hall, organizes community volunteer projects or invites local veterans to speak in class, anything to help students develop a better understanding of democratic values and beliefs, this award is for them. For more information, visit the VFW website for complete program guidelines and application instructions. The deadline is February 15.


Marine Educators Workshop

Seacamp Association, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization, in operation since 1966, providing marine and environmental education programs to visiting school groups from across the country on Big Pine Key in the beautiful Florida Keys.  Each year, they host more than 100 school groups, 4th grade through college, and more than 5,000 participants. They are hosting their annual Marine Educators Workshop at their facility on Friday, April 7, at 8 p.m. through Sunday, April 9, at 5 p.m. Click here to register and here for more information. If you have any questions, contact Chuck Brand, Director of Marketing, at 305-951-7430.


Teach Like A Pirate

Area pubic school educators and those interested in the field can hear a nationally recognized teacher discuss ways to boost teacher creativity and student engagement at Saint Leo University at 5 p.m., Friday, January 27, in the Greenfelder-Denlinger Boardrooms of the Student Community Center.

Dave Burgess, author and creator of the “Teach Like a Pirate” concept, appears as the opening speaker of the Florida Association of Teacher Educators, but his talk is also open to the public. Admission is free. (The speaker event and conference were originally scheduled for October 2016, but had to be postponed because of Hurricane Matthew.) There is free parking in surface lots and in the garage on campus, located at 33701 State Road 52, Saint Leo, 33574, four miles east of Interstate 75 (exit 285). Burgess uses the catch phrase “Teach Like a PIRATE,” a memory prompt for: passion, immersion, rapport, ask and analyze, transformation, and enthusiasm. For more information, contact Dr. Valerie Wright of the education faculty.



2017 Together We Stand Virtual 5K

The 2017 Together We Stand Virtual 5K will be held from January 9, 2017, through February 28, 2017, and registration is now open. The Annual Together We Stand Virtual 5K Run for Safe Schools supports our student leaders who are preventing bullying by making their schools safer and more inclusive. Click here to register and here for more information.


Upcoming Shows at the Center for the Arts Locations

Center for the Arts at River Ridge

On Saturday, January 14, at 2 p.m., the Center for the Arts at River Ridge is hosting "Let's Hang On! (Frankie Valli Tribute)." With six amazing singers backed by four energetic musicians, "Let’s Hang On!" captures the trademark harmonies and crisp choreography which made The Four Seasons one of the greatest vocal groups of all time. These seasoned performers pay homage to Frankie with the same intensity and skill as “The Jersey Boys” do every night on Broadway. Click here for more information. Click here to purchase tickets.

Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel

  • Let’s Hang On! (Frankie Valli Tribute: The Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel is hosting "Let's Hang On! (Frankie Valli Tribute)" on Sunday, January 15. “Let’s Hang On!” captures the trademark harmonies and choreography that made The Four Seasons one of America’s top vocal groups of all time. Tickets are $20 per ticket (one show), or $30 per ticket for those wishing to see “Let’s Hang On!” and “Nunsense” (see below). Tickets can be purchased online or at the Center’s Box Office at 813-794-8772.
  • Nunsense: The Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel is hosting "Nunsense" at 2 p.m. on February 25 and 26. “Nunsense” features the Little Sisters of Hoboken who discover after their cook accidentally poisoned some of their fellow nuns that they are in need of burial funds. The nuns decide that the best way to fundraise is through a variety show performance. Tickets are $20 per ticket (one show), or $30 per ticket for those wishing to see “Let’s Hang On!” (see above) and “Nunsense.” Tickets can be purchased online or at the Center’s Box Office at 813-794-8772.


Light Up The Night

On Saturday, January 14, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., there will be a 5k and a 1 mile run/walk to raise awareness and bring an end to human trafficking. Click here for more information.


5Kumquat Run/Walk

On Saturday, January 21, The Dade City Youth Council (DCYC) is sponsoring a 5K race beginning at the Hardy Trail. This event highlights the developing trail network in Dade City and recognizes the upcoming Kumquat Festival. One of the DCYC goals is to  focus on activities for children and families in our community which promote health and wellness for all. Click here for more information.


Pasco County Government

Hudson Elementary School principal Dawn Scilex works with a group of students in her office.

Youth Volunteer of the Year

Avalon Moorehead

Student Spotlight: Merry Spagnuolo

Merry Spagnuolo is the first Charles S. Rushe Middle School student to make all-state chorus.