By now, you’ve likely heard news reports about the Zika virus, which can be spread to people through mosquito bites. It causes symptoms such as fever, joint pain, headaches and red eyes. It can be very serious for unborn babies if the virus is passed on to pregnant women. So far, there are no confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Lake County, but we are urging parents to take precautions.

Consider having your student wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants for outdoor activities. The CDC also recommends the use of insect repellents that have been registered with and evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency for safety and effectiveness.

Click here for more information about the virus from the Florida Department of Health,  and click here for a full list of the CDC’s suggestions for prevention.

fsa logoThe first round of spring Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) begins in a few weeks with students in grades 4-7 taking the English Language Arts paper-based writing exam on March 1. Students in grades 8-10 will take the computer-based exam one day between Feb. 29 and March 11.  For specific testing dates at your student’s school, please visit the school web site or contact your child’s school testing coordinator.

To learn more about the FSA or to access practice tests for your student, please visit the FSA Portal at http://www.fsassessments.org/.  Google Chrome is the preferred browser.

If you have questions about the FSA, email Lake County Schools atFSAInfo@lake.k12.fl.us

2016ASOrffMusic education is strong and thriving in Lake County where an elementary school student was accepted for participation in one of two All-State elementary music ensembles. Shelby Lenz attends Villages Elementary of Lady Lake and performed with the FMEA All-State Elementary Orff Ensemble in Tampa, January 15, 2016 at the Tampa Convention Center. Almost 800 students from around the state auditioned for two ensembles and Shelby was the only student accepted from Lake County! Congratulations, Shelby! Her teacher, Rosemary Pilonero, is a member of the Florida Music Educators Association and President-Elect of the Florida Elementary Music Educators Association.

The inaugural performance of the first All-State Orff Ensemble in the nation took place at the Tampa Convention Center January 15, 2016 at 1:30 PM. This new ensemble provides opportunities for elementary musicians to showcase standards-based music skills and techniques – such as instrumental performance, movement/dance, improvisation, and singing – all elements of the principles of Orff Schulwerk. Developed by famed composers Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, Orff Schulwerk is an approach to music teaching and learning based on things children like to do: sing, chant rhymes, clap, dance, and play instruments. A traditional Orff Ensemble features young musicians singing, chanting, dancing, improvising, and playing instruments such as recorders and student-sized melodic percussion instruments, known as Orff instruments, designed by Carl Orff. FEMEA Immediate Past President, Julie Hebert, who championed the development of this new ensemble, said, “With so many of Florida’s elementary music educators using the Orff-Schulwerk approach to teach music, it seems fitting that we are the first state in the nation to offer an All-State Orff Ensemble for students. FEMEA is beyond thrilled to provide this new performance opportunity for Florida’s outstanding young musicians.”

The 2016 FMEA All-State Orff Ensemble was directed by Master Orff Clinicians, Sandy Lantz and Gretchen Wahlberg from Ft. Myers, Florida. Lisa Hewitt, All-State Orff Ensemble Coordinator, pointed out that “this experience will be enriching for students, teachers and parents. The Orff process engages children in guiding them toward creating music on their own. The concert showcased the creativity as well as the musical talent of the students selected.”

FEMEA President, Marie Radloff, said, “The artistry these students have achieved in January was truly remarkable, and their All-State experience will be treasured for the rest of their lives.”

Pine Ridge2  Pine Ridge

Pine Ridge Elementary School in Clermont was honored this week with the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) first Innovation Award. The recognition highlights the efforts of third- and fourth-grade students at the school, whose six-week research project addressed safety issues at their school for bike-riders and walkers. The project, which incorporated science, technology, engineering and math, produced persuasive evidence to support the need for more sidewalks, crosswalks, crossing guards and reduced speed limits.

The students presented their findings to county officials, who now are planning to construct a sidewalk near the school in 2017.



EUSTIS Eustis Heights Elementary School Principal Rhonda Hunt is a finalist for Florida’s 2016 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership (Principal of the Year), and Assistant Principal Chad Frazier, also of Eustis Heights, is a finalist for Florida’s 2016 Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award (Assistant Principal of the Year).

“Principals and assistant principals set the tone for their schools and I am pleased to acknowledge these finalists who embody qualities that inspire educators and students to work hard and do their best,’’ said state Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, who announced the finalists today. “Our school leaders deserve to be recognized for their commitment to Florida’s students, and I look forward to announcing the winners at the Commissioner’s Summit for Principals.”

Rhonda Hunt has been a principal for 10 years, during which time she has been involved in a new school opening, establishing parent-teacher organizations, building mentoring programs and drafting grant applications that have benefited her students. She is described as an exemplary instructional leader and has been commended for empowering her teachers to be leaders. Under her leadership, Eustis Heights has improved its school grade from an F to a C (based on 2014-15 simulated school grades).

The other finalists in the Principal category are Tamie Stewart of Parkside Elementary in Collier County and Steven Royce of Tara Elementary in Manatee County.

Chad Frazier’s colleagues expressed an appreciation for his passion for learning and willingness to take on challenges toward an identified goal, as well as his dedication to creating innovative solutions. In just one year, he has already made an impact on Eustis Heights. With the support of his principal and through collaboration with school faculty, Frazier was able to reduce truancy by 50 percent during the 2014-15 school year. 

The other finalists in the Assistant Principal category are Anne Bieber of Vero Beach High School in Indian River County and Kahlil Ortiz of Dommerich Elementary School in Orange County. 

The state’s top administrators will be named in a ceremony at the Commissioner’s Summit for Principals on Feb. 8. The recipient of the 2016 Principal of the Year award will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and $1,000 for his or her school. The 2016 Assistant Principal of the Year will receive a cash prize of $2,500 and $500 for the school.




IMG_3144Ron Clark, an educator widely known for his creative and successful work with low-income and troubled students, was the guest speaker for the Lake County Schools Leadership Mini Conference on Monday, Jan. 25, at Mount Dora High School.

With animated facial expressions and lively, high-energy movements– sometimes bringing him to stand on the armrests of the auditorium chairs – Clark spoke to district administrators about the importance of keeping creativity in and boredom out of the classroom. He urged the audience of mostly principals and assistant principals to smile more, keep feet pointed forward so their backs aren’t to the students, look students in the eye, maintain a sense of urgency and reward the best teachers with more freedom, opportunities, supplies, praise, respect and trust when budgets won’t allow for large pay increases.

Clark, the founder of The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta and often dubbed “America’s Educator,” was the focus of a 2006 television movie, “The RonIMG_3161 Clark Story,” which starred Matthew Perry and highlighted Clark’s first year teaching in East Harlem. There, Clark encountered neglected, abused and difficult students. He used rap music, Double Dutch, and other creative means to reach them.

“Although his class of misfits had been last in test scores for the entire city, by year’s end they led the school, besting even the honors pupils,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Clark’s 2003 book, “The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child,” became a New York Times bestseller. More than 1 million copies have been sold, and it has been published in 25 countries.

He signed copies of his books, including his newest one “Move Your Bus,” after the event.

STEM_Ver2Lake County Schools is gearing up for STEM Week, Feb. 1 – 5, 2016. This week will include the fifth annual STEM Bowl and Lake County’s Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Both events have added more student participation with the STEM Bowl extending to middle school and the Regional Science and Engineering Fair including fifth grade students for the first time.

The STEM Bowl is a competition that tests students’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students from each team will work collaboratively to answer higher-order thinking questions and complete an engineering design challenge that will require the use of several twenty-first century skills.

During the Regional Science and Engineering Fair, students will demonstrate their expertise in STEM through student designed science and engineering projects. Such projects provide authentic opportunities for students to learn and apply the Next Generation Science Standards and Florida Standards while experiencing real world applications of STEM. Additionally, participating in the science and engineering fair assists students with the development of interviewing techniques, confidence, and other 21st-century skills needed for the work place.

About 800 selected students from around the county will participate in STEM Week 2016. Third-graders compete Feb. 1, fourth-graders on Feb. 2, fifth-graders on Feb. 3, sixth- through eighth-grade teams on Feb. 4, and the fifth-grade through 12th-grade Regional Science and Engineering Fair is on Feb. 5.

All events will be held at the Wesley Center located at 715 West Juniata Street, Clermont, FL 34711.


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