School spotlight

Raising the bar at Basilica School of St. Paul

Students at Basilica School of St. Paul were scoring in the lowest 20th percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in 2016. Many also had disciplinary problems. There were discussions about closing the PreK-12 school in Daytona Beach. Meanwhile, Ron Pagano, was weighing his next career move as he chose to retire from 36 years in the Volusia County traditional public-school system. And Basilica, which he attended as a young boy, had a special place in his heart. “This is where I needed to be,” Pagano said. “I love being part of the community. I could be the change agent...
catholic school

Catholic schools join specialized program to meet learning needs

The losses were small but concerning. On average each year, two students with learning needs were leaving Lourdes Academy in Daytona Beach. Like many other Catholic schools, Lourdes simply did not have a full-time staff person to help meet the needs of those students. According to principal Stephen Dole, that deficit made it hard for the school to identify the students and the interventions they may need. “When you think of 225 students you have and out of those 25 are struggling, that is a decent number you have to allocate resources to,” he said. When Dole learned of the Program for...
charter schools

Coral Springs Charter School alum teaches life lessons at his alma mater

News of February’s deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, sent waves of shock and terror through the community. Just 10 minutes south of the shooting that took 17 lives, students at Coral Springs Charter School struggled to process the tragedy. The next day, many of them went to their known “safe zone” – Joey Melendez’s drama classroom. “Students from all different class periods flooded into my room to sit in our circle on the floor and talk about what was going on and what they were feeling,” said Melendez, a Coral Springs Charter alum who is...
Academy at the Farm

Positive culture feeds Academy at the Farm’s success

Kelly McKiernan wiped her hair from her face and placed a bottle of water to the mouth of a baby cow. Her boots were caked with mud, and an unrelenting sun beat down as "Little Bit" drank voraciously. This scene could be any family ranch in America. But it's occurring at Academy at the Farm, a charter school outside Dade City, Florida, that is redefining classroom boundaries. An eighth-grader, Kelly has been involved with the school’s agriculture program, which includes raising goats, cattle and hogs, as well as hydroponic farming, since its inception three years ago. “I like to learn a lot...

Twelve Florida schools receive blue ribbon recognition

Twelve Florida schools were recognized Monday as National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. More than half are schools of choice: four are magnet schools and three are charter schools. The awards are made in two categories: either on a school’s progress in closing achievement gaps for disadvantaged students or for high overall student achievement measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. The four magnet schools in Florida designated as exemplary high-performing for 2018 are: George Washington Carver Middle School and Herbert Ammons Middle School, both in Miami; Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary School in Tarpon Springs; and Stanton...

From bullied and failing to Hope, honors and college

GROVELAND, Fla. – The sign at their church trumpeted the opening of a new private school: HOPE ACADEMY NOW ENROLLING For Adaijah Jackson and her mother, Sheila James, the word Hope was all they saw. “It was an answer to prayer,” Sheila said, smiling and shaking her head at the memory. “The timing was just perfect.” Adaijah (pronounced ahd-asia) was desperate to leave the neighborhood school where she had nearly failed 10th grade. Sheila was a single mom with two children and a job working the overnight shift at a convenience store. She never thought she could afford Hope. But the school told her about...

School choice gave this educator a LiFT

SEMINOLE, Fla. – Kim Kuruzovich’s daughter Gina has moderate autism, speech apraxia and dyslexic tendencies. She began a suite of therapies at age 2, then, at age 4, saw a psychologist for an educational evaluation. The expert wasn’t encouraging. “He told us, ‘You can look forward to Gina putting pencils in a box,’ ” recalled Kuruzovich, who has more than 20 years of experience teaching students with disabilities. She and husband Mike drove home in stunned silence. It took a couple of months, but they snapped out of the haze and chose to ignore that doctor. It was the start of Kuruzovich...

Choosing the right school helped turn tragedy into triumph

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – In the damp, rising heat of a late-morning graduation ceremony in May, with historic Farragut Hall as a backdrop, a hush crept through the crowd of students, relatives, friends, and faculty as they anticipated the next name. Marquis Lambert The roar was pent-up and prolonged, louder than one family could possibly deliver. This was the sound of the entire Admiral Farragut Academy family cheering and tearing up for the senior who 10 months prior had been a celebrated football player one day and was fighting for his life in intensive care the next. As Marquis walked slowly across...