Manatee County Sweeps TSA State Events


The 42nd Annual Technology Student Association (TSA) State Conference held this weekend in Orlando welcomed more than 2,000 middle and high school students, advisors, chaperones and guests from across Florida. The School District of Manatee County sent more than 400 students from 16 Manatee County schools.

The schools that competed include: Bayshore High, Braden River High, Lakewood Ranch High, Manatee High, Palmetto High, Parrish Community High, Southeast High, Braden River Middle, Buffalo Creek Middle, Dr. Mona Jain Middle, Haile Middle, Johnson Middle, Lee Middle, Nolan Middle, Rowlett Middle Academy and Sugg Middle.


There were 222 trophies available (first, second, and third-place) for a total of 74 competitive events. Upholding a long-standing reputation, this was the 15th straight year Manatee students captured more trophies and earned more Top Ten finishes than any other school district in Florida. Manatee County students brought home 98 event trophies (39 first-place event trophies, 31 second-place trophies, and 28 third-place trophies). Even more impressive, our students brought home 242 Top Ten student event finalist pins. These finalist pins are for all students who placed in the Top 10 in a competitive event.


This year’s Florida TSA Conference consisted of competitive events representing a wide range of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills from animatronics, and biotechnology to video game design, and webmaster.


Buffalo Creek Middle TSA earned third place overall at the middle school level


The Outstanding School Award is given to the schools in the Top Ten, based on a calculation of all event placements for the entire conference for all student competitors with a first-place win equating 10 points and a 10th place finish equating 1 point. Braden River High earned first-place for high schools and Buffalo Creek Middle earned third-place overall at the middle school level.



Other highlights include:

  • Manatee County swept the coveted CO2 Dragster at both the middle school level taking 1st (Buffalo Creek MS), 2nd (Dr. Mona Jain MS) and 3rd (Nolan MS) and the high school level 1st (Palmetto HS), 2nd and 3rd (Braden River HS).
  • Students from Southeast High School earned first and third places in an inaugural Drone event.


  • Middle school students took first place (Haile MS) and second place (Braden River MS) in the other inaugural event, Fluid Power.


Dr. Mona Jain Middle School TSA
Dr. Mona Jain Middle School TSA placed in 28 categories during their first TSA state event


  • Newcomers from Dr. Mona Jain Middle placed in 28 categories for their first TSA state event, earning first place in Challenging Technology Issues, Cybersecurity and Mechanical Engineering.
  • Manatee County swept high school level events in Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and also Future Technology Teacher taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd.                    
  • At the middle school level, our students swept the Chapter Team taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd, Flight taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd and Microcontroller Design taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd .
  • Kyle Wright, a student from Southeast High School, was elected to the office of Florida TSA Sergeant at Arms for 2020-2021.
Kyle Wright (left) was elected to the office of Florida TSA Sergeant at Arms for 2020-2021


  • No other school district in the state has had more schools receive the Outstanding School Awards than Manatee County.
  • No other school district in the state had more schools receive Top 10 finalist pins than Manatee County.
  • No other school district in the state had more schools receive event trophies than Manatee County.


The students started with their TSA projects in the fall, competed at Manatee County District events in December, and continued to work tirelessly during the weekends and after school in the months leading up to the State Conference. Students will be heading to the National Conference that will take place June 27-July 1 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.



“We congratulate our students for continuing to excel in these TSA events which will lead them to become successful leaders in STEM fields. We will continue to encourage these bright minds to improve their skills, knowledge and fluency in our ever-changing world,” said Kelli Kennedy, Assistant Director of Adult, Career and Technical Education.

“All students should have access to these quality learning environments – and we’re proud to support their successful TSA programs,” said Doug Wagner, Deputy Superintendent of Operations. “An amazing effort for the finest advisors, teachers and students in Florida and we look forward to cheering them on this summer at Nationals.”

A complete list of event results is posted on at


WeManatee celebrates the people in Manatee County who make a difference in public education – and those who benefit from it. Search #WeManatee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the great things happening in our public schools.

$100k grant to inspire learning in Manatee County


A generous grant from Manatee Community Foundation (MCF) will help student achievement reach new heights in Manatee County. An investment of $100,000 from MCF’s ‘Success Through Literacy Fund’ will provide funding to Soar in 4, an initiative that promotes student success and school readiness. The grant was awarded to the Manatee Education Foundation to support the District’s Soar in 4 Family Nights and summer programs for pre-kindergarten students.



A Soar in 4 Family Night is planned for Wednesday, December 4, 2019 from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Learning activities will be taking place at Manatee Central Library, 1301 1st Avenue West; The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, 210 10th Street West; and ArtCenter Manatee, 209 9th Street West – all located in Downtown Bradenton. A special gift will be given to the first 50 children to visit ArtCenter Manatee (McDonald’s gift cards) and Manatee Central Library (drawstring backpacks). All families are invited to play, explore and participate in activities designed to support classroom learning.



There will be a special holiday event at The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature on Saturday, December 21st from 10 a.m. until Noon with a visit from Santa and Clifford the Big Red Dog. All Soar in 4 events are free and snacks are provided. They are meant to improve literacy skills and inspire students to excel at STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.



According to the Manatee Community Foundation, donors Steve and Carolyn Roskamp created the ‘Success Through Literacy Fund’ to encourage nonprofit organizations to collaborate and support public education in an effort to boost grade-level reading scores. Last year, the Roskamp’s were an integral part of Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading efforts and were recognized by the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading as “Champions” for their remarkable work in our community.



Nonprofit partners of Soar in 4 include United Way Suncoast, The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, ArtCenter Manatee, Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, Forty Carrots Family Center, WEDU PBS, Manatee County Libraries, Meals on Wheels PLUS, METV and others.

To learn more about Soar in 4 please visit or Soar in 4 Manatee on Facebook.

Palm View School is leading the nation in Tech education


Superintendent Cynthia Saunders, along with a team of educators from Palm View School in Palmetto, recently attended what’s billed as “Arizona’s Signature Tech Event”. They were invited by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to be personally inducted as a Woz Pathway School during the DesTechAZ conference from October 14-17, 2019 in Phoenix.



Palm View School, which currently offers grades K-6, was the first Woz Pathway school in the nation. The school offers personalized learning programs to educate and train students for their successful future. Pathway Schools are an elite group of schools that exemplify teaching and learning designed to help students explore their future in the high-demand tech economy.



Superintendent Saunders, Principal Kaththea Johnson and four Palm View teachers participated in interactive sessions during the conference which featured animation, coding, cybersecurity, drone piloting and mobile development.



“As Florida continues its efforts to adapt education to the growing needs of our workforce, Manatee County is already leading the way,” said Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. “We are so grateful to Steve Wozniak and Woz ED for allowing us to experience the cutting-edge technology that’s available to our students in order to make them career ready.”



Attendees from Manatee County also listened to discussions about technology and education led by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, NASA Chief Scientist James Green and founder Paul Teutul Sr. of Orange County Choppers.

WeManatee celebrates the people in Manatee County who make a difference in public education – and those who benefit from it. Search #WeManatee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the great things happening in our public schools.


Manatee County educator receives honors during college football game


It’s hard to miss Bernadette Pletcher’s bright smile in the end zone at Doak Cambell stadium. The longtime educator was posing for a photo in front of Seminoles’ mascots Chief Osceola, Renegade and more than 60,000 football fans in Tallahassee on Saturday.


Mrs. Pletcher, the Principal of Bayshore Elementary School, was invited to stand alongside Florida State University President John Thrasher to be honored as one of the state’s top educators. A special announcement was made during the halftime program at the FSU vs. NC State game.


Mrs. Pletcher is Florida’s 2019 Assistant Principal of the Year. She was serving students at Tillman Elementary School in Palmetto when the award was announced last year.

Bernadette Pletcher, Florida’s Assistant Principal of the Year (center); Courtesy: FSU College of Education


Saturday’s recognition was part of Florida State University College of Education’s launch of ElevatED – an initiative designed to bring attention to the teaching profession and to recognize those who work in schools every day. Mrs. Pletcher has worked for the School District of Manatee County for ten years.


Courtesy: FSU College of Education


Mrs. Pletcher joined Florida’s Teacher of the Year, Dr. Dakeyan Cha Dre Graham of Hillsborough County and others during an FSU Scholarship Awards breakfast and during halftime of the college football game.

Read more about the honor in the Tallahassee Democrat.



WeManatee celebrates the people in Manatee County who make a difference in public education – and those who benefit from it. Search #WeManatee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the great things happening in our public schools.


Health students learn life-saving techniques at King Middle School


More than 150 students at King Middle School recently became certified to treat a severely bleeding victim. The students are members of the school’s health and HOSA classes. HOSA is a student organization for Future Health Professionals.



“Stop the Bleed” training was sponsored by the Manatee County School District’s S.T.A.N.D. program, which stands for “Students Against Negative Decisions.” It’s a program to reduce high-risk behaviors among our youth in an attempt to promote their success.



Health professionals from Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, along with volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps, provided the training on September 18, 2019. Students learned how to call for help and apply a tourniquet for a severely injured victim.



Manatee High School’s Key Club, led by teacher Charlie Mills, initially led the training program. They will return to King Middle School in November to certify the entire staff.



“Thank you to the S.T.A.N.D. program for providing this opportunity for hands-on experience in our classroom that can save lives and protect safety,” said Jon Syre, Health and PE teacher at King Middle School.



WeManatee celebrates the people in Manatee County who make a difference in public education – and those who benefit from it. Search #WeManatee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the great things happening in our public schools.

A powerful lesson in giving: Lee Middle School students provide relief for Bahamas


The 8th grade hallway at Lee Middle School is clear again, for now. Large boxes from The Home Depot have lined the walls outside of the school’s business classroom for the last few weeks. Written on the boxes in black marker are words like: kids clothes, toilet paper, diapers, bleach, canned fruit and veggies. For Richard Daenell and his students, this scenario is nothing new.



Mr. Daenell and his students, mostly members of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), frequently jump into action following natural disasters. They have taken much-needed items to areas ravaged by storms including Key West and Florida’s Panhandle. This time, the students are collecting supplies for people impacted by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Students have been busy, during and after-school, sorting and packing the donations.



After Mr. Daenell sent out a call-to-action, items came pouring in from local businesses, students and staff, community members and even other schools, like Miller Elementary. Last Friday, approximately 10,000 pounds of donations were loaded into Lee Middle School’s travel trailer and taken to a warehouse, set up as a hurricane relief staging area in Bradenton.



The effort is being spearheaded by Yellowfin Yachts and Haulin Grass Fishing Team. Mr. Daenell and his students delivered the items on Saturday morning, where they would be loaded onto a truck headed for South Florida. From there, the items will be flown to the Bahamas. Shallow water barges carrying the supplies could make it to the hardest hit islands this week, according to Daenell.



“This is only the beginning,” said Richard Daenell. “We will continue to collect donations as long as we have a direct connection to the people who need it most in the Bahamas.” They can be dropped off at Lee Middle School, located at 4000 53rd Avenue West in Bradenton, during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Monetary donations will be used to purchase items, such as generators.



WeManatee stands for “We are the School District of Manatee County” and celebrates people in our community who make a difference in public education – and those who benefit from it.

High school seniors earn honor as National Merit Semifinalists


Five Manatee District seniors have been named Semifinalists in the prestigious 65th Annual National Merit Scholarship Program.

These academically talented high school students have the opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million that will be offered next Spring.

The 2020 National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists from School District of Manatee County’s traditional public schools include:

 Jacob Whiddon of Braden River High School

 Madigan Wilford of Braden River High School

 Claire Davidson of Lakewood Ranch High School

 Olivia Hansen of Manatee High School    

 Hailey Maurer of Southeast High School    

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, Semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition.

More than 1.5 million juniors, in more than 21,000 high schools, entered the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants.

The Semifinalists, representing less than one-percent of U.S. high school seniors, include the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the Spring of 2020: 2,500 National Merit $2,500 Scholarships; 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards; and 4,100 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards.

Winners will be announced beginning in April 2020 through July 2020. These scholarship recipients will join approx. 345,000 other students who have earned the Merit Scholar title.

For more information, visit

Groundbreaking | Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School


(Parrish, FL – July 31, 2018) Despite damp conditions, the groundbreaking ceremony for Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School in Parrish felt sunny and bright. Family and friends of the longtime educator gathered together wearing pink and green on the 20-acre site, set to open in August 2019 at Moccasin Wallow Road and 115th Avenue East.


Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School is scheduled to open August 2019


Construction has already begun on the two-story brick building that will be built for approximately 820 students. NDC Construction Company is building the school – and Hepner Architects, Inc. designed the structure. The $28 million project is being built using bond proceeds purchased with the help of Manatee County citizens’ approval of a half-cent sales tax for district capital needs.


The grandson of Barbara A. Harvey joined in the festivities with his own toy shovel


Joining Mrs. Harvey at the groundbreaking were several members of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha; Rev. Terry Cary, Sr. of Harvest Field Community Church in Parrish; Rev. Fletcher Lawson, Sr. of St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Parrish; Superintendent Cynthia Saunders; School Board Members: Dr. Scott Hopes – Chair, Gina Messenger – Vice-Chair, John Colon, Charlie Kennedy and Dave “Watchdog” Miner. Community members, school district officials and media also attended.


The groundbreaking was broadcast live on the school district’s Facebook page.



Born in Sanford, Florida, Mrs. Harvey is a former educator, administrator and School Board Member for the School District of Manatee County. Mrs. Harvey began her career in education in Manatee County as a teacher at Palmetto’s former Memorial Elementary School in 1961. She also taught at Palma Sola Elementary, served as Assistant Principal at Palmetto Elementary and served as Principal at Miller Elementary School.


School Board Member Barbara Harvey at the groundbreaking for Rogers Garden Elementary


Mrs. Harvey retired as Director of Elementary Education in 1995 but her work in education didn’t end there. She served as a School Board Member for 16 years. Mrs. Harvey later founded Educational Consortium Consultants Inc. in Palmetto, a center offering students’ academic and enrichment classes after-school.


Aerial photo of Harvey Elementary construction site, July 2018


Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School is the first new elementary school in Manatee County since G.D. Rogers Garden (-Bullock) Elementary School opened in 2009. Two other schools are under construction in Manatee County including Jain Middle School in Lakewood Ranch and North River High School in Parrish.

#WeManatee stands for We are the School District of Manatee County. No matter what challenges we face, we strengthen each other when we stand together.




Manatee County Students Compete in National STAR Event

More than 7,500 Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) members, advisers, alumni, and guests from across the country gathered in Atlanta for the 2018 National Leadership Conference from June 28-July 2, 2018. The meeting provided Manatee County members with the opportunity to attend leadership and program training, hear national speakers, meet the National Executive Council, explore colleges and careers, and be Inspired with FCCLA. Advisors: Jill Bergeron from Braden River Middle, Elaine Bowling from Lakewood Ranch High and Farrol Thomas from Manatee High School were in attendance with their students. Ten students from Braden River Middle, 14 from Lakewood Ranch High and two from Manatee High School were among the members who took part in STAR Event competitions at the conference.

FCCLA’s STAR Events (Students Taking Action with Recognition) are competitive events in which members are recognized for proficiency and achievement in chapter and individual projects, leadership skills and career preparation. Youth and adults work together to manage the events and serve as evaluators of the participants. Throughout the year, FCCLA members tackle issues such as teen violence prevention, traffic safety, family issues, career exploration and much more. FCCLA programs and competitions support students’ development of knowledge and skills by enhancing the classroom experience and career pathway initiatives, while participating in work-based learning and developing college and career-ready skills.

FCCLA offers over 30 STAR Events. These events, which include Early Childhood Education, Entrepreneurship and Sports Nutrition, among others, represent college and career readiness skills taught in Family and Consumer Sciences classrooms. Members compete at the District, State and National level. This year, there were more than 4,200 STAR Event participants who competed in Atlanta.

Manatee County Results

Braden River Middle School:

Gold medal: Elayna Andrews and Taylore Keesler for the event, Interpersonal Communications
Gold medal: Sheri Benson and Mallory Tyler for the event, Chapter in Review Portfolio
Gold medal: LibbyAnn Ling and Devin Vancil for the event, Advocacy
Gold medal: Lily Vazquez for the event, Career Investigation
Bronze medal: Mason Kaufman and Josh Schwab for the event, Illustrated Talk
Bronze medal: Alexandria Williams for the event, Chapter Service Project Portfolio

Lakewood Ranch High School:

Gold Medal: Ella DeRosa and Samantha DeRosa for the event, Food Innovations
Gold Medal: Kelly Kisida and Audrey Mahoney for the event, Chapter Service Project Portfolio
Silver Medal: Ta’nya Bell, Gyvalia Henry and Arianna Kelly for the event, Chapter in Review Display
Silver Medal: Morgan Kirchman for the event, Leadership
Silver Medal: Giana Dreger and Cori Lunsford for the event, Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation
Bronze Medal: Christopher Holmes for the event Job Interview

Manatee High School:

Gold Medal: Caroline Chasteen and Noah Quillan for the event, Food Innovations

Thank you to Jill Bergeron, Teacher & FCCLA Advisor at Braden River Middle School for submitting this article.

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has more than 160,000 members and more than 5,300 chapters from 49 state associations, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

FCCLA: The Ultimate Leadership Experience is unique among youth organizations because its programs are planned and run by members, and it’s the only career and technical in-school student organization with a central focus on careers that support families. Participation in national FCCLA programs and chapter activities helps members become strong leaders in their families, careers, and communities.

#WeManatee stands for We are the School District of Manatee County. No matter what challenges we face, we strengthen each other when we stand together.

Groundbreaking | Dr. Mona Jain Middle School


Friday the 13th is a lucky day for Dr. Mona Jain.

On the same day she was hired by the school district more than 50 years ago, she attended the groundbreaking of a brand new school which will bear her name.



Dr. Mona Jain Middle School is located on a 27-acre site adjacent to Gullett Elementary School, near 44th Avenue East and White Eagle Blvd. in Lakewood Ranch.

Born in India, Dr. Jain is both a medical doctor and an educator. She came to America in 1964 and taught at Bayshore Middle School and Bayshore High School in Manatee County.


(L-to-R) Dr. Anila Jain and her mother, Dr. Mona Jain


“She was a mentor to students, teachers and staff members,” said Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, “She is a strong advocate for inspiring young women to be interested in science and math.”

Florida Governor Lawton Chiles appointed her to serve on the Florida Commission on the Status of Women and after leaving education, she served as the Director of Family Health Services for Manatee County’s Head Start program.

Dr. Jain is a Fulbright scholar and a winner of the University of South Florida’s Distinguished Alumna Award.



“This school is not dedicated to one person,” said Dr. Mona Jain during the ceremony, “I am dedicating to everybody who believes in education and especially to the educators of the past, present and future.”

Other guest speakers spoke on behalf of Dr. Mona Jain, including School Board Chairman, Dr. Scott Hopes. “When the students of this soon-to-be built middle school go through orientation and learn the story of Dr. Mona Jain,” Hopes said. “They will know that they too can achieve great things through knowledge attainment and the American dream can be achieved through the doors of Dr. Mona Jain Middle School.”


(L-to-R) Daryl Dillow, Nate Carr, Cynthia Saunders, Dr. Scott Hopes, Dr. Mona Jain, Dr. Diana Greene, John Colon, Ron Ciranna, Stephen Johnson, Dave “Watchdog” Miner


One of the project’s architects also spoke to how it will benefit the community. “Not only is this school going to be a safe and secure environment for students, parents and the community at-large,” said Stephen Johnson of Harvard Jolly Architecture. “It will also be a gleaming, 21st-century modern, technology-rich environment for all of these students over the years to enjoy.”

Dr. Jain Middle School is being built to house approximately 1,100 students and is expected to open in August 2019.

A woman from India is serving as the Project Manager for the new school.


Willis Smith Construction team along with Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene (center)


“We’re particularly honored to be building this school in Dr. Jain’s name,” said Nate Carr, Vice President of Willis Smith Construction. “What resonates most with us is her attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects and careers and how she’s helped young ladies reach higher in their careers and lives.”

Dr. Mona Jain Middle School will alleviate overcrowding at other east county middle schools such as Haile, Nolan, Buffalo Creek and Braden River – and will be the first new middle school opened by the district since 2007.

The total projected budget for Dr. Mona Jain Middle is $45 million.



#WeManatee stands for We are the School District of Manatee County. No matter what challenges we face, we strengthen each other when we stand together.