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 www.nationalmerit.org.

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.

Florida’s First Lady Celebrates Literacy in Manatee County


Florida’s First Lady Ann Scott made stops at three Manatee County Schools on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. She visited Willis Elementary, McNeal Elementary and Tara Elementary, as part of a statewide tour for Celebrate Literacy Week.



While at Willis Elementary in Lakewood Ranch, Mrs. Scott met Savannah Adams, a fifth-grade student who wrote a letter to Governor Scott last year as part of a social studies project. Adams was thrilled to escort Florida’s First Lady into the school’s media center, where she read to Keli Geogas’ and Karen Nikla’s fourth and fifth grade classes. Mrs. Scott also watched first-grade students working in a STEM Lab – and listened in during a music class, where students were learning to play the xylophone.



Students holding signs lined the walkway at McNeal Elementary School, welcoming Florida’s First Lady. She was also given a tour by students, as they made their way to the media center. Mrs. Scott read to the two third-grade classes of Amber Manfredi and Elizabeth Smith. Then, she made her way to a fifth-grade classroom.



“It was such a pleasure to have Mrs. Scott in our classroom today,” said teacher Olivia Mayer. “My students and I are so grateful that she chose our school to visit.” Mrs. Scott read a chapter from one of Mayer’s favorite books, “The Talented Clementine.”



Two Safety Patrol Captains, Jimmy Daley and Kayleigh Lollar, greeted Mrs. Scott at Tara Elementary. During each visit, Florida’s First Lady shared photos of the Governors’ Mansion in Tallahassee – as well as photos of her family and six grandchildren. Second-grade teacher, Tina Backhus, was excited to give flowers to Mrs. Scott and share with her that she too, has grandchildren – 11 to be exact.



The last visit was to Angie Willett’s classroom, where Mrs. Scott read to an enthusiastic group of first graders. After finishing “Dragons Love Tacos,” the children asked her to keep reading. She gladly obliged, finishing their visit with “The Rainbow Fish.”



The First Lady’s new book is called “Ally & Jordi’s Adventures Through Florida,” which was inspired by her daughters. It describes the people and historical places across the state, including Fort DeSoto and Nik Wallenda, a famous high wire performer who lives in our community. Mrs. Scott spoke in detail about her family – and read a passage from the book to every class that she visited today in Manatee County.



Each school received a gift from Mrs. Scott, including their own copy of her new book for their library. She told all of the students that during this last year of the Governor’s term in office, she will continue to focus on reading and literacy by visiting schools across the state.




Special guests who joined Florida’s First Lady at the schools include Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, Board Chairman Dr. Scott Hopes, Board Member Charlie Kennedy, Executive Directors of Elementary Education Annette Codelia and Mike Rio, along with many valued school administrators, staff members and students.


#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.

Church Women United Event Serves Migrant Community


On November 17, 2017, dozens of women from the community came together at Manatee United Methodist Church in Bradenton, Florida for a heartwarming event called the Migrant Tea Celebration.



Manatee Church Women United is a cross-denominational group that represents more than 40 churches. The women spend a year planning and making beautiful things by hand.



The Migrant Tea is an opportunity for the group to provide local migrant families with donations of hand-made goods such as blankets, quilts, baby clothes, and other items that families may need.



Speakers at the program included Elena Garcia, Director of Federal Programs of the School District of Manatee County; Michael Escorcia, Coordinator of Migrant Education; and Jose Moreno Hernandez, a former migrant student in Manatee County. Hernandez is the first from his family to attend college.


Elena Garcia
Michael Escorcia and Kelly Flynn
Jose Moreno Hernandez


Kindergarten migrant students from McNeal Elementary School earned cheers, and a few laughs, following their performance at the event.


Kindergarten migrant students from @mcnealelementaryschool perform at the annual Church Women United Migrant Tea

A post shared by School District of Manatee Co. (@manateeschools) on


Afterwards, members of Church Women United presented the children with handmade gifts. The students were proud of their new dolls.




Church Women United then enjoyed refreshments and each other’s company.



The women now start sewing and crocheting blankets and sweaters for next year’s event. Every single item that goes to families of migrant students is donated or made with love.



#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.





North River High School Groundbreaking


It was a beautiful day for a groundbreaking. Board Members for the School District of Manatee County and other distinguished guests attended a ceremonial “moving of the dirt” at the site of North River High School in Parrish.




The new high school will be located on 98 acres at Martha Road and Erie Road. It is projected to open to students in August of 2019.






Guests were treated to a chocolate shovel – and a chance to be part of the first groundbreaking for the School District since Braden River High School, which opened in 2005.



North River High School will be able to accommodate 2,000 students – with the ability to expand to 2,400. The total project budget is $90 million, which was made possible with help from Manatee County citizens’ approval of the half-cent sales tax renewal for District capital needs.



SchenkelShultz Architecture designed the two-story brick school. Gilbane Building Company will manage its construction.



North River High School’s Auditorium will be able to seat more than 800 people. The high school will offer academic programs such as Automotive, Health, Agriculture and Engineering.



The vehicle queue will be longer than one-mile to insure that parents and students are safely away from public roadways during drop-off and pick-up times.



A football and soccer stadium will seat 3,000 home fans and 1,000 visitors. There will also be a rubber running track, which will presumably be the site of future state competitions.



Today’s ceremony was streamed live on Facebook. Mike Barber, Director of Communications, served as emcee.


North River High School Groundbreaking

Posted by School District of Manatee County on Tuesday, November 7, 2017


School Board Chair Charlie Kennedy


Afterwards, School Board members and other District officials dug into the earth with shovels to ceremoniously begin construction.


(L-to-R) Deputy Superintendents Ron Ciranna and Cynthia Saunders, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, Board Members Dave “Watchdog” Miner, Gina Messenger, Charlie Kennedy, Scott Hopes, John Colon, Ken Dean (SchenkelSchultz) and Tim Hensey (Gilbane)






We will continue to update the community on the progress of North River High School. Stay tuned!

#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.





“Peace is very powerful…” at McNeal Elementary School



Peace is for everyone.

Peace is songs.

Peace is laughing.

Peace is loving.

-Poem read by a student on Peace Day


For the second year, every student at McNeal Elementary School in Lakewood Ranch gathered to celebrate PEACE. Some held hands, while others held handmade peace signs which they proudly made in class.



All of the Wildcats were wearing their school motto on a t-shirt, “Be Respectful. Be Responsible. Be WILD about learning.” Dozens of drawings lined the front of the school; colorful works of art by young children expressing what peace means to them. One read, “WE ARE ALL ONE.”



International Day of Peace is observed around the world on September 21st. This year’s theme is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” The administrators at McNeal Elementary School always promote peace and love.


(L-to-R) Assistant Principal Carol Ricks and Principal Cheryl McGrew at McNeal Elementary School


After a sing-a-long to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, select students read poems about peace. Alexis delivered a recipe: “In order to make Peace Pie you will need three cups of kindness, three-fourths cup inclusion, half a cup of empathy, half a cup of sympathy, and the last thing you will need is a dash of courage… to help your pie rise.”



A second peace pole was also unveiled during the celebration. It’s a work of art called “Kindness Matters”. Several teachers used it as a centerpiece for a class picture today.



Finally, students from Pre-K to 5th grades gathered on the P.E. fields, to stand on a carefully painted line. High above, a drone snapped photos of the peace symbol below. Kids and adults standing as one, shoulder-to-shoulder, proudly holding up their fingers in the universal sign of peace.



Way to go, Wildcats! Way to show the world how it’s done… Peace.

#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.


Business Partner Kicks Off Community Outreach with New Shoes for Homeless Students


Hundreds of homeless students in Manatee County will receive a brand new pair of shoes and socks thanks to the generosity of Regions Bank and it’s customers. Bank associates delivered several boxes of donations to the District’s School Support Center on Thursday, as part of a community outreach program called Share the Good.



“Share the Good is about finding meaningful ways we can give back to the communities where we live and work,” said Marty Lanahan, West Florida Area President for Regions Bank. “The difference these donations make for students is truly incredible, and our goal is to build on this outreach and help even more students.” The program is in its eighth year.


(L-to-R) Dennise Berger, Jo Johnson, Melissa Brady, Dr. Diana Greene and Lissette Fernandez with donations


Bank associates presented 376 new pairs of shoes and 102 new pairs of socks to Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene and Lissette Fernandez, a school social worker, on behalf of Project HEART. Customers and employees of six different Regions Bank locations in Manatee County participated in the donation drive.

Project HEART is the School District of Manatee County’s Title X Homeless Education Program, providing education-related support services for students who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. According to Fernandez, there were more than 1,900 students who qualified for Project HEART during the 2016-17 school year. That’s an increase of 400 students from the previous school year.

Regions Bank associates also provided financial education to students at Southeast High School; and donated finance-related books to school libraries, as part of the Share the Good campaign. Together with our business partners… #WeManatee.

#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.