Why Northern St. Johns Schools consistently Lead in School Performance and All Around in the State of Florida
Friends of ours recently moved to the area and one of the driving factors in choosing St. Johns was the opportunities afforded through our amazing public schools. Northern St. Johns Schools are part of the award-winning St. Johns County Public School District, named by Niche.com and 247Wallst.com as the #1 School District in the state. Many of the most highly regarded schools are located in Northern St. Johns.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of sending my children to SJCPS and have experienced many schools first hand, since one of my children has special needs. Our kids started out at Timberlin Creek and later went to Switzerland Point Middle, then on to Bartram Trail High School. Cunningham Elementary, Switzerland Point Middle & Creekside High School were amazing for high quality special needs teachers and programs.
What sets St. Johns apart is often the teachers at these schools who go above and beyond in their dedication to the students. But the schools are stellar on every level including academic offerings, championship athletics, and a social opportunities through clubs and other extracurricular activities.
According to Florida Department of Education school grades for 2018 (*from a press release from SJCPS): “The elementary schools receiving an “A” are Cunningham Creek Elementary, Durbin Creek Elementary, W.D. Hartley Elementary, Hickory Creek Elementary, R.B. Hunt Elementary, Julington Creek Elementary, Ketterlinus Elementary, Mill Creek Elementary, Ocean Palms Elementary, Palencia Elementary, Picolata Crossing Elementary, PVPV/Rawlings Elementary, Timberlin Creek Elementary and Wards Creek Elementary.
The middle schools with an “A” are Fruit Cove Middle, Alice B. Landrum Middle, Pacetti Bay Middle and Switzerland Point Middle. Liberty Pines, Patriot Oaks and Valley Ridge academies received an “A” as did Bartram Trail, Creekside, Allen D. Nease and Ponte Vedra high schools. St. Johns Virtual School also received an “A”.”
For our back to school issue we decided to focus on High Schools in northern St. Johns and really examine statistically why they are so amazing.
Ponte Vedra has 1629 students and is ranked #24 in the state.
It was chosen as a national gold medal award winner by US News and World Report.
Academies: Biotech & Medical Research; International Business, IT
Athletics: Football 96th in state & 1233 Nationally; Lacrosse 5th in state & 67th nationally; Baseball 145th in state and 2504th nationally; Girls Softball: 190th in state and 3821th Nationally; Girls Soccer: 36th in state and 166th nationally.
Creekside has 2007 students and is ranked #27 in the state.
It was chosen as a national gold medal award winner by US News and World Report.
Academies: Engineering & Environmental; Emerging Technologies (Digital Design or Cyber Security)
Athletics: Football 256th in state and 4114th nationally; Lacrosse: 26th State and 497th nationally; Baseball 66th in state and 1147th nationally; Girls Softball: 190th state and 3821th nationally; Girls Soccer 36th state and 166 nationally.
Bartram Trail has 2107 students and is ranked #45th in the State
It was chosen as a national silver medal award winner by US News and World Report.
Academies: Vystar; Design (Interior, Fashion & Architecture); AIR FORCE JROTC
Athletics: Football 14th in State and 118th nationally; Lacrosse 35 in state and 632 nationally; Baseball 184th in state and 3129 nationally; Girls Softball 31st in state and 455 nationally; Girls Soccer: 9th in state and 33rd nationally.
Nease has 2059 students is ranked #81 in the state.
It was chosen as a national silver medal award winner by US News and World Report.
Academies: International Baccalaureate; Communications; Engineering; Hospitality & Tourism; NAVY JROTC
Athletics: Football: 138th in state and 1884 nationally; Lacrosse: 11th in state and 266 nationally; Baseball: 168 in state and 2772 nationally; Girls Softball: 131st in state and 2263 nationally; Girls Soccer 12th in state and 46th nationally.
2018 Best Public High Schools in America; Niche
Best High Schools in Florida /Website US News and World Report
Florida Department of Education
by Jennifer Yarbrough
Walt Disney once said, “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children,” and Nelson Mandela asserted that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Looking around at the world right now, I worry sometimes about my own children. But then I look in their eyes when they discover new things and marvel at how much love they have for each other and others and I am given hope. To this end, I want them to have every opportunity in the world to be the best they can be, to realize their potential, and to affect their little piece of the planet. Education is the key to unlocking all of these things, so as we enter another school year, how can we help our children have a successful school year so they become all they are meant to be? I put that question to local parents and teachers. Here are their tips.
My first stop was Mrs. Beverly Slough our District 1 School Board Representative and longtime St. Johns resident, here’s what she had to say:
"We are looking forward to another successful school year in St. Johns County schools. Prepared and engaged students, along with excellent teaching are the keys to our success. I would encourage students and their parents to set goals for the new school year which include working hard to achieve to their highest potential. The school year can be stressful, but a regular schedule, adequate rest, and the realization that school is the child's job, just as Dad and Mom have jobs, help children to stay focused in the classroom. I would encourage parents to help their children select one or two extracurricular activities to keep them balanced and engaged. I would also urge parents not to overschedule their children. Many times, a child has activities four or five days a week, leaving no time to just be a kid. Balance is just as important in a child's life as it is in an adult's. Give your child the gift of time to imagine, explore, and just be a kid!"
Before Going Back to School
A little planning goes a long way in ensuring that your child’s school year starts off and continues well. Here are ways to get the school year off right!
“We read back to school books like the "Night Before Kindergarten" or "Night Before First Grade" by Natasha Wing and talk about our excitement and fear. We love the "Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn, it is such a sweet one to help with separation anxiety. When Sydney was in Kindergarten every morning we had a ritual where I would kiss her hands like in the book.” Jenn H.
“I talk up school all summer for my new kindergartener. I also have a countdown poster in the house to countdown the days until school starts, this keeps them engaged in reading and gets them excited about school.” Bethany L.
“We make sure to find out our class/teachers ahead of time (we look up their pictures in the yearbook if she doesn't know who they are), we go to orientation, and tour the school.” Jenn H.
“A few days before school starts we set goals for the upcoming school year. Goals (academic and social) might include being able to make new friends, do an after school activity, read higher level books, add bigger numbers (use specifics though like read 5th grade books, add numbers in the hundreds).” Jenn H.
Get into a Routine!
“A few days (or sometimes up to a week) before school starts we adjust our schedules, we go to bed earlier, cut down on nightly tv/device time, read back to school books before bed, and set out our clothes.” Jenn H.
“I engage my kids in the school supply shopping which gets them excited! We also go clothes shopping together and they help me pick out their new clothes.” Bethany L.
During the School Year
As the year continues on, having consistent routines at home sets the stage for success and makes children eager to learn at school!
Encourage them to do these in class!
“Ask questions and participate in class discussions.” Mrs. Zentz
Approach everything with a “Can Do!” attitude! Mrs. Zentz
“Sign up for all means of communication with your school and teachers.” Mrs. Zentz
“It is important for student-teacher-parent to work together as a team to guide the child on a positive academic and social journey through their education. It is very important to be sure to guide your child at home with reading and to monitor their progress hands on. I believe that ‘First we love them, then we teach them.’” Mrs. Neel
Encourage good study habits!
“Set up a homework/practice area and develop a daily routine.” Mrs. Zentz
“Help your students be organized with materials and time management. Have a set and separate place for homework time- NOT their bedrooms. Unplug for a time- there's something to be said for pencil/pen to paper!” Mrs. Carney
“This year I'm setting up a study center. Kids enjoy this project because they can personalize it and you can customize one yourself inexpensively.” Laurel M.
“We talk about our day. We have a nightly ritual where we have 4 questions..."What was your favorite part of the day?", "What was something that made you sad?", "What is something new that you learned?" (doesn't have to be academic), and "What is a goal you have?" (can be anything...Sydney loves to say her goal is going to Paris one day). Even if it's only one or two questions it opens the lines of communication as they get older they'll be more willing to talk to you and express their joys and frustrations.” Jenn H.
“Stay organized! Get everything ready the night before.” Mrs. Zentz
“Keep a family calendar on display so no one forgets important events.” Mrs. Zentz
“Preplan menus for school lunches and make some weeknight meals that you can freeze ahead!” Laurel M.
Sleep ‘technology free’ every night and stick to a regular bedtime. Mrs. Zentz
Outside of School
Allowing your children time outside of school and extracurricular activities to simply relax and have self-guided fun is important to their overall well-being and growth.
“Make sure to keep downtime and fun in the mix. Unscheduled outdoor time is so important for their development!” Carrie P.
Local mom Laurel wrapped it up by saying, “Most importantly, save some time to relish these last few weeks before summer is gone and school begins. Our babies are growing up! Have fun!” Enjoy this time, get prepared, and start the year off right with these tips!
by Shainna Rosenbaum,
8th Grader at Switzerland Point Middle School
I have always loved the ocean so when I heard about our school’s Marine Science Camp, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did.
It was amazing! Every day was a new adventure exploring salt marshes and wave energy, surfing, canoeing, kayaking, finding plankton in the water, fishing, paddle boarding. That and all of the grades go on a trip to a spring somewhere in northern Florida.
Upcoming 6th, 7th, and 8th graders can do the camp. There are 3 sessions for the camp spread out over the summer. The camp offers experiences in a lab or on the field in a day, sometimes both. During the camp you have 2 day rotations with different teachers.
A Typical Day at Marine Science Camp
Waking up bright and early! (Not very fun 6:00 am to be exact) Then you pack your bag for the day if you haven't already. Some things that you would have to put in your bag for the day would be an extra pair of clothes because you will almost always get wet. A big lunch because you will be hungry! SUNSCREEN you will get burned if you don’t use it, also a towel. The last important thing would be paper or a journal because when you get back from what you did that day they have you write a journal entry.
There were many highlights to the camp but my personal favorite was going to Blue Springs State Park located near Deland, Florida. For me the springs visit was on the last day of the camp. At the park you can go tubing, snorkeling or just plain swimming. There are many fish and also manatee. We used snorkels to look under the water and we were able to see the manatee and swim with them. Don’t be scared but the same is true with alligators (they don’t really come in the swim zone though).
Another thing I did that was really cool was go fishing at the Pellicer Creek Estuary with seine nets. We canoed from Favor Dykes Park to Princess Place where we saw marshes, mud flats and oyster beds up close. My friend and I caught a baby puffer fish and a lot of other cool stuff.
Wind surfing was pretty cool but not easy to get up in the air. We were at Anastasia State Park, at an estuary behind the barrier islands. I also learned how to use a Hobie Cat, or a catamaran which is a small sail boat.
If you are a middle schooler, you should definitely try Marine Science Camp – There is nothing quite like the experience!
by Debbie Gaylord
This past April my Step Dad Bob was on Matanzas Inlet beach fishing when he spotted a strange lump on the beach. After a few hours passed and it had not moved he decided to investigate and found a large turtle who seemed to be in trouble. He made the call to animal rescue and was connected with Catherine Eastman, "Cat" , the Sea Turtle Program Coordinator and Director of the Sea Turtle Hospital at University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory. As luck would have it, the Sea Turtle Hospital was only a few miles down the beach across from Marineland. Catherine was able to instruct him on what to do while waiting for animal rescue to arrive. Thanks to Bob, the sea turtle, a loggerhead later named Mongo Jerry (All the turtles at the hospital get a name) was saved and became a temporary patient at the hospital. After they removed the barnacles from his shell and gave him electrolytes he perked up and they transferred him to their Jekyll Island facility where there was more space since the turtle hospital here was full.
As a thank you, Catherine invited Bob and his guests (myself, my Mom, and my 2 daughters) to visit the hospital and learn about sea turtles. Inside the hospital there were about 12 turtles receiving treatment. It was amazing to see these majestic creatures up close and learn about them from an expert. We met Banana who was hit by propeller and was found in Melbourne, and Prince who was the tiniest of turtles and had little arm bandages. There were many others relaxing in pools, bandaged and healing so they too could hopefully return to the sea.
The Sea Turtle Hospital here in St. Johns is new, having opened its doors in November 2015 with the capacity to rehab about 12-15 turtles at one time. The goals is conservation of sea turtles through rehabilitation, research, and education, according to Cat, the hospital’s Program Director.
Injured and sick endangered sea turtles come ashore in Florida’s waters throughout the year for a variety of reasons, including boat strike, cold-stunning, swallowed fish bait and hook, exhaustion from interaction with commercial fishing gear and Fibropapilloma (FP) virus, one of the most infectious diseases among sea turtles. The disease is a virus that causes tumors to grow on the soft tissue of a turtle’s body. If not removed they can do damage and may even cause death. Many of the turtles found in northeast Florida must be sent to facilities in Georgia or central Florida and none of them are able to accept turtles with FP virus. Until now, the Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Lab is able to treat FP, providing valuable research discoveries for finding a cure and indirectly towards conservation of our ecosystem. According to Catherine, if we can understand what causes turtle tumors there are far reaching implications for human health as well.
The challenge is that sea turtles are difficult animals to learn about and even scientist who have studied them for years are still searching for details. Although, they live to be 80 to 100 years old, they are wild animals, preferring a solitary life and remain primarily submerged under water throughout their lives. Females come on land to lay eggs, returning to the exact same beach where they were born each time. Of the seven species of sea turtle, green, loggerhead, leatherback, kemps ridley, olive ridley, hawksbill and flatback, all are endangered, which is why conservationists are doing everything they can to help them survive. The loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles nest on the beaches of Northeast Florida.
The hospital is amazing to see in action. Cat and her team told us about innovative contraptions they create as they need them. Pool noodles fitted together serve as cushions while turtles are on the operating table, and life jackets connected help to keep a giant turtle's head above water in the pool while they are healing.
As I write, Cisco Kid, a green sea turtle who was found stranded on Hammock Beach in Palm Coast in January was released back into the ocean yesterday! Watching him flap his fins like crazy as he got close to the sea was a sure sign he was ready to go home! When Cisco Kid arrived at the University of Florida’s Sea Turtle Hospital at Whitney Laboratory, he was anemic and had turtle tumors on his shell. He was the first patient at the new sea turtle hospital to receive laser surgery for these tumors and to be released.
If you are inspired by Cisco Kid or Mungo Jerry and would like to learn more about the Sea Turtle Hospital and how you can help please visit http://www.whitney.ufl.edu/education-conservation/sea-turtle-hospital or call Jessica Long, Director of Development at (904) 461-4018. You may also join Friends of the Sea Turtle Hospital, or purchase a Sea Turtle License plate!
What you can do to help
St. Johns County Dog Parks
1332 Veterans Parkway
Trails for Tails
Off of Crosswater Parkway in the Community Park in Nocatee
Paws Dog Park in Davis Park
210 Davis Road
Paws Dog Park in the Treaty Park Complex
1595 Wildwood Drive
Joe Pomar Park– “The Kids Care Canine Corral”
1600 Masters Drive
Ron Parker Park
607 Old Beach Road
Deleon Shores Park–
9 Dolphin Blvd. East
The first option is offered through Tallahassee Community College (TCC). The programs offered by TCC are called TCC2FSU, TCC2FAMU, and TCC2UWF. Each respective program guarantees admission to Florida State University, Florida A & M University or University of West Florida after obtaining an AA from TCC through the Golden Guarantee Program. The exciting part is that TCC is located right next to FSU and close to FAMU and there are great housing options that allow TCC students to gain a full college experience! The housing complex is called Southgate Campus Center. It is located on FSU’s campus right next to sorority row and houses FSU and TCC students. It’s privately owned, but set up just like a regular dorm! It has a full dining hall and lots of social activities for students including monthly social gatherings and tailgating for FSU’s football games! Southgate does accept financial aid as a form of payment as well! You could save lots of money by attending a community college but still get the FSU college experience by staying at Southgate!
North Florida not the place for you? Fly further south and check out a community college that offers on-campus housing - Florida has three!
The first is Florida SouthWestern State College located in Ft. Myers, FL. FSWC offers on-campus housing with a dining hall, fitness center, Rec room with pool tables, basketball and volleyball courts, BBQ grills, etc., giving students a full college experience. Students can easily transfer to Florida Gulf Coast University (also located in Ft. Myers), or with an AA, all students are guaranteed admission to one of the 11 Florida state universities. However, it may not be the one of choice unless you go with a guaranteed program.
The second community college that offers on-campus housing is Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, FL. HCC offers students apartment style housing in their Hawks Landing Complex. The apartments come fully furnished and include internet and cable, washer & dryer, fitness center, computer lab, game room, resort style pool, and 24 hour video surveillance for safety!
The third community college that offers on-campus housing is Florida Keys Community College – that’s right – Florida Keys! The dorm, Lagoon Landing, features suite-style dorms, has many great amenities, and is situated so that every room has beautiful views of the water. If you are interested in Marine Science, this could be a perfect fit!
With so many options available to students now, it almost seems silly to pay full price for 4 years of university tuition! For more information about these schools, or others please give me a call! 904-230-2855.
ANCHORING YOUR FUTURE,
LIVE MUSIC, FOOD, CRAFTS AND
The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Market Street within the Palencia community located on U.S. 1 North at the intersection of International Golf Parkway. The main stage of the festival is at 605 Palencia Club Drive in St. Augustine, with adjacent streets lined with vendor booths offering arts and crafts, jewelry and food. Entertainment will include live music by Take Cover! and local dancers, gymnasts, craft and food vendors.
For the kids, there will be bouncy houses, rock walls, bungee jumping, face painting, balloon artist, and plenty to see around Palencia’s bustling Village Center, the retail and activity hub of the community, just 20 minutes south of Jacksonville and five minutes north of historic St. Augustine.
Proceeds from vendors’ fees will benefit The StarLight Project, a not-for-profit organization partnered with the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville that creates custom bedrooms for children in Jacksonville and St. Augustine with special needs. The StarLight Project was founded in 2011 by Craig, Cherie, Eden and Elle Sussman. They are committed to enhancing the lives of children with all types of special needs; Down Syndrome, Autism and Cerebral Palsy. Please visit their website at: www.thestarlightproject.com for more information on this deserving charity.
Located 10 miles north of St. Augustine in central St. Johns County, Palencia is a 1,450-acre master-planned community featuring attractive homes, family-friendly amenities and a town center set along the natural landscape of Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway. The community offers a variety of home styles, retail and office offerings and more than 33 acres of parks and open areas. A 40-acre Village Center contains an eclectic mix of shops and offices, as well as the Palencia Golf Clubhouse, swim facilities, tennis and fitness centers. An Arthur Hills-designed championship golf course is woven through Palencia’s coastal oaks with spectacular views of the Tolomato River.
Palencia has been developed by Hines, a privately owned real estate firm involved in real estate investment, development and property management worldwide. More information about Palencia is available at www.VivaPalencia.com or by calling (904) 810-0500.
9B / 2209 Extension
If you’ve driven along the areas of St. Johns Parkway (2209) and Race Track Road over the last couple months, you’ve seen many trees being cleared over a very long swath of land. What you’re seeing is the new 2209 extension that will run from 210 through the Durbin Creek National property (see map) and connect to I-95, 9B, and 295. It’s part of the same roadway construction you see from I-95 just south of Old St. Augustine Road. Once Silverleaf begins development, you’ll see 2209 continue south of 210 crossing through the new Outer Beltway (which creates another connection to I-95) and connecting to 16 at 16A. As the major north/south corridor for our part of the county, 2209 will provide relief to many of the bottlenecks we’ve become so used to hating.
St. Johns’ Town Center…and not the one you’re thinking
If you remember the article I wrote last year, you’ll remember me mentioning these new roadways on the horizon and how 2209 will tie into the Durbin Creek National property, which will be “our ‘St. Johns’ town center.” Durbin Lakes, the name of this exciting new development, is expected to break ground on Phase 1 in early 2017 and will eventually bring a total of 2.4 million square feet of retail, 2.8 million square feet of office, 350 hotel rooms, and nearly 1,000 multifamily homes. Durbin Lakes will provide wonderful new opportunities for us to shop, dine, work, and even live right here in our own backyard. It will also provide a nice boost in property tax revenues and hopefully help St. Johns County gain some much needed employment centers.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that “real estate” was a bad word. As we all know, location will always be the most important variable influencing the value of real estate. Being in the best location is always the safest place to weather the economic cycles affecting real estate. I don’t know about you, but there’s not a better place to live in my opinion than St. Johns County. As one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, I’m not the only one to share this opinion and it shows. The supply of homes for sale in our market is ridiculously low, even causing bidding wars in some instances. Values are and have been on the rise for a few years due to both the higher demand and lack of supply. Homeowners are able to sell their homes quickly and for great prices. Magnificent new communities like Shearwater (see map) are developing and not only welcoming new homeowners to St. Johns County, but also welcoming large numbers of neighbors that are selling their older homes in the 210 and Julington areas to move into a new home with the latest and greatest in design, energy efficiency, community amenities, etc.—but the important point is that they (you) are staying right here.
Entering the quaint workshop which doubles as a storefront on historic Aviles Street in St. Augsutine, one finds exquisite works of art made of sterling silver and real gold beneath the glass cases. Each piece is unique unto itself and was created by the Master Jeweler who owns the shop, Joel Bagnal. Bagnal has been bringing quality craftsmanship to St. Augustine’s locals and visitors since 2001.
A Business is Born
It all began with his love of design and art. Bagnal graduated from Stetson University with a Major in Art. Stetson was followed by a Master of Education from Boston University and a Master of Fine Arts in Metalsmithing from the University of Georgia.
It was after Bagnal received the National Endownment for the Arts Craftsmen’s Grant, at Cedar Crest College, Allentown, PA., that he left teaching and opened his first shop in Wellesley, MA in 1978. He began offering distinctively handmade designs in gold and silver, commemorating marriages, partnerships, and any special occasion or relationship with collaboratively designed objects of adornment.
What are Joel’s most romantic or favorite pieces? He couldn’t say just one individual piece. The pieces he enjoys the most are wedding rings. Working with clients to custom design their wedding rings has become his specialty.
It’s no wonder that wedding rings are Bagnal’s specialty. He recalls a romantic story about the first time he met his wife-to-be, Nancy “Hookey” Hamilton, a prominent St. Augustine photographer. He was staying in an apartment in Old Town when, one night, as he sat on his balcony enjoying a nightcap, a woman appeared directly across from him, on her balcony. Conversation ensued and the rest is history.
The Cedar Crest College Mace
A Mace is a large rod with ancient origins symbolizing authority. Bagnal was commissioned to create a Mace for Cedar Crest College as the gift of the senior class of ‘73 to honor the faculty. The ceremonial academic mace was made in silver and rosewood during over 300 hours of work at his bench.
A Collaborative Approach
“The design chemistry between jewelry designer and client is the creative breath that brings the piece to life. With PDFs and JPEGs, I routinely scan my color originals and email them anywhere. So, with the combination of a very old discipline and very new technology, we are not bound by geography.” Bagnal provides progress shots of each stage of the creative process provided to the client and expert advice in diamonds and gemstones.
Joel Bagnal is at heart an artist with an eye for beauty, depth and history. Just like the stunning landscapes and photography by local artists that adorn the walls of his shop/workshop, his art is representative of something unique and special that has evolved in St. Augustine over many years, and is a gift to our community.
St. Johns Magazine blog features articles written by & about the people, places and events of St. Johns and the surrounding communities.
2014 Summer Fun Guide
2015 Summer Fun
50 Things We Love About St. Johns
Alligator Farm Zip Line
Ancient City Mosaic
Community College: The Best Of Both Worlds
Dog Parks Of St. Johns County
Marine Science Camp SJCPS
Men Of St. Johns
Movie Previews Summer 2014
New Home Communities St. Johns
New Schools In St. Johns
Ponte Vedra Cultural Center
Real Estate In St. Johns Florida
Schools In Northern St. Johns
Sea Turtle Hospital At Whitney Laboratory
St. Augustine Distillery
St. Johns Public Schools Music
St. Johns Real Estate
St. Johns Riverkeeper
Summer Beach Reading 2014
Teachers Of St. Johns
The Art Of Jenna Alexander
The Globalist Generation
Tips For A Successful School Year
Ultimate Day Trips Close To Home!