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Chamber’s ‘Principal’s Luncheon’ set for Sept. 8

By Staff | Aug 30, 2010

The third annual Chamber Education Committee “Principal Luncheon” will feature Island Coast High School and Oasis High School on Sept. 8 at The Resort at MarinaVillage.
“This is our biggest lunch of the year,” Chamber of Commerce Office Manager and liaison for the Education Committee Claudia St. Onge said, adding that it is “very well attended and very well received.”
St. Onge said although the chamber has held similar luncheons for the past 15 years to bring awareness to local businesses and community members of what is going on in education, the current form of the luncheon is only entering its third year.
Joseph Francioni, chairman of the chamber’s Education Committee, said this year the luncheon will feature students and educators from two different schools to share information about the innovative programs they began at the school.
He said they always try to have a theme that will help the principals. Last year the Office Depot Foundation spoke at the function about what they do to help principals obtain the materials they need for the school year.
The luncheon provides a room full of business owners or managers with the opportunity to see what Island Coast High School and Oasis High School are doing and offer their help and get involved, Francioni said.
During the luncheon, Cherie Sukovich and Joe Mallon, the department heads for the Academy of Natural Resources at Island Coast High School, will provide a presentation of what they offer students.
Sukovich said the Academy of National Resources began its third year with 149 students. The academy is part of a regular high school for 9th through 12th grade students. She said the three-year program focuses on teaching environmental stewardship through aquaculture, aquaponics and alternative energy and ecological restoration.
She said they currently have more than 5,000 tilapia that the students have raised and took care of in a variety of indoor and outdoor tanks. The indoor lab can hold 5,000 gallons of water and the two outdoor systems can hold a total of 7,000 gallons of water. They will be adding African sichlids to the program this year.
“I am amazed at how far we have come,” Sukovich said. “We are the only program of our kind in the state of Florida that we know of.”
Sukovich said they provide a commercial level system for the students, in order to mimic the industry.
“If the kids leave the program, they are familiar with all the industry standards,” she said.
St. Onge said Jethro Joseph will also be sharing information about the Culinary Arts Program at Oasis High School. St. Onge said, in addition to coordinating the program, he is also a chef at Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island.
Joseph said the program opened last year for a total of 200 students and this year he has 270 students with an additional 200 students on the waiting list.
“It’s a really good program,” Joseph said.
He said the program basically prepares the kids to attend culinary schools of their choice. The culinary program at Oasis also includes Joseph’s catering company Chef J Catering Services.
When he caters an event for the community, Joseph said he brings his students with him to provide them with hands-on experience. He said he began his catering company to give back to the community and the kids.
“I never had a passion for teaching,” he said, laughing. “I was scared to death.”
He said when he began to go inside the classroom and work with the students though, it was amazing.
“I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else,” he admitted.
Superintendent Dr. James Browder will also say a few words at the luncheon, St. Onge said.
She said there will be approximately 30 principals at the luncheon who are all sponsored by individuals or chamber members.
Francioni said there will be six tables set up around the room for six other schools to promote the different programs they have as well during the luncheon.
“I would hope that the public and the business community takes away from the luncheon that these schools are not only getting clever on promoting what they do, but they found situations that are providing these students with real life situations,” Francioni said.
He said, for example, the Academy of Natural Resources at Island Coast High School is not only teaching the students how to farm raise tilapia, but they are also teaching them how to sell and market them at the Farmer’s Market.
The Principal Luncheon provides the Education Committee with an opportunity to raise money for the “Excellence in Education Awards” that provides recognition for high performing students and educators in April.
The luncheon is open to the public. It is $20 for chamber members and $25 for non-members. The luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. The Resort at MarinaVillage is located at 5961 Silver King Blvd.
In May 2011, Francioni said the Education Committee will be promoting a scholarship information program to assist students and parents in finding available scholarships for college. He said they will have literature and speakers available to share what the best ways are in finding scholarships.