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Education Conversations

Hosted by Jennifer Vigne, president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Education Conversations is a podcast that brings together teachers, students, community stakeholders, and thought leaders to explore and share innovative and relevant thoughts, research, and ideas on education today.

Our world is changing rapidly—and so is education. We’re excited to fuel conversations that explore these changes and how we can best meet the needs of students to help them thrive. Twice a month, we will bring together voices from across the community to engage in this important dialogue and provide multiple perspectives.

We hope you will check it out, and if you like what you hear, please tell a friend, like us, and leave a review on Spotify.

New Episode

Funding Public Education

Listen as Jennifer Vigne talks with Holly Bullard, the Chief Strategy and Development Officer for the Florida Policy Institute. Jennifer and Holly discuss funding for public schools in Florida, comparing funding levels today to previous years and looking at why funding levels vary across the state. They explore ways to ensure all districts can provide the high-quality education found in Sarasota County. Along with discussing the importance of planning to keep education strong and the implications of the expansion of school choice, Holly highlights some of the upcoming Florida legislation around education.

 

Holly Bullard is the Chief Strategy and Development Officer for the Florida Policy Institute. Holly has extensive experience in public policy and advocacy. While earning her master’s degree in political science at Georgetown University, she wrote her thesis on the impact of school size on student achievement. She has previously served as the Senior Director of Financial Stability at United Way Suncoast and as a congressional aide to a former U.S. Representative.

Recent Episodes

All our episodes will be listed here as they are published. You can listen here, or on Spotify!

Episode 14: Funding Public Education

Listen as Jennifer Vigne talks with Holly Bullard, the Chief Strategy and Development Officer for the Florida Policy Institute. Jennifer and Holly discuss funding for public schools in Florida, comparing funding levels today to previous years and looking at why funding levels vary across the state. They explore ways to ensure all districts can provide the high-quality education found in Sarasota County. Along with discussing the importance of planning to keep education strong and the implications of the expansion of school choice, Holly highlights some of the upcoming Florida legislation around education.

Episode 13: Well-Being Through Resiliency

In this episode, Jennifer Vigne talks with Dr. Nate von der Embse about mental health and its connection to academic achievement. They explore the idea of resiliency, what it really means, and why it is so important that students today develop skills such as self-management, relationship-building, and persistence. Nate explains his work with the School Mental Health Collaborative and the materials they provide to educators to help them meet their students’ unique needs. He also discusses his collaboration with the Florida Department of Education to identify and develop skills and how they can be applied in instruction.

Episode 12: Navigating School Choice

Listen to this overview of school choice as Jennifer Vigne talks with Millie Wheeler, the Supervisor of the Office of School Choice and Student Assignment for Sarasota County Schools. Jennifer and Millie explore what school choice means and how students and parents can find the right school to meet their unique needs. They discuss the limitations of school choice, the scholarship programs available to students, and more. This episode provides practical guidance for those getting started with school choice.

Episode 11: Leadership in Education

In this episode, Jennifer Vigne sits down with Dr. Brandon Johnson, the Chief of Middle Schools at Sarasota County Schools, to discuss leadership and how the education landscape has evolved over the past 20 years. Brandon discusses what makes great leaders, what challenges exist in public education today and how to meet them, and what education might look like in the future.

Episode 10: Building Resilient Students

In this episode, Jennifer Vigne talks with Debra Giacolone, the Executive Director of Student Services for Sarasota County Schools, to explore student resiliency, mental health, and well-being. Deb talks about the power of relationships to change lives and how education and relationships are inextricably linked. She identifies the challenges students face in today’s fast-paced, high-pressure academic environment and offers insights, strategies, and advice to support their mental and emotional health and build resiliency. They both explore the Florida Depart of Education’s Resiliency Toolkit and ways to use it in the classroom.

Episode 9: Preparing Tomorrow’s Workforce

Listen as Jennifer Vigne sits down with President and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Heather Kasten to discuss the growing and changing community that is Sarasota County. They talk about challenges the county faces and how those challenges affect employers. They also talk about the many pathways students can take to high-paying jobs, the important skills students should hone, and the resources available to help them prepare for life after high school.

Episode 8: Ensuring Opportunities for All Students

In this episode, Jennifer Vigne talks with Doug Tuthill, the president of Step Up for Students, to explore the complexities of universal school choice. Tuthill provides a historical overview of the school choice movement in Florida and how and why it has evolved into what it is today. He also discusses new developments resulting from House Bill 1 and the kinds of resources available to students and families today as well as how to access them.

Episode 7: The Future of Education and the Role of Education Foundations

Listen as guest David Moore shares his experience with education foundations across Florida and explores the role of education today. He and Jennifer discuss challenges facing education and possible solutions. They discuss the power of a collective impact and the key roles education foundations can adopt to best support communities. 

Episode 6: Relationships That Matter

In this episode, we explore the power of relationships to change the lives of students. Two volunteer mentors for the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, both with extensive backgrounds in education and student support, share their experiences supporting students and discuss how trusting advisors can make a difference and how mentoring has reciprocal effects.

Episode 5: Superintendent Connor: A New Perspective

In this episode, Jennifer speaks with special guest Terrence (Terry) Connor, the new superintendent of Sarasota County Schools, about his background and how he came to education. Learn more about Terry and how he’s acclimating to the district. Find out what challenges he sees locally, statewide, and nationwide, and how he plans to address them. And hear why he thinks education foundations can play a vital role in the health of a school district.

Episode 4: Our Students Today: A High School Perspective

In this episode, Jennifer speaks with 2023 high school graduate Karolina Paulus and Venice High School teacher Josh Grant to explore today’s high school students and their experiences navigating the pandemic and a rise in mental health issues. They discuss coping strategies and the importance of developing resiliency.

Episode 3: Our Students Today: A K – 8 Perspective

Two Sarasota County Schools teachers—Kari Johnson, a kindergarten teacher, district Teacher of the Year, and a top-five finalist for Florida Teacher of the Year; and Joe Conner, a middle school math teacher and finalist for district Teacher of the Year—speak with us about changes they’re seeing in students, especially after the pandemic. They explore how technology is altering classroom instruction and ways to engage students and help them thrive. 

Episode 2: Our Students Today: A Neuroscience Perspective

Join us as we speak with Dr. Stacie Herrera, a licensed psychologist, and owner of Herrera Psychology. Dr. Herrera has partnered with schools to develop a telehealth platform to provide mental health support for students. We’ll hear how trauma may be different than it’s been historically defined and how Dr. Herrera sees neuroscience integrating into education. 

Bonus Episode: Our Why

In this episode, Jennifer talks with guest host Lisa Moody, president of Digital Stream and former director of marketing and digital strategies at Ringling College of Art and Design, about the Education Foundation and what inspires our work to prepare each and every student for life. Jennifer discusses the beginnings of the Education Foundation and how and why it has evolved over the past 35 years to provide comprehensive support that helps the next generation thrive

Episode 1: Engines of Innovation

Join us as Jennifer talks to Brock Leach, former chief innovation officer for Pepsico and current Education Foundation board member. The two discuss how education foundations can fuel innovation, the importance of being agile, and Brock’s belief that “our greatest natural resource is human potential.”

Jennifer Vigne, president and CEO of the Education Foundation, hosting a podcast with Kari Johnson, 2021 Sarasota County Teacher of the Year, and Joe Conner, 2023 Sarasota County Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Jennifer Vigne hosting a podcast with Kari Johnson, 2021 Sarasota County Teacher of the Year, and Joe Conner, 2023 Sarasota County Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Jennifer Vigne, president and CEO of the Education Foundation, hosting a podcast with Karolina Paulus, Riverview High School graduate 2023, and Josh Grant, 2020 Sarasota County High School Teacher of the Year.

Jennifer Vigne hosting a podcast with Karolina Paulus, Riverview High School graduate 2023, and Josh Grant, 2020 Sarasota County High School Teacher of the Year.

Meet Your Host

Jennifer Vigne

Jennifer Vigne

Jennifer Vigne passionately believes that education changes lives and has dedicated more than 20 years pursuing opportunity and access for all children. Jennifer serves as the president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, a position she has held since 2015. A Certified Fundraising Executive, she brings more than 30 years of leadership experience in the nonprofit and corporate sectors. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Florida State University and a master’s in Educational Leadership from University of South Florida. She is the Immediate Past Chair for the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and the current Program Co-Chair for Leadership Florida Education Class, and she is currently pursuing a certificate in public leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School of Executive Education.

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