New Jobs Portal Connects Floridians with Disabilities to Local Jobs

Earlier this week, representatives from several Florida state agencies unveiled a new tool to connect Floridians with disabilities to available jobs.

The presentation at the Florida Cabinet meeting included an overview of the new Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk. Both tools were designed to help employers recruit and hire more applicants with disabilities who are ready and able to work, and inform them of the available support that can help an individual succeed on the job.

Presentation at Florida Cabinet Meeting

The Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), the Florida Department of Education, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Children and Families’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program, the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, and CareerSource Florida partnered to implement the Abilities Work Web Portal and Help Desk.

Commissioner Pam Stewart; David Darm, Executive Director for the Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities; and his guide dog Ranger attended the Florida Cabinet meeting presentation.

Commissioner Pam Stewart; David Darm, Executive Director for the Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities; and his guide dog Ranger attended the Florida Cabinet meeting presentation.

“I’m pleased the Department of Education’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Blind Services and Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services could collaborate with such dedicated partners to bring this project to life,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart.

The tools are available at

Florida KidCare: A+ for Quality and Affordability

With a new school year underway, it’s especially important to make sure your kids are healthy and ready for whatever comes their way. That’s why the Florida KidCare program is on a mission to ensure every child in the state has health care coverage.

Research has shown student success is directly tied to school attendance and healthier kids have fewer sick days – which means more time spent learning in the classroom. Good health also means kids are better able to concentrate, retain information and perform well on assignments and tests.

Three middle school students sit together outside.Florida KidCare is the state of Florida’s health insurance program, covering children from birth through age 18. Some families pay as little as $20 a month for Florida KidCare coverage and most pay nothing at all.

This isn’t just bare-bones, scratch-the-surface coverage, either – it’s comprehensive health care coverage that includes

  • Doctor visits;
  • Check-ups and shots;
  • Hospitalizations and surgeries;
  • Prescriptions;
  • Emergencies;
  • Vision and hearing services;
  • Dental care; and
  • Mental health care.

With year-round open enrollment, applying for Florida KidCare is easy. You can apply online at or call 1-888-540-KIDS (5437) to have an application mailed to you. Coverage begins on the first of the month after a child’s eligibility has been determined and the first month’s premium is paid (if one is required).

With Florida KidCare, parents can easily protect their children’s health and a brighter future both inside and outside the classroom.


New Video Features Florida’s Top STEM Students

Each year, Florida’s Sunshine State Scholars program recognizes our state’s best and brightest students interested in pursuing careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. The two-day awards and recruitment event celebrated the accomplishments of these elite students and provided a unique venue for Florida’s colleges and universities to recruit their talents. Each school district selected the top eleventh-grade STEM scholar to participate in the program.

Just a few months after the exciting conference, our 2014 Sunshine State Scholars are now the stars of a new promotional video about the program. Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart and State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser are also featured in the video.

“These students are truly remarkable and represent the future of innovation in our state,” said Commissioner Pam Stewart. “I am so pleased that Florida businesses and industries have come together to support this important program.”

The Sunshine State Scholars program is hosted by the Florida Education Foundation in partnership with the Division of Florida Colleges, the State University System of Florida, and the Florida Department of Education.

For more information on Florida’s Sunshine State Scholars program, visit the Florida Education Foundation website.

A special thanks to the conference sponsors who made the event a success, including AT&T, Helios Education Foundation, Universal Orlando Resorts, Atkins, Gulf Power Company, The Florida Lottery and The Mosaic Company.

A Message from Commissioner Pam Stewart to Florida Parents

Please see Commissioner Stewart’s letter to parents regarding Florida’s new statewide assessment at We encourage you to share this information with other parents.



ImageThank you for embracing the role you play in every aspect of your child’s development. With the tireless work of your teachers and educators, Florida students are improving their performance in so many areas, while making Florida a national model in public education. Most importantly, more Florida students are graduating with the tools they need to succeed in college, career and life.

 As many of you know, your children will have new goals to meet with the adoption of the Florida Standards. Simply put, these standards are the detailed expectations of what every child should be able do at each grade level.

The new standards were developed with unprecedented input from Florida teachers, educators and the public. It is an exciting step. The emphasis with these new standards is for your children to think critically and analytically and go beyond memorization. These new standards will help your child be prepared for success no matter what path they choose after graduation.

With these new standards, the FCAT will be replaced next school year with a new assessment.  Florida students have been learning the new Florida Standards, and must have an assessment that aligns to that instruction.  I am confident that I have selected an assessment that is the best assessment for Florida students.

I am sure many of you will have questions. While your teacher is the best resource for information, we have prepared some answers to frequently asked questions. Please feel free to review that document and our press release announcing this decision at

Briefly, as I said in our statements to the media, this is the best choice for Florida students. The new assessment will measure each child’s progress and achievement on the Florida Standards. With the high quality instruction provided by our teachers, this tool will give every student the opportunity to be college and career ready.

Your most immediate question may be about what differences your child will see. The scheduled FCAT tests for this year will not be affected. Changes will begin in the 2014-15 school year.

The new assessment will include more than just multiple choice or simple fill-in-the-blank questions.  Students will be asked to create graphs, interact with test content and write and respond in different ways than on traditional tests. New question types will assess students’ higher order thinking skills in keeping with the higher expectations of the Florida Standards.  Later this spring, students, educators and parents will be able to preview samples of new question types by taking practice tests that will be made available for anyone interested in reviewing them.

The guidelines for promotion and graduation will remain largely the same. Students entering 3rd grade in 2014-2015 will be required to achieve a certain score on the 3rd grade assessment in order to meet promotion requirements. Students not meeting these criteria may still meet promotion requirements through the same exemptions that are currently available.  Students entering 10th grade and/or taking Algebra 1 in 2014-2015 will still be required to achieve a certain score on the respective assessment in order to meet graduation requirements. These students will continue to have the opportunity for retakes all students have had before. Students who need to retake an assessment based on an FCAT 2.0 score will be able to retake the FCAT 2.0.

We will continue to provide information to support your efforts. Please share this message and encourage other parents to email us at to continue receiving updates on this and other topics.

I look forward to working with you together on this truly historic effort to help your children succeed. Thank you for all you do.




Pam Stewart

Last Minute Ideas for a Great Winter Break

ImageDorina Sackman

2014 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of The Year

Recently, I had a garage sale to accomplish my December goal of getting rid of all my “stuff” and preparing for a clutter-free 2014. Not only did I make more money than expected, I also made a few new friends. During the sale, neighborhood kids from six to 16 stopped by to “hang out.” Perhaps it is the teacher in me that made these young boys and girls gravitate to my driveway. However, my fiancé, Dez, believed it was the hundreds of video games listed for a dollar.

Either way, both days of the sale random kids came by to box up items, help older couples to their cars with their treasures and walk down the street to ensure the city didn’t take down our signs. When I asked Dez what he thought was motivating the kids to help us, he encouraged me to ask them.

There answers ranged from “I’m bored” to “I don’t want to be inside” to “You’re funny to be around.”  Others told me that I kept them busy and that their mom knows where they were and “I guess that means she trust you…and me, too!”

I was ashamed of my fossilized ideology that this generation of kids doesn’t want to do much. Perhaps it is my teaching experience and hearing from my students what they like to do when they go home after school: play video games, go on Youtube or Facebook, and take selfies to put on Instagram. When I talked to the neighborhood kids about this they told me “Yes, after school that is all we want to do. But on the weekends it gets old.”

From their feedback, I decided to create this blog to assist parents and students with fun, exciting and educational ideas for our holiday break.

1. Get crafty. Check out and to keep your children learning with fun crafts. The first website is a resourceful site for parents with kids of all ages, including wonderful tips on how to engage reluctant readers. Both sites dive into great craft ideas for the whole family.

2. Staycations! A day trip is inexpensive but can be quite the educational adventure. The Authentic Florida website offers wonderful ways to make the most of the sunshine state. I am also quite partial to the Single Vision Animal Sanctuary. It is a safe, friendly and educational animal sanctuary run by one man and his endangered tigers. It is worth a trip if you are in the area and something you will NEVER forget.

3. Treasure Hunts. My favorite educational projects I do with my niece and nephew are treasure hunts. Depending on the age, either you can create the treasure hunt for your children or THEY can create it for you. I found and to be the most helpful! May the hunting begin!

4. Run a 5K. I just recently ran in a 5K with my fellow educator and her tots. It is a GREAT way to get exercise while supporting a great cause. It is also a way to introduce community events as a wonderful social tool for your teens. I LOVE to dress up for the races, as it is encouraged by most organizations and it makes wonderful memories. If you don’t see anything close to you on the following link, you can always Google “5K”and the name of your city.

Image5. Cook with the kids. I love the website, She Knows, as it shares “teen cooking tips.” Cooking with my niece and nephew has become one of the most memorable times while instilling responsibility and organization! 

6. Have your child start a blog or video blog. Find something that is of interest to you and your child that would benefit others and give them the autonomy to create something fantastic. Examples include makeup tutorials, football tips, organization tips and homework videos. Perhaps you can create your own teen cooking show after you share the joys of cooking with your children. The video doesn’t need to go immediately onto YouTube. It could be a process where they learn editing and filmmaking.’

7. Have a garage sale. This was a GREAT test for my niece. I told her in advance that the money from the sale would be my contribution to her Florida college tuition in August. I never saw a 17- year-old girl work harder. Parents, it worked! She made $800 and learned a lot about the value of hard work, being kind to customers, negotiating prices, handling money and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Teaching kids to sell their unwanted items on eBay or selling them to consignment shops is also a fantastic business lesson on fiscal responsibility. However, be sure to balance the money making with donating. My niece had to research where she wanted to donate all the items not sold at the garage sale. Although reluctant at first, she found one that spoke to her called “Pick Up Please.” Having kids research the organization spreads awareness and opens their eyes to what charities are out there!

For more ideas on how to make the most of your child’s winter break, check out Read the post “31 Things for Kids to Do During Winter Break.” When you click on each suggestion, it takes you to a step-by-step process on how to do it.

May you all have a wonderful and educational holiday break. See you in a clutter-free 2014!