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Sarasota Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 8 months ago

Newtown Alive trolley tour to add stop at Southside Elementary

The stop will honor Dorothye Smith, the first African American principal hired within Sarasota County's integrated school system.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Starting in winter 2020, the Newtown Alive trolley tour will add a stop at Southside Elementary School honoring Dorothye Smith, the first African-American principal hired within Sarasota County's integrated school system. 

The trolley tour, which is open to residents, provides cultural and historical insights into Newtown and the leaders that helped develop it. 

The stop at Southside will feature a memorial plaque for Smith, honoring and recognizing her leadership at the elementary school. 

Smith began her career teaching African-American fourth grade students at Emma E. Booker Elementary School's original campus in Overtown, the first enclave of the Newtown community. Smith taught at Emma E. Booker for 15 years before relocating to Venice Elementary School during the integration of schools in the late 1950s. 

Phillippi Shores Elementary School was Smith's final stop before becoming the first African American principal hired within Sarasota County's integrated school system. After her stint as principal, Smith served as a reading specialist for the district and an administrator at Venice Elementary. 

“As a district, it’s important for us to recognize the incredible impact our African American school leaders have had, and continue to have, on our school communities,” said Laura Kingsley, assistant superintendent/chief academic officer of Sarasota County Schools, in a statement. “We are honored to help celebrate the life of Mrs. Dorothye Smith, as well as the love and expertise she poured into her students as an educator."

Walter Gilbert, a former student of Smith's and a current collaborater with Newtown Alive, said in a statement he'd never forget the lessons learned from Smith. Now, he wants community members to learn the full history of Sarasota County. 

"We are hopeful that adding this new stop on our trolley tour and immersing the students in the living history of the African American community through curriculum will inspire even more generations," Gilbert said. "I know Mrs. Smith would be humbled by this recognition, but extremely proud that our school and cultural communities are collaborating to provide insightful, engaging learning opportunities for all children and families.”

Newtown Alive and the school district are seeking community partners, individuals and organizations who are interested in contributing to commemorating the legacy of Smith. Those interested are asked to visit the Newtown Alive website or the legacy campaign’s GoFundMe page for more information.



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