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SSIS becomes candidate for IB program

Sanaa Jackson talks with Fayth Jenkins
Sanaa Jackson talks with Fayth Jenkins
Photo by Ian Swaby
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When Fayth Jenkins joined Suncoast School for Innovative Studies as principal in 2023, she had a vision of bringing expanded educational opportunities to the school.

Rooted in the Theory of Multiple Intelligences developed in the 1980s by psychologist Howard Gardner, the K-5 public charter school is built on a concept of helping students discover and elevate unique talents and interests.

Jenkins said the school is now advancing in that goal with new developments that include its candidacy for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

Specifically, the school plans to offer the Primary Years Programme for children ages 3-12, which Jenkins said will be the only other such program in the district besides the one at Philippi Shores Elementary.

A nonprofit foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and founded in 1968, IB has over 8,000 programs being offered worldwide, across more than 5,700 schools and 160 countries.

Its stated goal is to develop “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through education that builds intercultural understanding and respect.”

Jenkins believes the program provides a counterpoint to reliance on testing and data and said that it will offer a way for all students, even those with individualized education plans, to showcase their talents.

“In the IB, it is, if you have a talent, if you have a skill, if you're trying to solve a problem and find a solution, however you do that, and however you get to that is great.”

She said it will also have the benefit of creating more globally minded students and thinks it will be especially impactful for the school, which she finds to be tucked away in a less frequented area of the community. 

She said the school has also felt segregated as a charter school which was, for a long time, the district’s only Title I charter school.

“I think exploring what else is out there in the world, who else is out there, what they look like, what they sound like, and that, ‘Oh, they're learning the same thing I'm learning,’ is going to be extremely beneficial to our kiddos for sure,” she said.

The school plans to apply next month for the authorization phase, which will require a fee of $10,000 and will involve working with a consultant to ensure the program aligns with IB offerings.

Sanaa Jackson and Lyriq Matthews work on an art assignment.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Jenkins said when it comes to this program, the options are limited in Sarasota County, compared to Manatee County.

There is one other in the district, at Philippi Shores Elementary, while Brookside Middle School offers a Middle Years Programme, and Riverview High School and Venice High School offer the Diploma Programme.

She hopes that, in line with the school’s goal of adding a new grade each year, it will eventually offer the middle school program as well, allowing students who graduate to move into the program at Riverview. 

“My goal is to make as big of an impact as I can, with IB as my army behind me to kind of help push through what it means to really be internationally minded,” Jenkins said.

New ways to foster talent

The school also continues to develop its range of offerings.

An art project exploring content creation, including creating TV shows and media, will offer what Jenkins said is a unique experience for elementary school students.

This program, which will feature a studio with a green screen, is expected to join students’ schedules next year.

In winter 2023, a relationship among students also developed.

Riverview High School students, who were interning with FUNducation, which offers STEM programming at the school, started a coding club with third, fourth and fifth graders for a service project.

“The partnership with them has been just phenomenal,” she said. “They're juniors, but at the same time, they completely understand the kids and the kids enjoy getting that connection with them.”

The school offers a new media center
Photo by Ian Swaby

The school hopes to expand a 3D printing program by FUNducation currently used by fourth graders, to all students, has opened a new media center, and plans to return media specialists to its staff.

Jenkins was proud this year to receive a Champion Charter School Leader award from the Florida consortium of public charter schools, something that was also received by the school's board president Barry Preston, whom she nominated. 

However, she said the offerings at the school are, in fact, a community effort. 

“I can say, this is what we want to do, but it really does require a lot of support, and people who also want us to do these things and support it to help us build it,” Jenkins said.



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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