Collier County Public Schools – Moving Forward with the 2020-21 School Year

By: Quinton Allen CCPS Communications Specialist II

 As the sun rose in Naples on Monday, August 31st, Laurel Oak Elementary (LOE) principal Dr. Brian Castellani, a long-time Collier County Public Schools administrator, stood alongside his colleagues and welcomed back bright-faced students – albeit masked – on this first day of school for Collier County Public Schools (CCPS). “For the past six months, we have been doing things differently, but to see the kids here this morning has made it so exciting,” shared a very happy Castellani.

     Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Kamela Patton, started her day by visiting the home of the Balan Family, one of the District’s families learning virtually. The Balan’s youngest children, son Alex (kindergarten) and daughter Adriela (second grade), started the year via CCPS Classroom Connect. “It’s an incredible day,” said Patton, “to be able to offer a virtual learning option for students. It takes an enormous amount of work and coordination, along with a technology department that is second to none, to provide these choices for parents.”

     Students and staff returned to school campuses that looked a little different this year, with health and safety being a top priority as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the changes include students and teachers wearing masks at all times when on campus, social distancing (at least six feet apart), classroom desks separated to the greatest extent possible, water fountains disabled, and hand sanitizer strategically placed throughout schools. These changes, along with other safety measures, will help the District provide a safe learning environment where our students will be able to grow and succeed.

     As CCPS bus drivers began their routes, a familiar sight returned to the roads of Collier County. The freshness of a new school year was in the air, and you could feel that first-day excitement. Throughout the District, schools like Osceola Elementary decorated their campus with balloons. Veterans Memorial Elementary staff anxiously awaited the arrival of students, smiling ear-to-ear as students exited their bus or parents’ car. Dr. Patton, as she does every year, visited several CCPS schools throughout the day. Each stop confirming what she already knew – students were excited to be back at school! While things will no doubt look and feel a bit different this school year, the District is motivated to continue to build upon the strong parent and community relationships that already exist.

     Dr. Castellani shared his optimism as he greeted his LOE students on their first day: “I hope we learn a lot about each other, and learn that we are resilient people. I hope that we help each other and will be respectful. In the end, we will come back to normal – whatever that means. It might be different than we are used to, but we will come out learning so many things about each other, about technology, about psychology – and that we are gritty people.”

Bascom Palmer welcomes Dr. Zelia M. Correa as co-director of Ocular Oncology

Dr. Zelia M. Correa

Zelia M. Correa, M.D., Ph.D., one of the country’s leading experts in the field of ocular oncology, has joined Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine as codirector of the ocular oncology service.

Recognized throughout the world for her expertise in ocular oncology, Dr. Correa specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of eye tumors such as ocular melanoma, retinoblastoma, ocular metastasis, and choroidal hemangioma.

Ocular oncologists are highly specialized ophthalmic surgeons who diagnose and treat tumors and pseudo-tumors of the eye. Ocular tumors can be benign or malignant and affect patients ranging from young children to older adults. Treatment of these tumors involves various forms of laser and radiation therapy, intraocular injections, delicate biopsy procedures, and advanced microsurgical techniques.

Dr. Correa most recently served as the Tom Clancy Endowed Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. In this position, she built an excellent ocular oncology program that has drawn patients from across the U.S. and throughout the world. She previously served as professor of ophthalmology and Mary Knight Asbury Chair of Ophthalmic Pathology & Ocular Oncology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

“Dr. Correa’s career has been characterized by outstanding accomplishments, not only in the field of ocular oncology, but also in vitreoretinal surgery, ophthalmic pathology, and medical education,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., professor and director of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “Her extraordinary interdisciplinary expertise will significantly benefit the care of patients who come to Bascom Palmer from around the world,” added Dr. Alfonso, who holds the Kathleen and Stanley J. Glaser Chair in Ophthalmology.

Dr. Correa’s research focuses on the use of artificial intelligence to distinguish benign from malignant ocular tumors based on imaging characteristics. She will conduct her research at Bascom Palmer’s ocular oncology laboratory. “Dr. Correa is one of the leading authorities on ocular oncology, and her recruitment to Bascom Palmer will allow us to achieve our ambitious goal of creating the foremost international destination for patients with eye tumors,” said J. William Harbour, M.D., professor of ophthalmology, vice chair for translational research, director of the Bascom Palmer ocular oncology service, holder of the Mark J. Daily Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology, and associate director for basic science at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Harbour’s world-renowned ocular oncology laboratory focuses on the use of genetic and genomic technology, bioinformatics, and genetically modified experimental models to better understand and treat major forms of eye cancer, including uveal melanoma and retinoblastoma.

“Dr. Correa is widely recognized for her clinical expertise, surgical skills, and devotion to her patients,” Dr. Harbour added. “Her talents will be critical to our ability to provide for the needs of our rapidly expanding number of ocular oncology patients who come to Bascom Palmer from throughout Florida, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and across the globe.”
A native of Brazil, Dr. Correa received a medical degree from the Faculdade de Medicina de São José do Rio Preto (Brazil) followed by a residency in ophthalmology at the Faculdade de Medicina de Marília (Brazil). She received a doctorate in philosophy at the Federal University of São Paulo (Brazil) and completed four fellowships: vitreo-retinal surgery at the Hospital do Olho Rio Preto (Brazil); ocular oncology and ophthalmic pathology at Wills Eye Hospital; and experimental ophthalmic pathology at McGill University (Canada).

Her academic career includes more than 150 peer-reviewed original scientific publications, book chapters and abstracts. She currently serves as a member of the editorial boards of JAMA Ophthalmology and Translational Vision Science Technology Journal, and is the ocular oncology section editor for EyeNet magazine.

Dr. Correa plays a leadership role in the education of ophthalmologists both in the U.S. and internationally. Her educational focus has been on two separate areas: graduate medical education, where she served as director of medical education at the University of Cincinnati, and post-graduate medical education, where she has taught ophthalmology residents and retina/ocular oncology fellows for more than two decades in classrooms, patient clinics and operating rooms.

Residents have elected her Faculty of the Year, and the University of Cincinnati presented her with the Dean’s Award for Education. Among her many accolades, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recognized her accomplishments by naming her a “Guest of Honor” and presenting her with a Senior Achievement Award, the Special Recognition Award for Leadership Development, and the International Ophthalmologist Education Award. She also founded and has directed the leadership development program for the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO) for over a decade. The PAAO recognized her efforts by presenting her with the Ambassador for Education Award and the Benjamin Boyd Humanitarian Award.

FGCU Art Galleries plan full season of shows, with some twists By Drew Sterwald

The FGCU Art Galleries have reframed some exhibitions planned for the 2020-21 school year and postponed others in light of COVID-19-related complications and safety precautions — which currently include limiting gallery visitors to students, faculty and staff until further notice. Nevertheless, the art will go on.

“We’re essentially maintaining the number of exhibits planned, but the content will change,” explained Gallery Director John Loscuito.

Spring graduate Meg Brunner discusses her senior project in The Wasmer Gallery. Photo: James Greco/FGCU

As the galleries move forward with installed as well as virtual projects, they usher in the new season with a look back showcasing last spring’s graduating seniors, who had to forego their traditional moment in the spotlight earlier this year. Art majors’ senior projects are being displayed through Sept. 3 in the Wasmer Art Gallery and the ArtLab; digital design majors will have their projects exhibited Sept. 18-Oct. 1 in Wasmer.

Private receptions were being held for parents, administration and faculty to recognize graduates’ college-career crowning achievements. At the end of their studies, art majors are required to develop and present a coherent body of self-generated work. The senior project combines their knowledge of techniques and concepts while drawing on research of historical and contemporary artists.

You can read more about each artist’s projects on the galleries’ website. One of those featured, Meg Brunner, said she found it “rewarding and exciting” to finally see the exhibit come together after a challenging final semester. “With the COVID delays we weren’t even sure if we were going to have an exhibition at all,” said Brunner, who has been getting her career off the ground as a freelance photographer and graphic designer since graduating.

Tanner Yorchuck in front of his work “Storm Squad.” Photo: James Greco/FGCU

“Senior project is such a defining moment for students in the art program because it’s a way for us to showcase who we are as artists and put all of our skills that we’ve been taught to the test. Being able to share this moment with everyone has been amazing. All of the stress and long studio nights feels so worth it when I look around the galleries and see all of the incredibly meaningful work my classmates and I were able to create.” Plans are already in place to showcase December’s graduating seniors with an online catalog and videos of the artists.

In the meantime, the annual alumni exhibition will feature Eagle grads collaborating virtually with current students to create a printed project. “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To An Exhibition…” will begin with 2018 grad Chloe Lewis teaming up with 2009 alum Steven “Rusty” Coe — online, because she’s a freelance illustrator living in New York City and he’s an independent woodworker and installation artist in Sebring. Florida.

“They will be creating a physical and online ‘zine of their work against a backdrop of adaptability and how to deal with change,” Loscuito said. “They’ll be creating that in September and then we’ll invite the student body to contribute images to that ‘zine and layer them into the artists’ images in October. We’ll print that in November and give it to contributors and our donors. That’s a really responsive way to change from a physical exhibition. How can we create something that’s still engaging to students and alumni but do it virtually and still have a physical object at the end?”

Heather Couch’s “Untitled” installation incorporates ceramics and wool. Photo submitted.

In the midst of the pandemic’s unpredictable impact on operations, no one can see what lies months ahead, but “When We See Further” is still scheduled as an installation to run Oct. 16-Nov. 19 in the Wasmer Gallery. The group exhibition of sculpture, ceramics, photography, drawing and painting features four south Florida artists collaborating for the first time: Heather Couch of West Palm Beach, Marina Font of Miami, Renee Rey of Naples and Terre Rybovich of Homestead. The exhibit explores themes of self-image, physical and psychological connection, impermanence and spirituality.

Artists referencing the body is a topic Loscuito and Assistant Curator Anica Sturdivant had been discussing for a few years. They already had connections with a couple of the artists, and a series of studio visits convinced them the foursome would complement each other in a group show.

“None of the artists had worked together before,” Loscuito said. “Some knew of each other, but they did not know each other personally. After the studio visits, Anica and I discussed inviting all four artists to talk about the possibility of an exhibition. These discussions led to the exhibition we have planned.

“We intend to install it — we can’t capture it with just (one-dimensional, digital) images. We will have an opening virtually with a small group in one of the studios asking questions to the artists. People will be able to join online and ask questions. These are timely narratives.”

“The Eternal Spring,” a triptych in acrylic on canvas with gold leaf, by Francheska Castano of. Photo by James Greco/FGCU

Another topical, multifaceted collaboration involving California artist Travis Somerville, the Black History Museum of Fort Myers and FGCU had been planned for the spring semester. It has been postponed until the 2021-22 school year, when it is hoped that such cooperative projects can happen more effectively without coronavirus-related constrictions. “He really likes to involve the local community,” Loscuito said.

Somerville’s work delves into social injustice and the economic and political structures that perpetuate oppression, racism in America, the refugee crisis and the current global political environment, according to his website.

A rotating exhibit of pieces from the galleries’ permanent collection will take the place of that show, incorporating hands-on workshops for students on matting, framing and hanging artworks. Meanwhile, Loscuito holds out hope that conditions will allow for fully public shows and receptions for the galleries’ much-anticipated annual rites of spring: the juried student show and the senior projects exhibit.

CCSO Update on Collaborative Response Graphics

Under a new initiative, deputies responding to 911 calls inside public buildings and certain businesses are now able to quickly navigate rooms, hallways, stairwells and parking areas at these locations, using a new mobile mapping technology called Collaborative Response Graphics.

The graphics are part of the Collier County Mapping Initiative, aimed at improving response times and incident command during emergencies. The initiative is funded in part through a federal grant the Collier County Sheriff’s Office received. The agency is working with veteran-run, special operations company Critical Response Group to complete the maps.

The mapping technology combines facility floor plans and high-resolution imagery to create an overlay map, detailing the locations and names of various rooms and features of each building. Having this information readily available helps deputies navigate unfamiliar structures to quickly locate callers in need.

“The CCMI creates a single common operating picture for all the first responders within the county,” Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said. “This will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our response in multi-jurisdictional operations, special events, and emergencies at public and private infrastructure across the county.”

Maps are stored on a secure, cloud-based server and access is granted to first responders through a mobile application. The CCSO’s federal grant is covering the cost of server storage. Private businesses looking to be added to the server will have to contract for their own maps, which will then be added to the agency’s database.

Local agencies participating in the new initiative include: Naples Police Department, Marco Island Police Department, Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department, City of Naples Fire Rescue, North Collier Fire Rescue District, Greater Naples Fire Rescue District, Immokalee Fire Control District, Collier County EMS, and county representatives of the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Collier County Government Complex and Collier County Public Schools are the first to take part in infrastructure mapping as part of this project. The first private organization to take part is Artis – Naples.

Businesses interested in participating in the initiative should contact Sgt. Neal Bohannon at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 252-0018, or by email