It's Elementary - DES Newsletter

November 2020

Dates to Remember

November 20 - Students leave for Thanksgiving vacation

November 29 - Boarding students return

November 30 - Classes resume

Dr. Heidi's Happenings

It's Election Season! We had a school-wide election for Dr. Heidi's Helper. This student is selected by popular vote among all students and staff members who choose to vote. Everyone is encouraged to vote, and candidates were given time during recess to give a speech outlining why they would be the best for the position. They also were encouraged to put up campaign signs around the school. It was a very close election, but in the end Bobbie Jo received the most votes and was elected as Dr. Heidi's Helper. She will be responsible for leading monthly PBIS Playground Meetings, helping with Honor Roll, and assuming other responsibilities assigned to her by Dr. Heidi. Congratulations to Bobbie Jo, and BIG THANKS to Logan for his service in this role over the last year.

In other Election News, students in Deaf Elementary School were invited to participate in a Mock Election hosted by Kendall Demonstration Elementary School middle school students in Washington, DC. Check out their awesome website here:

Did you know that we have a new DES Facebook group? In order to enhance digital security for our students and their families, we are transitioning our school Facebook page to a private group, which affords us better screening and monitoring measures. If you would like to join the group, please click this link: Our goal is to post pictures and/or updates daily.

Finally, during this season of Thanksgiving, we would like to share how grateful we are to you and to your families for sharing your children with us. We know it takes a great deal of trust to send your child to school everyday (especially for families of boarding students) and we want you to know we take that trust very seriously. Thank you so much for partnering with us. It means a great deal.

Hello, FSDB Families!

View in ASL
Greetings from the President in ASL - Nov. 13, 2020
View in Spoken English
Greetings from the President in Spoken English - Nov. 13, 2020

Hello FSDB Families!

My name is Tracie Snow and I am the President of FSDB. I wanted to take a few minutes to share some information and updates with you.

Tropical Storm Eta
Wow! Just when you thought hurricane season was over, we had tropical storm Eta! The FSDB leadership team participated in multiple weather briefings from the National Weather Service and reviewed weather advisory notices throughout the week. I am so very grateful for the amazing and caring FSDB staff who are dedicated to ensuring the safety of our students.

Thank you for your patience and understanding through this past week. We hope the Skylerts, texts, phone calls, and emails as well as posts to social media and our website were timely and informative.

Staying Engaged

Since FSDB serves students from around the state, we know the unique challenge many parents may have in staying connected with FSDB. For many of you, FSDB is miles away from your home.

I wanted to share with you some of the ways you can stay engaged by visiting our FSDB website and following us on Social Media.

Alert Banner

The FSDB website will use our home page to announce any urgent information we want shared like weather alerts. You may have noticed the red alert banner being used this week with information related to Tropical Storm Eta. We also added a button which will take you directly to the archived alerts.

FSDB Web Pages
A great way to know what is happening at FSDB and staying engaged is to check out the various pages on our website. We have information specific to your child’s school, academics, parent services, student life, outreach, news, COVID-19, re-opening, the innovative learning environment, and admissions.

Leadership Page
Recently we added a new page to the website - FSDB Leadership. Here you will find the President’s welcome and announcements in English, ASL and Spanish as well as photos and information about the Administrative Team.

Social Media

If you are a social media user you can follow The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Each school also has their own Facebook Group you can join so you can see pictures, announcements, and happenings specific to your child’s school.

Staying Safe and Healthy

Our students and staff have been doing a wonderful job following our reopening plan. They have been staying socially distant, wearing face coverings, cleaning, washing their hands, and staying home when they feel sick. We ask that you continue to monitor your child’s health and if at any time they are feeling sick, please have them stay home. For more information, please check out our COVID-19 webpage.

Our Thanks

I would like to extend a heart-felt thanks from our entire FSDB school community to you and your family for choosing and trusting us to educate your child. We wish you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.

A Note From Deaf Department Principal Angela Saunders

The second quarter of the school year started this week and we are one week away from our Fall Break for Thanksgiving. There is no school November 23rd-27th.

November’s PBS theme of the month is citizenship. As our students are learning to be respectful, responsible citizens, we also want to recognize those who have served in our armed forces to secure our freedoms and rights as citizens. We thank you!

It was also Florida’s Holocaust Awareness Week. Did you know that instruction on the Holocaust is one of our required instructional topics written into state statute? Teachers across departments have been implementing instruction and activities this week so that we and our children never forget the lessons learned from this dark time in history. Time Holden illustrated the importance of continuing to remember the Holocaust and its lessons in the following quote “The Holocaust illustrates the consequences of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping on a society. It forces us to examine the responsibilities of citizenship and confront the powerful ramifications of indifference and inaction.” We are growing our future here at FSDB. We are providing our students the instruction and tools to be caring, respectful citizens, upholding the values and skills necessary to be productive, responsible members of society.

We hope that your family has a restful, safe week together during this break.


Updates from Vaill Hall

During the month of October, the kids had a great time at the Halloween activity that our recreation department put on for the elementary. The kids dressed up in their costumes, staff members were set up in the different buildings in “Kid’s Town” and the kid’s trick or treated around; the dance troupe performed on the “Kids Town” stage. That was a special treat for everyone; the kids returned to the dorm for a pizza party!! The Kids Town village has really helped our kids to use their imaginations from driving, to tend a store, to run an ice cream shop, to get money out of the bank; it was so cute to watch them having fun while learning.

We would also like to remind you to please send warm clothes for your child. It is beginning to get cool here in St. Augustine, and we would like our students to be dressed appropriately. We need to keep our students warm. Thank you for your support!

Deaf Elementary School Teacher of the Year!

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Congratulations to Ms. Cally Traetto for being selected as the 2021-2022 Deaf Elementary School Teacher of the Year! Ms. Cally is our Reading Specialist, and is a constant, positive support to both students and staff members. She is hard-working, engaging, and kind. We could not be more proud to have her represent us as our Teacher of the Year! Please take a minute to congratulate Ms. Cally next time you see her, or give her a call at (904) 827-2740 to wish her well!

Spotted in Each Grade Level

Every month we ask grade level teams to tell us something special they spotted in Gore Hall. Here are their responses!

Kindergarten: One student running over to get a bike helmet for another student.

First: First grade has been working hard to disguise turkeys in preparation for Thanksgiving. We love the creative disguises we have seen!

Second: Students made gifts for veterans who work on our campus.

Third: Third graders helping one another with their bike helmets in Kids Town.

Fourth: A group of students on the playground showing off some amazing karate skills!

Fifth: Our 5th graders are becoming more mature and taking responsibility for their own actions. Happy smiling faces everywhere!!!!

Lab: A student stopped playing to find and tell the newly elected Heidi's Helper congratulations.

Favorite Moments From Each Grade Level

Every month we ask grade level teams to share a favorite moment. Here are their responses!

Kindergarten: Students using teamwork to construct a magnificent building!!

First: First grade celebrated the 50th day of school in 1950’s fashion. They counted by 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s and learned about sequencing by making root beer floats.

Second: Students moving up a level in reading!

Third: A student learned a new expression, “the exception to the rule,” and looked for opportunities to use it every chance he got!

Fourth: Students making moon phases using Oreos during science class.

Fifth: During our Halloween Party, one of our students drank from the magic punch. But little did we all know, the magic punch turned one of our students into a werewolf! It caused our class to burst out into laughter.

Lab: A student using resources (a chart) to answer questions.

The Vocabulary Showcase is a fun way to expand student vocabulary while dressing in costume! Students pick a word that they enjoy, then work to create a costume to showcase their word with friends. This year, we filmed our vocabulary words in secret for a fun video that was shown on Friday, Oct. 30. We even had our ILE students participate using FlipGrid. We hope you have a chance to get comfy, grab your popcorn, and expand your own vocabulary by watching our Showcase. Perhaps it will even inspire you to participate next year!

Title I Information

You will be receiving your Title One Handbook this month. Please take some time to review the Handbook and then sign and return the last page. We are so thankful for our Title I funding. Look out for materials to support learning at home coming your way soon!

Title I, Part A is a component of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that provides supplemental funds to approved schools to meet educational goals, support professional development of staff and support parent engagement programs.

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Problem of the Week and Fluency Challenge

Problem of the Week (POW) and Fluency Challenge kicked off during the last week of October and 8 Deaf Elementary School students are on their way to winning games for submitting solutions to the POW! Please check out the new FlipGrid platform we are using to make problem solving opportunities more accessible and engaging! New challenges are added each week- Try them by following this link:

Questions? please email DES Math Specialist, BJ Mayo at

Poster contest for National School Bus Safety Week

National Bus Safety Week was celebrated Oct. 26-30, 2020. This year's slogan was - Keep On Rolling - #safetystartswithyou. The centerpiece of National School Bus Safety Week is the poster contest. Students in grades K-12 can create artwork that depicts school bus safety-related themes and encourages and promotes school bus safety. The winning posters are used to promote safer school transportation for everyone.


  • FIRST PLACE! Daniel Nazario, Jr.
  • SECOND PLACE! Madison Mills
  • THIRD PLACE! Alyson Dahlquist
DES Poster winners (left to right): Alyson Dahlquist, Madison Mills, Daniel Nazario, Jr. Kerri Dunne, NBSW Coordinator (back row).

Things to Say to Your Child

Here are a few things you can say to your child to encourage discussion. Source:

  1. I believe in you.
  2. You are important.
  3. You make me proud.
  4. You are loved.
  5. You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing.
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Opt-in for Skyward Text Alerts

FSDB encourages parents/legal guardians of enrolled students to regularly log onto the Skyward Family/Student Access portal to keep their contact information up-to-date.

Skylert (School Messenger) is the system that FSDB uses to send out automated phone calls, text messages and email notifications families for general purposes ann case of emergencies.

Opting in for automated Skylert text notifications makes it possible for FSDB to quickly inform families about situations that may impact their child/family (e.g., weather, safety and bus alerts) as well as other school-related information. To opt-in, text "Y" to 67587.

Cutie Patootie Picture of the Month!

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Want to contribute a Cutie Patootie Picture of the Month submission? Join, like, and share our FSDB Deaf Elementary School Facebook Group and let us know! But also know the competition is pretty tough because DES is FULL of Cutie Patooties!
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Parent Engagement Workshop

Please join us for our next virtual Parent Engagement Workshop on December 4th at 10am.

Parent Engagement Workshops (PEW) are learning opportunities open to ALL FSDB parents, guardians and caregivers. During PEW, we discuss current and relevant information about our school, parenting strategies, helpful resources and so much more. Please join us for these educational events, have a fabulous lunch on us, and meet other FSDB families.

Be sure to visit the FSDB Facebook page to view the agenda.

Dr. Heidi's Virtual Office



FSDB Welcome Back 2020

Contact Us

DES Office

PH: 904-827-2520

VP: 904-201-4505

Health Care Center

PH: 904-827-2410

VP: 904-201-3910


PH: 800-992-8747

Vaill Hall (Dorm)

PH: 904-827-2806

VP: 904-201-4461

Parent Services

PH: 904-827-2212

VP: 904-201-4527

Campus Police

PH: 904-827-2315