Our Mission

Provide manpower and funding to recruit, train, and support school-based volunteers and partners to help Sarasota District Schools students improve academically and become proud, productive community members.

TeamUP History

The current TeamUP Volunteer & Partnership program was originally established in 1979 for the Sarasota County School District through a special collaboration among the volunteer sector (Junior League of Sarasota), the private sector (The United First Federal Savings & Loan and the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation), and the public sector (Sarasota County School District) to create a coordinated, district-wide program to provide support through recruitment, orientation, management, training, and recognition of school-based volunteers and partners. The TeamUP Council continues to facilitate coordination and support to all schools while remaining responsive to local staff, students, and community needs and interests.

The Sarasota County School District volunteer and partnership program was originally called Partnerships and Alliances Linking Schools (PALS) and the PALS Community Advisory Board was created at that time as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to provide the manpower and funding to support this coordinated, district-wide program. The PALS Community Advisory Board was renamed several years ago as the TeamUP Volunteer & Partnership Council.

Today school volunteers and partners are fellow community members including parents, students, business owners and employees, community organizations, professional people, and retired citizens. They share their special knowledge, concerns, skills, hobbies, and talents to provide support for instructional programs in the schools.

With school budgets able to cover only the most pressing needs, volunteers and partners represent a limitless resource of expertise, attention, and caring to help today’s youth improve academic skills, take risks necessary for learning, cope with personal problems, and expand their view of the world. The pairing of a student with an adult builds an early foundation, helping students connect with the community in a meaningful way. Given the ever-increasing demands on schools, community involvement through this formal volunteer and partnership continues to play a significant role in providing our students with a quality education that prepares them to become proud, productive, contributing community members.

Council Members

Christopher is the Creative Director for Strategic Marketing Resources, Inc., a Sarasota based marketing firm serving Nonprofit Organizations, For-profit Businesses and Individuals and Families. Christopher has served on the board of TeamUP Volunteer & Partnership Council since 2012.

Prior to joining Strategic Marketing Resources, Inc., Christopher was a Multimedia Journalist/Reporter/Bureau Chief for WWSB ABC  7 where he gathered, wrote, edited and presented stories on multiple platforms including morning and evening newscasts. He also created and presented stories to air in long form “60 Minutes” style and wrote stories for web content, Facebook and Twitter.

From an embedded feature at Parris Island to Hurricanes and their aftermath, Christopher always delivers the story. His relationships with leaders in businesses, government, entertainment and philanthropy are noteworthy and for a man in his mid-twenties, he has accomplished quite a bit.

Christopher is a charismatic and talented director, reporter, storyteller dedicated to meticulous fact checking and thorough research. He has a remarkable ability to transform complex topics into accessible and engaging news, branding and life stories. An accomplished interviewer, Christopher is able to connect with the subject, all the while gathering relevant information. A digital native and professional, he easily leverages social media tools and technology to bring stories to a broader audience. 

He did get an early start by attending Suncoast Polytechnical High School and Suncoast Technical College simultaneously and graduating from both in 2012 with Certification in Television Production.  

Mary Ann White just joined the TeamUP Council this year, starting out as a Rockin’ Reader at Wilkinson Elementary for the past three years.  Mary Ann has always had a love of books, starting as a young girl who would walk to the Public Library every summer to be part of the Summer Reading Program.  She had to read at least 10 books and then give an oral report on them to the Children’s Librarian.  Her very first job as a teenager was being a student page in the Children’s of the library in her neighborhood.    Mary Ann did this until she left for college at the University of Dayton.  Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology, in her career as a Med Tech, she worked in departments like Medical Genetics, Microbiology and Hematology.  A few years after the birth of her son, Mary Ann took a part-time job at Selby Public Library in the Youth Department.  Once again working with children’s books, as the Assistant Youth Librarian, she found her niche in creating Pre-School Story Time, choosing the books and the activities that went along with the weekly theme.  Mary Ann even got to meet her favorite children’s author, Tomie dePaola, when he visited Sarasota for a Reading Conference!

As the job situation changed, Mary Ann went to work for Sarasota County Schools.  She started out as a secretary to the Supervisor of Testing.  Doing this job, Mary Ann learned to enjoy working with computers.  This evolved into learning about Networking and eventually lead to working with the GIS (geographic information system) used by the school district to create school boundaries.  She left this department to work in Information Services, supporting district-wide software applications for over 24 years, when she retired in March 2017.

Mary Ann has been married to her husband for 49 years.  They have a daughter and a son and two grandchildren, with whom Mary Ann shares her love of books!

After retiring from a 45 year nursing career, Rita, decided she wanted to volunteer outside of the nursing realm. She was introduced by friends to the Starfish initiative and the Rockin Reader program. 

She has been volunteering with this program approximately 5 years and loves the time she spends with the kindergarten children reading to them weekly.Prior to this she volunteered at the History Center in Sarasota. 

Originally from Dayton, Ohio she  moved to Sarasota with her mom,dad,and sisters in 1956, attended local schools and graduated from Sarasota High School and Manatee Junior College Nursing program. 

She worked at Sarasota Memorial and Doctors Hospitals in Sarasota after living in Tampa,while husband working on his masters,and Orlando. 

Married with 2 adult children and 5 grandchildren,whom she loves spending time with,Sarasota holds a special place in her heart. 

Candice served as program director of Take Stock in Children for nine years. Her commitment to the continued elevation of services to meet the needs of TSIC students resulted in the development of new higher education readiness programs, life skills workshops, college success curricula and the creation of a yearlong series of educational workshops to specifically prepare TSIC seniors for college and applying for financial aid. Candice is married to her husband Byron and they have two daughters that attend Riverview High School.

Scott Ferguson has been a Rockin’ Reader at Fruitville Elementary School since 2022. He became a member of the TeamUP Volunteer & Partnership Council the following year. Scott has worked in various media throughout his career. At the University of Florida, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcasting (1975), Scott appeared on stage in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. In the 1980s, he worked as a magazine writer and voice-over talent in Atlanta and was a staff producer/writer at Turner Broadcasting. As a volunteer, Scott read the New York Times Book Review weekly for the Georgia Radio Reading Service for the vision-impaired. He and his wife, Cady, founded Bissell Ferguson Communications, producing videos for corporate and museum clients in Atlanta and Sarasota from 1983 to 2004. Scott was a member of the communications team for Sarasota County Government from 2004 to 2007 (he especially enjoyed working with libraries) and was the voice of Scrappy the Recycling Clown in an animated video. He served as communications specialist for Sarasota County Schools from 2007 to 2018. After a four-year stint as marketing and communications director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Scott retired from full-time employment in 2022. As a contributing writer for Sarasota Scene magazine, he writes stories about local arts organizations and their productions. Scott loves reading and enjoys sharing his excitement about the power of words and stories each week with kindergarten students! 

Dr. Suzanne Naiman has been supporting the TeamUp Council, formerly known as the PALS Council, associated with the Sarasota County Schools, since 1998. As the District Curriculum Specialist for Literacy and by request of the Council, she created and developed literacy programs to serve schools. Valuing the role of volunteers in the effort to support classroom teachers and students, Suzanne trained hundreds of literacy volunteers to prepare them for effective work with students. After retirement, she became a TeamUP Council member herself and is focused primarily on the Rockin’ Reader program.

Her professional experiences include classroom teacher, reading specialist, editorial board reviewer for international literacy journals, curriculum writer, creator of countless workshops addressing reading and literacy kindergarten through 12th grade, FLDOE committee member for Reading standards development, and Literacy Conference presenter at the State, regional, and national level.

Dr. Naiman has been married to her college sweetheart for 50 years and is the mom of two wonderful daughters, and one exceptional granddaughter.



Susan Nations is the Principal of Wilkinson Elementary School in Sarasota.  She is also an author, national literacy consultant and former Reading Specialist with more than 30 years of experience. She is the co-author of Intermediate Literacy Stations, Primary Literacy Centers: Making Reading and Writing STICK!, More Primary Literacy Centers:  Making Reading and Writing STICK!  and So Much Stuff, So Little Space: Creating and Managing the Learner Centered Classroom all published by Maupin House.  Susan has also written over 250 teacher’s guides for the Weekly Reader Early Learning Library.

Over the years, she has worked as an Intervention Teacher and Reading Specialist in Hillsborough and Sarasota County School Systems in both Title I and non-Title I schools.  Susan received National Board Certification in Early to Middle Childhood Literacy in 2005. Also in that year, Susan was selected as Sarasota County’s District Teacher of the Year. In 2009, Susan represented her school as Literacy Teacher of the Year. 

In addition to her site-based job, Susan has served as a presenter to community groups on shifts in education and literacy acquisition for young children. Over her career, she has presented at many local, state, and national conferences including the North Carolina Regional ASCD Conference, Florida Reading Association Conference, The International Reading Association National Conference and the Staff Development for Educators (SDE) National Conferences She has also provided customized literacy training for schools and districts around the United States.

Susan lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband Don.  They have five adult children who keep them very active! And now they have three grandchildren as well who are pure joy!  Susan and her family have a variety of interests including traveling, reading, community service and the arts. 

Coming soon!

Susan Whitesides Padfield, M. Ed., Is a native of Sarasota, Florida who retired from elementary education after teaching second grade at Ashton Elementary School for 30 years.  During her tenure at Ashton, Susan served as chairperson for the Student Advisory Committee and was team leader for more than a decade.   A TeamUP Volunteer & Partnership member for several years, Susan steps into the role of President for 2020.

District Volunteer & Partnership Coordinators

1980 –1985 Dr. Katherine “Kitty” Tracey Heusner

1985 – 1993 Jackie McCormick

1993 – 1996 Lou Pietrowski

1996 – 1998 Sheila Weiss

1998 – 2009 Sandi Chapnick

2009 – 2016 Dr. Tanice Y Knopp

2016 – 2017 Danielle Schwied

2017 – 2019 Lyndsey Cantees

2019 – 2020 Tameka Hannon

2020 – present Jennifer Anderson

Former Council Presidents

1980 – 1983 Lilly Kaighin

1983 – 1984 Mary King

1984 – 1985 Shirley Ritchey

1985 – 1986 Mary Gryczka

1986 – 1987 Ruth Hogan

1987 – 1988 Lilly Kaighin

1988 – 1989 Lydia McIntire

1989 – 1990 Dr. Pam Hart-Houfek

1990 – 1991 Cyndi Humphrey

1991 – 1993 Judy Hall

1993 – 1994 Carolyn Jones

1994 – 1996 Lilly Kaighin

1996 – 1997 Cheryl Weber

1997 – 1999 Ann Hardy

1999 – 2000 Dolores Forsyth

2000 – 2001 Jerry Kaplan

2001 – 2002 Judy Hall

2002 – 2003 Tom Giles

2003 – 2004 Lisa Glenn

2004 – 2005 Debra Reese

2005 – 2007 Ruth Maass

2007 – 2012 Ron Carr

2012 – 2014 Tracy Bretoi

2014 – 2015 Shelly Nierman

2015 – 2016 Dr. Patricia Williams

2016 – 2017 Dr. Sue Gordon

2017 – 2019 Francie Hall

2019 – present Susan Whitesides Padfield