Mrs. Dorothye Smith was known for being a strong and compassionate educator who had an immense heart for uplifting her students, staff and colleagues. After completing her education at Bethune-Cookman University, Mrs. Smith began her career in Sarasota teaching African American fourth graders at Emma E. Booker Elementary School’s original campus in Overtown, the first enclave of the Newtown community. She taught there for 15 years before relocating to Venice Elementary School in the late 1950s during the integration of schools. Mrs. Smith also spent time teaching at Phillippi Shores Elementary School before taking her place in history as the first African American principal hired at a majority white school in Sarasota County when she assumed leadership of Southside Elementary. She later served as a Reading Specialist for the district as well as an administrator at Venice Elementary before retiring.
“As a district, it’s important for us to recognize the undeniable impact our African American school leaders have had, and continue to have, on our school communities,” noted Dr. Laura Kingsley, assistant superintendent/chief academic officer of Sarasota County Schools. “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. Newtown Alive is a gift to our region and provides a wealth of cultural and historical insights into African American pioneers and the development of Sarasota. We are excited for children and families to experience the trolley tour in its entirety along with new curriculum, and look forward to collaborating on more educational opportunities in the future.”
“It’s thrilling to announce this partnership,” said Vickie Oldham, consultant and community scholar for Newtown Alive. “Mrs. Dorothye Smith was one of countless African American pioneers that shaped Newtown and Sarasota County. Newtown Alive strives to share all their powerful stories to ensure that their contributions live on and are not forgotten. This new tour destination pays homage to a challenging point in our community’s history, but also shows the hope and power that is inspired by education. Mrs. Smith’s legacy long surpasses the influence she had on her students and colleagues – it’s infused in the very fabric of our local education system.”
“Mrs. Dorothye Smith is a teacher I will never forget,” commented Walter Gilbert, former student of Mrs. Smith and current collaborator with Newtown Alive. “It’s important for students, and our community at large, to learn about the full history of Sarasota County, which includes Newtown, local Black history and early pioneers of varying backgrounds. 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. 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 actively seeking community partners, individuals and organizations who are interested in contributing to commemorating the legacy of Mrs. Dorothye Smith. If you are passionate about enriching the cultural landscape of Sarasota County and want to become more involved, please visit www.newtownalive.org or visit the legacy campaign’s GoFundMe page for more information.
About Newtown Alive
The Newtown Alive initiative is funded by a grant through the Sarasota County Neighborhood’s Department. The overall initiative is part of a plan developed by the City of Sarasota and former Sarasota City Commissioner Fredd Atkins to preserve the history of the African American community of Newtown, one of Sarasota’s oldest neighborhoods. The Newtown Conservation History District (NCHD) has a team of devoted scholars, sources, volunteers and community members who have poured over thousands of records, primary source documents and secondary source documents. These artifacts, coupled with hours or oral and video history, capture the rich legacy of the African American community in our area. The Newtown Alive trolley tour is just one of many ways that people can learn about African American culture in Sarasota. To learn more, please visit www.newtownalive.org.
About Sarasota County Schools
Sarasota County Schools is committed to providing unrivaled academic, emotional and civic growth to every student, every day. As one of the leading employers on the Suncoast, Sarasota County Schools boasts 54 schools that expertly cater to the diverse needs of over 43,500 students. We are one of two Florida school districts to consistently earn an A-grade every year since 2004 and have been awarded the Mid-Sized School District of the Year by the University of Cambridge. Our passionate educators empower students to take charge of their academic and personal success, a practice we believe fosters lifelong growth and achievement. We actively maintain the district’s tradition of excellence and ensure that tradition extends to all students. Our commitment to our students extends beyond graduation to make sure they not only graduate on time, but do so college and career ready. Want to take your student’s education to the next level? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or visit www.SarasotaCountySchools.net.