Education:: Celebrating Successes

Looking at the challenges faced in the arena of education, the conversation often centers around what are perceived as failures: outdated and irrelevant curriculum, lack of appropriate resources, and increasing class sizes – all leading to an underperforming work force as just one of the repercussions. In this discussion we will move past the obvious issues to illuminate those things we’re doing that do work. The question becomes: how can we do more of what’s right?

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey,  Pasco County

Kathryn Starkey is a businesswoman and mother of four who has lived in Pinellas and Pasco counties for over 20 years. She has dedicated herself to working for improvements in education, the environment and economic development in our community. Kathryn was a member of the Pasco County School Board, she was elected in 2004, re-elected in 2008 without opposition and served as Chairwoman in her third year. She has been appointed to various positions five times by three Governors, Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Charlie Crist, and Governor Rick Scott and, as well as former Senate President John McKay. Kathryn Starkey was born in California and lived in many places while growing up including Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, France and Spain before choosing Florida as her home.

Kathryn is a graduate of South Miami High School and she attended Pinellas Technical Education Center; University of Madrid, Spain; University of Santander, Spain; Assumption School, Paris, France; and Florida State University. Kathryn is married to Jay B (Trey) Starkey III and is the mother of four children. Lindsey who resides in Spokane, Washington where she lives with her husband, Air Force Captain Tino Diaz, her baby Oliver and works as a Physician Assistant in Orthopedic Surgery. Hunter is in graduate school at MIT. Twins Zachary and Madison are rising 11th graders at River Ridge High School.


John Gamba ~ Serial Ed Tech Entrepreneur

A serial entrepreneur, John Gamba has founded, funded, managed and exited several Internet companies in his 20 year career. After forming his own Ed Tech Incubator in 1999, John Co-founded PACE - the Partnership for Academic and Community Excellence. PACE was a school-to-home communications network that connected thousands of K-12 schools to millions of families in all 50 states. Less than eight years after its founding, PACE was purchased by NTI Group, Inc. and then sold to Blackboard, Inc. (nasd: BBBB) for $182 million. At the time of the acquisition, NTI Connect-ED served 20% of America's K-12 schools and sent over one billion alerts / notifications to households annually. John is a a proud Father of two boys, competitive Ironman Triathlete and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.


E. Howard Rutherford ~ Director of Development at University of South Florida Foundation and College of Marine Science

In addition to my responsibilities as Director of Development at the University of South Florida Foundation and College of Marine Science, I am currently President-Elect to the National Marine Educators Association, a national organization powered by 17 individual, regional chapters who provide the on-the-ground efforts that support and promote national initiatives in education and conservation such as ocean literacy. I have actively participated in the City of St. Petersburg Ocean Team, of which the College of Marine Science plays a major role. Dr. Paula Coble and I, as founding Co-Chairs, established the St. Petersburg Science Festival. Currently, our Festival is one of four national festivals awarded a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to build capacity and mentor three new science festivals in the next two years. I am also Co-PI on the Creating a Community of Practice Around a Proven Teen Science Cafe Model, a $2.6 million project funded by the National Science Foundation. This project is building the first network of ocean science thematic Florida Teen SciCafes in partnership with The Florida Aquarium and Mote Marine Laboratory. Several faculty members and students within the College of Marine Science have already contributed.

Melodie Hillier ~ Event and Program Manager TechStart Tampa Bay

Melodie Hillier is the Event and Program Manager at TechStart Tampa Bay, a non-profit organization with a mission to create a better future for at-risk youth by providing inspiration, education, and opportunities in the technology industry. Hillier is the only staff member of TechStart and leads all operations of the organization. In the past year, she has been developing TechStart’s programs, managing annual fundraising events, and increasing the organization’s positive impact in the Tampa Bay area. She graduated from the University of Florida in May 2013 with a bachelor of science in Recreation, Parks and Tourism, a specialization in Event Management, and a minor in Business Administration. Follow her on twitter @melodiehillier.