Florida schools roundup: Transfers, regulations, charter schools and more

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florida-roundup-logoSchool transfers: School board members, administrators and coaches are concerned about proposed bills in the Legislature that would allow students and athletes to transfer to any school, and in some of the bills permit athletes to be immediately eligible to play. Orlando Sentinel.

Regulation-free bill: Palm Beach School Superintendent Robert Avossa supports a bill in the Legislature that would exempt a handful of low-performing districts from most state regulations, saying he “wanted to be first in line” for the program if it becomes law. Palm Beach Post.

Charter schools: Bills in the Legislature would make it easier for High Impact Charter School Networks to set up charter schools, especially in areas with failing schools. New rules would hold charters accountable, but also waive some fees and shorten the time between approval and opening. WFSU. A charter high school in Clearwater is opting out of its automatically renewing contract with its management company. Newpoint Pinellas High has a $273,000 operating debt and owes management company Newpoint Education Partners almost $500,000. Gradebook. Limited capital funds present problems for both public and charter schools in Northwest Florida, charter school supporters and critics agree. Pensacola News Journal. Are charters schools in northwest Florida justifying taxpayer expenses? Pensacola News Journal. The Orange County School District is appealing a county advisory group’s approval of plans to open two charter schools. Orlando Sentinel. Teachers at the Lake Wales Charter Schools are being trained to teach their students computer coding, which will become a requirement. Lakeland Ledger.

Racism lesson: A first-grade teacher’s unauthorized attempt to demonstrate racism backfires when a parent complains. The Minneola Elementary Charter School teacher separated children by eye color, and then treated blue-eyed students to hugs and candy for several hours while brown-eyed students got nothing. School administrators say the teacher is under investigation and call the lesson inappropriate. WESH.

Bathroom escorts: Students at Coral Springs High start a petition drive against a new rule that requires security guards to accompany students to the bathrooms during classes. Sun-Sentinel.

Testing season: On Feb. 29, students will start taking the Florida Standards Assessments tests for the second year. Marion County is concluding its preparations for students at all grade levels and this year, for the first time, has included use of the iReady program of short tests to gauge subject mastery. Ocala Star Banner.

NASA influence: The proximity of the NASA program provides Brevard County schools with unique learning opportunities. Florida Today.

Homeless students: A benevolence program that helps the Santa Rose County School District provide for homeless students is just about out of money. There are an estimated 1,700 homeless students in the county. Pensacola News Journal.

One site, two schools: The Orange County School District is having trouble finding a suitable spot for a new elementary school, and is proposing it be built on the same site as MetroWest Elementary. Parents aren’t happy with the proposal. Orlando Sentinel.

School lobbyist: Several Clay County School Board members are angry that Superintendent Charlie Van Sant Jr. hired a Tallahassee lobbyist without their knowledge. Florida Times-Union.

Sales tax hikes: Manatee County school officials worry they won’t be able to raise money to build needed schools if a bill requiring 60 percent of voters to approve increases in the sales tax passes the Florida Legislature. Bradenton Herald.

School boundaries: Six schools will be affected when rezoning plans for northeast Polk County are finalized. A steering committee met with parents last week about rezoning options to alleviate overcrowding. Lakeland Ledger.

Donation campaigns: Some school officials are concerned that online donation campaigns for classroom materials are making districts look bad to the community. “It made us look like we’re not providing any materials to teach these kids to read,” said Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning. “What they were wanting was extra materials.” Tampa Bay Times.

Drug education: The use of free drug education programs has declined in some Manatee County schools, particularly in middle schools, claims Jane Roseboro, a clinical manager at a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility. School officials deny that, and say more programs related to drug prevention education will be considered next year. Bradenton Herald.

Physics in Florida: Only about 25 percent of Florida students take physics classes, and just a fraction of those students have a qualified teacher. WUSF.

Transportation problems: A cross-district school bus service for students in Levy and Marion counties is ending, a victim of tightening budgets. Citrus County Chronicle. Parents say the decision defies tradition and logic.

From prom to Sundance: A photographer’s random encounter led to a documentary on the Pahokee High School prom being screened at the Sundance Film Festival last weekend. Palm Beach Post.

Seeking employment: A former assistant principal at Manatee High School is asking the school board to allow her to apply for another job with the district. Debra Horne was one of several high-ranking district employees charged with crimes for failing to report child abuse in the case of Rod Frazier, a former assistant football coach. The charge was dropped after she completed a program for first-time offenders. She was later told by the Florida commissioner of education that there was no probable cause to pursue disciplinary action against Horne’s educator’s certificate. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher adjudication: A judge has declared a former Bartow Middle School teacher guilty of threatening a prosecutor and her family. Lakeland Ledger.

Murder charges: A father and son are indicted for the murder of a Taylor County teacher, Shelly Strickland, last June in Perry. Tallahassee Democrat.

Arresting children: The recent arrests of two second-graders for hitting a 10-year-old and trying to steal his bike in Hallandale Beach highlights the dilemma school and law enforcement officials face. Nationally, 80 children under the age of 9 were arrested in 2014-15. Most are eventually referred to counseling programs. Sun-Sentinel.

Student arrested: A 14-year-old seventh-grader at Azalea Elementary in St. Petersburg is arrested after showing a knife to a classmate and telling her he was going to use it on another student. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Tribune.

Virtual learners: Wyoming is launching a statewide effort to increase the number of students taking online courses. Providing those classes is Florida Virtual School, which has more than 200,000 students worldwide. Wyoming Public Media Statewide Network.

Virtual branding: The Florida Virtual Campus rolls out a new branding campaign, FloridaShines, which helps high school and middle school students plan for college and careers. University of West Florida newsroom.

Opinions on schools: Mandating recess time for elementary school students, as the Legislature and some counties are considering, could create unintended consequences. Tampa Bay Times. There are plenty of signs about our schools, and none of them are pointing in the right direction. Steve Otto, Tampa Tribune. Parents of the two second-graders arrested for punching a 10-year-old and trying to steal his bike have to accept responsibility for their children and start guiding them along a different path. Sun-Sentinel. Legislators need to start a debate soon about Gov. Rick Scott’s education budget, which places an extra burden on local taxpayers. The state can, and should, do better. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Indian River County schools are doing well in Advanced Placement courses, but there’s a lot of work left to do. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. Florida is wasting millions of dollars on a program that doesn’t benefit students. Again. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post. Here are six reasons why vouchers are bad for Florida students. Richard Smith, Florida Today. To improve the health and education achievements of high school students, start schools later in the day. Orlando Sentinel. Florida’s voluntary pre-kindergarten education program is 10 years old, and that’s something to celebrate. Toni Jennings, Orlando Sentinel. School choice means empowerment for parents, and it should not be taken away. Faith Manuel, Tallahassee Democrat. Things have calmed down in the year since MaryEllen Elia was fired as Hillsborough school superintendent. It’s a welcome change. Joe Henderson, Tampa Tribune. No one’s disputing the importance of learning computer coding, but it is not a foreign language. Johanne Deremble, Tallahassee Democrat. Teaching negotiation skills to young students will help them later in life. Juliann Talkington, Panama City News Herald. It’s time for Marion County to set specific goals for where it wants its school system to go. Brad Rogers, Ocala Star Banner.

Student enrichment: Fourteen Daughtrey Elementary students traveled to Alabama recently to learn more about the civil rights struggle and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bradenton Herald. Five Flagler-Palm Coast High School students start a campaign to protect pets during cold weather as part of a class in community problem solving. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Wellington Elementary School is introducing a Fine Arts Academy next school year. Palm Beach Post. Students in grades 3-12 participate in Cyberthon 2016 in Pensacola. an event designed to get students interested in computer security careers. Pensacola News Journal. Students from two religious schools in Bay County who are in Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally are stranded by the winter storm that hit the East over the weekend. Panama City News Herald. The Belmont Youth Band, a nonprofit group that provides musical education to low-income students, is starting Lamont Community Music School in honor of Belmont Youth Band founder Vivian S. Lamont. Pensacola News Journal.