Florida schools roundup: Referendum change, budgets, evaluations and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

florida-roundup-logoReferendum change: A House committee has approved a bill that would require school districts to win 60 percent approval from voters on any local tax increase requests. The bill now moves to the House floor. Its Senate companion has yet to get a committee hearing. Gradebook.

Education budgets: Democrats and Republicans spar over budget details in both the House and Senate. In the House, the focus is on giving money to charter schools for construction costs and upkeep. In the Senate, the debate centers on a plan to open after-school programs to more organizations. Politico Florida.

Teacher evaluations: Many Orange County teachers are angry that the state’s teacher evaluation report shows fewer top-notch teachers than in other large Florida districts. Only 2.4 percent of Orange teachers were judged to be highly effective in the 2014-2015 school year, compared with 80 percent the year before. The state average is 37.5 percent. Orlando Sentinel.

School grades: Palm Beach school officials are expecting fewer county schools to receive an A grade and more to receive an F. The projections were discussed at Wednesday’s school board meeting. Grades should be released soon by the Department of Education. Sun-Sentinel.

Chamber on education: A report by the Florida Chamber Foundation praises the state’s educational progress over the past 20 years. But “Florida’s education system is not yet good enough to meet the challenges of global competition and doesn’t yet provide the level of talent needed by job creators and future employers,” according to the report. Florida Chamber Foundation.

Board infighting: A Palm Beach County School Board member criticizes two of his colleagues for their willingness to turn over more than half of the district’s share from a proposed 1-cent sales tax hike to private museums and cultural organizations. Mike Murgio says the district has too many needs to be filled. Palm Beach Post.

Help for school: Pinellas County school officials are asking for community help in deciding how to to remake Melrose Elementary, one of five failing schools in south St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times.

Community school: Tallahassee city commissioners are questioning the Leon County School District’s commitment to opening a community school in south Tallahassee. Tallahassee Democrat.

Sweet persuasion: Supporters of tax-credit scholarships will deliver heart-shaped Valentine candy today to teachers union officials with a simple message: Drop the suit. The reference is the lawsuit the Florida Education Association has filed against tax-credit scholarships, calling them unconstitutional. Step Up for Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer those scholarships. Politico Florida.

School rezonings: Pasco County school officials propose redrawing the boundaries between two elementary schools. The revision would return boundaries to their previous positions, before one of the schools was closed for renovations. Gradebook. Polk County is considering rezoning 1,436 students from six schools to balance enrollment when a new school opens in August. Lakeland Ledger.

Employees honored: Mechelle Grady is named Bay County’s school support employee of the year. Grady is a paraprofessional at Springfield Elementary School in Panama City. WJHG. Panama City News Herald.

Self-evaluation: Hillsborough School Superintendent Jeff Eakins’ self-evaluation after six months on the job: He’s happy and growing. School board members will weigh in April 1. Tampa Tribune.

Testing complaint: Pasco School Superintendent Kurt Browning says the way some schools are pulling students from classes for testing – in alphabetic order – is disruptive to teacher course plans. He’ll look into ways to make a change. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher fired: A Nease High School physical education teacher is officially fired by the St. Johns School Board for inappropriate contact with students. Dionne Younce, 28,  is accused of sending nude photos to students. WJXT. Palm Beach Post.

Another lawsuit: For the seventh time, a suit has been filed over the actions of a teacher who was convicted of sexual abuse of children. Matthew Graziotti was a teacher and summer camp director at Warner Christian Academy in Daytona when he was arrested. He’s now serving a 210-year term. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Plea expected: The former Broward Teachers Union president is expected to plead guilty Friday to federal mail fraud charges. Pat Santeramo was convicted in January of multiple state corruption charges. Sun-Sentinel.

Bus shooting trial: Edgar Robles goes on trial April 4 for shooting into a school bus last May and injuring two students. If convicted, the 17-year-old could be sentenced to life in prison. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher suspended: A history teacher at Forest High School is suspended for 10 days without pay for giving his students the answers to a semester exam. Ocala Star Banner.

Guns at school: An 18-year-old student is arrested and accused of having a stolen gun and ammunition on a school bus. Acting on a tip, deputies stopped the bus on its way to the Brandon Alternative School. Tampa Tribune. At Tampa’s Plant High School, an 18-year-old faces charges after hunting weapons were found in the trunk of his car in the school parking lot. Tampa Tribune.

Employee arrested: A second man has been arrested in connection with a theft ring in the Brevard County School District’s fleet maintenance department. Dale Gunther, 55, a transportation specialist, is accused of grand theft and scheming to defraud. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: In capping the number of days for out-of-school suspensions, the Pinellas County School District is finally taking positive steps to treat minority students fairly in disciplinary matters. Tampa Bay Times. Before we invest more money in charter schools, we should be satisfied that students who attend them are making academic progress. Joe Brown, Tampa Tribune. A bill allowing cities to form school districts is probably a bad idea. We say probably because the details of the bill aren’t known, and wouldn’t be until after passage. Orlando Sentinel. A life skills program would bolster drug prevention programs in Manatee County middle schools. Bradenton Herald. Supporters of computer coding classes in schools should not be promoting their interests at the expense of other important subjects. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Students from Sebastian River and Indian River Charter high schools are packing food bags every week for more than 300 needy students to make sure they have something to eat on the weekends. TCPalm. Orange County schools are joining the Green Schools Alliance District Collaborative. The mission of a green school is to reduce climate and environmental effects, educating the community and connecting students to nature. Orlando Sentinel. Hillsborough County’s Bailey Elementary School is one of the winners in the Just Read Florida Celebrate Literacy Week contest. Students set a goal of starting home libraries for children of migrant workers. Gradebook. Students tell personal stories of school programs that sparked their educational interest during the annual Polk County Focus on Education Breakfast. Lakeland Ledger. The amount of money available for students who accept the Pensacola Pledge Scholars Scholarship is increased by Quint and Rishy Studer. The Studers now offer $7,500 a year to Escambia and Santa Rosa students who pledge to attend a local college and get active in the community. Pensacola News Journal. Low-income students at Manatee middle schools learn about college possibilities through a joint program with the University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee. Bradenton Herald. Volunteers are honored for their contributions to education at the annual Champions for Learning event in Naples. Naples Daily News.


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