Education Equality Index: Florida schools have the second-smallest gap in academic performance between poor and wealthier students, according to the first-ever Education Equality Index. New Mexico had the smallest gap of the 35 states evaluated. Hialeah had the narrowest gap among Florida cities and also ranked 1st among the 100 largest cities from those 35 states. Miami was 3rd nationally, Orlando 16th, Tampa 22nd, Jacksonville 36th and St. Petersburg 82nd. St. Petersburg was the only Florida city whose gap widened from 2014 to 2015. Here are the report’s key findings. Education Cities.
Education on trial: Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano testifies that the state’s financial support of classroom technology is “absolutely horrible.” Romano was testifying in the Citizens for Strong Schools v. Board of Education, a civil trial in which the state is accused of not fulfilling its constitutional mandate to provide a quality education for all public school students. Gradebook.
Chiefs for Change: Three Florida superintendents have been appointed to Chiefs for Change, a national advocacy group that promotes peer-to-peer advising, diversity in school officials and recommending innovative policies. State superintendents selected are Barbara Jenkins of Orange County, Robert Avossa of Palm Beach and Desmond Blackburn of Brevard County. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Chiefs for Change. Florida Today.
Sales tax hike: The Palm Beach County Commission agrees to join with the school board in asking voters for a sales tax hike of a penny for the next 10 years. If approved in November, the tax hike is expected to raise about $2.7 billion. The school district would get 48 percent, with 27.5 percent going to the county, 18.5 percent to the cities, 4.5 percent for cultural projects and 1.5 percent for economic development. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.
Pinch leads to arrest: A 12-year-old student at Milwee Middle School in Longwood is arrested and accused of battery for pinching a boy’s butt at school two weeks ago. The girl was suspended, but the mother of the boy told officers she also wanted to press criminal charges. WKMG. Palm Beach Post. WFTV.
School start times: The Lee County School Board is considering a change in middle school start times to alleviate problems meeting bus schedules. Middle schools would start and finish 10 minutes later. Fort Myers News-Press.
Lead in school water: Elevated levels of lead are discovered in the drinking water at Tarpon Springs High School. The school has old plumbing, and replacing it could cost as much as $650,000. WFTS.
Reaching capacity: Three Monroe County elementary schools are nearing capacity. The school board will lease portable classrooms. Keynoter.
Superintendent search: The Sarasota County School Board must decide to hire a superintendent to replace Lori White before November or leave it for the newly elected board, says Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, which is helping Sarasota with its search. White must leave in February to collect her retirement benefits. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Superintendent race: Willie Spears, former football coach at Escambia High School, is running for superintendent against his old boss, Malcolm Thomas. Spears was fired 18 months ago for insubordination after he used ineligible players in a football game. Pensacola News Journal.
Teacher honored: Khea Davis, a language arts teacher at Booker High School, is named Sarasota County’s teacher of the year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Principal injured: Jack Turgeon, the principal at Venice High School, is critically injured when his Jeep hit a utility pole. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating if alcohol was involved. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
School sued: A graduate of G-Star School of the Arts is suing the Palm Springs charter school, claiming a teacher molested her when she was a 15-year-old sophomore. The teacher, Ismael Martinez, is now an assistant principal. The school denies the charge. Palm Beach Post.
Opinions on schools: Infoxication, or information overload, can be confusing for young minds that aren’t mature enough to process it. Here’s how parents can help. Laurie Futterman, Miami Herald. When parents truly understand their critical role as teachers and role models, they will embrace John Gardner’s profound quote, “The smallest school in America is the family.” James L. Casale, Palm Beach Post. The income gap is an outgrowth of the education gap. And education helps produce other positive social benefits. Florida Times-Union. A voter-approved school tax hike that restored fulltime art, music, physical education teachers and librarians is proving to be a wise investment for Marion County students. Ocala Star-Banner. Florida legislators are ignoring the state’s most urgent educational problem: the collapse of middle school math programs. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.
Student enrichment: The Florida Orchestra announces a statewide outreach program that will include performances in public schools. Tampa Bay Times. The University of West Florida will host about 100 students from nine Pensacola-area high schools for a science symposium on April 14. University of West Florida. A 16-year-old leukemia patient starts a Bald is Beautiful campaign to provide bald American Girl dolls to other young cancer patients. Raquel Coronell, a Ransom Everglades tennis player, hopes the project will “translate into a movement of self-acceptance.” Miami Herald. Jarod Atchley, a senior at West Port High School, will represent Florida at the national Poetry Out Loud National Recitation championship in Washington, D.C. Ocala Star Banner.