Florida schools roundup: Bonuses-affluence link, open enrollment and more

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florida-roundup-logoTeacher bonuses: An analysis shows that teachers in affluent areas around the state are twice as likely to receive bonuses through the state’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program than teachers working in high-poverty schools. The findings mirror a study the Florida Department of Education did last year, and national research. Orlando Sentinel. Calling his bonus from the state “the dumbest money I have ever received,” Orange County teacher Josh Katz says he is giving his $8,256.27 to political candidates who can “fix education and stop stupid policies.” Orlando Sentinel. Sun-Sentinel.

Open enrollment effects: Volusia County school officials say the scope of the bill allowing open enrollment worries them. “We are still processing it,” said spokeswoman Nancy Wait. “It is huge, has a lot of tentacles and involves a lot of staff. We are still trying to wrap our arms around it.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. Palm Beach County school officials say they’re waiting for the state’s technical information on open enrollment before they can understand how the law might affect the district. Thirty-four schools in Palm Beach County now are at capacity or beyond, and another nine are 95 percent or more filled, school officials say. Palm Beach Post. In south Florida and the Tampa Bay area, the new law isn’t causing any panic, school officials say. Districts in those areas have been permitting students to move into schools out of their attendance areas for years. Miami HeraldGradebook.

Construction rules: Rural school districts in Florida will have to raise money for new construction projects before they can apply for state assistance, according to the education bill signed into law last week by Gov. Rick Scott. Politico Florida.

Teacher evaluations: Just 11.3 percent of Lake County teachers are judged by the state to be highly effective, less than one-third of the state’s average. Some Lake County School Board members say that’s an example of what’s wrong with the state’s teacher evaluation system, and they will discuss the problem at a meeting today. Orlando Sentinel.

Taking on violence: More than 300 children and teens have been killed by gunfire in the last decade in Miami-Dade County. Now, students at Carrie P. Meek K-8 have decided to take on teen gun violence by turning a class project into a campaign to save their classmates. The project is called Done with the Guns, and the students in the students in Isaiah Thomas’ law studies class are writing to lawmakers, lobbying for new laws and pushing for more programs that will help keep them safe. Miami Herald.

Bullying complaints: A growing number of parents in Volusia County are complaining about the way the school district handles bullying. School officials acknowledge they are seeing an increase in bullying, and say social media outlets such as Facebook and Snapshot play a significant role. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Salary complaints: Manatee County teachers are angry that the school district will be lowering the pay of 174 teachers whose salaries were incorrectly set too high because of an error in the district’s pay chart. The discrepancy was discovered when a teacher complained she was paid less than others with the same degree and experience. Bradenton Herald.

Pay dispute: The Volusia County School District and teachers union have made their final arguments on the fight over a pay raise for teachers. A magistrate will make a recommendation to the school board by the end of the month. Teachers are asking for a 2 percent raise, but the district says it doesn’t have the money. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Single-gender schools: Enrollment in Hillsborough County’s single-gender schools continues to grow, and officials point to local anecdotes and research out of Stetson University as proof that for some students, single-gender education can be “extremely effective.” Tampa Tribune.

No middle-school sports: The creator of a drive to get sports into Santa Rosa County middle schools accepts the superintendent’s “no” answer. Kristopher Long started an online petition drive about a year. But Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick showed him a 2012 study that concluded the district can’t afford sports at middle schools, and he says he’s convinced. Pensacola News-Journal.

Smooth testing: School officials in Sarasota and Manatee counties say there have been few technical glitches with the online Florida Standards Assessments testing. That echoes what other districts have been reporting since testing began in February. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Schools and real estate: Experts say worries about the quality of schools in the southern part of Pinellas County are helping push many high-end buyers toward other areas in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay Times.

Opt-out growth: The movement to opt out of Florida Standards Assessments testing has spread to Clay County. The leader of the movement says there are at least 20 families opting out, which would more than double the total of last year. Florida Times-Union.

State funding: Lake County school officials expect the district to receive an additional $7.4 million in funding from the state next year. That works out to an additional $140.26 per student, moving the county’s ranking of 66th to 63rd in the state in funding. Florida has 67 counties. Daily Commercial.

Teacher honored: Dori Dunham is named Lee County’s middle school ESE teacher of the year. She’s a middle school teacher at the Buckingham Exceptional Student Center. Fort Myers News-Press.

Public records fight: A circuit court judge has ruled that the St. Johns County School Board’s countersuit against public records advocate Jeff Gray may proceed. The board contends that Gray refuses to follow the district’s policy on public records requests, and by not doing so he is “antagonistic and disruptive to the lawful, orderly and safe operation” of district schools and offices. Gray claims the board’s policy does not follow the state’s public record laws, and therefore he is not bound by it. St. Augustine Record.

Sign language protest: Protesters say too many members of the faculty at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind lack the American Sign Language skills necessary to work with deaf students. St. Augustine Record.

New school: The St. Johns County School District announces plans to build an elementary school next to the master-planned community near World Golf Village. It can take about 800 students and is expected to be open for the 2017-2018 school year. St. Augustine Record.

Help toward graduation: A new online Lake County Library System program is helping county residents complete courses needed for high school graduation. Daily Commercial.

Bus driver arrested: A 72-year-old school bus driver is arrested and accused of sexual battery against four Horizons Elementary students with special needs. Polk County sheriff’s deputies say Carlos Ojeda lured the girls with candy, then sexually abused them while on the bus. Tampa TribuneWTVT. Associated Press.

Student arrested: A 16-year-old student is arrested and accused of bringing a gun to Matthew Gilbert Middle School. The 22-caliber handgun was not loaded. Florida Times-Union.

Fire at school: The band and drama room at Forest Hills High School in West Palm Beach is damaged by a fire Sunday night. There were no injuries and the school is open today. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: It’s disappointing that the state still can’t find a good way to assess the quality of pre-kindergarten programs. That’s a tough pill to swallow given the financial commitment the taxpayers have made to early childhood education. Palm Beach Post. The free marketplace favoritism toward private enterprise over public obligations in education became evident once again in Florida over the past week. Bradenton Herald. Community programs that provide essential services for our students and their families are critical to our students’ academic success, but only if they can count on them to be there tomorrow, argues the Leon County superintendent. Jackie Pons, Tallahassee Democrat. If the best interest of a high school athlete is served by moving to a better program, I have no problem with that. Joe Henderson, Tampa Tribune. The Lee County School District has chosen wisely in its selection of a site in Bonita Springs for a new high school. We hope the school board will ignore the short-sighted arguments against the site at Tuesday’s meeting. Fort Myers News-Press. The site chosen for a high school in Bonita Springs is a bad choice for multiple reasons, argues the Imperial Parkway Against School Site, a group of Bonita Springs residents who live near the site. Fort Myers News-Press. Volunteers can make a difference in a student’s life. R. Wayne Mullican, Naples Daily News. A move is afoot to revise the Florida Education Finance Program, which decides how much state money goes to each school district. It’s not likely to succeed. Dave Denslow, Gainesville Sun. The issue of bathrooms for transgender students is uncomfortable for many, but then being uncomfortable is no reason to deny some else their civil rights. Ocala Star Banner. We’re arguing about bathrooms, again? Linda Cunningham, Ocala Star Banner. The Leon County School District should widen its sex education courses to be inclusive of gay and transgender students. Molly SigRist, Tallahassee Democrat. Florida is facing at least two teaching crises in its K-12 schools, and the teacher bonuses program may be making at least one of them worse. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: The Buchholz High School math team wins its 12th straight state championship Saturday. Gainesville Sun. Tallahassee’s Pineville Elementary School receives a $50,000 grant from the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children. The money will be used to buy tablets and nearly $15,000 worth of print and digital books. Tallahassee Democrat. Students in the High Springs Community School’s chapter of Future Farmers of America clean the city’s original spring. They removed trash, preventing it from entering an aquifer, and studied the effects of fertilizer on aquifers. Gainesville Sun. More than 200 students create apps or other tech solutions at the third annual eMerge Americas Hackathon in Miami. The winner will receive $10,000. Miami Herald. The Clay County School District will get $1 million from the state to pay for new equipment and other classroom resources for high school students in its Academies of Clay program. Florida Times-Union. A scrapbook showing appreciation for law enforcement officers and military personnel wins Lilly Scarbrough the first-place prize at the Accelerated Christian Education Regional Student Convention. She’s a 14-year-old student at Marvelous Grace Girls Academy in Pace. Pensacola News-Journal. Fourth-grade students at Roosevelt Elementary in Brevard County sound off about the environmental problems of the Indian River Lagoon. Florida Today. Oasis High School’s ROTC program wins an American Legion rifle competition among Cape Coral high schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Fourteen Collier County students compete in the NAACP’s Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics program to showcase their talents. Naples Daily News. Aubrey Scamahorn, a fifth grader at Shalimar Elementary School, is named Florida’s top archer for elementary girls. Northwest Florida Daily News.