Florida schools roundup: Scholarships appeal, magnets, test cuts and more

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florida-roundup-logoAppeal over scholarships: The Florida Education Association and other groups will try to convince an appeals court today that it has the standing to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s tax-credit scholarship program. A Leon County Circuit Court judge dismissed the case last May. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, administers tax-credit scholarships for about 80,000 low-income students, and also the Gardiner Scholarships for students with disabilities. Miami Herald. Tallahassee Democrat.

Magnets and race: The number of black students at A-rated Duval County magnet schools has dropped 10 percent in the past six years, according to the school district. Black students make up 44 percent of all Duval students, but 35 percent of applicants for A-rated magnet schools and only 29 percent of students enrolled in those schools. Some members of the school board are concerned, since integration was one of the primary missions for magnet schools. Florida Times-Union.

Testing cutbacks: Hillsborough County’s decision to cut back on student testing has drawn the attention of neighboring Pasco County. School Superintendent Kurt Browning sent a memo to his communications director, asking: “I want to know how they reduce assessments and still meet the statutory requirements. Also, how do they give teachers the flexibility to determine what assessments will be given?” Gradebook.

Charters on block: The Pinellas County School Board will consider today whether to terminate contracts with four charter schools. Windsor Preparatory Academy and East Windsor Middle Academy in St. Petersburg, and Newpoint Pinellas Academy in Clearwater are managed by Newpoint Education Partners, which has had financial problems and was indicted last week in Escambia County on charges of grand theft and money laundering. The fourth school is Florida Virtual Academy. The schools enroll almost 1,000 students and take in $6 million in public money. Tampa Bay Times.

Sales tax hike: The Palm Beach County School Board wants an escape plan included in an agreement with the county commission over a proposed joint 1-cent sale tax increase going to voters in November. The board is worried that the commission’s changes in the original proposal will delay the necessary approvals and cut the time needed for a publicity campaign. The board and commission meet today. Palm Beach Post.

School impact fees: Orange County developers are asking county commissioners to delay the proposed increase of school impact fees on new homes. The commission is supposed to vote on the fee today. Builders say they need extra time to budget for the increase. The increase in the fee would add an average of $2,259 to a new home home and begin Aug. 8. Orlando Sentinel.

Superintendent search: A 19-member committee will conduct a search for the next Lake County School District superintendent. Susan Moxley is retiring in June 2017. Orlando Sentinel.

Bathroom access: Six advocacy groups are urging the Marion County School Board to reverse its decision to restrict students’ access to school bathrooms based on their birth sex. Florida Politics.

Top volunteer: Esther Hoagland, who has volunteered at Eustis Heights Elementary School for 20 years, is named volunteer of the year in the Lake County School District. Orlando Sentinel.

Security in schools: The St. Johns County School District and the sheriff’s department are working on security procedures after five schools were recently placed on lockdown. St. Augustine Record.

CPR training: The American Heart Association Orange County chapter is pushing school district officials to require CPR training, and hopes to expand the movement to other Florida counties. WFTV.

Abuse alleged: A teacher and an aide have been removed from a special education kindergarten class at Moton Elementary School in Brooksville. The two are alleged to have physically abused a 6-year-old girl with Down syndrome. Tampa Bay Times.

Ex-teacher loses license: A former Palm Beach County teacher has been stripped of his license permanently by the Education Practices Commission. Brian Douglas Palmberg, 55, a biology teacher at John I. Leonard High in Greenacres, was accused of trying to seduce a 17-year-old female student during the 2014-15 school year. He resigned before he could be fired. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The Pinellas County School Board should ask plenty of questions about the district’s plan to set up magnet program at failing elementary schools. It is difficult to imagine how transforming these schools into magnets would help students failing at reading and math. Tampa Bay Times. Too many children come to school hungry and leave not knowing if they’ll eat again that day. It’s a simple but devastating truth. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. Hungry schoolchildren in Collier and other south Florida counties get help from Pan-Florida Challenge for Hungry Kids, a charity bicycle ride. Brent Batten, Naples Daily News. The public must ask hard questions of our schools. Charles Bagwell, Tallahassee Democrat. Flagler County officials should be applauded for making an investment in the safety of their high school football players, and for leading in the effort to reduce sports concussions. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: Students at Andersen Elementary School in Rockledge are learning about personal safety with age-appropriate tips from the Safer Smarter Kids program. Florida Today. About 200 Hillsborough County students in grades 3-11 review more than 20 dishes at the seventh annual Fresh Flavors – Food for Body and Mind Expo. The menu items are being considered for the district’s menu in the 2016-2017 school year. Tampa Bay Times. Marco Fernandez, a 16-year-old junior at Miami-Dade County’s School for Advanced Studies, wins the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School Track with a customized insole product using 3D scanning and printing techniques. Miami Herald. The Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jax Journey are starting a literacy-focused summer camp for 500 children in grades 1-3. Florida Times-Union. Pensacola Beach Elementary fourth-graders get a lesson on Spanish General Bernardo de Galvez, who helped the United States during the Revolutionary War, from pen pals in their sister city of Malaga, Spain. Pensacola News Journal. North Fort Myers High wins top honors at the Lee County High School Musical Awards show. Fort Myers News-Press. Eleven Polk County seniors are recognized for their community service. Lakeland Ledger. Students and parents at Ocala’s Forest High School have been “cup messaging” since the school opened 14 years ago. Ocala Star Banner. Student and staff achievements will be celebrated at today’s Volusia County School Board meeting. Daytona Beach News-Journal.