Florida schools roundup: Desegregation, resume, supplemental pay and more

florida-roundup-logoDesegregation case: The plaintiffs in a 50-year-old Pinellas County desegregation case are asking a federal court for help in enforcing the settlement. They allege the district is not fulfilling its commitment to provide safe schools for black students, isn’t treating them fairly in discipline cases, isn’t hiring and retaining black teachers, and is failing to increase the number of black students in magnets and special programs. The legal move sets into motion a process that includes negotiations between the sides, mediation and, if necessary, the appointment of a special overseer to report to the court. Tampa Bay Times.

Resume-padding: Anthony Hamlet, who was recently named to lead the Pittsburgh school district, embellished his achievements as Palm Beach County school administrator. His resume is at odds with the facts on lifting a school’s grade from an F to a C, on raising a school’s graduation rate by 13 percentage points, and on his district responsibilities. Hamlet called questions about his resume “a few percentage-point discrepancies” and of little consequence in the full context of his career. A Pittsburgh official says Hamlet “set himself far apart from the pool” in several ways beyond his resume. Palm Beach Post. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Supplemental pay scheme: Eastside High School paid almost $15,000 in supplemental pay over three and a half years to four staff members who did nothing to earn it and who simply passed it along to football coach Jeffrey Parker. Principal Jeff Charbonnet told a committee investigating the payments that he approved the payments after the district rejected it, and knew the money was going to Parker. Gainesville Sun.

Retention confusion: Parents and school districts in central Florida are battling over the insistence of the districts that third-grade students have test results to be promoted. One, Rhonda Nickerson, says her 9-year-old daughter got straight A’s, but is being retained. Some parents say the retention threat should apply only to students with reading problems, not youngsters with no Florida Standards Assessments score but with good grades and reading skills. State official disagree, saying the retention law applies to everyone. Orlando Sentinel. Four third-graders in Palm Beach County with great grades are being retained because they didn’t take the FSA, and their parents refused the district’s portfolio option because it’s made up of a series of tests. “If the teacher has taught the standards and the report card grades the standards, why can’t they use the report card?” asks Cindy Hamilton, an Orange County mom who cofounded the Opt Out Florida Network with Sandy Stenoff. Palm Beach Post.

Address checks: The Broward County School District is hiring private investigators to verify addresses parents give to when registering their children into schools. False registration has been an ongoing problem for the district. One school board member thinks those caught lying about their addresses should be fined $375 to help cover the costs. Sun-Sentinel.

Unfair labor practice charge: The Volusia County teachers union files an unfair labor practices charge against the school district. The union contends, in a filing to the Florida Public Employee Relations Commission, that the teacher evaluation process should be subject to negotiation since it affects pay and tenure. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School growth: Orange County school officials say they are expecting 5,000 more students for the 2016-2017 school year, and another 5,000 more the following year. With the per-student state funding at $7,137.25, that amounts to about $35 million more in the next school year. Orlando Sentinel.

Report cards: Printed report cards are on the way out in parts of the Tampa Bay area. Hillsborough County is already paper-free for all secondary report cards. Sarasota County has electronic report cards now, Pasco County plans to offer them next year, and some Pinellas County schools do now. The move saves money and gets report cards to parents earlier. Tampa Bay Times.

Bathroom rights: Leaders in the Christian education community say they aren’t seeing any uptick in families rushing to change schools since the Obama administration’s directive that schools should allow transgender students to use bathrooms that conform to their gender identity. Florida Baptist Witness. Monroe County is taking a wait-and-see attitude before making any changes to accommodate bathroom choices by transgender students. Keynoter. Clay County students criticize Superintendent Charlie Van Sant Jr. for making a robocall to parents saying he won’t follow federal guidelines and allow transgender students to use bathrooms that conform to their gender identity. Florida Times-Union.

Recess arriving: All Pinellas County elementary schools will have recess in the fall – or at least whatever each school defines as recess. “We’ll expect all elementary schools to provide a minimum of 20 minutes of recess on the days when they do not have physical education,” says School Superintendent Mike Grego. The district is not defining recess for the schools, other than to say it must be some form of physical activity. Gradebook.

Sales tax projects: The proposed 1-cent sales tax increase that the Palm Beach School District and County Commission are asking voters to approve includes $104.3 million in new projects. The pitch to voters has stressed the need for repairs to roads, bridges and buildings. “I think we should stick to our first principle — repair and refurbishment,” says County Commissioner Hal Valeche, who opposed the initiative. Palm Beach Post.

Charter schools: The once-contentious relations between the Hillsborough County School District and charter schools is warming with turnover on the school board and a new administration. Tampa Bay Times.

Accountability timeline: The Florida Department of Education establishes a timeline to implement the federal Every Students Succeeds Act. After receiving instructions from the U.S. Department of Education by the end of this year, the state will ask for public input, pursue any necessary changes in the 2017 legislative session and start making rules in the summer or fall of 2017. Gradebook.

Dual language education: Donna Shalala and other prominent educators urge that dual language learning be made a part of early education programs. The remarks were made at a White House regional summit on dual language learners held in Miami. Miami Herald.

Teacher honored: Joani Slawson, a music teacher at Saturn Elementary School, is named a quarterfinalist for the Music Educator Award, a national prize presented annually by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation. Florida Today.

New schools: The Lee County School District is negotiating with several property owners for a new high school in Bonita Springs. One of the sites is the Imperial Parkway property, which the district agreed to buy but backed away from because it wanted to test the soil where diesel fuel had leaked. The school board will get a recommendation at its June 14 meeting. Fort Myers News-Press. Financial questions are jeopardizing the proposed 2017-2018 school year opening of a new North Bay Haven Elementary School. Panama City News Herald.

Old school closing: Alumni of Miami Norland High School gather to say goodbye to the school, which is being torn down to make way for a new $43 million school. Miami Herald.

Contract negotiations: Contract negotiations begin between the Collier County School District and the teachers union. Teachers want a three-year deal, which the district is rejecting. The district is offering a starting salary, $44,600, that would be the second-highest in the state. Naples Daily News.

Weather system: The Okaloosa County School District is installing WeatherBug, a new system to track stormy weather and give alerts if lightening is close by. The installation will cost $90,000, with an $11,000 annual fee for service. Northwest Florida Daily News.

All-sports winners: The Florida High School Athletics Association announces its Floyd E. Lay Sunshine Cup All-Sports Awards winner. FHSAAOrlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Pitching to teaching: Andrew Brown, a Major League Baseball pitcher for several years, has a new game plan. He’s teaching math at Starke Elementary School in DeLand. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sexual assault investigation: Lee County School Superintendent Greg Adkins says the investigation continues into the sexual activity in a South Fort Myers High School bathroom. On student was arrested and 16 students have been disciplined after a 15-year-old girl had sex with multiple students. Adkins says the district is creating a new task force to streamline school security and safety. Fort Myers News-Press.

District sued: A lawsuit alleges that the Palm Beach County School District was negligent in not supervising a school playground where a 7-year-old was sexually assaulted three times by two other students. The assaults happened at Addison Mizner Elementary in Boca Raton. Palm Beach Post.

Injuries at graduation party: Three people are hurt when a balcony collapsed during a high school graduation party in Vero Beach. The balcony fell about 12 feet and trapped some students. No one was seriously injured. TCPalm.

Principal arrested: Ricky Delano Sheppard, principal at Spessard Holland Elementary in Satellite Beach, is arrested after a federal child-pornography investigation. Sheppard, 59, was suspended, and Superintendent Desmond Blackburn said he would seek to have him fired. Florida Today. Orlando Sentinel.

Assistant principal arrested: Shannon M. Schultz, assistant principal at Land O’Lakes High School, is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and cocaine possession. Shultz, 38, had a reported blood alcohol content of 0.179, which is more than twice the level the state defines as impaired. Tampa Bay Times.

Assistant principal fired: Oscar Villaneuva, an assistant principal at Pahokee Middle/Senior High School is fired after being accused of sexually harassing two female students. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Isn’t it time that Florida lawmakers admit they made a mistake by turning over policy-making to Jeb Bush’s educational foundation? John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. The sex scandal at South Fort Myers High School needs further attention. Fort Myers News-Press. Don’t automatically blame teachers when something bad happens at school. Mel Whitlock, Fort Myers News-Press. Words of wisdom to graduates. Tom Tryon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The St. Johns County School District must revoke the charter and take over First Coast Technical Center, including the campuses in both Putnam and Clay counties. St. Augustine Record. It is a shame that we are sending our children to learn in buildings with busted air-conditioners and leaky roofs. Palm Beach Post. The Seminole County School District was the first in the state to approve 20 minutes of daily recess. Why? Because it focuses on making the health and well-being of children a priority. Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Kemari Hayes, 18, a homeless student, graduates from Hillsborough County’s Armwood High School with the help of her two sisters. Tampa Bay Times. Several summer reading programs in Jacksonville are aimed at minimizing summer reading loss among young students. Florida Times-Union. The Manatee Veterans Council’s flag etiquette classes for students may expand next year. Bradenton Herald. Jason Ferry, 18, of Haines City High School’s International Baccalaureate program, wins a scholarship and his picture will be shown on a four-story building in Times Square on Wednesday. Lakeland Ledger. Hundreds of Alachua County students take part in the annual Chess Challenge. Gainesville Sun. Tutors for Kids wins a Florida Department of Education Commissioner’s Award of Excellence for its works in Sumter County schools. Daily Commercial.

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