Florida schools roundup: Absenteeism, scholarships, mentoring and more

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florida-roundup-logoChronic absenteeism: Florida has the lowest rate in the United States of students who were chronically absent from school in the 2013-2014 school year, according to an analysis of U.S. Education Department statistics. Florida’s rate was 4.5 percent, well under the 13 percent national average. Associated Press.

Scholarships for disabled: A study shows that parents with disabled children are eager to apply for scholarships or vouchers, even when it means spending more for their child’s education and giving up some rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Council for Parent Attorneys and Advocates did a review of the 11 states that offer such options for the disabled, including Florida. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administers the Florida program known as the Gardiner Scholarships. Education Week.

Mentoring program: The Obama administration’s mentoring program, My Brother’s Keeper Success Mentors Initiative, is expanding to Orlando. The program matches chronically absent students with mentors three times a week to try to keep students in school. Orlando Sentinel.

Shared sick leave: More than 1,200 sick days were transferred to Pasco County School District employees whose health problems extended beyond their own leave time. Gradebook.

More resume problems: Newly hired Pittsburgh school superintendent Anthony Hamlet, formerly an administrator in the Palm Beach County School District, appears to have plagiarized his educational philosophy from the Washington Post and included it in his resume, according to published reports. Earlier this week, he acknowledged errors on his resume but defended his record. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Palm Beach Post.

Sales tax hikes: A penny increase in the sales tax will be on the ballot in Palm Beach County on Nov. 8. More than the required 50 percent of the governmental bodies in the county have approved it. The tax is expected to raise $2.7 billion, and half will go to the county’s schools. The money can be used only for infrastructure. Palm Beach Post. The Manatee County School Board will decide Tuesday whether to ask voters in November to approve an extension of the existing half-cent sales tax. Bradenton Herald.

Capital projects: The Leon County School District will spend about $18 million on building repairs, maintenance and technology updates. Tallahassee Democrat.

Summer trip back on: The Manatee County School District now says students from Buffalo Creek Middle School can attend the FFA Florida Outdoor Adventures camp if they have a waiver of liability. The trip had been canceled by the district, which cited the use of firearms at the camp, but reconsidered after parents objected. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher hiring: The Alachua County School District pays a marketing firm $52,500 to help it hire 78 new teachers. Gainesville Sun.

Contract dispute: The Volusia County School District and the teachers union agree on something: Going through a special magistrate process prolonged the negotiations and deepened the rift between the two over contract talks. The process also cost $9,000. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Charter school expands: Palm Harbor Academy, a Flagler County charter school, is adding seventh and eighth grades in the fall. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Educator honored: Dan Leslie Bowden, who has taught English and advised at Ransom Everglades School for 60 years, is honored by his former students and colleagues at a dinner. Bowden, now 87, retired from teaching in 1999 but remains as an adviser to the head of the school. Miami Herald.

Legg honored: Outgoing State Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, is named legislator of the year by the Florida School Board Association. Legg, 40, was chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Gradebook.

Districts sued: Eleven high school baseball players who moved from Puerto Rico to Lake Worth in 2015 are suing the Palm Beach County School Board. They allege that they were discriminated against by the Lake Worth High School administration and baseball coach by being ridiculed and then thrown off the team. Palm Beach Post. The Polk County School Board is notified that it will be sued by the father of a teenage girl who had sex with now-jailed Mulberry High School teacher Jason Argo. Lakeland Ledger.

Twitter troubles: A Collier County School Board candidates shuts down his Twitter account after using a vulgar term to describe a national female commentator. Lee Dixon says he didn’t write the post, but takes responsibility for it. Naples Daily News.

Students arrested: A 15-year-old Haines City eighth-grader is arrested and accused of taking a loaded gun to Boone Middle School on Wednesday. Lakeland Ledger. A 10-year-old student is arrested after stabbing another student in the face with a pencil at Lake Academy, a program for Lake County students with behavioral issues. Daily Commercial.

Details in porn case: Ricky Sheppard, principal at Spessard Holland Elementary School in Satellite Beach, had photos of students from the school on his home computer along with child pornography movies when he was arrested this week on a federal child pornography charge. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: School’s out. No other single day can pull the parental triggers for relief, sappy reflection and sheer panic all at the same time. Beth Kassab, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Three Hillsborough County students analyze the cotton seeds that were sent into space April 8 through May 11, and discover that they grew faster than the ones on Earth. Tampa Bay Times. Five Florida schools win grants from the Fishing League Worldwide as part of the FLW Foundation Florida High School Fishing grant program. The schools each win $500 to establish new fishing clubs or expanding existing one. Outdoors First. Vince Santo is putting off retirement to help start the School of the Visual and Performing Arts in Clermont next fall. Santo ran the drama department at East Ridge High School the past seven years. Orlando Sentinel.