Florida schools roundup: Budgets, suspensions, construction and more

Jim Booth

florida-roundup-logoSchool budgeting: Property owners in Orange and Seminole counties can expect to pay more in school taxes this year. The millage rates for the districts will be slightly lower, but increases in property values will more than offset the millage declines. Orange County is projecting a school budget of more than $3.5 billion. Seminole County’s budget is set at $951 million. Orlando Sentinel. The Volusia County School Board will consider a budget of $847 million that still leaves the district $9 million short of what it had hoped to spend. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Manatee County School District will use about $4 million from its general reserves to balance its $608 million budget. But its reserves will still meet the state minimum of 3 percent, officials say. Bradenton Herald.

School suspensions: Bay County School District suspensions hit a seven-year high, even as state suspensions are at a three-year low. More than 3,000 students – 1 in 10 – were suspended in 2014-2015 school year. School officials say they are working on alternatives. Panama City News Herald.

School construction: School construction projects could be moved up under a Broward County School District proposal that will be reviewed by the school board this week. The projects originally scheduled for 2018 and 2019 would be undertaken in 2017. Voters approved a bond proposal in 2014 to repair schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Gifted program: The Duval County School District plans to expand the number and type of gifted middle school programs. But so far, the school board has called for revisions to the district’s plans. Florida Times-Union.

School grades: Volusia County School District officials aren’t sure why so many students are skipping the writing section of the Florida Standards Assessments, but they will continue to investigate. Four high schools received grades of incomplete because not enough students completed the tests. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Longer days: Twenty Palm Beach County elementary schools ended up on the list of the state’s 312 lowest-performing schools, and all will have an extra hour of reading instruction this school year. Three of the 20 are charter schools. Palm Beach Post.

School scheduling: Two more Manatee County high schools are going to the “straight seven” school schedule, in which students attend 45-minute classes the same time every day. “The shorter periods, we think, we can engage our students better and the consistency of every day seeing every student in every class we hope will make a change that is a positive for us,” says Bayshore High School principal David Underhill. Bradenton Herald.

Superintendent search: Twenty-one candidates for the St. Johns County school superintendent job are being evaluated. The school board wants the new superintendent in place by January, when current Superintendent Joe Joyner retires. St. Augustine Record.

New principals: Five new principals are appointed to Alachua County schools, which leaves just one more opening to be filled. School starts Aug. 15, and 27,000 students are expected. Gainesville Sun.

Principal reassigned: Bailey Elementary School Principal Russell Wallace is reassigned after allegations by his staff of verbal abuse, poor communication and mishandling of state tests. He’s now an assistant principal at Bryan Elementary in Plant City. Tampa Bay Times.

School bus union: The union for school bus drivers in Santa Rosa County is negotiating a new contract with Durham School Services LP, which has a contract to provide those services for the district. The drivers voted to unionize in 2013 after complaints about bus repairs and driver benefits. The company appealed the decision, but lost. Pensacola News Journal.

District’s property: The Monroe County School Board will discuss plans for a $10 million piece of waterfront property it owns in Key West. The district could sell it, lease or perhaps try to build affordable housing for teachers. Keynoter.

School bullying: A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says zero-tolerance policies against bullying are not working. The report urges schools to try to prevent bullying by teaching tolerance. Associated Press.

Nursing program: A program placing nurses in Bay County schools will be expanded to charter schools. The program is a collaboration between the Bay County Health Department and the Bay County School District. The program began last year and received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Panama City News Herald.

Charter schools: New Beginnings High School, a Winter Haven charter school for struggling and dropout students, opens a Lakeland branch. Lakeland Ledger. The Manatee County School District is proposing that the Just for Girls elementary school change to an alternative education program. Just for Girls already runs such a program for middle school students. The state is requiring changes due to the school’s failing grades. Bradenton Herald.

School board elections: The Lee County School Board has never had a minority member in its 128-year-plus history. That may change, as four minority candidates are on the ballot for board seats this year. Fort Myers News-Press.

School official resigns: Polk County schools’ associate superintendent Jacque Bowen is resigning, citing “personal commitments.” Lakeland Ledger.

School safety: An investigation shows there is no basis to rumors that some Citrus County schools are unsafe or that school officials engaged in grade-tampering. The investigation began when State Rep. Jimmie T. Smith said he had heard rumors about those problems in the schools. Smith is now a school board candidate. Citrus County Chronicle.

Athlete transfers: Leon County school officials don’t think the new rules on student-athletes transferring will have a major impact on the district. “I don’t think it will affect Leon County much, because we were already liberal on school choice,” says Leon County athletic director Ricky Bell. “But the Legislature may have to look at it again for some of the single-school counties because that may deplete some of the smaller schools.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Pitch limits: The Florida High School Athletic Association will regulate the number of pitches high school baseball players will be allowed to throw in a game. Pitch limits will be set by age. WWSB.

Substitute sentenced: Samuel Bullock Jr., formerly a substitute teacher in the Hillsborough County School District, is sentenced to more than two years in state prison for sending nude pictures of himself to a teenage student. He pleaded guilty to transmitting harmful material to a minor, as well as two other third-degree felonies. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: When it comes to plugging the holes in the Palm Beach County School District’s capital budget, a penny will go a long way for our local schools. Superintendent Robert Avossa, Sun-Sentinel. Outgoing State Rep. Jimmie T. Smith showed poor judgment in passing along gossip about the Citrus County School District. Citrus County Chronicle. Florida’s K-12 system hasn’t gotten the memo about the importance of high school physics, but maybe your district has. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Miami-Dade County high school girls get an introduction to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at  Columbia University’s Girls in STEM program. Miami Herald. More than 2,000 needy Alachua County students will receive backpacks filled with school supplies as part of a back to school rally. Gainesville Sun. Shooting survivor Oliver Ross donates more than 100 backpacks loaded with school supplies to Volusia County children in need. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Computer code written by 13 students in Bok Academy’s Zero Robotics summer program will be tested aboard the International Space Station. Lakeland Ledger.

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