Florida schools roundup: Budgets, legal fees, firings, start times and more

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florida-roundup-logoSchool budgeting: The Lake County School District’s tentative budget for the next year is set at $549 million. The district’s tax millage rate will fall slightly, but a 7 percent increase in property values will largely offset the decline. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial. The Clay County School District sets a tentative budget of $376 million that calls for a slightly lower tax millage rate that will be offset by higher property values. The budget is an increase of almost 8 percent over last year’s. Florida Times-Union. The Collier County School Board will consider a tentative budget of $972 million. While the budget calls for a lower tax millage rate, increased property values would drive up a typical homeowner’s taxes for schools by about 6 percent. Naples Daily News. The Volusia County School Board approves an $847 million operating budget. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Legal fees fight: The state is requesting almost $379,000 in legal fees from the groups that are suing the state over the adequacy of the public educational system. The group, Citizens for a Strong Florida and others, lost the case and are appealing. They object to the state’s request. News Service of Florida. WJXT.

Teacher firings: The Florida Board of Education and teachers unions are at odds over the ability of districts to fire low-performing teachers at failing schools. The board says exceptions to the usual firing process should be made for schools that underachieve year after year. Unions say no teacher should be fired based solely on the performance of their students on state testing. Politico Florida.

Earlier school starts: After the Legislature passed a law allowing schools to open as early as Aug. 10, 40 of the state’s 67 districts took advantage. In central Florida, Lake, Seminole and Osceola start Aug. 10 while Orange and Volusia open Aug. 15. Orlando Sentinel.

Fitness test: Two classes of sixth-graders at Hill-Gustat Middle School in Sebring are taking part in an experiment on fitness. One class will wear wrist heart rate monitors during physical education classes and the other will not. After a semester, results will be compared. The experiment, which will cost up to $8,000 for 40 monitors and a teacher’s iPad, is being financed by the Avon Park/Sebring Jaycees. Highlands Today.

Changes wanted: Educators and parents would like to see changes in testing, school grades and teacher evaluations, according to a survey commissioned by the Orange County School District. Orlando Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: Officials from the Pasco County School District employees union are pessimistic they’ll come to a contract agreement with the district before school opens. While the district says it plans to offer a 3 percent pay raise, neither side has brought a proposal to the discussions yet. Gradebook.

Teaching mindset: In his annual state of the district message to administrators and some teachers, Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says the district is “aiming too low” and that a mindset of success is needed to keep it from falling further behind. “Our kids are not learning at the level they need to learn,” he told the audience. Pensacola News Journal.

Charter schools: A charter school in north Tampa is being sued after it falls more than $600,000 behind in its rent. New Springs Schools has a science-based curriculum, with 334 students in grades K-8. Gradebook.

New principal: Michelle Peddie, a veteran educator who was once a Department of Education project manager, is named principal at the Governors Charter Academy, a K-8 charter school in Tallahassee. Tallahassee Democrat.

New role: Ed Mansouri, who developed the learning management software system used by the Florida Virtual School, will leave the school by the end of the year to concentrate on developing his WeatherSTEM technology. WeatherSTEM units are installed in schools in every Florida county to give real-time weather data. Florida Politics.

Opportunity scholarships: Students at five Pasco County schools are eligible for recently reinstated Opportunity Scholarships. The scholarships allow students at consistently low-rated schools to transfer to higher-rated nearby schools that have space. Gradebook.

Settlement talks: Leon County School Board members will vote on a proposed $200,000 settlement with a motorcyclist who crashed into a school bus last year. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: Our administrators, teachers and district staff work to provide the best education for Collier County students, but complete student success would not be possible without our incredible community partners who help us address a wide range of student needs. Superintendent Kamela Patton, Naples Daily News. I was surprised when I worked through the spring 2016 chemistry enrollment rates for Florida’s school districts and found a remarkable range of results. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Polk County’s Camp Ready helps preschool children learn what they need to know for kindergarten. The program lasts four weeks. Lakeland Ledger.