Florida schools roundup: School assignments, choice, elections and more

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florida-roundup-logoSchool assignment query: The Florida Department of Education is investigating whether Duval County school officials followed the law in reassigning students from schools that were closed or revamped because of poor performance. The law requires districts to reassign students from failing schools to schools that have a grade of C or better, and the state says there are allegations that’s not happening. Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says he’s confident the district has followed state guidelines. Florida Times-Union.

School choice: School choice advocates do well in Florida elections while the anti-choice teachers union, the Florida Education Association, has setbacks even after spending nearly $3 million on its preferred candidates. redefinED. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Experts say Donald Trump’s educational policies are likely to include expanded parental choice, growth in voucher programs and more local control of schools, among other things. The Atlantic.

School elections: The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections hopes to declare a winner today in the District 7 school board race between Lynn Gray and Cathy James. Gray leads by a quarter of a percent, but 1,400 provisional ballots remain to be counted. Any difference under a half percent triggers an automatic recount. Gradebook. The Polk County Supervisor of Elections will decide Friday if a recount is required in the District 4 school board race between Sara Beth Reynolds and Becky Troutman. Reynolds leads by less than a quarter of a percent. Lakeland Ledger. Marianne Arbulu is elected superintendent of schools for Jefferson County. WFSU.

House education leader: State Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, is named to direct education policy in the Florida House in the upcoming legislative session. Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, made the appointment. Gradebook.

Contract negotiations: The Pasco County School District employees union declares an impasse in contract negotiations with the district. The district is offering an average 3.5 percent increase in wages and benefits, but employees want the district to dip into its reserves to give more. Tampa Bay Times.

School properties: Manatee County school officials say a new high school in the Parrish area will be built in a way that can accommodate 25 percent more students in an additional classroom wing if needed. The school is expected to open in August 2019 with 2,000 students. Bradenton Herald. The school board also approved the sale of a small, long-abandoned piece of land to the adjacent property owner. Bradenton Herald. Volusia County school officials will begin negotiating with architectural firms as the first step in building a new school and renovating another. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

New volunteer policy: All volunteers who spend unsupervised time with Bay County students will have to undergo a background check, school board members decide. Who pays the $35 fee will be determined by each school’s principal. Panama City News Herald.

Rezoning complaints: Parents in Seminole County are complaining about a rezoning plan that will affect students from six elementary schools. Under the plan, some students from the six full or overflowing schools will be moved to Longwood Elementary when it opens in August. Orlando Sentinel.

Community forum: The Uhuru Movement is sponsoring a community forum in St. Petersburg this weekend to discuss “How Public Schools Have Failed the Black Community.” The organization charges that the Pinellas County School District has failed to properly education black students and disciplines and arrests them at a disproportionate rate. Gradebook.

Chinese principals visit: Twenty-five school principals from the Guangdong province of China are visiting Broward and Palm Beach schools to learn about school choice and school magnet programs. Sun-Sentinel.

Molestation arrest: A 16-year-old boy is arrested and accused of molesting a preschooler at the Bola Learning Center in Little Haiti. The boy was also arrested in 2014 on a similar charge. Miami Herald.

School guard arrested: A security guard at Winter Springs High School is arrested and accused of slamming a 15-year-old student to the ground and choking him. Deron J. Smiley, 44, was arguing with the student about not being in class. Orlando Sentinel.

More charges: A former counselor at Chaires Elementary School in Tallahassee faces additional charges of lewd and lascivious behavior after photos were found hidden on her phone. Kathgret Rebecca Rentz, 28, is alleged to have been in a romantic relationship with a boy under the age of 16. Tallahassee Democrat.