Florida schools roundup: Recess bill, teacher bonuses, seat belts and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

florida-roundup-logoRecess bill filed: A bill has again been filed in the Legislature to require daily recess in Florida’s elementary schools. Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, filed SB 78, which would require 20 minutes of “supervised, safe and unstructured free-play recess” every day for K-5 students. A similar bill died in the Senate last year. Miami Herald. Florida Politics. A Pinellas County School District survey indicates about half the county’s elementary schools have unstructured recess on days without a physical education class. Gradebook.

Teacher bonuses: In August, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart was asked by the State Board of Education to present an alternative to the Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program. Stewart has yet to present that plan, which the board is hoping to offer the Legislature as an option to the current program that gives bonuses to teachers based on evaluations and college entry exam scores. Gradebook.

School bus seat belts: Florida is one of just six states with a law requiring the use of seat belts on school buses. But several loopholes complicate enforcement of the law, say experts. WKMG.

No job for Pons: Former Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons will not be returning to a job with the school district. Rocky Hanna, who defeated Pons in the Nov. 8 election, says the policy that allows former elected officials to return to a district job does not apply to Pons. It was adopted in 2013, and Pons left his job as a principal to become superintendent in 2006. Pons’ lawyer says they are weighing their options. Tallahassee Democrat.

Legislative leaders: State Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, will chair the Florida Senate education committee, and Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, will run education appropriations. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, announced these and other education-related assignments Tuesday. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

Attorney withdraws: Wes Bridges, the Polk County School Board attorney for the past 18 years, will not be taking a similar job in Portland, Ore., after all. Officials at the Portland Public Schools say Bridges withdrew after it became known that he was convicted in 2009 for violating public records law. Portland Oregonian. Willamette Week. Lakeland Ledger.

School boards: Amy Lockhart is elected chairwoman of the Seminole County School Board. Orlando Sentinel. The Walton County School Board says goodbye to Superintendent Carlene Anderson and board member Mark Davis. Anderson retired after three terms as superintendent and 40 years in the district. Defuniak Springs Herald.

Tax for schools: Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson is seeking a spot on the state Constitutional Review Commission with an eye toward changing the state’s formula for funding schools. He says the “required local effort” puts a burden on school districts in more developed counties, and he’d like to replace it with an extra 1-cent sales tax. Fort Myers News-Press.

School bike path: Bay County hires a contractor to build a bicycle path that is expected to provide a safer route to Rutherford High School, Everitt Middle School and Springfield Elementary School. The project is expected to cost about $1.2 million and take a year to complete. Panama City News Herald.

Discrimination suit: A former maintenance worker is suing the Brevard County School District, alleging racial discrimination. Lamar Burgess, who is black, says he was harassed in 2012 and 2013 by his white supervisors and treated differently than white employees by the district. Florida Today.

Bomb threats sentence: A Georgia man who made bomb threats against several Palm Beach County schools is sentenced to 42 months in prison. Preston Alexander McWaters, 25, pleaded guilty in July to making the threats against four schools, a hospital, Palm Beach International Airport and a business in West Palm Beach. Palm Beach Post.

Student arrested: A 19-year-old special education student is arrested after threatening classmates at South Fork High School in Stuart with a knife. TCPalm.

Band director resigns: The band director at Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville resigns after district investigators accuse him of using abusive, sexual and inappropriate language in the presence of students. Brian Damron also made sexual advances toward a student and encouraged that student to remove social media messages. according to district officials. Florida Times-Union.

Request denied: A judge has denied a request from a former Polk County teacher to reduce her 22-year prison sentence for having sex with at least three students. Jennifer Fichter, an English teacher at Central Florida Aerospace Academy in Lakeland, said low self-esteem, depression and an unfulfilled desire to please her parents drove her actions. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Football realignment: The Florida High School Athletic Association announces its new high school football classifications for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. FHSAAOrlando Sentinel. Florida Times-Union. Palm Beach Post. Sun-SentinelFlorida Today. WRUF. Bradenton Herald. Osceola News-Gazette. Naples Daily News. Gainesville Sun. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: The Trump-DeVos education agenda, presuming her nomination is confirmed, will almost certainly expose a major rift in the American Jewish community, a wound that is regularly opened when the voucher issue is played out in the courts or on state ballots. Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz. Here’s some education advice for our southwest Florida legislative delegation. Mike Reagen and Mike Trecker, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Chocachatti Elementary School in Hernando County celebrates Acts of Kindness Week as a means to curb bullying. Tampa Bay Times. Pasco Middle School’s Pirates of Peace Club put on a “Pink Out Day” to reinforce messages about bullying, sexual harassment, prejudice and stereotypes. Tampa Bay Times. The Florida Department of Education launches the Florida Students Achieve website to help students get information to prepare for college. WTXL. Five Lake County teachers win grants from the Educational Foundation of the UnlockED program to fund projects that will engage students. Orlando Sentinel. Manatee County high school students get a practical look on paying bills in the Big Bank Theory class, a 90-minute financial literacy course designed by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. Bradenton Herald. Victoria King, a fourth-grader at First Baptist Christian Academy in Bunnell, is already a business owner. Victoria, 10, makes jellies and jams and sells them at fair, festivals and farmers’ markets. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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