Florida schools roundup: Budget woes, charter lawsuit, address fraud and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

florida-roundup-logoBudget problems: State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says Florida schools are probably going to have to raise local property taxes to close a $426 million gap in funding. Latvala said the state is unlikely to close that financial gap with state funds for a second year in a row. Latvala’s position contradicts House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s. The Land O’Lakes Republican has vowed not to raise taxes for schools. Naples Daily News. News Service of Florida.

Charter suit dismissed: A lawsuit challenging the state’s rule that withholds money for construction and repairs from charter schools that got consecutive D grades from the state has been dismissed. The case was ruled moot when the state withdrew the rule last week. But just days after that rule was dropped, another was adopted that kept the restrictions but delayed implementation for a year. Charter school advocates say they will fight the revised rule. redefinED.

Fake address query: An investigation into address fraud at Calusa Elementary School in Boca Raton is concluding, and school officials say they have found at least 11 students whose families may have lied about where they live so the students could attend the school. Final checks are being made, but officials say there won’t be enough changes to avoid the proposed rezoning that would move 372 Calusa students to other schools next year. Sun-Sentinel.

Class sizes: Lake County is the only school district in central Florida to violate the class-sizes rules, and it missed the standard by just two students. Lake officials say they will appeal the Department of Education findings. Orlando Sentinel.

Stadium costs: Tommy Oliver Stadium in Panama City was torn down over the summer when the final cost for the build was expected to be about $6 million. Now the Bay County School Board is being asked to approve $12 million for the project. Members learned Thursday that the estimated cost had increased to more than $10 million as far back as June. “Why did we not know as a board that it was so much more than what we had been told it was before a week before we were going to vote?” board member Steve Moss asked facilities manager John Bozarth. Panama City News Herald.

Open enrollment: Manatee County school officials are concerned that students will use the state’s new open enrollment law to transfer to the neighboring A-rated Sarasota County School District. Sarasota is one of three state districts to receive an A. Bradenton Herald.

Teachers honored: Jessica Hooker, a third-grade teacher at Springwood Elementary School, is named Leon County teacher of the year. Tallahassee Democrat. The Seminole County School District names 12 semifinalists for the teacher of the year award. They are: Christin Rivera, Bentley Elementary; Susan Rutherford, Crystal Lake Elementary; Emily Sless, Highlands Elementary; Jayme Skillman, Lake Mary Elementary; Sebrina Mediavilla, Partin Elementary; Joshua Alan Brink, Woodlands Elementary; Kimberly Longarzo, Greenwood Lakes Middle; Donald B. Fields, Markham Woods Middle; Kimberly Stalker, South Seminole Middle; Jill Adams, Lake Brantley High; Lauren Oliva, Lake Howell High; and Steven DeSanto, Lake Mary High. The winner will be announced March 3. Orlando Sentinel.

School health clinic: The first health clinic for Brevard County School District employees opens next to the administrative offices in Viera. A second will open at Central Middle School in Melbourne this spring, and a third next summer at Jackson Middle in Titusville. Florida Today.

Principal removed: Lake Worth High School’s principal is removed and an assistant principal transferred in the aftermath of a student’s attack on the assistant principal Nov. 22. The student was allowed back on campus just days after the attack, prompting criticism from the wife of the assistant principal. Now, principal Gregory Lockhart has been ordered to stay off campus. Palm Beach Post.

School busing cuts: Hillsborough County School Board chair Cindy Stuart talks about the district ending courtesy busing for 7,500 students to save money. Tampa Bay Times.

District suing for land: After two attempts to buy a vacant Silver Springs Shores property to build a new middle school fell through, the Marion County School District will sue to acquire the land through eminent domain. Under eminent domain, the district must show good cause why it needs the land, and pay the property owner a fair price. The district needs at least 30 acres of the property’s 128 to build the school. Ocala Star Banner.

Contract negotiations: Sarasota County teachers and other school workers overwhelmingly approve a contract that calls for an average 4 percent pay raise. The school board will vote on the agreement Jan. 3. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent backtracks: Newly elected Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna supported appointment to the superintendent position during his campaign for the job. Now he says he’s changed his mind. WFSU.

Personnel changes: Pasco County school officials promote two veterans to be principals at schools opening in the fall. Carin Hetzler-Nettles will be principal at Cypress Creek Middle-High School, and Vicki Wolin will run Bexley Elementary School. Gradebook. Mark Vianello is named to oversee the Marion County School District’s vocational programs. Superintendent Heidi Maier also named several new principals. Ocala Star Banner.

District layoffs: The Jefferson County School District lays off eight administrative employees as it tries to balance its budget. WFSU.

Crossing guards needed: The Palm Beach County School District needs 71 school crossing guards. The Palm Beach County’s Sheriff’s Office, which runs the program, says the number of openings has increased 40 percent since the school year started. Palm Beach Post.

New instruction policy: A change in instruction policy at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind has some parents complaining. Last school year, the school agreed to implement a program that emphasized communication through American Sign Language and English text. Now, some parents say the change is not working for all students and has led to some bullying. St. Augustine Record.

Notable death: Brig. Gen. Frank Laudano, commandant and chief financial officer at the Sarasota Military Academy, has died after a heart attack. He was 56. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School official arrested: The director of elementary school curriculum in Osceola County is one of 114 people arrested during an undercover prostitution sting in Polk County. Matthew Phillips, 42, is accused of offering to engage in lewdness and battery. He has been placed on leave by the school district. Orlando Sentinel.

Substitute arrested: A substitute teacher is arrested and accused of striking a student with a yardstick. Evonne Francis, 59, is accused of child abuse for striking the child in a class at Paul R. Smith Middle School. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP.

Student arrested: A 16-year-old Seminole High School student is arrested and accused of felony possession of cannabis gummy candy. He sold a piece of the candy to a fellow student who got sick and reported the boy, according to the school resource officer. Orlando Sentinel.

Students suspended: Fifteen students get the maximum 10-day suspensions for fighting at Eastside High School. School officials say the students could also face expulsion and transfers to alternative schools. Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: The Brevard County School Districts has largely carried through on the promises it made in 2014 on how it would spend the extra money generated by a half-cent increase in the sales tax. Matt Reed. Florida Today. Students and taxpayers benefit from the use of discretionary funds, argues an Orange County School Board member. Christine Moore, Orlando Sentinel. The more we learn, the more we want and need to learn. And as the world becomes increasingly complicated, there is a greater need than ever to continue learning. That is the secret of education. It opens doors to opportunity, but it also opens minds to new ways of thinking crucial to our collective future. Kathy Silverberg, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Preschoolers at the Scheck Hillel Community School near Ventura get yoga lessons as they listen to stories. Miami Herald. The Broward County Library graduates its first class. The library is one of 11 in the state that offers people a chance to get accredited high school diplomas through online coursework. Sun-Sentinel. Students at the Royal Palm School, a public school in Lantana for young people with severe disabilities, form a group of DJs to provide music for school functions. Sun-Sentinel. Seventeen of the St. Lucie County School District’s 38 schools win Model School status for Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) from the University of South Florida. PBIS is an approach to cut problem behaviors with specific strategies that focus on improving academic performance and safety. TCPalm.

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