Florida schools roundup: Secret meeting, charters, top teacher and more

Secret budget meeting? A Democratic legislator says six senators hashed out a deal on the K-12 education budget last week in secret in a separate room at the back of the Senate chambers. Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, disclosed the meeting while speaking at a meeting of Democrats on Monday. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, disputed Braynon’s account, saying no such meeting took place. Miami Herald. The Palm Beach County School Board website urges parents to lobby Gov. Rick Scott to veto the state budget. Palm Beach Post. Bay County School District officials say they’ll have to eliminate eight programs if the education bill becomes law. Panama City News Herald. St. Johns County school officials say they’ll lose $1 million under the education bill. St. Augustine Record. Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins says the state budget could force the district to initiate a hiring freeze. Tampa Bay Times. State Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, a sponsor of the education bill, defends it in an interview. WJAX.

Charter schools: Charter school advocates are celebrating the education bill passed by the Legislature. Naples Daily News. Chris Moya, a lobbyist for a charter school company, calls the education bill a victory for students, but thinks it will end up in court. WFSU.

Teacher honored: Vanessa Ko, a math teacher at Palm Harbor Middle School in Pinellas County, is named one of five finalists for the 2018 Florida teacher of the year award by the Department of Education. Ko was awarded $5,000. The winner will be announced July 13. Gradebook.

Governor’s race: Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, 42, formally launches his campaign for governor. Putnam, a Republican from Bartow, says he will put Florida first, champion school choice and limit government to give more control at the local level. He is the only major declared Republican candidate. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessman Chris King are the declared Democratic candidates. Palm Beach Post. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State News. Tampa Bay Times. Lakeland Ledger.

Textbook stays: The Brevard County School Board votes to keep using a ninth-grade world history textbook despite complaints from some parents about its “favorable” depiction of the Islam religion. Florida Today.

 New school: Lee County School Board members won’t discuss two potential sites for a high school until next month. An advisory committee has unanimously recommended one of the sites, but board approval is required. Fort Myers News-Press.

Superintendent’s contract: The Hillsborough County School Board will vote next week to renew the contract of Superintendent Jeff Eakins. His base pay of $225,000 a year won’t change, but he will get bonuses if he increases the graduation rate and adds to the general fund reserves. Gradebook.

School referendum: The Charlotte County School Board agrees to ask voters in November 2018 for an increase in property taxes. The 1-mill hike would raise about $15 million a year for schools. Charlotte Sun.

Norovirus at school: Hillsborough County health officials say several cases of nororvirus are confirmed at Lowry Elementary School in Hillsborough County, and perhaps 100 more are suspected. Norovirus is a highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic. WFLA.

Personnel changes: The Volusia County School District appoints six new principals and new assignments for six other principals. All begin July 1. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Schedule change: Students at Land O’Lakes High School in Pasco County are upset that their schedule is changing next year because of a school renovation project. As many as a quarter of the school’s buildings will be closed at any given time, forcing the elimination of seventh period and a shortening of lunch breaks. Tampa Bay Times.

Traffic trial approved: The Citrus County School Board approves a pilot program to reduce congestion in school pickup lines. The program gives parents car pool match options or creates a walking school bus or bicycle train for students who live within a mile of school. It also provides an app that allows parents to monitor when their children get on the bus, go to after-school care or walk home. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher wrongly fired: An appeals court rules that the Broward County School District wrongly fired a teacher, and orders it to rehire him. Boyd Anderson High School teacher Steven Yerks, 57, received a poor evaluation and was fired in 2014, but the court ruled the evaluation was flawed. Sun-Sentinel.

Discrimination suits: A discrimination lawsuit filed by a teacher against the Orange County School District, Florida Department of Education Practices Commission and Florida Education Association is dismissed by a district court judge. Wilsonia W. Haygood, a 69-year-old black woman, alleged that she was forced to retire due to her age and race. Florida Record. The Duval County School reaches an $80,000 settlement in a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Stanton College Preparatory School student. Elijah Armstrong, who suffers from epilepsy, accused the district in 2014 of violating his rights by not evaluating him in time to receive educational services and for not providing the appropriate services. The U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights agreed with Armstrong in 2015, and suggested the district revise its policies in dealing with disabled students. Florida Times-Union.

Ex-principal charged: Daniel L. Brennan, who was principal at Pasadena Fundamental School until his resignation Feb. 8, has been charged with scheming to defraud, a felony. He’s accused of mishandling more than $5,000 he received from the Parent Teacher Association to use for school purchases. Gradebook.

Teacher’s porn victims: Several students at Howell L. Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens were victims of a teacher’s child pornography crimes, according to a criminal complaint. Corey Perry, 33, a math teacher at the school, had been involved in child porn for at least three years. During the police investigation, Perry fled the area. He was later found in Nashville, but killed himself as authorities approached him. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

Teachers suspended: Two Duval County teachers are suspended for misconduct. Chrystel Shannon, who teaches at George Washington Carver Elementary, gets a 30-day suspension after being accused of hitting students with a yardstick. Kristin Walker, a teacher at Reynolds Lane Elementary, is suspended for 15 days when she videotaped a fight between two 6-year-old girls without trying to stop it. Florida Times-Union.

School vandalized: Swastikas and racial slurs are painted on walls at Santaluces High School in Lantana. It’s the second Palm Beach County high school vandalized with similar graffiti in the past week. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Lawmakers flat-out assaulted public education this year, casting themselves in the roles of sadistic teachers lavishing favors on their pets — private-school vouchers and charter schools — and pointedly withholding them from their designated black sheep, the public school system. Dan DeWitt, Tampa Bay Times. Our educational champ is a super scholar at Evans High School, and our chump is state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, one of the legislators behind a bill that allows easier challenges to textbooks and school materials that people find objectionable. Orlando Sentinel. One way to reduce testing and return control of district classrooms back to teachers is to adopt the annual ACT test report posted on the Collier County School District’s website. David Bolduc, Naples Daily News. The education bill has good elements and bad, but it would bring real hope to a lot of families. Lane Wright, the Capitolist.

Student enrichment: Allison Kimsey, 18, a visual arts student at Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland, wins a $2,500 scholarship from the National Merit Scholarship Program. Lakeland Ledger. Fifth-grade art students at DeSoto Trail Elementary School in Tallahassee are working on the Fauvism style of nature painting, which emphasizes color choice, bold brushstrokes and an emotional response to nature. Tallahassee Democrat. Pinellas County students win awards at the 14th annual Walker’s Rising Starts Scholarship Competition. More than 250 students took part over six months in the culinary arts, dance, instrumental, theater, visual art and vocal categories. Gradebook. The Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy was the highest ranking south Florida school in the Washington Post‘s most challenging high schools rankings. Miami Herald. Tyler Sanders, an 11-year-old St. Andrew School student, is named VSA Florida student of the month in April for his artwork. Panama City News Herald.

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