Florida schools roundup: Education bill, interim superintendent and more

Education bill: A national school choice group is urging Gov. Rick Scott to sign H.B. 7069. The Center for Education Reform, based in Washington, D.C., says the Legislature’s education bill would “help successful charter schools to grow and to serve more low-income students” and “ensure equitable distribution of Title I funds.” The bill would give charter schools a share of local property taxes, offer financial incentives for charter companies to start schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools, and more. Miami Herald. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says he hopes the governor doesn’t veto the education bill. Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, who helped put together the bill, is urging Scott to read the bill, independent from misleading “rhetoric” critics have used, before making a decision. Miami Herald. More local districts, political leaders and groups are urging Scott to veto the bill. Sun SentinelOrlando Sentinel. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. Port St. Joe Star. Associated PressCreative Loafing Tampa.

Interim superintendent: The Duval County School Board chooses Patricia Willis to be interim superintendent. Willis is a former Duval deputy superintendent who retired in 2012. She takes over for Nikolai Vitti, whose last day is Friday, and will be paid $22,916 a month through Jan. 31, 2018, if necessary. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

State of the schools: In her annual state of the schools speech, Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins says two of the biggest issues the district faces are the rapid growth of student enrollment and the shortage of teachers. WFTV.

Testing troubles: Pasco County students are not doing well in district-designed course finals, and teacher say the reason is that the tests do not reflect what the students have learned this year. The district is calling for a deeper look at the criticism to see if a new approach is warranted. Gradebook.

Absenteeism prosecutions: Parents in Duval County are 10 times more likely to be prosecuted because their children skip school than any comparably sized district in the state, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Education. WJAX.

Contract impasse: The contract impasse between the Santa Rosa County School District and its teachers union will continue at least another 60 days. That’s when a special magistrate who heard arguments from both sides is expected to issue a recommendation to the school board, which will decide on the terms of the deal. Pensacola News Journal.

Principal steers fundraiser: The principal at a Palm Beach County elementary school steered $1,300 from school fundraisers to a charity drive organized by her son, according to a district investigation. Hidden Oaks Elementary principal Sari Myers didn’t violate any district policies or benefit personally in any way, according to the report, but she failed to disclose her connection to the charity drive. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel changes: The Manatee County School District appoints several new principals, assistant principals and other school administrators. Bradenton Herald.

School bus crash hurts 13: Thirteen students from Joyce Bullock Elementary and Williston Elementary schools were treated at a hospital for minor injuries after a Levy County school bus is struck from behind in Williston. Gainesville Sun.

Teacher’s aide arrested: A teacher’s aide at Edward White High School in Jacksonville is arrested and accused of beating two children because she didn’t like the Mother’s Day gifts they gave her. India Tonetta Martin, 42, is charged with child abuse, and has been fired by the school district. Florida Times-Union.

Vandalism at schools: Four students are arrested and accused of vandalizing T. Dewitt Taylor Middle-High School by painting racist slogans and vulgar images on the school’s walls and sidewalks. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Vandals paint a swastika and a racist slogan on a sign at Bonita Springs Middle School. Lee County deputies are investigating. Naples Daily News.

School threat: Many Chiles High School students stay home after an anonymous threat is posted on social media. The threat was made after several students waved Confederate flags from their vehicles in the school parking lot. An online petition drive is urging the school to ban the flying of the Confederate flag on campus. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.

Opinions on schools: If Gov. Rick Scott allows the education bill to become law, thousands more Florida students — including many from the state’s most troubled school districts — could see a big jump in students’ access to high-quality charter public schools. Nina Rees, Sun Sentinel. Don’t believe the hyperbole you’re hearing from critics about the education and state budgets. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Florida Politics. Rick Scott will veto H.B. 7069. It’s just a matter of whether the governor’s pen takes out just the conforming bill or the K-12 budget with it. To overturn a veto, the Legislature needs a two-thirds vote in both chambers. Does anybody really think lawmakers will go to the wall for this bill? Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has tweeted that it is a myth that education legislation was “negotiated in secret.” But he omits that the final dealmaking between the House and Senate was largely done behind closed doors. We rate this claim False. Politifact Florida. H.B. 7069 has some good points, but the overall effect will hurt the children in Flagler County. School board member Trevor Tucker, Flagler Live. Graduation advice no high school has ever asked me to give. Tom Lyons, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Many of the state’s best teachers, including teachers of the year, don’t qualify for bonuses under the state’s Best and Brightest program. Why? Because the plan doesn’t reward teachers who change lives, open minds or inspire students. It’s based on test scores — student scores, but also the scores that the teachers themselves earned back in high school. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Jaylen Arnold, a sophomore at Victory Christian Academy in Lakeland, is one of 20 youths from around the world chosen to receive a Diana Legacy award for starting an anti-bullying foundation. The award is given in the memory of the late Princess of Wales, and is presented by her sons in London. Lakeland Ledger. Students from Poinciana Park Elementary School in Miami have gotten to know their local police officers through a program that puts them together for lunch and conversation. Miami Herald. The top 10 STEM students in Panhandle schools will be honored at the Sunshine State Scholars Conference. WEAR. Students at Howard Bishop Middle School launch rockets of their own before a trip to the Kennedy Space Center. Gainesville Sun. Thirty seniors from Broward and Miami-Dade counties are chosen as Silver Knight winners for their academic achievements. Miami Herald. Sixty-nine high school seniors from Palm Beach and Martin counties win Pathfinder awards for their accomplishments. Palm Beach Post. Korean war veteran Marty Sullivan will receive a high school diploma in Hillsborough County 64 years after dropping out of high school. Tampa Bay Times. Five Manatee County schools are selected among the state’s best Future Farmers of America chapters. Bradenton Herald. Best & Brightest awards are presented to 160 Leon County high school seniors. Tallahassee Democrat. Students at Old Kings Elementary near Flagler Beach are preparing the release the striped bass they’ve been raising at their fish hatchery. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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