Florida schools roundup: Cyberattacks on schools, education bill and more

Schools cyberattacked: A cyberattack launched last fall against the Miami-Dade County School District and three others ultimately failed, but it did show vulnerabilities of districts trying to protect the personal information of current and former students, their parents and school employees. Experts say school wifi networks are traditionally easy to connect to, and the proliferation of cell phones among students gives hackers opportunities to get access to those networks. Miami Herald.

Education law impact: Brevard County teachers worry that the new education law will put jeopardized promised raises, and school officials are concerned with the availability of money for capital projects. Florida Today. Some northwest Florida schools will benefit from the new law, and some could be negatively affected. WTXL. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, architect of the K-12 education bill, gets a hostile reception at an event in Tampa. Florida Politics. Corcoran may be the Legislature’s most interesting man, but he may also be the most contradictory. Miami Herald. In an interview, Corcoran defends the education bill. WFLA. Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins doesn’t expect an immediate increase in the number of charter schools – so-called “schools of hope” – moving into areas with persistently low-performing schools. Charter companies have to find locations, submit applications and build a staff, and the Legislature still hasn’t written the rules to be followed, he noted. Gradebook. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, tries to explain how H.B. 7069 came about. GradebookPolitico Florida.

Civil rights queries: The U.S. Education Department says it is scaling back on civil rights investigations of public schools and universities. Officials say rules set during the Obama administration greatly increased the number of complaints about such things as disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the mishandling of sexual assaults claims. They expect the new policy will help the department more quickly resolve cases it does take. New York Times. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says it will investigate the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies over their practices in enforcing civil rights laws. Education Week.

Financial problems: The Hillsborough County School District has long been proud of its role as a job-provider, even during the recession. But as its financial problems grow, the district is under pressure to shed jobs. A report from its consultant says the district has 1,000 teachers too many, and that it spends 84 percent of its budget on payroll, compared with 75-80 percent by other school districts. Tampa Bay Times. There are fewer jobs for teachers, and increasing demands on those who do get hired. That’s forcing colleges of education to adjust their priorities. Tampa Bay Times.

Districtwide CPR: Every student in every high school biology class in Palm Beach County will get hands-on CPR training beginning next fall. The American Heart Association is supplying the teaching kits, and physical education teachers will get the training needed to teach CPR to students. Palm Beach Post.

Land not needed? Lee County school officials now say they may not need that one-tenth of an acre owned by the Hawthorne Community Association for the new high school being built in Bonita Springs. A traffic study shows no need for a right turn lane for school buses, which is the only reason the district wanted the sliver of land. Fort Myers News-Press.

Testing results: St. Johns County students in grades 5-8 posted the top performance in the state in the Florida Standards Assessments reading scores for the second straight year. The county’s fourth-graders had the second-highest scores, and the third-graders had the third-best scores. St. Augustine Record.

Company charter schools: Even as Florida moves away from workplace charter schools, with just one pre-K through high school in the Villages still in place, other states are showing interest in the idea. Associated Press.

New charter school: Plans are being made for the first charter high school in Volusia County. The Ivy Hawn School for the Arts and Sciences is projected to open in Orange City for the 2018-2019 school year for 9th- and 10th-graders, and eventually could have an enrollment of 2,400 students in middle and high schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School closing: The historic 90-year-old Grand Avenue School is closing, and community activists fear the district will demolish it. They’d like to save the building and repurpose it as a community school, community center, a library or health clinic. Orlando Sentinel.

Preschool for outdoors: Young Explorers Academy, an east Naples preschool opening this fall, will combine faith-based learning with Montessori methods to encourage students to develop an appreciation of the outdoors. Naples Daily News.

Loan offer rejected: Collier County School Board member Kelly Lichter, who is also a member of the board at the Mason Classical Academy charter school, says she rejected a lower-interest loan offer for Mason because it was contingent on Lichter resigning from the Mason board. Naples Daily News.

Recruiting mentors: The Bay County School District and community leaders are recruiting 1,000 people to act as mentors for students next fall. Panama City News Herald.

Partnering on pool: The Marathon City Council is considering asking the Monroe County School Board if it wants to partner to build a community swimming pool on property the district owns adjacent to Marathon High School. Keynoter.

Personnel moves: Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay is reassigning chief academic officer Bill Miller to the principal’s job at Eustis Middle School. She’s also hiring Michael Randolph, formerly vice principal at Oakleaf High School in Clay County, to be the principal at Leesburg High School. Orlando Sentinel.

Band director resigns: Michael Johnson, the band director at Nease High School, resigns after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a student, buying students underwear, sending students inappropriate photographs and wrestling with students. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: The very elected officials whose erratic leadership demonstrates the damage that a lack of civics education has done to our democracy have now decided to eviscerate a program that was reversing ignorance with demonstrated mastery of what is required to be an effective citizen in the arena of democracy. Bob Graham, Tampa Bay Times. With one stroke of his pen last week, Gov. Rick Scott set back progress for Florida’s public universities. And with another stroke, he did astounding damage to the state’s K-12 public schools. Nice work, Governor. Palm Beach Post. In a vain effort to get what he wanted for higher education, Senate President Joe Negron signed off on a terrible K-12 bill. Our public schools are about the pay the price for his gamble. Sun Sentinel. Hillsborough County school officials must make hard decisions soon about how to deal with its financial crisis. Tampa Bay Times. Good riddance to the algebra 2 end-of-course exam. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Leon High School juniors Creed King and Kate Powell win first place in the senior group exhibit category at the National History Day Contest finals. For the project, they interviewed Benjamin Ferencz, the last living prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials, and researched World War II at the Florida State University at the Institute for World War II and the Human Experience. Tallahassee Democrat.

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