Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, funding formula, tax holiday and more

Teacher pay: Teachers at Memorial Middle School in Orlando will be paid $20,000 more this year as the Orange County School District tries to entice top teachers to turn around the persistently low-performing school. If a state grant can’t be obtained, the district will cover the extra costs. Officials say teachers at five other struggling schools also would get the extra pay if the district gets the grant. Only teachers rated effective or highly effective are eligible for the extra pay, and they’ll have to work an extra 30 minutes a day. Orlando Sentinel. Florida ranks 43rd among states and U.S. territories in average teacher pay at $47,256, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2016. The only states with lower pay than Florida are Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Alaska is No. 1 at $74,122. Tallahassee Democrat.

Funding formula fight: Volusia County School Board chairwoman Melody Johnson makes a personal appeal to the Pasco County School Board to join the fight against the state’s district cost differential (DCD) portion of the school funding formula. She says 55 of the state’s 67 counties have lost money to the DCD, which gives urban districts more money to cover the higher costs of living. Johnson says Pasco has lost $53 million since 2003. Pasco board members asked Superintendent Kurt Browning to investigate and make a recommendation. Gradebook.

Back to school: The back-to-school sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. The National Retail Federation says the average family with children in K-12 schools spends $687 on clothes and school supplies. News Service of Florida. Sunshine State NewsLakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Keynoter. WFLA. WTSP. Florida schools open soon, and some new laws focused on school traffic are in effect. Palm Beach Post. Do school dress codes discriminate against girls? WFSU.

School branding: In an era of school choice, school branding is becoming increasingly important, say some school officials. Education Dive.

Algebra testing: The Florida Department of Education wants to remove the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT) as an alternative for the algebra 1 end-of-course exam. But since the recommendation has not been acted upon, the old requirements remain in effect until a decision is made by the State Board of Education. Gradebook.

Final exam changes: The Pasco County School Board shows tentative support for a new grading range of final exams. Under the new rules, a student correctly answering 80 percent of the questions on the exam would receive an A, and students who get just 40 percent right would get a C. Teachers and parents had complained about the tests, saying they did not reflect the material covered throughout the course. Tampa Bay Times.

Support for Evac Movement: Federal judge Brian J. Davis appeals to community leaders and school officials to continue their support of the Evac Movement program that works with underprivileged male students at Lee High School, and the teacher who helped create it. Florida Times-Union.

Tutoring for athletes: Tutoring of Duval County high school student-athletes is at a standstill as the school district renegotiates its deal with the tutoring service Dynamic Education Foundation. The district has been paying DEF $70,000 a year, but the school board is looking for ways to save money. Florida Times-Union.

Charter schools: A proposal to move the Coral Springs Charter School to Betti Stradling Park is drawing opposition from many city residents. Sun Sentinel. The Waterset Charter School opens in Apollo Beach next week with about 800 students in K-6. Tampa Bay Times. Clay County school officials say it’s too early to know how they might spend the $1.5 million they won’t be sending to the Orange Park Performing Arts Academy, which had its charter terminated after receiving consecutive F grades from the state. Clay Today. Brevard County school officials say a charter school set to open next week has failed a safety inspection and has not received a certificate of occupancy from the city of Titusville. Legacy Academy Charter, a pre-K through 6th grade school, could have its charter terminated by the school board at its Aug. 8 meeting. WKMG. A charter schools company in Ohio that was affiliated with Newpoint Education Partners says it knew nothing of the alleged fraud by that company and its founder Marcus May. Cambridge Education Group owner and president John Stack used to be vice president of operations for Newpoint. Cambridge operates 19 schools in Ohio. Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Science center: A $3.6 million science center is planned for the North Palm Beach campus of the Benjamin School. The building will have science labs, equipment for computing and technology projects and an aquatics room with tanks and a greenhouse. Construction begins in March at the private school, with opening expected by the end of next year. Palm Beach Post.

Program questions: Hernando county commissioners say the school board isn’t doing enough to finance technical training at the AMskills Training Center in the Airport Industrial Park, and say there has not been enough of a return to continue making annual contributions of $200,000. Tampa Bay Times.

Personnel moves: The Duval County School Board approves the appointment of principals at 11 schools. Florida Times-Union. The Duval school board also approves the firing of 162 teachers, including 118 who failed their certification exams. The district has 174 open teaching positions, which is an improvement over the 316 vacancies at this time last year. Florida Times-Union.

Parental involvement: Parents at 20 low-performing Polk County schools will get a chance to win a car by becoming more involved in their children’s education. Parents of the year will be named at each school, and the winner from that group will be given a 2017 Ford Fusion by Jarrett-Gordon Ford. Lakeland Ledger.

Board wins lawsuit: A 2nd-grader’s claims she was groped and slapped by a fellow student isn’t a civil rights violation, a federal judge rules in tossing out a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Monroe County School Board. Keynoter.

Teacher arrested: A teacher at Wolf Lake Middle School in Apopka is arrested and accused of trying to meet children for sex. Jason Sellards, 48, a language arts teacher at the Orange County school since 2011, was one of 14 men arrested in a sting operation set up by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. Orlando Sentinel. Daily CommercialWDBO.

Ex-teacher’s license suspended: The Florida Education Practices Commission suspends the teaching license of Jason Lipsitz, 38, two years after he was arrested and accused of armed robbery and armed trespassing. Lipsitz was a language arts teacher at Lake Asbury Junior High in Cove Springs. The suspension is for two years. Clay Today.

Opinions on schools: Recess should not be viewed as a nettlesome inconvenience imposed on school officials. It should be regarded as an important part of a student’s broader education, in essence part of a child’s bill of rights — to be able to run and jump and play. And it should be a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times. Unfortunate as it is to see taxpayers supporting each side in a lawsuit, Lee County School Board members made the right decision last week to go to court against the state over approval of House Bill 7069. Naples Daily News. A rigged state grading system is hiding Collier County’s and Florida’s failing-level education achievement scores. David Bolduc, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Fourteen Alachua County students win National Merit Scholarship awards. Gainesville Sun. School officials say back-to-school drives give low-income students a higher chance for success. Daily Commercial. Middle-schoolers at the Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton will get a new religious program with an emphasis on experience over classroom learning. Sun-Sentinel.

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