Florida schools roundup: Skipping lines, back to school, start times and more

Principal kills fund-raiser: A Parent Teacher Student Association’s idea to raise money by allowing students to skip the lunch line if their parents make a $100 donation has been killed by the principal after some parents protested. Brian Andrews, principal at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, said in an email to parents that “I do not approve of any donation that is tied to any student advantage or privilege on campus. … Nobody’s a second-class citizen here.” Jil Bevis, president of the PTSA, says “due to a clerical error, the form was inadvertently included in the orientation packets.” Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Back to school: Thursday was the first day of school for many Florida districts, and some others start next week. Florida Today. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay TimesFort Myers News-Press. Lehigh Acres CitizenOcala Star-Banner. Lakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Daily Commercial. Keynoter. Citrus County Chronicle. Charlotte Sun. WFLA. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough County shows a slight decline in Day 1 attendance, 196,822 this year compared with 197,064 last year. Tampa Bay Times. More than 130 Manatee County students who opted to leave their low-performing school for a better option discover the buses they were supposed to get won’t be running until Sept. 4. “Unfortunately, the state was late in informing our district as to the identity of those students,” deputy superintendent for operations Ron Ciranna told his staff. “Therefore, bus transportation will not be available for these students until transportation hubs can be established.” Bradenton Herald. Hundreds of Martin County students lost their bus privileges because they live within 2 miles of their school, but the school district has no plans to add crossing guards to help them get to school safely. School starts Tuesday. TCPalm.

School start times: The Palm Beach County School Board agrees to research school start times for next year to better accommodate the needs of students and parents. Board member Debra Robinson says the subject has come up before, but that “it’s a conversation worth having again. I’d like to see a smorgasbord of choices for parents to include a choice of start times.” Most high schools start at 7:30 a.m., elementary schools at 8 and most middle schools at 9:30. Sun-Sentinel.

Superintendent’s focus: Lake County Superintendent Diane Kornegay begins her first school year with a pledge to strip away distractions and emphasize good teaching. “No new initiatives. We want (teachers) to focus on fewer things,” Kornegay says. Daily Commercial.

Teacher raises: The Santa Rosa County School Board decides that teachers will receive raises averaging 1.8 percent, but the raises won’t be retroactive to 2016. The district and union have been at an impasse for almost a year. A special magistrate was called in but his recommendations were rejected by the district, which put the issue to the school board to decide. Pensacola News Journal.

ESOL teachers needed: An influx of 500 new students who can’t speak English is prompting the Duval County School District to look for more English as a second language certified teachers. The district already has 2,755 ESOL certified teachers, but needs more to cope with the 6,650 students who need their services. WJAX.

Critical year for charter: The Francis Marion Military Academy has a new curriculum director and should soon have a new assistant principal as it faces what could be its final year as a charter school. The Marion County School Board has given the county’s only charter high school a year to improve its academic performance or face closure. The school has received four D grades and an incomplete from the state in the past five years. “We don’t have problems,” says Morrey Deen, one of the school’s founders. “We have challenges and opportunities.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Education pitch: Democrat Gwen Graham says public education will be a top priority in her campaign for the 2018 governor’s race. “I’m going to work on this every day,” she said. “And we’re going to start from day one.” She blasted the new education law, H.B. 7069, saying: “What I believe is going on is a desire to privatize our school system, and strip resources away from schools that desperately need additional resources. They don’t need to have what 7069 has done, which is to take funding away from Title I schools, to strip away options for school districts if it gets a C or a D grade.” Florida Politics.

Teachers in trouble: A former piano teacher who gave after-school lessons at the School of Arts and Sciences charter school in Tallahassee is arrested and accused of sexually abusing a student. Jeffrey Henry, 52, is charged with sexual battery on a person under 12 years of age. Tallahassee Democrat. A former Wakulla County teacher pleads guilty to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Police says Rhonda Shields, who once taught at Riversprings Middle School, bought alcohol and drank with two minors in 2015, and let one of them drive her car. She was sentenced to two years of probation, 30 days in jail and another 30 days of work camp. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: How could Brevard Public Schools even consider a modest raise for employees and new initiatives for students when the approved state budget gave the district no “new” money? The answer is that we have been fiscally conservative and responsible stewards of your financial resources. Superintendent Desmond Blackburn, Florida Today. Music is fundamental for a student’s education. Megan Yingst, Lakeland Ledger. Florida is among the states that lead the nation in children being hit and killed by cars, so with school restarting we urge motorists to slow down and stay alert in neighborhoods and school zones. TCPalm. The lessons I’ve learned from school volunteering. Thomas K. Young, Gainesville Sun. PTA membership is a powerful way to advocate, plan, and work together to meet the needs of schools as well as students and families. Kim Taylor and Tarcha Rentz, Gainesville Sun. A strong teacher has deep understanding of the subject that she or he is teaching and of how students learn the subject, classroom management skills and classroom charisma. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. How charter schools buy political support in Florida and other states. Alan Singer, Huffington Post.

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