Florida schools roundup: Teacher bonuses, H.B. 7069, charters and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Teacher bonuses: The Miami-Dade School District is asking the state for $2.3 million grant though the “schools of hope” program to pay highly rated teachers extra to work in five of the district’s failing schools. If the schools are selected by the state for the program, teachers who are rated “highly effective” could earn up to $11,500 in bonuses if they transfer in or stay at one of the five schools, help students improve and have good attendance. Broward County is also asking for money for teacher recruitment and retention bonuses for teachers at three struggling schools. If the schools are among the 25 selected by the state for the program, those teachers could earn an extra $8,000 or $9,000 in bonuses. Miami Herald.

Charters warned: Charter schools are in line to get an extra $10 million from the Palm Beach County School District this year because of the new education law. But school officials are warning the charters to not commit that money to any projects before the legal fight over H.B. 7069 is over. “If the school board’s challenge is successful, these provisions will be struck down,” wrote Mike Burke, the district’s chief financial officer, in a letter to the 48 charter schools. “Therefore the purpose of this notice is to advise you and all relevant parties to refrain from pledging any and all future revenue(s) derived from (the property tax dollars).” Palm Beach Post. There’s a lot in the new state education bill that Brevard County school officials don’t like, but they are not likely to be joining other districts in suing the state over H.B. 7069. Superintendent Desmond Blackburn says he will “turn the corner” in his disappointment over the bill to make it work in Brevard County. Most school board members agree, with saying joining the lawsuit could damage their relationships with local legislators who supported the bill and potentially affect future funding. Florida Today. Text messages obtained through a public records request show Republican legislators lobbying black Democrats to support H.B. 7069 during the last legislative session. Politico Florida.

Years of mold: In 2003, a Broward County grand jury ordered the school district to fix the mold problem in schools that was making teachers and students sick. But records recently obtained indicate the district is slow to respond to complaints, with many unresolved even years after they were filed, and doesn’t have accurate records on repair orders or if they were completed, or even if the repairs fixed the reported problem. “The information that you’re trying to extract is information that we would love to extract, but we cannot,” says Leo Bobadilla, chief facilities officer. Sun-Sentinel.

District cost differential: The Leon County School District loses money every year to districts in more urban areas because of the state’s use of a district cost differential in determining school funding. But Merrill Wimberley, the district’s chief financial officer, says efforts to kill the program are misguided. “I think the purpose it is supposed to serve, and I think it does serve, is to recognize there are cost of living differences in the state,” says Wimberley. “Getting rid of it would be, I think, the worst thing to do.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Undocumented immigrants: President Trump is expected to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields the children of undocumented immigrants from deportation, according to administration officials. But he could defer any action for six months to give Congress a chance to replace the program. His decision is expected to be announced Tuesday. New York Times. Associated Press. Sunshine State News. Education Week.

K-8 schools: The Palm Beach County School District is beginning to transition some schools to the K-8 model. The first one, Hidden Oaks Elementary, began accepting 6th graders in August, and will add another grade in each of the next two years. “This is the model we want to go to,” says deputy superintendent David Christiansen. Some research shows that the K-8 model gets better academic results, has fewer discipline problems and keeps families active in their children’s schools longer. District officials also think it will help students choose traditional public schools instead of charters. Palm Beach Post.

School criticized: Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind officials have made several changes in response to complaints from parents about instruction and communication, but some parents say more improvements are needed to stem a decline in enrollment. St. Augustine Record.

School merger: Principal Ovett Wilson meets with parents to discuss next year’s merger of Cahoon Elementary and Van Buren middle schools. The district is merging the school to fill empty seats at Van Buren, save money with less busing needed, and provide a smoother transition for elementary student into middle school. Tampa Bay Times.

Start-time survey: Hillsborough County school officials are conducting an online survey of parents about school start times for the 2018-2019 school year. The district wants to change start times to help with school bus schedules. The school board is expected to vote on next year’s schedule on Oct. 17. Gradebook.

How to de-escalate: Experts say a Pinellas County deputy who was fired for taunting an autistic middle school student should have instead let the boy calm down in a safe place to de-escalate the situation. What the deputy did was “the antithesis of de-escalation,” says Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “You should never be contributing to the problem. None of what he did was consistent with any training that he’s received.” Tampa Bay Times.

Cafeteria changes: Palm Beach County school officials are converting five high school cafeterias into food courts and offering more and healthier lunch choices. The result has been more students buying breakfasts and lunches. Sun-Sentinel.

School expansion: The St. Peter Catholic School in DeLand is about to expand by 27,000 square feet with a new gymnasium, cafeteria and more. The project will cost about $4.25 million, and school officials say the new building could open as soon as Jan. 8. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School demolished: The old Hallmark Elementary School in Pensacola is being demolished for development. The school was closed in 2011, and the Escambia County School District sold the property for $1 million. Pensacola News Journal.

Spending on supplies: Teachers in Volusia County get a small stipend for classroom supplies, but most spend hundreds of dollars of their own to make sure students have what they need. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School transportation: Eleven day-care centers in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have been cited in the past four years for not following Florida Department of Children and Families transportation policies to prevent children from dying in hot cars. A 3-year-old died Aug. 18 after workers didn’t do the required check in a day-care van. Pensacola News Journal.

Dismissal supported: An administrative judge rules that the Palm Beach County School Board did have sufficient cause to fire a teacher who helped students during Florida Standards Assessments tests. Maria Marrero-Rios, a teacher at Melaleuca Elementary School, was accused of pointing out wrong answers to students in 2016. The judge’s ruling now goes to the school board for a final decision. News Service of Florida.

Teachers reassigned: Five East Lee County High School teachers who received “unsatisfactory” job evaluations have been reassigned to other jobs in the district. The five got low scores on the state’s value-added model system, which makes up a portion of a teacher’s evaluation. Fort Myers News-Press.

Female quarterback: Junior Holly Neher becomes the first girl in Hollywood Hills High School history – and perhaps in Florida – to throw a touchdown pass in a varsity football game. “I hope that they all see how small how I am and no matter what mindset or color, race, size, gender, you can do anything you want,” says the 5-foot 2-inch Neher. Total Pro Sports.

School aide arrested: A worker in an after-school program at the Villages Charter School is arrested and accused of child cruelty. Sumter County sheriff’s deputies say Denny Day, 56, punched and kicked students in the Buffalo Adventures program. Villages-News.

Threat against school: A 32-year-old man is arrested and accused of threatening to blow up Kate M. Smith Elementary School in Chipley. Jonathan Allen made the threat after being told he was removed from the list of people authorized to pick up his daughter. Associated Press.

School district sued: A parent is suing the Leon County School Board, alleging a teacher slammed a door on the hand of a special-needs student, breaking and cutting the student’s finger. The incident reportedly happened in November 2015 in a Tallahassee school timeout room. Florida Politics.

Opinions on schools: Rather than stand by as the state gets dragged through a lengthy and expensive legal ordeal it is likely to lose, legislators need to get to work on fixing the education bill when interim committee meetings get started this month. Orlando Sentinel. It is time to shift focus from a test-driven policy to one that features student learning. It is time for us to take back control of our schools. Carole Fernandez, Gainesville Sun. I challenge each Florida legislator to acknowledge that the state is facing a crisis in recruiting talented individuals into high school math and science teaching careers, and to propose a way of effectively addressing this crisis. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: The Pasco County School District puts together a Student Leadership Conference to provide advice to school officials on service projects and other activities. Two students from each county high school are in the organization. Gradebook. Clay County students are collecting supplies for Rockport-Fulton High School, about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, which was pounded by Hurricane Harvey. Florida Times-Union. Isabella Barnes, a 5-year-old kindergarten student at Maude Saunders Elementary in DeFuniak Springs, is awarded a gold star from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office for reporting a student with a BB gun on a school bus. Northwest Florida Daily News.

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