Florida schools roundup: Graduation options, suit, schools of hope and more

Graduation path options: A Florida legislator files a bill that would offer alternative paths to a high school degree for those students who earn enough credits to graduate but don’t pass the state algebra 1 and language arts tests. State Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Beverly Hills, wants those students to be able to use an industry-recognized certification or a portfolio of school work to earn a standard diploma. Gradebook.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: When 13 state school districts filed suit against the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069, the largest district in the state was conspicuous by its absence. Miami-Dade County school officials have strongly criticized the law, but decided not to join the suit. Instead, school board members will lobby legislators to amend the law to address their concerns. “We made a very clear determination that ongoing dialogue, ongoing collaboration — until it was determined that it has been exhausted — is prudent,” says board member Steve Gallon. If the options are exhausted, Gallon says, the board will take another look at joining the lawsuit. WLRN.

Schools of hope: Two Bay County schools that were named “schools of hope” by the state Board of Education this week have different plans for the extra money they will receive. Springfield Elementary will spend its $903,424 grant on mental health services and counseling, and classroom support for teachers. Lucille Moore Elementary officials plan to use their $1,022,048 grant to boost parental involvement and engagement in students’ education, among other things. Eleven schools of hope were designated by the state. Each receives an extra $2,000 per student to provide provide such additional services as tutoring, counseling, more teacher coaches and salary supplements for teachers to run student clubs. Panama City News Herald. WJHG.

Displaced students: State officials say more than 58,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in Florida since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September, and more than 2,000 students from there and the U.S. Virgin Islands already have enrolled in state schools. The 74.

Charter school closing: The Campus Charter School in Port St. John says it is closing next week, citing falling enrollment and financial problems. The closing leaves about a dozen employees without jobs and 97 students who must find a new school. Florida Today.

Charters on notice: The Pasco County School District gives two struggling charter schools two weeks to correct their problems. Florida Virtual Academy of Pasco faces closure if it doesn’t fix its poor academic performance, financial reporting and other problems, say school officials, and Pasco MYcroSchool has been told to repay $177,194 by Oct. 31. MYcroSchool was paid two months of state funds based on a projected enrollment of 250, but only 37 students were enrolled as of Oct. 2. Gradebook.

Superintendent evaluation: Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano’s annual evaluation is a mixture of sharp criticism and high praise. Numerical ratings were not released by the district because, Romano says, “Due to derogatory comments being made publicly, there is a statute that allows me time to review the evaluations and to provide a public response.” Tampa Bay Times.

Victims criticize district: Two women who were victims of sexual abuse by their teacher in 2005 are critical of the Palm Beach School District’s legal defense that argued they were partly to blame. “We are not to blame,” said one of the women. “This type of defense makes victims feel ashamed and embarrassed and afraid to come forward.” This week, the school board approved a settlement of almost $3.6 million to the four women who were assaulted at Coral Sunset Elementary School in 2005. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Schools and lawsuits: The former human resources director of the Hillsborough County School District files a lawsuit that alleges corruption at the top levels of the district. Stephanie Woodford, 51, says she was fired when she didn’t go along with the requests of two school board members and other top school officials on several issues. Tampa Bay Times. The operator of a private school in Winter Haven serving disabled students is involved in two lawsuits. Sharon McManus Comkowycz, who runs Our Children’s of Winter Haven, is involved in two lawsuits against companies she founded or directed. In September, Our Children’s fired two employees who were accused of verbally and physically abusing a student in an after-school program. Lakeland Ledger.

Students protest: About 20 Miami-Dade high school students protest against out-of-school suspensions and sexual harassment at county schools. The students cited a report from a national civil rights organization that found overpolicing and sexual harassment have had a disproportionate impact on Miami-Dade’s black students. Miami Herald.

Property tax increase: Manatee County School Board member Charlie Kennedy says the board and district have a lot of work to do to convince voters to vote for a 1-mill property tax increase for schools. The tax would bring in about $33 million a year. Kennedy told a civic group that it’s imperative for school officials to tell voters exactly how they’re going to use the extra money. Bradenton Herald.

Online applications: Marion County school officials are proposing to buy an online application database for magnet school applications. The district will start a lottery process to pick students for the elementary and middle school programs next year, and officials say the database will make the process manageable. The four-year cost for the system would be $126,000. Ocala Star-Banner.

Athletic trainers: Only 37 percent of U.S. public high schools have fulltime access to athletic training services, according to a 2015 study, which makes northwest Florida high schools and colleges “the envy of the state because of the situation we’re in,” says Escambia County athletic director Roger Mayo. The 23 high schools and four colleges get free medical care at all sporting events, thanks to donated services initially from Baptist Health Care, and now the Andrews Institute. Pensacola News Journal.

Cash incentives: Clay County students who get good grades in Advanced Placement courses can now get college credit and cash. The cash incentives are provided through a grant from the National Math and Science Initiative, an organization that funds college preparatory programs. WJAX.

Personnel moves: The contract for the head of the Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg is not being renewed at the end of this school year, school officials say. Mac Hall had been in the job for 13 years. Gradebook.

Regulations delay: The city of Palm Coast’s donation of a fire truck to the Fire Leadership Academy at Flagler Palm Coast High School is held up by state regulations. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Homegrown teacher: Amber Elder becomes the first alumnus of the St. Johns County Academy of Future Teachers program to teach in the county school district. Elder, 24, started in the program as an intern at Crookshank Elementary six years ago, and is now a 1st grade teacher at the school. The program offers students a financial incentive to complete the high school pre-education training program, earn a bachelor’s degree and then be hired for a full-time position. St. Augustine Record.

Teacher fired: A dance teacher at the Mater Lakes Academy charter school is fired after throwing an X-rated party for a former student at the school. WSVN.

Guns at schools: Sarasota County sheriff’s deputies arrest a student who brought a handgun and ammunition onto a school bus that was headed to Riverview High School, prompting a lockdown at six schools. WTSP. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. A 14-year-old boy is arrested after he threatens a fellow student with a fake gun near Pasco Middle School at the end of the school day. Tampa Bay Times.

Bus stop confusion: A 5-year-old kindergarten student at Lewis School in Valparaiso is let off at the wrong bus stop, and wandered the streets until her mother found her a few blocks from the scheduled stop. Okaloosa County School District officials are investigating. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: Readers share their experiences and views on the state’s scholarship programs that about 140,000 Florida students use to attend private schools. Orlando Sentinel. There are systematic issues in our public education system. I do not have all of the answers for them, but Teach For America is not to blame. Cutting funding to the program is likely to further cripple our lowest performing schools. Ben Kerns, Florida Times-Union. Two simple words for those Hillsborough County School Board members who are supposed to be guiding our students through the challenges of public education — grow up. Or find a less taxing job that doesn’t involve being role models for children. Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times. Volusia County School Superintendent Tom Russell recently earned high marks from the school board in his annual evaluation. The same can’t be said of the board members evaluating him. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: The Villages Charter School is named a “School of Excellence” by the Florida Department of Education. The Villages Daily Sun. Amazon, STEM2Hub and the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations give $50,000 to the Clay County School District for STEM education. Jacksonville Business Journal. Leon County middle school students, teachers and administrators spend a week in training to encourage acceptance and inclusion and reject bullying and racism. The program was put together by the Anti-Defamation League. Tallahassee Democrat.

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