Florida schools roundup: Schools of Hope, funds for displaced and more

Schools of Hope: The Florida Department of Education is reopening the process for schools to apply for an extra $2,000 per student under the state’s “Schools of Hope” program for struggling schools. The Legislature set aside $51 million in the new education law, H.B. 7069, to pay for the extra services at up to 25 schools. Fifty-nine schools applied for the grants, and 11 received them in the first round. Now the DOE is giving the other 48 schools, and other eligible schools that didn’t initially apply, until Dec. 1 to submit an application. Up to 14 more could receive the grants. Gradebook.

Displaced students: Three Florida members of Congress send a letter to FEMA officials asking for extra money for housing, schooling and other services for the more than 90,000 people from Puerto Rico displaced by Hurricane Maria. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, signed the letter along with Orlando Democratic representatives Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto. They’re asking that Florida get reimbursement from FEMA’s host-state program. Florida Politics.

Searching for options: Parents who are given more school choice options tend to do more research for schools for their children, according to a recent study by researchers Michael Lovenheim and Patrick Walsh published in EducationNext. The authors looked at areas with newly expanded school choice options and found a correlation between more choice and an increase in the number of searches on the website Greatschools.org. redefinED.

Sales tax election: The Manatee County Commission approves the placement of a property tax hike for schools in a special referendum in March. If voters approve, the tax would generate about $30 million a year for higher teacher salaries, a school day extension and an expansion of science and technology instruction. Bradenton HeraldSarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent gets raise: The Broward County School Board approves a $28,000-a-year raise, an increased benefits package and a four-year contract extension for Superintendent Robert Runcie. Runcie’s salary is now $335,000, second-highest among Florida superintendents. Sun-Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: Miami-Dade teachers, school security guards, paraprofessionals and clerical staff approve a proposed contract with the school district, with 68 percent voting in favor. The contract calls for a 2.67 percent raise for “highly effective” teachers, 2.6 percent for teachers on the grandfathered pay scale, 2 percent for “effective” teachers and noninstructional employees, and bonuses for mid- and late-career teachers. The district will also absorb the increase in health-care premiums. Miami Herald. The Palm Beach County teachers union rejects a school district offer of a 2.4 percent average pay raise as “unacceptable.” The union wants 5.8 percent, which district officials are calling “too pricey.” Talks are scheduled to resume Dec. 19. Palm Beach Post. The union representing Polk County school bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians ratify a contract giving them a raise of 1.5 percent. The raise is retroactive to July, and the contract also calls for perfect attendance bonuses for bus drivers and attendants. Lakeland Ledger.

Endangered schools: The Duval County School Board discusses its options for three schools that will fall under the state’s turnaround process for struggling schools unless they improve their school grades from the state. Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis says she is leaning toward turning the schools over to an outside operator or converting them into a district-run charter school, rather than closing them. She’ll make her recommendation to the board by Nov. 15. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. The Sarasota County School Board approves an improvement plan for the Suncoast School for Innovative Studies, the only school in the county to receive a D grade from the state last year. The plan includes a pledge to improve students’ reading, math and science proficiency by 7 percent and increase parental involvement by 10 percent. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Magnet plan approved: Pasco County’s Ridgewood High School will become a magnet technical school next fall, the school board has decided. School officials pushed the plan for the struggling school as an alternative to the state stepping in and demanding changes. Students from the school can apply for admission to the new West Pasco Technical High School or be reassigned to other schools. Tampa Bay Times. Meanwhile, the Pasco school board also approved a new process for considering school boundary changes. District planners will prepare maps for the superintendent to consider, and he will then hold a public hearing on the changes. Cut out of the process are advisory committees made up of parents and educators. Tampa Bay Times

Charter schools: Applications are filed for four charter schools in Hillsborough County that, if approved, could enroll up to 4,400 students. The Hillsborough School Board will consider the applications from Academica for two SLAM schools, and for the Patel Institute for Innovation and Navigator Academy of Leadership. Hillsborough County has more than 21,000 students in charter schools. Gradebook. Two charter school operators have withdrawn their applications to start schools in St. Petersburg. School officials said they had concerns about the applications for the St. Petersburg Academy of Math and Science and Lighthouse Academies. Gradebook. Also withdrawn is an application for a charter school for the academically gifted in Hernando County. Chehuntamo Advanced Performance High School backers made the decision after hearing critical comments from school board members during a workshop session. Gradebook.

Security upgrade at charters: The city of Pembroke Pines is spending $1.2 million to upgrade video surveillance at five city-run charter schools. The new security system will add 187 digital cameras and convert 113 analog cameras. The charter system includes two K-5 schools, two K-8 schools and a 6-12 school. Sun-Sentinel.

Testing change denied: The Pasco County School Board denies a request from school administrators to move up the semester exams testing window by a day. Board member Colleen Beaudoin says she’s heard that some teachers urge students not to attend school the day after the exams, which would mean two days of instruction lost. “I cannot support a plan that supports losing two instructional days, especially in a year when we’ve lost so many days to Hurricane Irma,” she said. “It’s a final exam. It should be at the end of the semester.” Gradebook.

Students back teachers: About 15 Strawberry Crest High School students back their teachers in a dispute with the Hillsborough County School District over pay by walking out of classes and picketing at the front gate of the school. Several received suspension forms by the time they returned to class. Tampa Bay Times.

Teachers honored: Eighteen teachers – 15 of them veterans – are presented with Shine awards from Gov. Rick Scott for their significant contributions in education. WJXT. Governor’s office.

School programs: Duval County students learn about environment, science, ecology and more during a ride on the St, Johns River as part of the district’s STEAM Cultural Passport Program, now in its third year. Florida Times-Union. Students at Hudson High’s Academy of Veterinary Assisting get practical experience and tips on veterinary care by hosting Doggie Spa and Doggie Day Care every Friday, and can earn a certified veterinary assistant certificate. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent search: Duval County parents have a lengthy wish list for what they want in a new superintendent. Among the attributes: Someone with high expectations for students, who will involved parents in their children’s education, who will emphasize restorative justice instead of negative punishments, and who will let teachers have more flexibility in the classroom. The district hopes to hire the new superintendent by next spring. Florida Times-Union.

Personnel moves: Three new principals are approved by the Alachua County School Board. James TenBieg moves from Westwood Middle School to Buchholz High School, Daniel Burney moves from Rawlings Elementary to Westwood Middle, and Lauren Renfroe is promoted from assistant principal to principal at Rawlings. Gainesville Sun.

New headquarters: Martin County School Board members are considering a plan to build a 50,000-square-foot building to house the school district’s administrative offices. The cost is estimated at $10 million. Superintendent Laurie Gaylord says she’ll take the plan to city commissioners later this month. TCPalm.

Child abuse investigation: Okaloosa County State Attorney Bill Eddins says the investigation into the school district’s handling of a child abuse complaint won’t be resolved before Jan. 1. Kenwood Elementary School special education teacher Marlynn Stillions is accused of abusing an autistic boy, and district investigator Arden Farley and former principal Angelyn Vaughan are accused of failing to report child abuse. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Teacher’s plea deal rejected: A Leon County judge rejects a plea deal for a former teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. The deal would have allowed Brad Casalvieri, a former teacher at Leon High School, to plead guilty to aggravated battery instead of sexual assault. The mother of the student involved objected to a term of the deal that would have freed Casalvieri from registering as a sex offender. The trial is scheduled for March. Tallahassee Democrat.

Guns at school: A 12-year-old student was permitted to roam around Jeaga Middle School for 10 minutes after a magazine loaded with bullets was found under his desk Nov. 1, according to police. A school employee said a “code red” emergency alert was never issued. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Charter schools are supposed to be innovative. Without a STEAM or STEM program in its application, Somerset Parkland Academy doesn’t have one innovative program that brings anything unique to the residents of Parkland. Sharon Aron Baron, Parkland Talk.

Student enrichment: For the 21st time, central Florida school districts are participating in the Pop Tag Program to help support families staying at Ronald McDonald houses in the Orlando area while their children are receiving treatment in hospitals. WKMG. Five Leon County schools are among 17 state schools to be named to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s list of America’s healthiest schools. WTXL. Lee County’s Army JROTC program, among the largest in the county with 6,500 cadets at 14 high schools, is staging Veterans Day events all week. Fort Myers News-Press. Lake Mary High School principal Mickey Reynolds joins the school’s step team during a pep rally, and video of the performance has gone viral with more than 2.7 million views. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel. The Boeing Co. donates $26,000 for STEM programs in eight Okaloosa County schools. WEAR.

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