Florida schools roundup: Bullying and literacy bills, hero teachers and more

Bills advance: A bill that would offer bullied students a state scholarship to attend private schools is approved by a Senate subcommittee. The bill for the Hope Scholarship program, filed by state Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, was approved on a party-line vote by the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee. It would become the fourth state scholarship program. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer two of them. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. redefinED. Politico Florida. A bill that would require high school students to pass a financial literacy course as a graduation requirement has been approved by a Senate subcommittee. The bill, which was filed for the fifth straight year by state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, got unanimous support from the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Prospects for the bill are uncertain. Some legislators say it would further cut into time needed for other requirements. News Service of Florida. Gradebook.

Teachers save student: Two Palm Beach County teachers are credited with saving the life of a 3rd-grader who accidentally stabbed himself in the arm with a pencil and punctured an artery Nov. 1. Kolston Moradi was waiting to be picked up from Equestrian Trails Elementary School in Wellington when the accident happened. Blood began gushing when Kolston removed the pencil. Reading teacher Mandi Kapopoulos used her shirt sleeve as a tourniquet, and ESE coordinator Elizabeth Richards grabbed gloves and pressed on the boy’s wound with her hands. The emergency medical technician said Kolston could have died if the teachers hadn’t acted quickly. Sun-Sentinel.

School flexibility: A Miami-Dade County lawyer who sits on the state Constitution Revision Commission is proposing that high-performing traditional public school districts get the same exemptions from state statutes that charter schools are given. “I’m a big believer in choice,” says Roberto Martinez, a former Florida Board of Education chairman. “And choice works both ways.” Martinez’s amendment defines high-performing districts as those that maintain a B grade or higher from the state in two years out of a three-year period, not drop below a C, and keep financial reserves above the state-required minimum. The commission will decide by May what amendments are placed on the ballot. Gradebook.

Displaced students: State officials say more than 139,000 Puerto Ricans have streamed into Florida since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September, and thousands more are arriving daily. More than 5,600 students have enrolled in state K-12 schools. Orange County has gotten the most with 1,561, followed by Osceola with 784 and Miami-Dade with 569. NBC News. NPR. Hurricane Irma caused about $1.4 million in damage to Volusia County schools. The district is still waiting for reimbursements from FEMA for the $2.3 million in damage caused by Hurricane Matthew last year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Homeless students: The number of homeless students in Florida has increased from 33,889 in 2007-2008 to 72,601 in 2015-2016, according to a report from the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida. In St. Johns County, the number has gone from 84 to 493 in that time. St. Augustine Record.

Salary gap: Will higher salaries keep Manatee County teachers from moving to Sarasota County? That’s what Manatee school officials are hoping happens if voters approve an extra 1 mill in property taxes for the district in a special election next year. The increase would bring in about $33 million a year, and 51 percent would go toward higher teacher salaries. The average teacher salary in Sarasota County is almost $9,000 more than in Manatee. Bradenton Herald. The special election will be held March 20, along with municipal elections for the town of Longboat Key, which is split between Manatee and Sarasota counties. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Students protest: Hundreds of students at five Hillsborough high schools walk out of class to show their support for teachers in their pay dispute with the school district. The walkout lasted about 15 minutes, and principals say the Alonso, Jefferson, Middleton, Robinson and Sickles students won’t be disciplined. Teachers say the district has reneged on promise pay raises. The district says it can’t afford to keep the promise it made in 2010. Tampa Bay TimesWTSP. WFLA.

Contract negotiations: The Sarasota County School District and its teachers union remain at odds in negotiations for a new contract. Teachers want to maintain the step salary schedule of 1 to 2 percent a year, plus a bonus of 4 percent for some teachers and 2.5 percent for others. The district is proposing a 1.5 percent raise and a 1.5 percent bonus. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Seeking middle ground: Florida politicians are usually aligned by their positions on school choice. While state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, helped lead the fight against the charter-friendly H.B. 7069 in the last session, he’s also been open to choice program legislation and says there is a middle ground where both sides can coexist. “Use the disagreement the two sides have to figure out what it is, to move the agenda,” says Jones. “What I consider middle ground is ensuring accountability in our charter schools.” redefinED.

Educators honored: Five finalists are named for Volusia County teacher of the year. They are: Christopher Gibbs, 2nd grade, Turie T. Small Elementary; Nicole Grebosz, technology special area, Citrus Grove Elementary; William Lastowski, science, University High; Beth Ann Provenzano, school counselor, Silver Sands Middle; and Julie Wilson, AP psychology and American Sign Language, Seabreeze High. The winner will be announced Jan. 12. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Two Clay County teachers win Governor’s Shine awards that are presented to educators who make a significant contributions to the field of education. They are Michelle Bily, a teacher at Doctors Inlet Elementary, and Jessica Ehlinger, who teaches gifted education at Ridgeview Elementary School. Clay Today.

Student hurt in school fire: A Pinellas County student is hospitalized with burn injuries after a fire at High Point Elementary School. The boy was flown to Tampa General Hospital and admitted to the burn unit. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Rezoning proposal: The Pasco County School District posts a proposed rezoning maps for students who will be moved to other schools after Ridgewood High School closes in May and reopens in August as a magnet technical school. A public meeting will be held Dec. 19, and the school board is expected to vote Jan. 16 on the rezoning. Gradebook.

Employee housing: Monroe County commissioners will consider endorsing a school board plan to build at least 20 low-cost homes for school employees behind the Sugarloaf School. Keynoter.

Oil spill settlement: The Gulf County School District is applying for about $500,000 from Triumph Gulf Coast, the organization that’s distributing money collected from the settlement over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Superintendent Jim Norton says the money would be used to buy four school buses. Port St. Joe Star.

Charges controversy: A Palm Beach County prosecutor’s decision not to charge a school bus aide for repeatedly hurting an 8-year-old autistic boy in 2015 is under scrutiny after the mother of the boy sued the district. School police officers say the aide’s actions were so egregious that he should have been charged with aggravated child abuse. But Assistant State Attorney Marci Rex said that under state law, aides are entitled to commit simply battery against a child when acting in a parental role. Palm Beach Post.

Lice alerts: A parent starts a petition asking the Santa Rosa School District to notify parents when their children have been potentially exposed to head lice. “I know lice cannot be prevented, but their effect and the extent of their spread could certainly be mitigated with a simple letter notifying parents of possible exposure,” says Andrea Light. Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties all have similar policies, and none notify parents when there’s a potential outbreak. Northwest Florida Daily News.

More charges filed: More students are accusing a Broward County School District employee of molesting them. Police say there are now 13 charges of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child and sexual battery of a minor against Robert Grant, who was a custodian and coach at Coral Springs Middle School. WPLG.

Student arrested: A loaded handgun is discovered on a 16-year-old Fort Myers High School student who was searched because he “had a strong smell of marijuana,” according to Lee County sheriff’s deputies. The boy, who was arrested, said the gun was his cousin’s and he forgot it was in his backpack. Fort Myers News-Press.

Shooting arrests: Three people have been arrested in connection with the drive-by shooting of a 13-year-old Crestview boy at his school bus stop Oct. 31. The boy was hit several times, and is in stable condition. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: No one in the tax credit scholarship movement has had the guts to take on the mantle of responsibility for the movement’s failures to protect and educate students in that movement’s worst schools. I have personally been stunned and disappointed by the display of apathy. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Twelve-year-old Broward County student Sara Kaufman finished second in the math category at the Broadcom Masters national competition last October. One of the prizes is having a planet named in for the American Heritage School student. So Minor Planet 33714, which is in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, will soon be known as planet Sara Kaufman. Sun-Sentinel. C.A. Weis Elementary School principal Holly Magee flies over her school with the Blue Angels as students watch. Magee won the ride for her work in transforming Weis, in Pensacola, into a community school. Pensacola News Journal.

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