Florida schools roundup: Schools of Hope, Hope Scholarship and more

Schools of Hope extension: A Florida Senate committee is considering a plan that would give school districts another option for trying to turn around persistently low-performing schools. Right now, the state gives districts three options for those schools: close them, convert them to charter schools or hire an outside operator to run them. A fourth option would allow districts to place principals with highly effective performance reviews in charge of the struggling schools as well as their own. Those principals would be given the authority to make changes and pool resources between the schools. The schools, which would be called “franchise model schools,” would be eligible for money from the $140 million Schools of Hope program. redefinED.

Hope Scholarship: The Florida Senate Education Committee approves a revised version of the bill offering scholarships for students who are bullied or victims of violence. Principals would have 30 days to investigate claims from parents. If the claims are substantiated, the victimized students would be eligible for scholarships to attend private schools, or they could transfer to a public school of their choice. The committee also approves a measure that would increase oversight of the state’s K-12 private school choice programs. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer Florida’s tax credit and Gardiner Scholarship programs. It would also help administer the Hope Scholarship program if lawmakers create it. redefinED. News Service of Florida. Associated PressSunshine State News. Politico Florida.

Choice in Florida: Almost 1.7 million Florida preK-12 students attended a school outside their attendance zone in the 2016-2017 school year, according to an analysis of Florida Department of Education statistics. That’s an increase of 207,000 students using school choice in the past five years. Step Up For Students did the analysis. redefinED.

Vaccinations bill: A bill filed in the Florida Senate would add the human papillomavirus (HPV) to the list of vaccinations public school students would be required to receive. HPV can cause several types of cancers in both women and men. Students are already required to be vaccinated for tetanus, mumps and other communicable diseases. WFTS. WOFL.

Private discussions: The chairwoman of the Constitution Revision Commission’s education committee says she can’t recall whether other members of the CRC joined a policy conversation about ending salaries for local school board members during a break from a public meeting in November. Marva Johnson also said she wouldn’t comment on any other private discussions she might have had with fellow members, but says, “We adopted substantially the same rules as the previous commission, including as it relates to sunshine. We’re currently operating within the current rules as it relates to public meetings and otherwise.” Politico Florida. Sunshine Law experts say three Marion County School Board members may have broken the law when they spoke at a community meeting about the future of Evergreen Elementary School. The school board’s attorney denies that Angie Boynton, Nancy Stacy and Kelly King violated the open government law because they didn’t speak to each other at the meeting, which was not publicly advertised. Ocala Star-Banner.

Students tell on teacher: The state has suspended the license of a former Palm Beach County math teacher who changed the grades of 100 students to an A two years ago after she says the assistant principal told her no senior could fail. Courtney Sheetz was turned in by students to West Boca Raton High School principal Craig Sommer, who says Sheetz misinterpreted the instructions. Sheetz resigned at the end of that school year, and now the Florida Department of Education has suspended her teaching license for a year. Palm Beach Post.

Educators honored: Three finalists are chosen for the Alachua County School District’s teacher of the year award. They are: Gloria Bonilla, science and Spanish at Mebane Middle; Lilliemarie Gore, 4th grade at Idylwild Elementary; and Elena Tepperman, 10th-grade English at Gainesville High. The winner will be announced Feb. 1. Gainesville Sun. Lindsey Crouch, band director at Umatilla Middle School in Lake County, is chosen to receive a 2018 Tom Bishop Award from the Florida Bandmasters Association. Daily Commercial. Bernice McSpadden, a teacher for 31 years, will receive the “teacher of a lifetime” award tonight from the Patronis family during the Bay County School District’s teacher of the year banquet. Panama City News Herald.

District’s finances: A report from an independent auditor concludes that the Manatee County School District “has continued to improve academically and financially.” The district ended the 2016-2017 school year with assets exceeding liabilities, and with reserves that exceed the state’s required 3 percent. Bradenton Herald.

Sales tax measures: Lee County School Superintendent Greg Adkins talks about the district’s proposal to ask voters to approve a half-cent more on the sales tax to help schools. Fort Myers News-Press. Eighty percent of the $30.1 million collected during the 2016-2017 school year from a tax increase for education in Pinellas County went toward teacher salaries, according to a report from the referendum oversight committee. The other 20 percent went toward visual arts, performing arts, digital learning, elementary reading and language arts, and secondary reading. Tampa Bay Newspapers.

Charter school proposed: Two Leon County women are planning to start a charter school in Tallahassee that adopts a language and literacy-based approach. Teacher Adrienne Campbell and accountant Jana Sayler want to open the K-8 Tallahassee Classical School by the start of the 2019-2020 school year. They have until Feb. 1 to submit a plan to the Leon County School District for consideration. Tallahassee Democrat.

Testing pushed back: The Florida Department of Education gives the Monroe County School District approval to push back state assessment testing beyond the one week it granted most state school districts. Superintendent Mark Porter says principals will decide test schedules for their schools. Florida Keys Weekly.

Open enrollment: Open enrollment is available to Lee County students began Monday and continues through March 23, according to school district officials. The application period is for students entering kindergarten, 6th and 9th grades in August. Fort Myers News-Press.

Teacher on house arrest: A former private school music teacher in Palm Beach County is released on bail and will be under house arrest until his trial on charges that he molested an 8-year-old girl. Terrence Gervin Dwarika, 38, was a teacher at Trinity Christian School in Apopka. Palm Beach Post.

Students arrested in suicide: Two 12-year-old Surfside Middle School students are charged with cyberstalking in connection with the suicide two weeks ago of a classmate, Gabriella Green, also 12. Police say the two students, a boy and a girl, admitted to harassing Gabriella. Panama City News Herald.

Guns at schools: A 15-year-old student at East Ridge High School in Clermont is arrested for having an electronic stun gun at school. Another student reported that the girl had the gun, and police say she turned it over when confronted. Daily Commercial. An 11-year-old boy is arrested for bringing an unloaded gun to Myakka Elementary School in Manatee County. WTSP. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: A school district with more than 67,000 students, 10,000 employees and an annual operating budget of about half a billion dollars can’t wait until the next election to replace Seminole County School Board member Jason Bauer, who hasn’t been to a meeting in 10 months. Orlando Sentinel. From open enrollment programs in traditional public schools to public magnet schools, public charter schools, online learning, private schools and homeschooling, school choice is now a reality – not just an idea – for tens of millions of families. Andrew R. Campanella, redefinED. College degrees do not guarantee good teaching. And requiring them would make it even tougher for private schools to find and retain effective teachers. Tim Dees, Orlando Sentinel. Five years ago, about 75 percent of Alachua County’s students were graduating on time. Today it’s almost 83 percent, which means we’ve been making steady gains despite the fact that graduating from high school in Florida is tougher than it was in 2013. Alachua County School Superintendent Karen D. Clarke, Gainesville Sun. If Florida is so committed to these assessment tests, perhaps we should come up with a competency test for state Board of Education members. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Eight students win the Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s second annual Hackathon with a proposal to create an Uber-like service for students who have transportation troubles. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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