Shooting video: Security video taken around the Parkland school building where a massacre was taking place Feb. 14 shows the school resource officer drawing his gun but staying outside the building. After the shooting ended, with 17 people dead, deputy Scot Peterson said he thought the gunshots were coming from outside. But later-released radio transmissions with other officers showed that Peterson had identified the building where the shooting was taking place. Peterson resigned after being suspended. “The video speaks for itself,” the Broward Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Palm Beach Post.
Superintendent faulted: An Okaloosa County grand jury investigating the school district’s handling of a child abuse case concludes that Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson “is responsible for the safety and well-being of 30,000 students. We find that she has failed to fulfill that obligation. We further find that she has not satisfied her obligations as an elected official.” No criminal charges were recommended against Jackson, but the grand jury encouraged the State Attorney’s Office to continue investigating her. Jackson would not comment on testimony, but expressed concerns “that the testimony presented may have been incomplete.” The grand jury also recommended that Henry Kelley, the district’s director of community affairs, be charged with a non-criminal violation of the Florida Sunshine Law. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR.
Superintendents push: The state’s school superintendents keep up the pressure on Gov. Rick Scott to call a special session to boost K-12 school spending. The superintendents say districts will receive just 47 cents per student to pay for such things as rising fuel costs, employee pensions, insurance, and state mandates. “Let’s do more for our students,” said Hillsborough Superintendent Jeff Eakins at a gathering of school leaders from Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee and Polk counties. “Florida can do more than 47 cents for our future.” Scott has said he’s satisfied with the education budget, and legislative leaders say a special session isn’t needed. Gradebook. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Times-Union.
CRC and school choice: The Constitution Revision Commission could make significant changes to school choice in Florida with proposed amendments to eliminate or revise the Blaine Amendment, allow school districts to attain charter status, and give entities other than school districts the power to create public schools. redefinED.
Teachers honored: Samantha Neff, a math instructional coach at Idyllwilde Elementary in Sanford, is named the Seminole County School District’s teacher of the year. Orlando Sentinel. Janet Bisogno, who teaches biology as part of the International Baccalaureate program at Celebration High School, is named the Osceola County School District’s teacher of the tear. Around Osceola.
Limits on school officials: A bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott puts strict limits on travel by school board members and bans appointed superintendents who resign their jobs from lobbying their districts for two years. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019. Gradebook.
School security: Lee County school and sheriff’s officials agree that a greater police presence is needed in schools, but neither wants to arm teachers or other school personnel. “From the sheriff’s perspective and our personal opinion, we know that we can count on SROs (school resource officers),” says Superintendent Greg Adkins. “That is what we’re pursuing before we pursue any of this other stuff.” Fort Myers News-Press. Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend wants to establish a county registry for AR-15 rifles. WFLA.
Walkout apology: Leaders at McKeel Academy of Technology charter school in Lakeland apologize for conducting a fire drill at the same time Wednesday as students were planning to participate in the National School Walkout. School officials had warned students that participating would result in punishment. Alan Black, director of schools for the Lakeland charter network, says he and school officials “deeply regret the way we handled the national walkout.” Lakeland Ledger.
Superintendent’s goals: New Palm Beach County School Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s says his top goals are better school security, improving 3rd-grade reading scores and boosting teacher pay. Sun-Sentinel.
School name survey says: A narrow plurality of people who answered a survey think Orlando’s Stonewall Jackson Middle School should be renamed. The school’s advisory council says the survey has prompted it to seek a name change for the 53-year-old school. Another survey will be taken to get suggestions for a new name, which will then be presented to the Orange County School Board. Orlando Sentinel.
Rezoning possibility: Hawthorne Middle/High School officials hold a community meeting to discuss the rezoning that is likely to happen unless the Alachua County school improves its grade from the state to at least a C. If it doesn’t, the school will be closed and its students will be sent to other schools. Principal Daniel Ferguson is confident the school will make the grade. “It’s my belief the district will not have to put any rezoning plan into operation,” he wrote this week in a letter to parents. WUFT.
School property: The Santa Rosa County School Board gives the go-ahead for the district to buy a 45-acre parcel of land in Gulf Breeze for a new school. The vote came about 24 hours after the Gulf Breeze City Council agreed to sell the property for $1.9 million. School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick says the land could be used for an elementary school, a K-8 school or a middle school. Pensacola News Journal.
School renovations: Classrooms at Oscar Patterson Elementary School in Panama City get long-delayed renovations. Principal Darnita Rivers says brighter lights and new paint, chairs and carpeting have improved the learning atmosphere at the school, built in 1958 and upgraded only sporadically since then. Panama City News Herald.
Union president quits: The president of the Brevard County teachers union is resigning to return to a teaching position at Space Coast Jr./Sr. High School in Port St. John. Dan Bennett held the job for two years. He will be replaced by vice president Anthony Colucci. Florida Today.
District’s insurance: Despite Superintendent Diane Kornegay’s recommendation that the district switch insurance providers, Lake County School Board members call for a review of the bids. The current provider, Brown & Brown Insurance, had been charging $455,000 a year. This year a competitor, Arthur J. Gallagher, submitted a bid of $315,000, prompting Brown & Brown to counter with a $250,000 bid. But Kornegay recommended making the switch anyway, citing Gallagher’s online capabilities. Daily Commercial.
Newpoint trial: A jury is expected to begin deliberations today in the trial of an Ohio businessman who is accused of defrauding several Pensacola charter schools. Steven Kunkemoeller, 56, has been on trial for nearly three weeks. Prosecutors allege he conspired with Marcus May, the principal owner of Newpoint Education Partners LLC, to overcharge Newpoint’s charter schools for furniture and supplies. Pensacola News Journal.
Guns at schools: A man is arrested for carrying a concealed weapon onto the campus of Lakeview Elementary School in Sarasota County. Wilfred Nazario, 58, had the gun in his waistband. Nazario has a license to carry a concealed weapon, but state law prohibits non-law enforcement officers from having weapons at schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Seven Broward County schools were locked down after a report of someone being armed at a school. A police search turned up a pellet gun. No one was arrested. Sun-Sentinel. A William T. Dwyer High School student is arrested after a school police officer finds a gun in his car. Palm Beach Post.
Students arrested: An 18-year-old Polk County student is arrested after allegedly threatening to kill two other students at Lakeland High School. The student told police the students were bullying him. Lakeland Ledger. Tampa Bay Times. A 17-year-old Hillsborough County student is arrested and accused of making threats against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students on Snapchat. WFLA.
Student hurt in school fight: A Westside High School girl is beaten and kicked in a fight by at least two other students that was caught on video. Duval County school officials say they are investigating. WJAX.
Deputy at school resigns: A Polk County sheriff’s deputy resigns after he’s found sleeping in his cruiser when he was supposed to be on patrol at McKeel Academy of Technology in Lakeland. Lakeland Ledger.
Opinions on schools: The Legislature should start over on the schools budget, instead of shortchanging south Florida districts. Sun-Sentinel. There isn’t a lack of money to both keep students safe and educate them well. There is a lack of will in Tallahassee. Tampa Bay Times. Renewal of the 1-mill school tax in Marion County should help pay for school security, but should not take away from the original programs the tax was created to restore – art, music, physical education, library and vocation education programs. Ocala Star-Banner. If school districts opt to move forward with the “guardian” program, my hope is the teachers who step up and volunteer will be people who really know what they’re doing — maybe former military, law enforcement, that sort of thing. Gil Smart, TCPalm.
Student enrichment: James Bain, who was exonerated by DNA testing after spending 35 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, praises the technology for setting him free and encourages 80 students at Independence Middle School in Jupiter to keep pushing to improve society. Palm Beach Post.