Florida schools roundup: Teacher protests, texting troubles and more

Teacher protests: The proliferation of teacher protests across the United States is a sign of a deepening dissatisfaction with the conditions of the educational system, such as low teacher pay, a sense of not being valued, violence in schools, budget cuts and funding inequalities, says Darleen Opfer, an education analyst at the Rand Corporation. “We’ve been seeing conditions in schools deteriorate, stagnate or increase school violence,” she says. “The conditions are widespread enough we’d consider schools being in crisis.” National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia agrees, saying, “We’ve never seen a brushfire like this.” Agence France-Presse.

Texting troubles: A series of text messages between Sarasota County School Board member Eric Robinson and Sheriff Tom Knight show a collaborative effort to force the school district to pay the full costs for having a school resource officer in every school. The often-profane messages from Robinson also deride Superintendent Todd Bowden and board member Shirley Brown. Robinson acknowledged the messages were “inappropriate” and reflected his frustration with the board’s unwillingness to consider cutting costs. Knight said the text messages were “bad judgment” and blamed Robinson for using him to criticize Bowden. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School security: Palm Beach County school officials say they are concerned that as the trauma of the school shooting in Parkland fades, so will the resolve of political leaders to protect schools. Palm Beach Post. Town hall meetings on gun violence and school safety are held Saturday around the state. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach PostTampa Bay Times. WJXT. Citrus County sheriff’s officials are urging the school district to reject hiring private security guards to provide school security. The school board meets Tuesday to discuss how to meet the state mandate of having a qualified armed person at every school. Citrus County Chronicle. The Monroe County School Board meets Tuesday to discuss the ballot language of a plan to increase property taxes to pay for having a resource officer in every school. Key West Citizen.

Marshal program concerns: Pointing to the disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the high-profile killings of unarmed black men by white police officers, black parents and lawmakers worry that the state’s school marshal plan that would arm school employees will put students of color at greater risk. “This a recipe for disaster for kids who look like mine, who look like me,” says Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens. Florida Today.

School shooting developments: Anthony Borges, who was shot five times during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, criticizes Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie and Sheriff Scott Israel for allowing confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz to be at the school. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. Survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shootings live with the images of the day in their heads, and an anxiety they can’t shake. Sun-Sentinel. A North Miami Beach police officer is under investigation for social media posts that suggest the school shootings could be a hoax and the Parkland students are paid actors. A post under the name of Ericson Harrell asks what proof there is of the shootings, “other than #MSM accounts, alleged witnesses and a couple of funeral processions?” Sun-Sentinel.

Coding bill signed: Gov. Rick Scott signs 17 more bills, including one that could increase the availability of computer-science courses, including coding courses, in middle and high schools. The bill also provides for annual bonuses of up to $1,000 to teachers who become certified in computer science. News Service of Florida.

Mental health money: St. Johns County school officials are considering ways to stretch the money the state is providing for mental health services. “Even with what we do offer we are not anywhere where we want to be, and that’s why we want to work together to figure out what we can do better,” says associate superintendent of student support services Kyle Dresback. “The state money will not be enough so we want to work with community agencies.” St. Augustine Record.

Charter school troubles: Two teachers have quit and 10 students have left Eagle Arts Academy, a financially strapped charter school in Wellington that has not paid teachers since mid-March and has been given notice by the Palm Beach School District that its contract is being terminated. Meanwhile, school founder Gregory Blount clashes with the principal of the Renaissance Charter school, who set up a recruiting tent across the street from Eagle Arts. WPTV.

Schools in jeopardy: State testing this week takes on added significance for 3rd-graders at Daughtrey and Oneco elementary schools in Manatee County. Both have received D grades from the state in each of the last three years. If they can’t improve to a C this year, the schools will be closed, converted to charter schools or turned over to outside management. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Extension sought: Hawthorne Middle/High School officials are asking state Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, to present a letter to the Department of Education asking for an year’s extension to improve the school before it is forced to close or be turned over to an outside operator. Hawthorne has received school grades of D from the state for the past three years, and without an extension will need a C or better to remain free from the state’s turnaround process. Gainesville Sun.

Dual enrollment questions: State colleges are studying the financial implications of a new law that requires them to pay for dual-enrollment classes taken by students at private schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Students registering: While elections supervisors in central Florida are reporting a marked increase in students registering to vote, those in northwest Florida are not. “There has not been anything out of the ordinary,” says Santa Rosa County Supervisor of Elections Tappie Villane. “It’s about normal.” Northwest Florida Daily News.

School program considered: The Hernando County School Board is considering adding a Cambridge program at Central High School. The Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) program emphasizes accelerated education in seven core subjects, and completion of the program and community service automatically qualifies students for full Bright Future scholarships. Hernando Sun.

Teacher honored: Yashica Washington, a 5th-grade math teacher at Sabal Palm Elementary School in Tallahassee, wins the Leon County School District’s Glenn Howell distinguished educator of the year award. Tallahassee Democrat.

Testing concerns: Monroe County education activist and blogger Sue Woltanski talks about why she thinks Florida’s testing system is unfair. Gradebook.

More on Kids Count: Okaloosa County ranks second in the state in the overall well-bring of its children, Santa Rosa is sixth and Escambia 41st, according to the annual Kids Count report. Counties are ranked in 16 categories under groupings of education, economics, health and family and community. Pensacola News Journal.

School dress code: Manatee County school officials will not say how, or if, they are changing the district’s dress code for students after last week’s incident in which an official at Braden River High School ordered a bra-less student to put bandaids over her nipples because she was causing a “distraction.” Bradenton Herald.

Superintendent candidate: Jesus Jara, deputy superintendent of Orange County School District since 2012, is chosen as one of four finalists for the job as superintendent of the Clark County School District in Nevada. Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Chemistry enrollments down: Enrollment in high school chemistry classes has dropped 9 percent in the past two years, according to the Florida Department of Education. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Teachers in trouble: Former Broward County teacher Wyman Gresham has been charged with lewd and lascivious molestation and conduct after three students, ages 12, 13 and 15, accused him of touching their buttocks at the Lauderhill 6-12 Magnet School. Gresham has had similar complaints brought against him in the past 20 years, but was teaching until December and still works for the school district in the book depository. WPLG. A theater teacher at Lake Howell High School is arrested for failing to report a sexual relationship between a student and an adult, according to Seminole County sheriff’s deputies. James Karl Brendlinger was told by a student that she was having sex with an adult volunteer in the theater class, and he did not tell school officials or law enforcement. Orlando Sentinel.

Students arrested: A 14-year-old student at Winter Haven Christian School is arrested after taking a gun, ammunition and two knives to school, according to police. WESH. Lakeland Ledger. Miami Herald. A student at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs is arrested after reportedly making threats to shoot up the school. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. A 16-year-old Haines City High School student is arrested on a misdemeanor charge of disrupting school after sending four emails to school administrators and district officials complaining about the school holding a walk-in instead of a walkout over gun violence. Lakeland Ledger. An 11-year-old student is arrested and accused of making a bomb threat at the Bethlehem School in Holmes County. Panama City News Herald.

Opinions on schools: Teachers shouldn’t have to strike to improve school conditions. Local voters will have an opportunity this fall to support measures that would put our community’s children in a better position to succeed — and hopefully oust lawmakers who allowed problems to get to this point. Gainesville Sun. Parents looking for a school for their children may face what psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote in his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less — that having too many choices is not productive. Carole Fernandez, Gainesville Sun. Public charter school expansion isn’t reckless, it just wrecks the systematic inequality that is present in district operated schools. Jennings DePriest, Tallahassee Democrat. Thank you to all my teachers, past and present. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union. The new law requiring the state’s Office of Early Learning to create an assessment measuring preschools’ quality will likely will have a positive, lasting effect on millions of children in the coming years. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. The challenge for the Sarasota County School District is to recognize that the current state of affairs is not conducive to regaining the support of those once-willing law enforcement partners to help protect our schools and students. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Students from the Sugarloaf School in Key West, who were helped with donations after Hurricane Irma, are paying it forward by donating jeans to a North Carolina company that uses them to make denim shoes to protect them against the jiggers parasite. Key West Citizen.

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