Florida schools roundup: Board wants to arm school staff, forgotten gun and more

School security: While the Brevard County school superintendent and sheriff now agree that the school district should reject the state’s guardian program, a majority of school board members say they want to move forward with the program to arm select employees. The district needs $5 million it doesn’t have to put a resource officer in every school, and board members say the guardian program can help bridge the gap. Florida Today. Clay County school officials say meeting the state mandates on school security will cost the district at least $15 million, and the district won’t get nearly that much from the state. Florida Times-Union. Clay Today. Collier County school officials say they’ll improve school security by locking school doors, adding access control systems and requiring photo IDs from every visitor. “We didn’t get any additional (state) funds for hardening schools or for safety equipment,” says Superintendent Kamela Patton. “We think this new layer of security across the district is a really good value for what we’re doing.” Naples Daily NewsWGCU. Manatee County commissioners want the school district to foot the bill for putting a resource officer in every school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Leon County School District begins negotiations with law enforcement officials to determine how to put a resource officer into 21 elementary schools that don’t have one. Tallahassee Democrat. Monroe County School Board members agree to ask voters in August to increase their taxes to raise money for school security. Key West Citizen. Lee County school officials say Bonita Springs High School, which opens in August, has special security measures built in and will be a model of safety for future schools. Fort Myers News-Press.

School shooting developments: A Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher who says he’d be willing to carry a gun in school to protect students is arrested and charged with failing to safely store a firearm. Broward sheriff’s deputies say Sean Simpson forgot his handgun in the public bathroom at the Deerfield Beach Pier. A drunken homeless man found it and fired a bullet into a wall before Simpson was able to disarm him. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. WPLG. Confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz wants to donate whatever inheritance he’s due to a charity that will help his victims, his lawyer says. Sun-Sentinel.

Restructuring plan tabled: Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier’s administrative restructuring plan for the 2018-2019 school year is tabled by school board members who say they still don’t understand how much it will cost or what the new structure will look like. Maier is expected to provide more details at an April 25 work session. The board is scheduled to vote on the plan May 8. Ocala Star-Banner.

Union membership: A membership campaign has pushed the St. Johns County teachers union past the 50 percent threshhold needed to remain certified under the new state law. Enrollment was at 49 percent in January, but the union has used to risk of decertification as a membership incentive and has increased it to 51.6 percent. St. Augustine Record.

Teachers finally paid: Teachers at the Eagle Arts Academy charter school in Wellington finally got paid Wednesday after a two-week delay. School founder Gregory Blount says teachers will be paid again as scheduled Friday but wouldn’t say if they would get the full amounts. Last week Blount said that the regular payment the school receives from the Palm Beach County School District would not cover Friday’s paychecks. The district says the school will close in June unless it can balance its budget and repay $700,000 in back rent. Palm Beach Post.

School testing: Florida Standards Assessment testing began this week for 3rd-grade students, giving students at Oscar Patterson Elementary School in Panama City one final chance to boost the school’s state grade to avoid closing or being turned over to a new operator. Patterson has received F grades from the state the past two years. Administrators say the school has improved, but they can’t predict if those improvements will translate to testing gains. Panama City News Herald.

District finances: Gulf County school officials say their budget outlook is improving because of rising property values, and layoffs are no longer being considered. “Six months ago we thought for sure we would have to declare a (reduction in workforce),” says Superintendent Jim Norton. “Right now we can live with where we are at.” Port St. Joe Star.

Lead in school water: The Leon County School District is proposing to change the allowable amounts of lead in its water to 10 parts per billion. The district had been using the EPA’s guideline of 15 parts per billion as a standard. The district has installed water filtration systems in school kitchens, flushes the pipes every other week and will add filters to water fountains. WFSU.

School board elections: Teresa Jacobs, who is term-limited as Orange County mayor, announces her candidacy for the chair seat on the Orange County School Board. Jacobs, 60, joins school board member Nancy Robbinson, college administrator Matthew Fitzpatrick and teacher Robert Prater in the race. The election is Aug. 28, with a runoff Nov. 6 if no one receives more than half the votes. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter school moving: The Seaport Community Charter School in Mayport has bought nearly 8 acres of land for more than $1 million and plans to spend $5 million to build four buildings totaling 28,907 square feet. The current site of the K-8 school will become a residential development. Jacksonville Daily Record.

Homeless students: The Santa Rosa County School District is asking the state for a $100,000 grant so it can continue a program to help educate homeless children. Santa Rosa Post-Gazette.

Making up classes: A special program at Sunlake High School in Pasco County helps nearly 1,900 try to catch up on courses in order to graduate on time. Judy Scavino teaches Personal Career and School Development at the school and keeps track of students’ progress by getting involved personally with each one. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of dropout prevention is personal relationships,” says district graduation enhancement supervisor Ramón Suarez. He calls Scavino “phenomenal.” Tampa Bay Times.

School transportation: Duval County school officials are asking for about $58 million in the next budget to pay for the district’s transportation needs. The average age of the district’s bus fleet is 5.8 years, which is the lowest of the seven largest districts in the state. Duval also contracts with several outside companies for some services. WJXT.

Middle school sports: The Pasco County School Board is considering allowing all 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade students to try out for middle school sports teams, and is holding a hearing Tuesday to gauge community sentiment. Gradebook.

Teacher keeps job: The Clay County School Board rejects Superintendent Addison Davis’ recommendation to fire Orange Park High art teacher Michael Bowman. Bowman was charged with a financial crime four years ago. Fellow teachers, students and their parents urged the school board to retain Bowman. Clay Today.

Teachers arrested: A Lee County teacher is arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. Suzanne Lea Owen, 35, a high school teacher at the Evangelical Christian School, has been fired. Fort Myers News-Press. A Volusia County middle school teacher is arrested and accused of grand theft and trafficking in hydrocodone. Police say Kimberly Vicars, 46, an 8th-grade language arts teacher at David C. Hinson Middle School, tried to leave a Target store with $500 worth of things she hadn’t paid for. She was stopped, and police found 29 hydrocodone pills without a prescription in her purse. Vicars says she remembers nothing about the incident because she was under the influence of the pain medication. Daytona Beach News-JournalPalm Beach Post.

Student arrested: A 16-year-old boy is arrested and accused of making a threat on social media against Countryside High School in Clearwater. The threat prompted the evacuation of the school. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Sarasota County residents simply want elected officials and key school district administrators to end their bickering and reach a principled agreement on the provision and funding of security at their schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The last thing teachers need is to deal with a bullying, thin-skinned, crybaby politician, like Hillsborough County School Board member Tamara Shamburger, who runs to a supervisor to throw a teacher under the bus merely because the teacher might have inartfully let off some steam on social media. Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times. Palmetto’s Lincoln Memorial Middle School become the Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school in July, and the conversion has been everything but simple. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The labor peace Volusia County schools have enjoyed the last two years is about to end. But it doesn’t have to be replaced by the level of acrimony that preceded it. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A home-schooled Broward County student has done some digging and is asking why the school district has spent only $5 million of the $104 million earmarked for school safety when voters approved an $800 million bond measure for schools in 2014. Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News.

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