Florida schools roundup: Investigation of shooting, security, budgets and more

School shooting query: The design of classrooms at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School contributed to the massacre Feb. 14, witnesses tell a state panel investigating the shooting. Doors couldn’t be locked from the inside, and had small windows that confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz fired through to kill several people who were inside. Faulty 911 systems contributed to the chaos, and one report indicates that while Broward deputies took cover, at least one knew the location of Cruz. Witnesses also say Cruz studied the 1999 Columbine school shooting as he planned the attack. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaSun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldPolitico Florida. WLRN. A judge rules that Cruz is indigent and will continue to be represented by the Broward County Public Defender’s Office. Miami Herald. Here’s a list of the commission members. WPLG. Broward County School Board members want Superintendent Robert Runcie to create a page on the district’s website to debunk false information and share the district’s responses to events. Sun-Sentinel.

School security, budgets: The Polk County School Board approves a plan to hire 90 “safety specialists” to protect schools at a cost of about $3.72 million. Specialists will be trained and armed, but won’t have the authority to make arrests. Lakeland Ledger. The Marion County School Board agrees to spend $224,000 to have 34 resource officers in elementary and charter schools for the rest of this school year. Ocala Star-Banner. Bay County School Board members approve a resolution to ask voters in August to extend the extra half-cent sales tax to help pay for school security and construction projects. The request has to be approved by county commissioners. Panama City News Herald. The Clay County School will ask voters to approve a property tax increase to raise money to hire 44 school resource officers so there’s at least one in every county school, and county commissioners agree to provide $2.1 million to help. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Brevard County residents split at a town hall meeting about whether to arm school employees. Florida Today. Citrus County commissioners tell school officials not to expect any financial help to hire school resource officers. Citrus County Chronicle. Martin County School Board members seem willing to make cuts in the district’s content coordinators and administrators overseeing specific areas such as math or social studies to save money and help pay for school security, but are hesitant to consider scaling back art, music, extended child care programs or outsourcing custodial and technology services.  TCPalm

Charter schools: The Leon County School Board unanimously denies applications from two companies that want to start charter schools. Board members say the Plato Academy and Tallahassee Classical charter schools wouldn’t provide anything that isn’t already offered by district schools. The companies have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Florida Department of Education. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. Charter school advocates say a proposed constitutional amendment creating a charter authorizing entity would make the process fairer than it is now with local school districts having the authority to approve or reject applications. Capitol News Service.

Contract negotiations: The Volusia County teachers union is criticizing the school district for proposing a mandatory dress code for teachers and for asking elementary school teachers to spend more time on planning and instructing students but without extra pay. The district is offering a 1 percent pay raise and an $800 bonus, while the union wants a 2.5 percent raise with no bonus and a promise to keep health and dental insurance increases to a minimum. WKMG.

Testing troubles: After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the state exempted seniors from taking standardized tests this year that are ordinarily required for graduation. But about 1,500 younger students will still have to take and pass state algebra and language arts exams either this year or next to stay on track for graduation. Many parents are protesting, saying the students are not in the right frame of mind to think about testing and have missed too much school. Miami Herald.

Turnaround schools: Bay County School Board members agree with Superintendent Bill Husfelt’s recommendation to close Oscar Patterson Elementary School if it doesn’t receive a C grade from the state this year. “It’s not pleasurable and it’s not an intent, but we need to face facts,” says board chairwoman Ginger Littleton. Panama City News Herald. Tutors have been hard at work with students at Evergreen Elementary School in Ocala in the 10 weeks since Superintendent Heidi Maier recommended closing the school if it doesn’t get a grade of C from the state this year. Evergreen has received D or F grades for the past five years and the state says without improvement, the district must close it, make it a charter school or turn it over to an outside operator. Ocala Star-Banner.

Superintendent evaluation: Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins gets high marks from the school board for his work on trying to turn around the district’s financial problems, but is criticized for his communication skills. Tampa Bay Times.

Discipline disparities: A new report from the U.S. Department of Education shows a significant increase in disciplinary measures for black students, and that students with disabilities are disciplined at a higher rate than their numbers. The numbers were drawn from more than 17,000 U.S. school districts with 50.6 million students for the 2014–15 school year. The report comes as the Trump administration is considering rolling back Obama administration guidance on ways to reduce the disparities. Education Week. The 74.

Scrimping on education: Jacksonville and Orlando are among the 10 U.S. metro areas that spend the least amount per student a year, according to a recent survey. Duval County ranks 46th at $9,147 per student, while Orange County is 44th at $9,665. The average metro area spends $12,807. New York City is first at $21,480, and Salt Lake City is last at $7,630. MagnifyMoney.com.

Effects of a law: The Hillsborough County School Board gets a detailed explanation from a government relations officer about how the new state education law will affect the district, in details large and small and in ways major and minor. Gradebook.

Displaced students: Florida education officials are told the U.S. Department of Education will be reimbursing school districts for students who escaped hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and enrolled in Florida schools. Districts will get $8,500 for each enrolled student and up to $10,000 for students with disabilities. Florida Politics.

Superintendent panned: About 100 protesters present a pink slip to Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano at a school board meeting to show their anger at her decision to remove all the teachers at the struggling Moton Elementary School. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Carmen Connor is named principal and Oronde McKhan assistant principal at Pineview Elementary School in Tallahassee. Connor replaces Marilyn Jackson-Rahming, who was reassigned after allegations concerning school records were lodged against her. Tallahassee Democrat. Former Leon County Superintendent Jackie Pons is named senior vice president of business development for the New York-based educational software company TeacherPlanBook.com. Tallahassee Democrat.

School board elections: Lori Alhadeff, mother of slain Stoneman Douglas High student Alyssa Alhadeff, says she is running for a seat on the Broward County School Board. Sun-Sentinel.

Teachers honored: The Florida Department of Education names 90 Bay County teachers as “high impact” educators. WJHG.

Virtual lawsuit: Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is suing Arizona State University and an affiliated online school for trademark infringement. FLVS alleges that ASU and ASU Prep Digital is engaging in “willful and intentional trademark infringement and unfair competition” by using its name in online ads. Orlando Sentinel.

Notable deaths: Bob Dorough, a jazz musician whose Schoolhouse Rock songs on ABC helped teach America’s children about grammar, math and more, has died in his Mount Bethel, Pa., home at the age of 94. NPR. CNN. Associated Press.

Promposal apology: A Sarasota County high school student and his family apologize for the racist promposal he recently posted on social media. Noah Crowley, 18, will not be attending any more Riverview High School activities, including prom and graduation, his parents said. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times.

ACLU steps in: The ACLU says it wants to meet with Manatee County school officials to discuss the incident in which a braless student was told to put bandages over her nipples. District officials have acknowledged the incident was not handled properly by the dean at Braden River High School. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student hospitalized: An 8th-grader at Driftwood Middle School in Hollywood is briefly hospitalized after eating a marijuana edible known as “Weedos” st school. She thought they were Cheetos. At least two girls are facing suspensions, say Broward school officials. WPLG.

Teacher arrested: A Sarasota County teacher is arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. Quentin Peterson, 25, is a math teacher at Booker High School. He’s been placed on administrative leave. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher accused of assault: A Santa Rosa County teacher is accused of kicking a 5-year-old autistic child at West Navarre Intermediate School. School officials, deputies and the Florida Department of Child and Families are investigating. Pensacola News Journal.

SRO investigation: A Pasco County school resource officer is under investigation for his actions while taking a female student into custody for resisting arrest in the Sunlake High School cafeteria. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: The proposal by the Constitution Revision Commission is not some sinister corporate plot. The Education Commission of the States reports that 35 of the 44 states with charter school laws allow some form of statewide authorization. The arrangement is not unusual. Beau Moore, Orlando Sentinel. Are good schools good enough for Martin County voters? If the answer is yes, it’s a recipe for decline. Gil Smart, TCPalm. Convicted criminals working as teachers: Welcome to voucher schools in Florida. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. The costs of school security should be shared by law enforcement and school districts. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: School gardens are helping teach Florida students about the importance of fruits and vegetables and the advantage of locally grown food. Orlando Sentinel.

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