Florida schools roundup: School security, walkout, budgets and more

School security: The Duval County School Board approves a proposal to hire 103 armed safety assistants to guard elementary schools. The plan will cost the district about $4.18 million. WJXTWJAX. The Pasco County School Board approves hiring armed guards to be stationed at the district’s 47 elementary schools. Superintendent Kurt Browning says the program is a hybrid between the state’s guardian program, which allows arming school employees, and hiring sworn school resource officers. The district will have to find the $550,000 to close the gap between the actual cost and money it gets from the state from the guardian program. Tampa Bay Times. Hernando County school officials are considering asking voters for a hike in property taxes or the sales tax to help pay for structural changes to make schools safer. Tampa Bay Times. The Flagler County sheriff tells the school board it must come up with the $88,000 still needed to put a deputy at every school. Flagler Live. Residents argue on both sides about arming school employees during a second town hall meeting in Brevard County. Florida Today. Veteran Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent Damien Kelly is chosen to lead the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools. WKMG. Tampa Bay Times. Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s secondary public schools have sworn officers on site, but most are not present all day, according to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics. Pew Research Center.

Student walkout: Students across the United States are expected to walk out of more than 300 schools today to show their support for the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The pro-gun rights event is called “Stand for the Second,” and is scheduled to last 16 minutes. The 74USA TodayTallahassee Democrat.

Budget concerns: All major construction projects of the Martin County School District – including the plans to build a new administration center – are temporarily put on hold by the school board. The district is facing a tight budget, and decided to delay spending $25 million for several projects. The district is asking voters this fall to boost sales and property taxes to help pay for school construction, school security and teacher pay. TCPalm. Bay County commissioners approve placing a half-cent sales tax hike for schools on the Aug. 28 primary ballot. If approved, the tax will be used for construction and maintenance. Panama City News Herald.

Shooting shooting developments: Every person who was on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shootings on Feb. 14 is eligible for a share of the victims’ fund created by the Broward Education Foundation, according to officials administering the distribution. More than 36,000 people have donated $8.2 million to the fund so far. How much each of the 3,500 or so eligible people receives won’t be known until after June 30. Sun-Sentinel. Broward County prosecutors and the school board are appealing a judge’s decision to release additional video taken by outside security cameras during the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High. A Broward circuit judge ruled April 18 that the video should be released. Board attorneys say releasing these videos will show the limits of the school cameras and therefore weaken security. Prosecutors say the videos are exempt because they’re part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Sun-Sentinel. The brother of confessed Stoneman Douglas shooter Nikolas Cruz is arrested and accused of violating his probation. Zachary Cruz had been arrested March 19 for trespassing at Stoneman Douglas, and he was ordered to stay at least a mile away from any school he wasn’t attending. Police recently caught him driving without a license 25 feet from a parking lot at Park Vista Community High School in Lake Worth. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Top teachers, DeVos spar: Teachers of the year from 50 states argue with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her policies during a private meeting Monday. Several teachers told DeVos that the administration’s school choice policies are creating bad public schools by draining their resources in favor of charter and private schools. Huffington Post.

Media’s choice coverage: Does the American media cover school choice fairly? A recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute found no bias either for or against school choice in news stories, but that editorial and opinion writers cite negative school choice studies nearly twice as often as positive ones. Real Clear Education.

Charter misses payroll: For the second time in a month, a Wellington charter school has failed to pay its teachers on time. Eagle Arts Academy officials say checks are being temporarily withheld because the school is out of money and was unable to arrange a short-term loan. The Palm Beach County School Board has voted to close the school June 1, citing the ongoing financial problems. School officials are appealing, and a hearing is set May 31 and June 1. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent search: One of the six finalists for the job as Duval County superintendent has withdrawn his name from consideration. Frederick Heid, an Illinois district superintendent and former Duval school leader, cited personal and professional considerations and timing for dropping out. The five semifinalists will interview May 11 and 12. Florida Times-Union.

Financial literacy: The final weeks of a school year are financial literacy time in the Miami-Dade County School District. Three years ago the district created 195 lessons, 15 per grade, to begin teaching personal finance to students. Sun-Sentinel.

Teaching time extended: The Pasco County School Board approves a plan to hold classes later into the spring every year, starting in 2019, and have all students take final exams at the same time. The change better coordinates with state testing. Gradebook.

Rezoning decision delayed: A legal challenge by a parent prompts the Pasco County School Board to delay a decision on a school boundary rezoning plan for the west side of the county. A state administrative judge will hear the case May 17. Gradebook.

ACLU allegations refuted: Manatee County school officials dispute allegations by by the ACLU that the district selectively enforces the school dress code and that it violated students’ civil rights by trying to stop a protest against the way it treated a 17-year-old Braden River High School student, but they are investigating. The student went to school braless one day, and was told to put bandages over her nipples. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: The Hillsborough County School Board approves the transfers of seven principals to new schools: Michael Rowan from King High to Wharton High, Pamela Wilkins to Oak Grove Elementary, Rachel Walters from Shaw Elementary to Tinker K-8, Renel Mathurin from MOSI Partnership Elementary to Shaw, Keith Laycock from USF/Patel Elementary to Nature’s Classroom, Delia Gafson-Yarbrough from Anderson Elementary to Sheehy Elementary, and Lydia Sierra from Orange Grove Middle Magnet to Anderson. Gradebook.

Board candidate ejected: Dean Paterakis, a candidate for the District 5 seat on the Brevard County School Board, is ejected from a teachers union candidate forum for video-recording the meeting after being told beforehand not to do so. Florida Today.

Ex-administrator wins suit: A jury has awarded former Palm Beach County school administrator Jim Utterback $190,000 from the school board for being unfairly demoted from his job in 2015. After questioning the district’s computerized attendance system, which was later scrapped, Utterback was removed as head of adult education program at Santaluces High School and assigned to Christa McAuliffe Middle School as a teacher. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher arrested: John Russo, a teacher at Brookside Middle School in Sarasota County, is arrested and charged with battery after allegedly pushing a student into a wall when the student refused a request to remove his hooded sweatshirt. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher, aide reassigned: A Duval County teacher and paraprofessional are reassigned and facing suspension after dragging a 1st-grader out of his classroom by his arms. District investigators say San Mateo Elementary School teacher Julia Woessner and paraprofessional Annette Smith violated several policies. WJAX.

Recruiter at school arrested: Danilo Fernandez II, an Army recruiter based at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, is arrested and accused of attempted production of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity. Palm Beach Post.

More accusations: More Sarasota County students have come forward with allegations against Booker High School math teacher Quentin Peterson. Peterson was arrested last week and accused of possessing child pornography. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Political nonrenewal? The teaching contract for Umatilla High School’s rookie teacher of the year is not being renewed. Christopher Barnhart says it’s because he’s running for a Lake County School Board seat. District officials deny that. Daily Commercial.

Student killed: An 18-year-old Duval County student is hit by a car and killed as she was crossing a street near a school bus stop.  Shaqia Bryant, a student at Ed White High School, is the third pedestrian killed at the intersection in the past three years. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

A long walk home: A Jacksonville mother is angry that her 7-year-old son was told by a teacher at North Shore Elementary School to walk home instead of waiting in the office for a ride. The boy’s home is 2.5 miles from the school and the route crosses several busy intersections. School officials say they’re investigating. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: The data from the Nation’s Report Card can’t tell us the exact cause for Florida’s success on NAEP testing, but there’s a strong correlation between student achievement and the work Florida’s been doing over the last two decades to make it happen – on expanded school choice through charter schools and scholarships, more accountability such as standardized testing and an A-F school grade system, and increasingly higher standards. Lane Wright, Education Post.

Student enrichment: Workers from Royal Caribbean Cruise workers spruce up Jesse J. McCrary Jr. Elementary School in Little Haiti as part of the company’s 21st annual Get Involved Volunteer Everywhere Day. Miami Herald. Seventeen Alachua County 7th-graders who scored equal to or higher than 90 percent of high school seniors on college entrance exams this year will be honored by the Duke University Talent Identification Program. Gainesville Sun.

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