Florida schools roundup: Security plans, chief’s error, housing issues and more

School security: After Manatee County officials declined to provide more money to protect schools, the school district is now planning to hire 44 armed security guards to be stationed at county schools. Deputy superintendent Ron Ciranna says the district will tap into the state’s fund for its guardian program to pay for the guards, and he expects to present the plan to the school board May 22. Bradenton Herald. Pinellas Park City Council members agree to provide money for resource officers at the five Pinellas County schools in the city, but only for the 2018-2019 school year. Gradebook. Cape Coral city officials vow to work with the Lee County School District to place resource officers in every city school. WBBH. The Citrus County School Board is offering the sheriff $954,500 to provide school resource officers at all 22 schools. If the sheriff declines, the board will consider creating its own police department. Citrus County Chronicle. More details on the Brevard County School District’s plan to hire “security specialists,” which came as a surprise to many residents because the possibility hadn’t been mentioned previously. Florida Today. Eighty-three people have applied to run the Pasco County School District’s security department. Gradebook.

Superintendent admits error: Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano signs a settlement agreement acknowledging that her decision to fire all 47 teachers at a troubled elementary school was a violation of the contract the district has with the teachers union. Romano was reprimanded by the school board, and three of the teachers wrongly dismissed were given their jobs back. Romano has maintained that she had to fire all the teachers to prevent Moton Elementary, which has received D grades from the state the last two years, from being taken over by the state. Tampa Bay Times. All but 10 of the Moton positions have already been filled, Romano says. Tampa Bay Times.

Unaffordable housing: A teacher making the $49,013 median salary in Miami-Dade County can afford to buy just 9 percent of the homes in the area, according to new data from the online residential real estate site Trulia. That’s down 9.7 percentage points in just the past year. The median price for a home in the metro Miami area is now $450,000, up 12.8 percent in the past year. The numbers are better in Tampa, at 34 percent, and Orlando, at 20 percent. Affordability is defined as a monthly payment at or below 31 percent of monthly income. Miami Herald.

Teachers honored: Glades County 4th-grade teacher Joy Prescott and Martin County 5th-grade teacher Patrick Farley are chosen as finalists for the Florida teacher of the year award given by the Department of Education. Prescott teaches at the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School in Okeechobee, and Farley at Crystal Lake Elementary School in in Stuart. Each wins $15,000, and they will compete with the other finalists: Kyle Dencker of Orange County, Samantha Neff of Seminole County and Molly Diallo of Miami-Dade. The winner will be announced July 13. TCPalmFlorida Department of Education. Eleven Gulf County teachers are honored by the state as “high impact” educators, based on their students’ scores on state standardized tests, progress and achievement. Port St. Joe Star.

Choosing a superintendent: The Duval County School Board now hopes to name a new superintendent by May 18, or four days earlier than originally scheduled. The five finalists will be interviewed next week. Board chairwoman Paula Wright says she doesn’t think the board will need the scheduled three full days to interview the candidates, and that the board will gather at 4 p.m. May 18 and should have a choice before 6 p.m. The candidates are Michael Dunsmore, superintendent of the Wayne County Public Schools in North Carolina; Diana Green, superintendent in Manatee County; Sito Narcisse, superintendent for the Metro Nashville Public Schools; Harrison Peters, chief of schools in Hillsborough County; and Erick Pruitt, an area superintendent of the Houston Independent Schools. Florida Times-Union.

Staffing plan blocked: The Marion County School Board blocks Superintendent Heidi Maier’s district-level staffing plan, saying they want to see the final costs before approving it. District officials say they can’t finalize the budget without approval of the staffing plan, which includes a reorganization of the administration. Ocala Star-Banner. A 13-year-old 8th-grader admonishes Marion County school officials and members of the school board for their uncivil behavior toward one another lately. Ocala Star-Banner.

School changeover: The Fort Pierce Magnet School of the Arts in St. Lucie County is being renovated and will become the Creative Arts Academy of St. Lucie, where students will study art, music, dance, drama and musical theater. The school, nicknamed CAST, is one of three in the county being transformed with the help of a $12.5 million federal grant given to help the district create unique programs to attract students. TCPalm.

Outside operator chosen: The Marion County School Board approves Kentucky-based Educational Directions as the new operator of Evergreen Elementary School if the school doesn’t receive a C grade from the state this year. The school board is expected to negotiate a three-year contract with the company. Ocala Star-Banner.

Contract negotiations: No contract agreement is reached between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers union. The district had offered $30 million for raises for the 2018-2019 school year, while the union countered with a request for raises for the current year, among other things. The district estimates the union’s demands would cost $63.9 million. The union disputes that. Bargaining resumes May 21. Gradebook.

Minimum grading: Some schools in Lee County are using the practice of “minimum grading,” in which students are given a score of no less than 50 percent on any assignment. “Minimum grading allows students to stay engaged while still learning and for teachers to continue to work with them through the process,” says Wanda Creel, the district’s chief academic officer. WFTX.

Lessons in adversity: Brevard County science teacher has taught his students a lot in his 28-year career, about science and fishing and guitars, and now he’s teaching them about hope and peace and grace as he fights pancreatic cancer. Scott Guisbert, 51, has taught at Jefferson Middle School on Merritt Island for nearly his entire career. Now he’s retired and in the hospital, and his students have named a pond behind the school in his honor. Florida Today.

Schools being upgraded: Ten Palm Beach County schools will be closed this summer for renovations that include new plumbing, flooring, sod, fencing and furniture. The upgrades are courtesy of the 1-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2016. Sun-Sentinel. Leon County’s Rickards High School and Fairview Middle School are each getting $11 million worth of upgrades this summer. W.T. Moore Elementary School will get $50,000 in renovations. Tallahassee Democrat.

Land deal reconsidered: A deal between the city of Gulf Breeze and the Santa Rosa County School District for land is in jeopardy because the city now wants to retain about a third of the land. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick says the district needs the whole 45 acres that was originally agreed to because he’s not sure the 30 acres now being offered is enough for a new school. Pensacola News Journal.

High school rankings: More on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the nation’s best public high schools. Naples Daily News. WPTV. Patch. WOFL. Florida Today. WFLX. WKMG. TCPalm. USA Today. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Sun-Sentinel.

Academy sued: Former Rising Leaders Academy Principal Tim Kitts is suing the charter school for breach of contract. Kitts says he had a three-year contract and that he was fired without cause or under “any other circumstance provided in the employment agreement.” Panama City News Herald.

Teacher arrested: A Monroe County teacher is arrested and accused of stealing a condo resident’s beauty supplies that had just been delivered to the complex’s mailroom. Christi Gardner, 41, teaches at Stanley Switlik Elementary School in Key West. Keynoter.

Aide put on leave: An aide at Ashton Elementary School in Sarasota is placed on leave after two students say they were touched inappropriately. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

What the principal knew: A Manatee County principal knew one of his teachers was under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with a student but still recommended him for a job in Sarasota County, according to documents from the school district. Lincoln Memorial Middle School principal Eddie Hundley has said he did not know about an investigation of teacher Quentin Peterson, who was hired at Sarasota Booker High School but was later arrested for possessing child pornography. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Guns at schools: A fight in the Ribault High School gymnasium leads to the arrest of a student and the discovery of a gun, say Duval County school officials. Two students met to fight just after school began, and a trespasser there to watch was arrested and found to have a gun. Florida Times-Union. A Palm Beach County student faces disciplinary action and possible criminal charges after Seminole Ridge High School officials find a shotgun in his car trunk. Palm Beach Post.

Students arrested: A 13-year-old Volusia County student is arrested after threatening to shoot a classmate at the Holly Hill School. Daytona Beach News-Journal. An 18-year-old West Nassau High School student is arrested and charged with battery on school personnel for allegedly shoving a teacher who was trying to break up a fight. WJXT.

Student barred from school: A Palm Beach County judge grants a temporary injunction that bars a former student from the campus of Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton. Jared Reichenbach, 20, was barred from the school after making obscenity-laced social media posts against the school. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools:  The ridiculous limit on damages in cases like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings – known as “sovereign immunity” – is an outrage for the Legislature to set right. Sun-Sentinel. The Pinellas County School District’s school security plan of increasing its own police force from 18 to 100 is the most expensive option and it may not please everyone, but it’s the best solution available. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. Protecting our students shouldn’t just be a school district problem. This is a problem for all communities and law enforcement agencies within Lee County to address and provide funding solutions so that an armed safety officer can be in each school. Fort Myers News-Press. State lawmakers have long short-changed overall mental health funding and gave schools little additional discretionary money this year, so a significant need remains for increased mental-health services and related programs for young people. Gainesville Sun. We must fight for educators, their pay and the appropriate tools and resources necessary to educate, empower and inspire our youth. They deserve to be saluted every day for their courage, commitment and strength, not just this week. Tracy Wilson Mourning, Miami Herald.

Student enrichment: Seven Florida high school students are among 161 across the nation chosen as U.S. Presidential Scholars. They are: Sidhika Balachandar, Gainesville, Buchholz High School; James Balo, Miami, Design & Architecture Senior High School; Elena Gonzalez, Cutler Bay, New World School of the Arts; Ishmael Gonzalez, Hialeah, New World School of the Arts; Caroline Hanson, Youngstown, Deane Bozeman School; Tamim Kawakibi, Pensacola High School; and Grant J. LoPresti, Lutz, George M. Steinbrenner High School. U.S. Department of Education. Pensacola News Journal. One hundred and twenty-six Florida students win $2,500 National Merit scholarships. Florida Department of Education.

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