Florida schools roundup: Superintendent named, tests, 47 cents, appeal and more

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New superintendent: Diana Greene is chosen as the new superintendent of the Duval County School System. Greene, who has been superintendent of the Manatee County district since 2015, was unanimously approved by the school board. She replaces Nikolai Vitti, who left last summer to take the top job in Detroit. Greene started her teaching career in Duval before moving into administration. At Manatee, she is credited with turning around a difficult financial situation while improving student achievement. In Duval, Greene will immediately have to contend with a $62 million budget deficit. Greene’s start date and salary have yet to be negotiated. Florida Times-Union. WJXTBradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Smooth testing season: Florida Standards Assessments testing ended last week, and Florida Department of Education officials say there were few reports of problems with the test. Students took 4.2 million computerized tests and another 1.2 million with paper and pencil, and the only issues reported were local Internet and power outages. Results are expected in June. Gradebook.

Ad rebuts 47-cent claim: Florida House Republican leaders are fighting back against the claim by educators that the Legislature’s funding for schools amounts to just 47 more cents for each student. Calling it the “47 cent myth,” the lawmakers contend in a 5-minute online ad that they bumped per-student spending by $101.50, an all-time high, and that they put requirements on some of the increases to stop districts from squandering the extra money. “That’s why we put this $100 increase in per student funding directly into the classroom, bypassing the bureaucracy,” the narrator of the ads says. “To them [bureaucrats], it’s not about kids. It’s about control.” Gradebook.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Eleven Florida school boards have agreed to continue appealing the latest decision against their challenge of the constitutionality of the state’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069. The suit contends the law violates the state constitution by stripping authority from local school boards and by forcing districts to share their tax revenue with charter schools. Alachua, Bay, Broward, Collier, Hamilton, Lee, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia school boards have voted to keep appealing. Boards in Clay, Duval and Wakulla have dropped out of the case. The Palm Beach County School Board is pursuing its own suit against the law. Associated Press.

School security: Backpacks are banned in Polk County schools this week, a decision prompted by the Texas school shooting. Officials haven’t said if the ban will extend into the next school year. Orlando Sentinel. Students in the Tampa Bay area and Putnam County will see an increased police presence for the final week of school. WUSF. WFLAWJAX. The Lake County School Board meets today to consider options on securing elementary schools. The biggest challenge will be deciding how to pay for whatever option is chosen. Daily Commercial. Tuesday, the Volusia County School Board will consider a plan to hire 44 armed “school marshals” for elementary schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Hillsborough County school security chief John Newman says school security is now “all about access control. It’s about who’s on your campus, why are they there and how they get there.” Newman is in the process of hiring 101 armed security officers to station in schools. Gradebook. Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar is asking the county for money to hire 15 new deputies so that a law enforcement officer can be stationed at all the county’s schools. Vero News. Former President Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, endorses an idea for parents to stop sending their children to school until stricter gun control laws are passed. Washington Post.

More pain in Parkland: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and parents were jolted Friday by reports of another school shooting, this time in Texas. Ten people died when a student began shooting at Santa Fe High School near Galveston. “I’m crying for my friend and the same thing is happening all over again,” said senior Tyra Hemans, whose friend Meadow Pollack was among the 17 who died in the Feb. 14 shootings at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. “We mourn and pray for those lost or injured and hope their community will rally to support them as ours has,” said Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina also died. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. As confessed Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was leaving the Cross Creek school for students with severe emotional and behavioral disorders, a Broward County School District report cleared him to attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with the notation that he had shown he “can be a model student.” Sun-Sentinel.

Schools face closure: If Oscar Patterson Elementary School doesn’t improve its grade from the state to a C or better and closes, as school officials and the school board have decided, it will set off a series of unappealing moves for the Bay County School District that will affect hundreds of families. Panama City News Herald. Gibbons Street Elementary School in Bartow may close and reopen as a preschool, according to a plan being considered by Polk County school officials. Gibbons has been losing enrollment and has received a school grade of D from the state for the past three years. Lakeland Ledger.

Free meals for students: All Lake County School District students will receive free meals next year, school officials say. Federal guidelines now allow districts to offer all students free breakfasts and lunches if the community is predominately low-income. More than 60 percent of Lake students qualify for free or a reduced-price school meals under the National School Lunch Program. Orlando Sentinel.

Rezoning challenge ends: A Pasco County parent drops his challenge of the school district’s plan for rezoning schools in the west part of the county to ease overcrowding. Jim Stanley had been fighting the rezoning plan for about two years, alleging that the district didn’t follow state rules when setting the new boundaries. Now he says he wants to see how the board votes on the proposed boundaries at a special meeting May 29 before deciding what he’ll do next. Gradebook.

Honoring her memory: For Miami-Dade County School Board member Susie Castillo, starting a foundation that awards scholarships to prospective teachers and a first-of-its-kind teaching academy at a high school are personal. They honor Castillo’s daughter Andrea, who died in a car crash in 2012 at the age of 21. WLRN.

LGBTQ survey: LGBTQ students in Duval County report high rates of being sexually assaulted, bullied and feeling unsafe in school, and of depression and substance use, according to a survey from the University of North Florida. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher union politics: The vice president of the Florida Education Association is challenging Joanne McCall for the presidency. Fedrick Ingram, who was president of the United Teachers of Dade, says the union needs to be “better, more powerful and proactive” to fight against the state’s policies. “But we cannot win with the reactive approach that has held our state organization back.” Florida Politics.

Charter fraud sentencing: An Ohio businessman convicted of defrauding charter schools in Florida of nearly $1 million has been sentenced to 55 months in prison and 10 years of probation. Steven Kunkemoeller used a shell company to inflate the prices of school supplies and sell them to Newpoint Education Partners-managed charter schools. He then allegedly split the profits with Newpoint founder Marcus May, whose court case is pending. Pensacola News Journal.

Accused teacher retires: The Marion County agri-science teacher who was filmed drowning two raccoons and an opossum in class has decided to retire, effective immediately. Dewie Brewton, who taught at Forest High School, had been put on leave while the district looked into the incident. Investigations by the Florida Department of Health and state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are ongoing. Ocala Star-Banner.

Principal problems: A Leon County elementary school principal’s contract will not be renewed, says Superintendent Rocky Hanna. Marilyn Jackson-Rahming was the principal at Pineview Elementary School until she was accused of ordering school workers to falsify more than 400 parent Title I surveys. The Department of Education’s Department of Professional Practices, which levies disciplinary actions and can revoke teacher certificates, is also reviewing the charges. Tallahassee Democrat. Students, parents and staff at Rising Leaders Academy in Panama City say former principal Tim Kitts made them uncomfortable with inappropriate touching and other behavior, according to an anonymous survey taken at the charter school. Panama City News Herald.

Substitute teachers in trouble: A Broward County substitute teacher is arrested and accused of inappropriately touching a 7-year-old student in a Deerfield Beach school after-care program. Juan Emmanuel Manns, 24, was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct for the incident at Quiet Waters Elementary School. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. A substitute teacher at Mayport Middle School in Atlantic Beach is removed for inappropriately touching a student, according to school officials. Law enforcement is investigating. WJAX. WJXT.

Troubled teachers: The Tallahassee Democrat develops a database to find disciplinary actions against educators from the Department of Education over the past 41 years. It’s called Florida’s Troubled Teachers, and can be found here. Tallahassee Democrat.

Student sets fire: A 1st-grader at Rymfire Elementary School in Flagler County sets fire to a paper towel dispenser in a bathroom “to change the color of his mood ring,” say deputies. Damage was limited and the child was issued a civil citation. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Opinions on schools: Only in Florida would a teacher drown raccoons in front of his students as a lesson. Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald. Police departments should not pull officers off the street to stand guard at elementary schools, and school districts should not be shifting education money from the classroom to pay for security. If it is a top state priority to have at least one armed officer at every school, the state should pay for it. Tampa Bay Times. Martin County Parents United is fighting a good fight in trying to get more money from the school for teachers. Given all we ask of teachers, they deserve a raise. Gil Smart, TCPalm. The next Brevard County school superintendent faces challenges in school security, teacher raise negotiations and budget shortfalls. Isadora Rangel, Florida Today. A push to improve vocational training in Florida’s schools is a wise strategy for engaging students who might have little interest in a strictly academic track. Daily Commercial. It was refreshing to watch the selection of a new Duval County school superintendent, to see so much transparency — so many opportunities for the public to be informed and involved. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union. No child should ever be afraid to come to school and there is NO greater priority for our country right now than protecting our children. Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt. Panama City News Herald. We’ll never “solve” the problem of gun violence. But we should be taking the simple steps to protect school children today. St. Augustine Record. We call on the 14 cities in Lake County, as well as county government and of course the school board, to help shoulder the enormous financial burden of protecting our schools. Daily Commercial.

Student enrichment: Albert Zhang, a 15-year-old freshman at Gainesville’s Buchholz High School, wins first place in the 2018 United States Geography Olympiad’s Junior Varsity Championship. Gainesville Sun. Ayden Morgan, an 8-year-old student at the Florida Center for the Blind in Ocala, wins a state braille competition to qualify for the national tournament in Los Angeles. Ocala Star-Banner. The Children’s Services Council is donating 100,000 books to Pre-K through 5th-grade students in Palm Beach County to keep them reading through the summer. Palm Beach Post. Ten Avalon Elementary School students who read more than a million words this school year are rewarded with a limousine ride to a local bookstore. Orlando Sentinel. The Marion County School District will provide free breakfasts, lunches and snacks to all students, regardless of need, this summer. Ocala Star-Banner. More than 20 Deltona High School students collect the poems they wrote during Black History Month and publish them in an anthology called Rhyme Rhythm RefrainDaytona Beach News-Journal. Five Hillsborough County students are honored for their perfect attendance for 13 years. WUSF.