Florida schools roundup: Reading, bargaining, school security and more

Reading test results: More on how 3rd-graders performed on the Florida Standards Assessments language arts testing in districts around the state. Test results are a major factor in determining if students are promoted to the 4th grade. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Gradebook. WUSFFlorida Today. Space Coast Daily. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Daily CommercialLakeland LedgerChipley Bugle. WMBB. State testing went smoothly for Sarasota County students, district officials say. More than 76,000 tests were taken this year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Bargaining suit challenge: Officials of teachers unions around Florida say they will file suit against a new law that requires more than half of eligible teachers to be dues-paying members of a union or the union should be decertified. Teachers argue the law, which takes effect July 1, is unconstitutional because it defies a provision added to the constitution in 1968 after a teachers strike, and discriminatory because it targets only them. WLRN. Teachers talk about union membership and how they think it’s affected their paychecks and classrooms. WLRN.

School security: The Brevard County School District begins advertising to fill 28 school security specialist positions for the 2018-2019 school year. The pay is listed at $25,444 to $37,915 for the 10-month position, with benefits pushing the value of the package to about $40,400. The specialists, who will carry concealed weapons, will work at elementary schools that don’t already have a resource officer. Florida Today. Orlando Sentinel. WOFL. The executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council says he has concerns about the Sarasota County School District’s ability to hire and train a police department by August, and has pulled out of a consulting role with the district. “We only lend our name and our expertise to processes that we have confidence are going to be 100 percent successful,” says Curt Lavarello. “At this point, I don’t have that feeling that this is on the path to success, from what I’ve heard.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Shooting survivors speak out: Four teachers who have survived school shootings talk about the emotional scars left by the events. Education Week. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teachers, students and parents of victims in the Feb. 14 shootings say the Broward County school administration has been unsupportive. “They know I am broken,” says Debra Hixon, wife of slain athletic director Chris Hixon. “It would have been nice to get a message like, ‘Is there something we can do to make this easier for you?’ ” Sun-Sentinel. A video game being released June 6 that allows players to be a school shooter or a first responder to such a shooting is a disgrace, say parents of students killed at Stoneman Douglas. Miami HeraldNewsweek. Associated Press.

Deputy’s past actions: The parent of a slain student at Stoneman Douglas High School alleges that Scot Peterson, the school deputy who failed to confront the shooter and retired shortly after, mishandled a sexual assault investigation four years ago at the school because Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s son was implicated. WLPG. Miami HeraldPolitico Florida.

Lawsuits over shootings: The lawsuits over the Stoneman Douglas shootings are starting to pile up, targeting the confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, the Broward County School District, law enforcement officials including the FBI and the manufacturer of the weapon used by Cruz. Florida Record.

Private schools help choice: Large swaths of Florida’s urban areas may be charter school deserts, according to a recent report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, but research shows that private school options and state scholarships have greatly expanded school choice for students living in those areas. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer Florida’s tax credit scholarship program that helps low-income students attend private schools. redefinED.

School board drama: Leaked Facebook messages prompt the latest controversy among Hillsborough County School Board members. Someone got into board member Melissa Snively’s private Facebook messages and gave them to a newspaper publisher who is friends with several other board members who have been squabbling with Snively. Some of the messages are uncomplimentary about other school board members. Tampa Bay Times.

Survey raps superintendent: A recent community survey is critical of the amount of testing for students, calls for more technology in classrooms, and has plenty of criticism of Superintendent Lori Romano. Deputy superintendent Heather Martin says the district is “pleased with the results of this survey and will be using the feedback as we create our action plans to support the objectives.” Gradebook.

Teacher honored: Erin Mitchell, who teaches science to 4th- and 5th-graders at the Palm Beach Day Academy, is named environmental educator of the year by Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center. Palm Beach Daily News.

Struggling school: Agape Christian Academy, a private school in Pine Hills near Orlando that was barred from receiving state scholarship money by the state several months ago, is behind in its taxes, mortgage payment and utilities and owes money to a testing company and a cash-advance lender. The school’s attorney says the school owners are considering all options, including closing. Agape had received $5.6 million over five years in tax credit scholarships. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. Orlando Sentinel.

Personnel moves: Chris Hammill, who most recently was working as chief school operations officer for Athlos Academies in Boise, Idaho, is named principal at Riverview’s Bell Creek Academy, a charter school in Hillsborough County. Patch.

Principal investigation: Lincoln Memorial Middle School in Palmetto is transitioning into a charter school next fall, but the plans for the changeover are complicated by an ongoing investigation into the conduct of principal Eddie Hundley. Hundley is accused of recommending a teacher, Quentin Peterson, to the Sarasota County School District even though he knew Hundley had been accused several times of sexual misconduct. A few months after Peterson was hired in Sarasota, he was arrested and accused of possession of child pornography. Bradenton Herald.

No charges for teacher: The Marion County agri-science teacher who drowned two raccoons and an opossum during a class at Forest High School will not be criminally charged. Assistant state attorney Toby Hunt says Dewie Brewton “did not intend to torture or torment these nuisance animals; he was simply attempting to protect his class’s school project in an appropriate manner.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Student arrested: A Miami-Dade County student is arrested and accused of making a false threat against Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High in Miami. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: By rushing ahead with a promotion and pay raise for the woman who runs the controversial Promise alternative discipline program, Superintendent Robert Runcie and the school district sent the wrong signal about due diligence and accountability. Sun-Sentinel. It’s no criticism of the Legislature and its leadership to promote, in nonpartisan terms, the need for re-examining decisions made under pressure and on the deadlines associated with an annual regular session limited to 60 days, such as the bill on school safety. Unfortunately, not even a majority of members of the House and Senate agreed to consider improving their legislation. Ocala Star-Banner. There will be no special session to properly fund our public schools. Our legislators have failed Florida’s children and educators by their inaction. Anna Fusco, Sun-Sentinel. The good news is that all Lake County students will get free meals at schools next year. The bad news is that Lake County is among the “highest poverty” school districts in the nation when it comes to annual income of people with children. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. One can only wonder what the trajectory of the Marion County School District would have been if Diana Greene had won the 2012 election to become superintendent. Brad Rogers, Ocala Star-Banner. Is the controversy over evolution education a legitimate reason to liquidate the public school system? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. If new Duval School Superintendent Diana Greene wants to attract and engage students in Duval County, there is no better way than through the arts. Rev. Kimberly Hyatt, Florida Times-Union. Having to wait more than three hours to speak for three minutes to your Indian River County School Board members is insulting. It’s a sign that they really don’t care what you think. TCPalm. Never giving up on a kid is the key to closing the achievement gap, says education expert Jon Saphier. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. This past week, our entire community faced an extraordinary day when an active shooter bent on destruction hijacked a relatively mundane Tuesday. His actions generated a massive law enforcement response, both local and from neighboring counties, and our officers and their resources were truly put to the test. I cannot tell you how proud I am, and how proud our entire community should be, of how they aced that test. Bay County School Superintendent Bill Husfelt, Panama City News Herald.

Student enrichment: A Lee County teacher is honored for designing a 3-D printout of a mechanical arm for a student. Sunshine Elementary School teacher Eric Demeri printed the arm for 9-year-old Dulce Jaimes. She will begin the process for getting a prosthetic arm this summer from Shriners Hospital of Tampa. Fort Myers News-Press. Flags with the names of South Sumter High School students and three flags from Leesburg High School make it to the top of Mount Everest, carried by a mountain climber thanking a local donor for his contribution to a school in Nepal that was damaged by an earthquake. Daily Commercial.

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