Florida schools roundup: Test scores improve, proposed tax hikes and more

FSA test results: Florida students improved their test scores in the state’s math, science and social studies exams, and in reading in some grades, according to results released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education. The Florida Standards Assessments measure reading and math for students in grades 3-12, science for 5th- and 8th-graders and end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. Test results also show a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students in language arts, algebra 1 and geometry. Testing results are part of the formula used to assign grades to individual schools and districts. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-SentinelBridge to TomorrowFlorida Department of Education. More reports on how school districts around the state did in the testing. Ocala Star-Banner. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. Tampa Bay Times. GradebookWJXT. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Space Coast Daily.

Proposed tax hikes: If the Palm Beach County School Board agrees to the placement of a property tax increase on the November ballot, it would be the third school tax increase voters have been asked to approve in the past four years. This time, the request is for an extra $1 per $1,000 of taxable property value, which would be used for teacher salaries, school security and mental health care. The tax is projected to raise $200 million a year for four years. The board vote is scheduled Wednesday. Sun-Sentinel. A school tax referendum in Hillsborough County is likely to be delayed beyond November because it might take up to eight months or longer to get the financial audit that is now required by the state before voters can be asked to approve an increase in taxes. District officials say when they contacted the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to request the audit, they were told there might be a six-month wait and that the results would have to be posted for two months before a vote could take place. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent blasted: The Brevard County School Board should reconsider its decision to hire Mark Mullins as the district’s superintendent, State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, urges in an email. Fine says Mullins was condescending and dismissive four years ago when Fine and his wife complained about their child’s teacher. Mullins was then an area superintendent. “Since you have not yet finalized his contract, I am writing in the strongest terms possible to encourage you to revisit the decision and not to hire Dr. Mullins,” Fine wrote. “Someone who displays these attitudes to parents has no business in education, let alone leading it.” The board’s response: “The board is in unanimous support of Dr. Mullins as the next superintendent of Brevard Public Schools. Dr. Mullins is a man of great character, a consummate professional and a servant leader.” Florida Today.

Stop the bleeding kits: Kits containing materials needed to stop someone’s bleeding during a traumatic event such as a school shooting soon will be made available to Broward County schools. Hollywood Fire Rescue recently received a $73,000 grant to buy 1,600 of the “stop-the-bleed” kits, and will provide every school in the county with two kits. Each kit contains a tourniquet, a chest seal and gauze. Sun-Sentinel.

School security: The Bradenton City Council thinks sworn resource officers should be placed in the county’s schools instead of armed guardians, and is offering to pay 20 percent of the costs to make that happen. The Manatee County School District had proposed the city pay 30 percent, but deputy superintendent Ron Ciranna has indicated the district would probably be willing to accept an 80/20 percent split. Bradenton Herald. Are schools better served by having a district police department, or by sworn law enforcement officers? That’s the question now being considered by the Palm Beach County School Board. Palm Beach Post.

Graduation rates: Florida is one of four states in which a quarter of the schools graduate 67 percent or fewer of their students, according to the recent study called  “Building a Grad Nation.” And while the nation’s graduation rate has trended upward, the gain rate is too slow to meet the national goal of graduating 90 percent of students by 2020. T.H.E. Journal.

Teacher demand divesting: The Broward County teachers union is demanding the state pension fund divest itself of holdings in a gun company that builds the rifle used to kill students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN.

Superintendent reflects: Diana Greene says her biggest regrets as Manatee County school superintendent are not lifting every school’s grade above a D and not getting an A grade from the state as a district. Greene, who is leaving next month for the same job in Duval County, is proudest of putting the district’s finances in order and of its performance while sheltering evacuees during Hurricane Irma. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School board elections: John Craig, chairman of the Brevard County School Board, says he isn’t running for re-election because he wants to spend more time with his two children and their education. Three candidates are in the race to fill the District 2 seat: Charles Parker, a teacher at Merritt Island High School; Cheryl McDougall, a licensed social worker; and businessman Frank Sullivan. Florida Today.

Personnel moves: Seminole County School Board member Tim Weisheyer is the new president-elect of the Florida School Boards Association. He says he’ll push for improving student achievement during the 2018-2019 school year, and then will assume the presidency the following school year. Orlando Sentinel.

Education podcasts: Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend talks about the concentration of power in Tallahassee over local education decisions. WMNF.

Laptops for students: Over the next five years, the Lake County School District plans to issue Google Chromebooks to 30,000 students from 3rd through 12th grades. The district will use $7.6 million in capital funds and money from the Digital Classroom Plan to pay for the computers, which range from $230 to $270 apiece. Students will pay $32 a year for maintenance. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel.

Shelter volunteers: The Red Cross in Tallahassee is training Leon County School District teachers, administrators and other employees on how to open and operate an emergency shelter if and when a hurricane moves through the area. WFSU. Tallahassee Democrat.

School conditions: The physical condition of some Alachua County schools is the subject of a community meeting Saturday. District officials say roof leaks, problems with faulty air conditioning and heating systems, and stormwater runoff that leads to flooding are just a few of their concerns. Gainesville Sun.

Monitor had been suspended: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School security monitor who was reassigned for not stopping the school shooter or locking down the school was suspended for three days in 2017 for sexual harassment of two students. The initial recommendation was to fire Andrew Medina, but the district instead suspended him for three days. Sun-Sentinel.

Teacher under fire retires: A Palm Beach Gardens High School teacher who made derogatory statements to a Haitian student chooses to retire rather than face dismissal. Math teacher Keith Tillman, 61, turned in his retirement paperwork, effective May 25. The school board was scheduled to vote next week on a recommendation to fire him. Palm Beach Post.

Bullied on the bus: A 5-year-old disabled girl was taunted and slapped by other students on a Manatee County school bus as the aide was walking up and down the aisle looking for her phone. The girl’s mother says Robert H. Prine Elementary School officials didn’t notify her of the incident for more than a week. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: Educational options have existed for the wealthy for as long as anyone can remember. What’s controversial is when we suggest that those same options should be open to everyone. Catherine Durkin Robinson, Miami Herald. We fail the children who are not prepared for kindergarten because we didn’t get them — and their parents — the knowledge and power they needed to build a healthy young brain. And we fail the ones who are ready, because their teachers spend less time challenging them while they work to help the children who aren’t ready. Shannon Nickinson, Pensacola News Journal.

 

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