Florida schools roundup: Dueling groups in suit, recruiting teachers and more

Dueling groups in suit: Two groups of Florida’s 1997-1998 Constitution Revision Commission have gotten approval to file supporting briefs for opposite positions on the question of what the commission meant when it put a constitutional amendment on the 1998 ballot requiring the state to provide a high-quality system of public schools. Voters approved that amendment. One group, calling themselves “framers” of the amendment, asked the court to allow it to file a brief in support of those bringing the suit that claims the state is failing in its constitutional duty. Another group got approval last week to file a brief that supports the state’s position, the two previous court rulings against the plaintiffs, Citizens for Strong Schools, and argues that the Supreme Court should not consider the opinions of individual members of the 37-member CRC. News Service of Florida.

Teacher recruiting: The Orange County School District is confronting teacher shortages with an innovative program that puts University of Central Florida graduates with science degrees but no education coursework or training in a veteran teacher’s classroom for a semester to learn how to manage a classroom and make lesson plans. School officials hope the paid apprentice prepares those graduates for success. Adam LaMee, the teacher-in-residence at UCF’s Physics Teacher Preparation Program, calls the program “fantastic” and hopes other districts will copy it. Orlando Sentinel. The Hillsborough County School District now has just a couple-dozen teaching jobs open at its 50 lowest-performing schools, down from 200 a week ago. Tampa Bay Times.

District must pay charter: An administrative judge orders the Palm Beach County School District to make a payment of $255,000 to the Eagle Arts Academy charter school. The district has been trying to close the school, which has had financial difficulties, and decided to withhold its usual July payment during the termination process. Eagle Arts objected, and took it to the judge. WPTV. Palm Beach Post.

Low-performing schools: Duval County has 35 schools on the state’s list of the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools, second only to Hillsborough County’s 39. Last year Duval had 28. Schools make the list by how their students perform on the annual state reading tests over three years. Schools that land on the list must provide an extra 60 minutes a day of reading instruction. Florida Times-Union.

School security: Delray Beach and Boca Raton police officers will patrol elementary schools in their cities when schools resume in August, according to terms of deals with the Palm Beach County School District. Both deals are stopgap measures until the district can build up its own police force to take over those duties. Palm Beach Post. Most Lake County cities are chipping in to help pay for security at schools. Daily Commercial. At a back-to-school rally, a school resource officer gives Alachua County students a lesson on using the ALICE method (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) in emergency situations. Gainesville Sun. Schools in Osceola, Seminole and Sumter counties are now using new communications technology to save reporting time and, hopefully, lives during an emergency. EdScoop.

Video release delayed: The Broward County School Board is asking the Florida Supreme Court to review a court of appeals decision ordering the release of a surveillance video taken outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shootings Feb. 14. Due to the request, the appeals court has delayed the video release for at least 10 days while the Supreme Court considers whether to take the case. The school district argues that releasing the video will show blind spots in school security. Sun-Sentinel.

Schools closing for primary: Palm Beach County school officials have reversed an earlier decision and will ask the school board this week to close county schools on Aug. 28, when primary voting is held in many schools. Elections officials had urged districts to close for the election as a security precaution. The district will also be closed on election day Nov. 6. Sun-Sentinel.

School grades: Schools that receive grades of A, D or F get attention, positive or negative. But how meaningful are the grades in the middle, which the vast majority of schools receive? Ocala Star-Banner. Volusia County school officials aren’t happy that 70 percent of the district’s elementary schools received a C or D grade from the state, and are trying to pinpoint the problems to avoid a repeat. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Florida’s ESSA plan: Three things to know about Florida’s skirmish with the U.S. Department of Education over the state’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The 74.

Prepaid college plans: A class-action lawsuit contends that Florida Prepaid college plan has violated its agreement with students who attend out-of-state colleges. The issue is the “tuition differential fee,” or the amount legislators allow universities to collect over and above tuition. The complainants say the fee is just tuition with a different name, and that students who go out-of-state don’t get the value they’ve paid for. About 10 percent of students in the plan attend schools out of state. Tampa Bay Times.

Recommendation complaint: Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler is urging Superintendent Todd Bowden to press criminal charges against a Manatee County principal who recommended Sarasota hire a teacher under investigation for sexual misconduct. Ziegler says Eddie Hundley, principal at Lincoln Memorial Academy, committed a misdemeanor by lying to a public official. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald.

School board elections: Broward County School Board candidate Ryan Petty has used Twitter in the past to make jokes or sarcastic remarks about public schools, blacks, Jews, Muslims, gays, liberals and unions. Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina died in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, says he regrets some of the comments but that others were taken out of context. Sun-Sentinel. Okaloosa County School Board candidates talk about appointed vs. elected superintendents and gender neutral bathrooms in schools. Northwest Florida Daily News. All six contenders for the Collier County School Board race are registered Republicans, but none belong as far to the right as outgoing board members Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter. Conservatives say they have given up on electing members to the local board, and are concentrating on statewide races. Naples Daily News.

Amendment 8: Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles T. Wells calls Amendment 8 “misleading” and “deceptive” in an unsolicited eight-page “opinion” sent to the League of Women Voters and the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau. The LWV has filed a lawsuit to get the constitutional amendment removed from the ballot, claiming it is unconstitutional because it’s intentionally misleading. It would allow charter schools and other types of schools to be approved by an entity other than local school boards. It would also limit terms for school board members and require civics education in public schools. Tampa Bay Times. A judge is expected to rule on the LWV suit Aug. 17. Florida Phoenix.

New schools planned: The Clay County School District is planning to build five new schools in the next 15 years to deal with expected growth. WJXT.

District sued: A woman who claims a Manatee County teacher abused her 4-year-old child at Blackburn Elementary School in Palmetto is suing the district. The woman says it took four days for someone from the school to respond to her original complaint. Manatee County sheriff’s deputies did investigate and found the allegation “unfounded.” Bradenton Herald.

Principal reassigned: The principal at Stuart Middle School resigns after a school investigation concludes he violated the Martin County School District’s sexual harassment policy. David Krakoff’s actions weren’t enough to warrant discipline, according to school officials, but his actions after the investigation led to poor morale among teachers and a sense of mistrust at the school, and he resigned June 29. TCPalm.

Opinions on schools: You’d think the biggest gains in America would prompt applause from school boards, superintendents, teacher unions and allied lawmakers. But no. In Florida, good news about public schools is increasingly ignored by public school groups. Ron Matus, redefinED. The Palm Beach County School District is right in trying to close down a troubled charter school. Palm Beach Post. The Lee County School Board may be violating the Sunshine Law and should stop meeting as a group, in a kitchen, out of view of the public, after its regularly scheduled public meetings twice a month. Fort Myers News-Press. Volusia County school officials should be alarmed at recent school grades. Of the district’s 47 elementary schools, 34 rated a C or D, and 30 percent of elementary schools dropped a letter grade. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Marion County Superintendent Heidi Maier has lessons to learn from the recent reversal of the no-homework edict she ordered a year ago. Ocala Star-Banner. I worry that unless the Manatee County School District increases its investments, Palmetto High School will suffer from the construction of a new high school in the area. Tom Tryon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It’s wrong to start thinking about school before the fourth or fifth week in August. Mark Lane, Daytona Beach News-Journal. In order to provide necessities, our school district is forced to ask for special taxes to pay for routine costs. Why aren’t music, art and P.E. teachers part of the school board’s general budget? Brad Rogers, Ocala Star-Banner.

Student enrichment: Montverde Academy junior Molly Smith has two films chosen for the All American High School Film Festival in New York City in October. Daily Commercial. Hope 4 Communities, a Bradenton-based nonprofit, plans to help 2,500 needy children in Manatee and Sarasota counties with school supplies, physical examinations, dental treatments, eye exams, haircuts, food and even family portraits. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A rally will be held in Monroe County in August to get all 600 of the county’s 4-year-olds enrolled in one of the county’s 24 free, licensed preschools. Key West Citizen. More than 9,000 central Florida children benefit from the HopeNow Foundation’s annual Back-2-School bash in Orlando. Orlando Sentinel. The Polk Education Association teachers union distributes about 40,000 free books to children in Lakeland. Lakeland Ledger. Kiwanis clubs in Collier County sponsor a Christmas in July event to provide backpacks and school supplies to homeless and at-risk students. Naples Daily News.

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