Florida schools roundup: Taxing issues, school security concerns and more

Taxing to cover shortfalls: More than 15 Florida counties have tax proposals on the ballot in August or November to help pay for critical government services, and most of them are for school districts that need money for basics such as security, building maintenance and teacher raises. “The reason that all these referendums are on the ballot is because the school districts have been losing money since 2008,” says Tina McSoley, a Martin County School Board member. “Between testing, busing and security, we can’t sustain this system that’s been created for public schools.” School officials and teachers unions blame the Legislature for the financial crunch. Florida Phoenix. Every school in Bay County would get security upgrades if voters approve a half-cent sales tax increase Aug. 28, say school officials. Some of the money would also be used for renovations and maintenance. Panama City News Herald.

School security: When Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reopens next Wednesday, it will be guarded by 18 security officers. Three are school resource officers provided by the Broward County sheriff and the city of Parkland, and 15 are campus monitors and security specialists. The school now has a single point of entry, new fences and cameras, lockable classroom doors and a new procedure for student arrival and pickup. Teachers will wear ID badges for access, and visitors will be screened before being allowed on campus. “There’s no question this first day of school will be profoundly different,” says Superintendent Robert Runcie. Sun-Sentinel. St. Johns County school officials say new security measures will be “highly visible” when the new school year begins Friday. St. Augustine Record. Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast says he will not sign an agreement to help the school district pay for school resource officers. District schools will be covered when school resumes Monday, and the district will start the process of creating its own police department. Citrus County Chronicle.

Safety commission: “Eerily similar” issues between the school shooting tragedies at Columbine in 1999 and Parkland in February are drawn by the director of security and emergency planning for the Littleton, Colo., public schools. Guy Grace tells the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission that security measures and mental health concerns are the same now as they were then. Grace said his community is reminded of the tragedy every day, and has had to get overcome the fear of teaching children about scary things like stemming bleeding. “Giving them strategies will save their lives,” says Grace, “and the lives of others.” News Service of FloridaSun-Sentinel. Flagler Live. WLRN. Video of accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s statement to police shows him confessing, threatening to hurt himself, punching himself in the face, hugging his younger brother Zachary and wailing and then, after five hours of questioning, asking for an attorney. Sun-Sentinel. Naples Daily News. Associated Press

School security concerns: School violence is down but the worry about school shootings is up, and 6.7 percent of U.S. students skipped school in the past month over that fear, according to a youth risk behavior study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We can look at the science … that school shootings have been down … but no one has been listening to that,” says University of Florida professor Dorothy Espelage, who studies bullying and harassment. “That fear is real. I think it’s totally normal for someone with children to want schools to protect them.” The 74.

Radon testing in schools: More than 230 schools in the Tampa Bay area have not been tested for radon since 1995, even though the Environmental Protection Agency recommends schools be tested every five years. Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says causes 20,000 lung cancer deaths a year. WTSP.

Charter school’s appeal: The Tallahassee Classical School’s appeal of the Leon County School Board’s decision to deny its application will be heard today by the state’s Charter School Appeal Commission. The commission will make a recommendation, which goes to the Florida Board of Education for a decision. The Leon school board rejected the recommendation of its own charter review committee to deny the application in April. The school says there was no competent reason to deny its application. Tallahassee Democrat.

District changes: Noticeable changes at Brevard County schools when classes begin Friday include a new superintendent, armed guards, new school board members, a change in early-release days and the revival of regional busing. Florida Today.

Administrative changes: Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene wants to hire a deputy to help coordinate several assistant superintendents and chiefs of various areas of responsibility. Greene says Duval is the only large district in the state that does not have a deputy superintendent. Florida Times-Union.

Teachers needed: The Leon County School District is still looking for about 25 “highly qualified” teachers to work in five struggling elementary schools. Superintendent Rocky Hanna says the extra teachers are needed to lower the class sizes at Pineview, Oak Ridge, Bond, Riley and Astoria Park elementary schools. The new school year begins Monday. Tallahassee Democrat. The Pasco County School District still has 88 teacher jobs open, and administrators say they will reconsider previous applicants who were not hired. Gradebook.

Vo-tech academy questioned: St. Lucie County School Board members say Port St. Lucie’s proposal for a vocational-technical career academy is a duplication of effort and unneeded. The city council wants to create the vo-tech school for grades 6-12 to train students for jobs at nearby businesses. The school district has 37 academies and 62 programs at its six high schools, including vo-tech training in several industries that need workers. TCPalm.

School board elections: What the Brevard County School Board candidates are saying about the top issues of school security, teacher pay and capacity of schools. Florida Today.

School earns I.B. status: A Hare Krishna school just north of Gainesville is the latest in the state to be certified as an International Baccalaureate school for grades 7-10. Bhaktivedanta Academy has 88 students, and 55 attend on tax credit scholarships from the state. There are now 70 middle school I.B. programs among the 176 I.B. schools in the state. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program. redefinED.

New schools: The Orange County School District will open 11 new schools Monday, including an elementary school named for the late astronaut Sally Ride, who was the first American woman and youngest American in space when she flew on the shuttle Challenger in June 1983. Orlando Sentinel. Bonita Springs High School opens Friday with learning academy classrooms for aerospace, health-care and heating, ventilation and air conditioning careers. Fort Myers News-Press. The Sarasota County School Board approves a collegiate charter school in Venice. The State College of Florida Venice charter would open for 100 high school juniors in the fall of 2019, then expand in subsequent years to 9th, 10th and 12th grades. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. KING Charter Schools has ambitions to open the first public school in the United States to serve only vegan food. The elementary school is proposed for Pinellas County, though no timetable for opening has been set. Live Kindly.

Contract negotiations: Gulf County School Superintendent Jim Norton rejects a teachers union proposal to post whiteboards in each school so positive comments can be posted about school employees, and says a second proposal to expand vocational options for students is already in the works. Port St. Joe Star.

App tracks school buses: The Santa Rosa County School District is making an app available to parents that allow them to track their children’s school bus. The app, called SafeStop, allows tracking of bus routes and also provides notifications. Pensacola News Journal.

District spokesman honored: The Marion County School District’s spokesman, Kevin Christian, wins the Doris Fleischman Award, which is given to one public relations professional in the state for contributions to the profession. Ocala Star-Banner.

District sued: A woman is suing the Pinellas County School District, alleging it should have prevented a 24-year-old school bus driver from having sex with her 16-year-old daughter in 2016. The driver, Dondre Davis, was arrested after another student reported the incident, and in 2017 was sentenced to three years of probation on a charge of willful child abuse. Tampa Bay Times.

Principal arrested: Kelvin Norton, principal at Nims Middle School in Tallahassee for the past two years, is arrested and accused of driving while under the influence. He’s been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: The Legislature should review the assessment test for the state’s Voluntary PreKindergarten program, and its impacts on both children and providers, in its 2019 session. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. There isn’t an easy answer for school districts to the question of accommodating transgender students, but eventually somebody is going to have to come up with one. When they do, whichever side that loses is going to feel as if their rights have been violated. David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: The nonprofit United Against Poverty of Orlando is offering a back-to-school clothing swap for K-12 students in central Florida. Orlando Sentinel.

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