Florida schools roundup: Scott rebuffed, Amendment 8 to top court and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Redirection of funds rejected: Incoming legislative leaders reject Gov. Rick Scott’s call to allow school districts to use $58 million in unspent funds for school security. Scott proposed uncommitted money from the armed guardian fund be divided up among the state’s districts to hire more officers or use on other security measures. But House Speaker-elect Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, and incoming Senate President-elect Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, both say the money should stay in the armed guardian fund, and that the program needs time to grow. Many school districts favored school resource officers over arming school employees or security guards, and didn’t apply for the guardian funds. Associated Press.

Top court gets Amendment 8: An appeal of a judge’s decision this week to remove proposed constitutional Amendment 8 from the November ballot will skip the appeals process and be heard by the Florida Supreme Court. The state had appealed the decision to the First District Court of Appeal, which immediately passed it on to the top court because “involves a question of great public importance and requires immediate resolution.” The court has asked the state to file its arguments by Monday. Amendment 8 would allow the state to create an entity that could authorize charter and public schools outside the jurisdiction of local school boards. It would also set term limits for school board members and require civics education. Monday, a Leon County judge ruled the proposal “fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal.” Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix. News Service of Florida.

Video appeal rejected: The Florida Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from Broward County prosecutors and the school board to keep video surveillance taken outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shootings Feb. 14 from being released to the public. The 2 hours and 10 minutes of video from five surveillance cameras were released a few hours after the decision, and show a chaotic scene of students fleeing the building and police officers hurrying inside, but after accused shooter Nikolas Cruz escaped. About 10 minutes from the videos show that school resource officer Scot Peterson did not enter the building during the shooting or immediately after. News Service of Florida. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. Associated Press.

School security: Duval County School Board members say they were blindsided by the plans of city and police officials to charge the district the full overtime costs of officers being placed in schools when they opened Aug. 13. The officers were needed to comply with the state law requiring an armed officer in every school, because school safety assistants have not yet been hired and trained. The bill for the first week is $214,200. “I was thinking that this was more of a partnership,” says board vice-chairwoman Lori Hershey. “I wasn’t thinking we might be hit with a cost.” Florida Times-Union. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is offering training to teachers and videos for students on how to respond to a school shooting. Putnam County Sentinel.

Progress reports demanded: Broward County School Board members are demanding more updates from district officials on the status of projects being financed with the $800 million bond referendum passed by voters in 2014. Board members are supposed to get quarterly reports, but say they are often late by weeks or even months. So now they want monthly reports on such things as removing mold and repairs to roofs and air-conditioning systems. Sun-Sentinel.

Board group’s goals: The Florida School Boards Association’s priorities for the 2019 Legislature include allowing districts to maintain their tax rates and keep the extra money that generates because of rising property values, boosting funding for early education, and increasing funding for school security with fewer strings on how it may be spent. The list will be finalized Sept. 20. Gradebook.

Districts collaborating: The Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte school boards meet to discuss ways to get more funding from the state for security in schools, early education and career-technical education. “The bulk of legislators that I’ve spoken to do not seem concerned with our children,” says Charlotte board member Robert Segur. “There’s a frustration level that has been mounting over my term on the board. I get continually more frustrated with trying to deal with our legislators.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Motto on display: Central Florida schools are meeting the state’s requirement to display the state motto “In God We Trust” by placing a state seal prominently in schools. In Orange County, the seal will be printed on a decal that will be placed in windows. In Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties, the district had copies of the seal framed and sent to all schools to hang in the lobby or be propped up at desks. Orlando Sentinel.

Pay plan studied: Hernando County School Board members authorize a study by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents into how the district’s administrative positions and pay compare with similar-sized districts’. Superintendent John Stratton ask for the study after a longtime principal took a small pay cut when she was promoted to be the new director of school safety. Tampa Bay Times.

Grievance board proposed: Marion County School Board member Bobby James is proposing that the district set up a grievance board for school employees. James says the board would allow employees to discuss their concerns without fear of retaliation. He suggests the board be made up of county residents and a school board member. Other school board members are receptive, and the board attorney is researching grievance policies set up by other governmental agencies. Ocala Star-Banner.

Water retested: Another test of water samples at Satellite High School in Brevard County confirms the presence of perfluorobutanoic acid at 13 parts per trillion. The EPA doesn’t have a maximum contaminant level for PFBA but some states do. Minnesota’s limit is 7 parts per billion in drinking water, which would be 7,000 parts per trillion. The tests were done after some residents pointed to water contamination as a possible source of a cluster of cancer cases. Florida Today.

School board elections: A complaint is filed with the Florida Elections Commission that alleges Sarasota County School Board District 4 candidate Karen Rose illegally received campaign contributions more than 30 days before they were permitted. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Previewing the candidates for the District 5 seat on the Lake County School Board. Orlando Sentinel. Gulf County School Board candidates answer questions about teacher shortages, vocational programs, school safety and more. Port St. Joe Star.

Personnel moves: Career and technical education executive director Doug Wagner is named interim deputy superintendent of the Manatee County School District. He will take on operations in addition to his other duties. Ron Ciranna, the deputy superintendent in charge of operations, is on administrative leave as the district investigates his handling of a software implementation that came in late and millions of dollars over budget. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student struck, killed: An 11-year-old middle school student who had just gotten off his school bus was struck by a car and killed as he tried to cross a Jacksonville street. A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesman says Terry Bryant “ran out into traffic and was struck by a car traveling northbound” on University Boulevard. WJAX. WJXT.

Teacher credited: The Baker County sheriff is crediting an elementary school teacher for noticing cuts and bruises on a student’s face and reporting it to authorities. The boy’s parents were arrested and charged with child neglect. The sheriff says they beat the boy and tied him up at night to keep him from eating. Associated Press.

Teacher cleared: A Miami Palmetto High biology teacher who resigned in 2017 after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student is cleared by an administrative law judge. Alex Osuna, who is now 35, did have sex with the girl, who was 18 at the time, but says he thought she was out of high school. The judge says the district did not prove conclusively otherwise. The state’s Education Practices Commission accepted the ruling, and state officials say Osuna’s teaching certificate is good until 2020. Miami Herald.

Teachers in trouble: A Broward County teacher who was under investigation for erratic behavior is placed on three years of probation by the state for barging into the office at her daughter’s school without notice in 2016, interrupting a meeting and screaming at those in the office. Fran Wernersbach had to be physically removed. Part of her probation includes taking a class on education ethics and being monitored while teaching. Miami New Times. A teacher at SouthTech Preparatory Academy charter school in Boynton Beach is arrested after kicking a stool out from under a student in April. The student fell to the ground but was not seriously hurt. Scott Erich Landstrom, 48, was charged with culpable negligence. He was placed on administrative leave and resigned a month later. Palm Beach Post. A Chiles High School teacher is placed on administrative leave after he allegedly had “inappropriate communications” with a student. Casey O’Brien is a chemistry teacher. Tallahassee Democrat.

Students arrested: A student at Windermere High School in Lake Butler is arrested and accused of making a threatening social media against the school. It’s the second Orange County student arrested for threats since schools opened seven days ago. Orlando Sentinel. A student at West Port High School in Ocala is arrested after the school’s resource officer found a handgun and ammunition in the 16-year-old’s backpack. Ocala Star-Banner.

School bus problem: A school bus driver drops a 4-year-old Jacksonville boy with special needs at the wrong school 4 miles away. The Duval County School District’s bus company, Durham School Services, acknowledged the error, and says it was a mixup caused by changing bus routes. Both Durham and the school district are investigating. WJAX.

School bus crash: One Lee County student suffers minor injuries when a bus from Dunbar High School slams into the back of a car that had just run into the back of another school bus in Lehigh Acres. The car’s driver was also injured. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: Instead of arguing about what constitutes a school shooting, Palm Beach County authorities should be preparing a response the next time someone starts shooting at a school, whether it’s outside the football field or inside a classroom. Palm Beach Post. Is it too much to ask to get a left-leaning candidate for governor who knows something about educational choice in Florida? Catherine Durkin Robinson, redefinED. If Lake County residents vote against school safety, they may be actually be voting against measures to make their own homes and communities safer. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Changes are being made at football games and other after-hours school events because our outdoor venues need more attention with best practices for safety, security and crowd control. Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy, Sun-Sentinel.

Student enrichment: A Law and Justice program for students interested in criminal justice careers is launched at Matanzas High School in Flagler County. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

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