Florida schools roundup: Budgets, school crowding, guardians and more

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Financial issues: The Duval County School District again spent more than it took in last year, according to an annual report on the state of its finances. That spending – for unexpected expenses, climbing costs, underutilized schools and more – cut into the district’s net financial position by 15.7 percent last year, and the general fund balance is now 21 percent less than it was a year ago. Florida Times-Union. The Leon County School Board is expected to vote tonight on a proposed $545.8 million budget that includes raises for teachers and a boost in the minimum wage paid from $9.50 an hour to $11. Tallahassee Democrat.

School overcrowding: Even with about 22,000 open seats in Palm Beach County schools, there’s a space crunch at select schools. Schools in more desirable neighborhoods are jammed, and schools in low-income areas have seats to spare. District officials are trying to convince the state to let them build new schools to relieve the overcrowding at the crowded schools, saying moving students from them to half-empty ones would require so much busing that it would be unhealthy for students, unwelcome to their parents and unaffordable for the school system. Palm Beach Post. Here’s what one Palm Beach County school is doing to weed out students who falsify addresses to attend. Sun-Sentinel.

School security: The Brevard County School Board votes today on allowing local charter schools’ governing boards to choose their own school security, including volunteer armed guardians. Space Coast Daily. Hernando County School Board members will consider whether to participate in the state’s guardian program that allows schools to arm certain school employees. Teachers would not be among them. Citrus County Chronicle. The Pasco County School District announces stricter security measures at high school football games and other school sporting events. Only clear bags will be allowed into the events, a list of prohibited items is expanded, a stricter code of conduct will be enforced and fans won’t be allowed into games after the fourth quarter has started. Gradebook. Gov. Rick Scott says he’s “very disappointed” that legislative leaders are rejecting his request to allow school districts to tap unused money from the school guardian program for other security needs. That request was echoed Monday by a broad coalition that includes the League of Women Voters, Florida PTA, Florida Education Association and the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. Florida Politics.

Contract agreement: Polk County teachers reach a contract agreement with the school board that gives them a $300 raise, though they also will have to pay more for health insurance. The agreement will cost the district about $7.4 million in salaries and benefits, according to district officials. The school board and members of the teachers union still must approve the proposed deal. Lakeland Ledger.

Superintendent’s evaluation: Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay gets high marks from school board members in her annual evaluation. Kornegay was given a 4.69 grade on a scale to 5, making her eligible for a $4,250 bonus. Board members praised her for tenacity and her ability to move the district toward a unified vision. Daily Commercial.

Bullying hotline: A bullying hotline is now available for Clay County students. School district staff will answer calls weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and respond to after-hours calls the following business day. “What this [hotline] allows us to do is really to have our ears to the ground to our learners, to pay attention to mental health, and send that immediately to the school which starts an investigation,” says Superintendent Addison Davis. “It allows students to see something, say something.” WJCT.

Board’s Twitter spat: Sarasota County School Board members Eric Robinson and Caroline Zucker get into a Twitter skirmish after Robinson left a board meeting last week to take a phone call from his 10-year-old daughter. Zucker retweeted a local organization’s criticism of Robinson’s departure. Robinson responded with a critical tweet of Zucker, accusing her of attacking his daughter, which was echoed by his wife Christine. Zucker’s response to Christine Robinson: ““What are you nuts. I never went after a child. It (the tweet) said nothing about his daughter. Shame on you!” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Zoning challenge dismissed: An appeals court dismisses a challenge of the Pasco County School Board’s 2017 school zoning changes for middle and high schools in the western part of the county. Earlier, an administrative judge had found no problems with the board’s procedures. Gradebook.

Sexual allegations: A Pinellas County principal who resigned this week did so after several teachers accused him of sexual harassment. At least one teacher says she resigned after 17 years because of harassment by Anthony Francois, principal at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo. WTSP.

Principal denies accusations: A Manatee charter school principal denies he lied when he recommended a teacher under investigation for having an inappropriate relationship with a student for a job in another district. Eddie Hundley, principal at Lincoln Memorial Academy, says he recommended the teacher for a job in Sarasota County only after the teacher was allowed to resign over the accusations. “In my wildest dreams, I didn’t believe that if they knew all of this stuff was going on that they would just let him resign,” says Hundley. “If you do that … you’re setting the stage for them to go and apply somewhere else and get a job.” The teacher, Quentin Peterson, got the job in Sarasota County and later was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography. Bradenton Herald.

Substitute arrested: A substitute teacher in Volusia County is arrested and accused of pushing the heads of four students against a wall as punishment. Mohga Kodsy, a 59-year-old substitute teacher at Turie T. Small Elementary School, had four girls, ages 7 and 8, face the wall for acting out, then pushed their heads into the wall when they kept turning around, according to police. Daytona Beach News-JournalOrlando Sentinel.

Two teachers suspended: Two Duval County teachers have been suspended for five days without pay for poor judgment, according to district officials. Lisa Wilder, a 1st-grade teacher at Kernan Trail Elementary School, used “inappropriate, profane and offensive language” in front of coworkers. Megan Taber, a teacher at Fletcher High School, failed to follow testing protocols during the 2016-17 school year. WJXT.

Students attacked: Two high school students from the Mast@FIU magnet school are assaulted and seriously injured while working on a marine biology project at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus. The students, 15 and 16, take classes at FIU. WPLGMiami Herald.

School bus driver arrested: A bus driver for the Santa Rosa County School District is arrested and accused of possession of child pornography. Kenneth Dean Webb, 59, who works for Student Transportation of America, has been removed from any contact with students or schools. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: As threats against schools increase, how far are we willing to go to crack down on the offenders? Gil Smart, TCPalm. We must embrace early intervention strategies that are designed to directly address — and hopefully significantly lessen — the hopelessness that Duval students say they feel. Florida Times-Union. As robots continue to replace human workers, school districts must switch the primary focus or education from traditional academics to teaching creativity. Bert Morris, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Ashley Campbell, a senior at Leon High School, is selected as the student representative for the Leon County School Board. Tallahassee Democrat. Seven Springs Elementary principal Todd Cluff and other school officials have been reading books to children in live Facebook posts every Sunday night. The first one, Aug. 19, has drawn 3,000 views. “I want children to know they’re safe, they’re loved, and I want them to learn at the highest level,” says Cluff. Tampa Bay Times.