Florida schools roundup: ESSA plan, false alarms, security funds and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

ESSA questions: Florida’s latest plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act is drawing questions from the U.S. Education Department. Specifically, federal officials want more details on how the state calculates math achievement and proficiency, how schools that need support for improvement are identified by the state, how schools can get out of the turnaround program, and how schools with a single D grade fit in the requirements for improvement. The state has until Oct. 4 to respond. Florida is the only state whose ESSA plan has not been approved. Gradebook.

Alarming false alarms: False fire alarms and emergency drills are causing trauma to students who were at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the shootings Feb. 14 that left 17 dead, they say. “They’re hearing the same sound that brought them all into the hallway where the shooting really started taking place,” says Dr. Nicole Mavrides, director of the child psychiatry program at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. “It can really bring out symptoms of post-traumatic stress.” The Parkland school has had one active shooter drill, two fire drills and five false alarms since school began Aug. 15. Students are responsible for three of the false alarms. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald.

School security: In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, the president of the Florida Association of District Superintendents agrees with legislative leaders that funds in the school guardian program should not be transferred to the general revenue fund so districts can use them to pay for school resource officers and other security measures. “We believe that all of the funds for school safety should be used in the year in which they were appropriated,” wrote Richard Shirley, who is the superintendent for the Sumter County School District. Scott and education leaders have urged the Legislature to reconsider releasing the funds. Florida Politics.

Charter school audits: Fourteen percent of the state’s charter schools were cited for faulty financial record-keeping, budgeting or meeting government auditing standards, according to a report from the state’s Auditor General’s office. The office reviewed 629 school audits from 2017, and found 161 problems at 89 schools. About 11 percent of the charter schools reviewed reported deficits, which was down 3 percentage points from the previous year. State law requires independent audits of all charter schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

State of the schools: In his final state of the schools speech, Orange County School Board chairman Bill Sublette says the district continues to improve despite a lack of support from the state, but still has work to do. He says high school start times should be later, the district should partner with the University of Central Florida to create a lab school, and the district should create a technical high school where students could graduate with industry certifications. Orlando Sentinel.

FEMA reimbursement: The Pinellas County School District has been reimbursed $2.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses incurred while running shelters during Hurricane Irma a year ago. WUSF. Gradebook.

Computers still down: The Monroe County School District’s computer remained partially down for a fifth day following a cyberattack from hackers that was discovered Sunday. Superintendent Mark Porter says he expects the system back online today. He says no data was lost or compromised by the attack. “The bad news is we haven’t had the type of access our employees are used to,” says Porter. Keynoter.

Education podcasts: With Amendment 8 off the ballot, what amendments remain that could change the way Florida school districts operate? Gradebook.

New school: The first technical high school in Pinellas County has opened. Pinellas Technical High School has general education classes and programs in building construction technology, commercial and digital arts, electricity, game and simulation programming, nursing and veterinary assisting. The school has about 350 students, and is expected to eventually top out at 600. Tampa Bay Times.

Dress code ripped: The mayor of Palm Beach County is criticizing a Forest Hill High School administrator who gave her daughter an in-school suspension for wearing jeans with a tear across the right knee and told her to take male students’ hormones into consideration when dressing. Melissa McKinlay wants Palm Beach County school officials to suspend the unnamed administrator for “sexism” and “victim-shaming.” Principal Mary Stratos defends the dress code as gender-neutral, but says she will look into the comments the official is alleged to have made. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel moves: Beth Thedy is named deputy superintendent and chief operating officer for the Brevard County School District. Christine Moore has been named to fill Thedy’s previous role as assistant superintendent for Student Services and Exceptional Student Education. Space Coast Daily.

Complaint upheld: A former Leon County School District administrator’s claim that he was fired because of age discrimination is upheld by the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Stephen Shelton, the director of maintenance, was 66 when his contract was not renewed by Superintendent Rocky Hanna, who cited poor morale in the department for his decision. Shelton can now request an administrative hearing, and could file a civil action within a year. Tallahassee Democrat.

State disciplines teacher: A Walton County teacher is disciplined by the state for leaving a sleeping kindergarten student unattended for about 25 minutes in May 2017 while she attended a graduation ceremony. Doralyn Sue Sasser, a former kindergarten teacher at Maude Saunders Elementary School, is no longer allowed to teach students in K-3. Superintendent Russell Hughes says Sasser now works with older students who are incarcerated by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Counseling offered: Grief counselors and psychologists are at Matanzas High School in Flagler County after an 18-year-old 2018 graduate kills himself. Eight students or recently graduated students have died violent deaths since 2013, six by suicide. Flagler Live.

Students arrested: A 15-year-old student at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg is arrested after posting on Facebook that she planned to take a gun to school. She’s been charged with making a written threat to kill, do bodily injury or conduct a mass shooting or act of terrorism. Tampa Bay Times. A 13-year-old boy is arrested and accused of threatening to shoot an 11-year-old boy in the face with a BB gun at a bus stop in Jacksonville. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: The law of supply and demand says Florida’s teachers are underpaid and deserve a raise. David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel. While Florida prides itself on being a low-tax state, there’s an increasing danger that, as the old saying goes, we get what we pay for when it comes to education. TCPalm. Teachers who complain about government diktats from state capitols have natural allies in choice advocates who want to decentralize command and control. Scott Kent, redefinED. Oh, the arrogance of the Florida Supreme Court for demanding proposed amendments on a ballot ought to clearly and unambiguously describe their intent. Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Five current and former Manatee County high school students finish third in an international competition in Singapore with their miniature Formula 1 race car, which they designed and built during the last school year. Bradenton Herald. Ice cream developed by four Broward County high school students will be sold tonight at a Fort Lauderdale Beach ice cream shop. The students won the Nova Southeastern University Ice Cream Entrepreneur program competition with their Chocolate Wake-Up Call, which adds coffee grinds, caramel, brownies and a few chocolate chips to a vanilla ice cream base. WLRN.

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