Florida schools roundup: Charter schools panned, abuse reports and more

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Charter schools report: A report issued Monday by the research group Integrity Florida warns state officials about the proliferation of charter schools. The report concludes that charter schools have largely failed to deliver promised innovation, and says the closure of an average of 20 charter schools a year since 1998 “comes with a cost to taxpayers.” Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida, writes: “Lax regulation of charter schools has created opportunities for corporate profiteering, financial mismanagement, fraud and criminal corruption.” News Service of Florida. Florida Times-UnionWWSB. Capitol Soup. Florida Phoenix. WFSU.

School abuse reports: Students at a private Port St. Lucie military school have been punched, choked, kicked, used as free child labor and placed in shackles as punishment for various transgressions, according to reports the state Department of Children and Families has been compiling since 1994. But the Southeastern Military Academy is still open, though it has just 12 students this year. The school isn’t licensed by the state or any private organization, other than the National Association for Christian Education, but it doesn’t need to be because licenses aren’t required of private schools in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Education, the school has received $250,000 since 2014 in McKay scholarships, given by the state to students with special needs. School operators Alan and Molly Weierman had no comment. WPTV.

Test scores lagging: Early test results at 15 struggling Marion County elementary schools are a cause for concern for school officials. The proficiency rates of 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-graders on diagnostic practice tests are lagging behind last year’s results by 3.2 percentage points per grade level in language arts and 6.3 percentage points per grade level in math. Ocala Star-Banner.

Castor to head oversight: If Hillsborough County voters approve an increase in the sales tax Nov. 6 so the district can make repairs to schools, former USF president Betty Castor will lead a committee that will provide oversight of the spending. The tax could generate $131 million a year for 10 years, and can be used for repairs and new construction but not ongoing expenses like salaries. The committee would consist of Castor, six private citizens and one school district official, and would review spending, progress and completion of all projects. Tampa Bay Times.

More A/C problems: Air-conditioning stopped working Monday at three Brevard County schools, and some parents opt to keep their children home. Maintenance workers are making repairs at Central Middle School and Meadowlane Intermediate and Primary schools, all in West Melbourne, and portable chillers are also being set up. Officials at the schools say they expect the A/C to be working today. Florida Today. Spectrum News 13. WFTV.

Testing for lead: The Polk County School District is testing drinking water at more than 150 schools and district facilities for lead contamination. Some school faucets are being retested after registering continued high levels of lead, and will be replaced. Lakeland Ledger. An associate of Erin Brockovich is looking into concerns about water contamination in Brevard County. Water has been tested at 13 schools and found safe to drink, school officials say they have been assured. Florida Today.

School security: The Volusia County School District is still waiting to hear whether several cities will help pay the costs for school guardians, who have been on the job since Aug. 13. New Smyrna Beach, Orange City, Holly Hill, South Daytona and Deltona are helping with the $2 million expense. Daytona Beach is not, and other cities in the county have not yet decided. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Columbia County firefighters are donating old firehoses to schools to help keep intruders out of classrooms. Portions of the firehose sleeves can be slipped over the mechanism that allows a door to open, restricting access. WJAX. WJXT.

Student voter registration: The League of Women Voters has been helping register Brevard County high school students to vote for the past two years. But no more. A district rule, established in 2011 but forgotten by many, stipulates that only the supervisor of elections may register students at schools. “If we open the schools to civic groups, we can’t just open it to the League of Women Voters, we have to open it to all nonpartisan groups,” says school board member Misty Belford. Florida Today.

Superintendent evaluation: Seminole County School Board members rate Superintendent Walt Griffin as “highly effective” on his annual evaluation, which earns him a bonus of $11,890, or 5 percent of his $237,801 annual salary. The district has received an A grade from the state in six of the seven years Griffin has been superintendent. Orlando Sentinel.

Harassment decision reversed: A ruling that favored the Broward County School Board and one of its principals in a sexual harassment is overturned by the Fourth District Court of Appeals. A trial court had granted a summary judgment for the board, but the appeals judges said the charges brought by former school guidance counselor Cherellda Branch-McKenzie were severe enough, and frequent enough, that they “should have been resolved by a jury decision, rather than a summary judgment decision.” Florida Record.

District enrollment: Enrollment in the Pasco County School District was projected by the state to go up by about 1,000 students. After 20 days of classes, school officials say there 1,412 more students, or about 40 percent more than forecast. Charter schools grew the most with 968 additional students. High schools reported an increase of 265, while middle schools were up slightly and elementary schools show a slight decline. Gradebook.

School’s career center: A new college and career center is opened at North Port High School, staffed by a college career adviser funded by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Home-schooling support: As home-schooling continues to grow, so do the support systems and other services for parents and their children. redefinED.

Grief counselors at school: Grief counselors are on duty at Lakewood Ranch High School to assist students and staff grieving over the loss of two students last weekend in a car crash. Killed were the driver, Chase Coyner, a 17-year-old senior, and his passenger, sophomore Matthew Powers, 15. Bradenton Herald.

Medical marijuana: Charlotte County School Board asks assistant superintendent Jerry Olivo to research the practices of other districts before it considers a policy to cover the prescribed use of medical marijuana by district employees. Charlotte Sun.

Stadium site rapped: The football stadium for Windermere High School is a mile from the school, and parents say it’s inconvenient, unsafe, has little parking and provides no shelter from storms. They want a stadium at the school, which was built in 2017. This is the first season for the stadium. The Orange County School Board has declined to support a resolution from parents for an onsite stadium. Orlando Sentinel.

Coach suspended: The head football coach at Bay High School in Panama City is suspended with pay by the Bay County School District after his arrest last weekend on DUI charges. Mike Watkins says he is disappointed in himself and plans to apologize to every player and parent. Panama City News Herald.

Food worker arrested: A food service worker at Wekiva High School is arrested after police find a weapon in his car. The man, who was not identified, works for American United Employees, which provides temporary workers to campuses. Orlando Sentinel.

Student arrested: A 17-year-old Vero Beach High School student is arrested and accused of bringing a gun to school. After an anonymous tip to Indian River County sheriff’s deputies, the student was arrested and a .380-caliber handgun recovered. TCPalm.

School threats: A Texas man has been arrested after allegedly threatening to go to his ex-girlfriend’s school in Naples and commit a mass shooting. David Heinze, 19, was arrested in Collier County. Deputies say he moved to Texas in June, and was upset his girlfriend broke up with him. Naples Daily News.

Charges dropped: Molestation charges are dropped against a former Bay County school bus driver due to a lack of video evidence and inconsistent statements from the alleged victim. David Norman Doss, 67, resigned his position after his arrest in April. Panama City News Herald.

Student enrichment: Four Manatee County high school students are named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Bradenton Herald. Famed songwriter Burt Bacharach, now 90, writes a song inspired by the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other schools. Live to See Another Day was recorded with the Miami Symphony Orchestra and two Florida teens, Haven Star and Angie Green, help with vocals. Proceeds will be donated to the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, an anti-gun violence organization. Associated Press.

2 COMMENTS

  1. You might want to fact check your school abuse report for fake news. The Port St Lucie school your reporting on that receives McKay Scholarship funds has to be licensed. Private McKay schools certainly have to be licensed to get on state provider list for McKay scholarships. Sound like your article wants to bias and demonize Christian Education and their accreditation agency. Plus, the Marion County mention of diagnostic “practice” test scores—really your reporting on practice tests from 3, 4, 5? You don’t even mention name of practice test. Is it normed or is it common core and criterion based? if practice test is common core and criterion based on the standards that’s artificial Education coding it’s not same thing as age equivalent normed tests. In fact if it’s a common core practice test indicating low scores that’s quite telling the students level of core criterion understanding not actual learning. More information about the practice test and your source is needed to determine the validity of your journalism.

  2. Hi Parent Education Advocate. Thanks for reading redefinED, and for taking time out to comment. Our daily Florida roundup is intended as a comprehensive round-up of all the education news reported in Florida, so readers both in and out of Florida can get a sense of what’s being covered in a state that has become a national leader in expanding educational options. We know the quality of the coverage can vary greatly, but we still think there’s value in letting readers know what’s out there. If you see flaws in the coverage, by all means let the reporters and the outlets they work for know!

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