Florida schools roundup: Coping, ACT, counseling, security, raises and more

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Districts trying to cope: Florida Panhandle school districts are assessing damages from Hurricane Michael and trying to cobble together recovery plans to get schools reopened. In hardest-hit Bay County, school officials say they are developing shared campus plans and hope to make an announcement by the end of the week. In Gulf County, the district hopes to reopen schools in two weeks, also by sharing schools. Other district still closed at least through this week and possibly longer are Calhoun, Franklin, Jackson, Liberty and Washington. Gadsden County reopens today. News Service of FloridaFlorida Department of Education. WMBB. Associated PressEducation Week. WFSU. Miami Herald. Pensacola News Journal. Florida Today. Forty-six displaced students enroll in Leon County schools. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. Educators around the state are collecting donations for schools affected by the hurricane. GradebookOcala Star-Banner. Pensacola News Journal.

ACT test scores: Florida students scored an average of 19.9 on the ACT test, which is both below the national average and scores from comparable states, and represents no improvement over the past four years. About 80 percent of those tested scored so low in English, math, reading and science that ACT officials say they can’t be considered prepared for college work. Nearly 120,000 Florida students took the exam. “We know it is not good” to score a 19.9 and see so many students who aren’t considered college-ready, says Stacey Rutledge, an associate professor in Florida State University’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Florida Phoenix.

Counseling firm leaves: The counseling firm Motivational Coaches of America (MCUSA), which once offered free counseling to thousands of Florida students, appears to have gone out of business in the state. After settling a lawsuit by former counselors who sued after not getting paid, MCUSA gave up its state business license and left a Colorado mailing address. Palm Beach Post.

School security: The Duval County School District reversed its long-standing opposition to using metal detectors when it announced that all high schools will get walk-through metal detectors and hand wands in the next few months. The announcement by Micheal Edwards, director of the district’s police force, appeared to catch school board members off-guard, though none disputed the need. Florida Times-Union.

Raises process criticized: Broward County School Board members are criticizing the district’s practice of granting raises to administrators without board approval, and are considering creating a policy to stop it from happening in the future. Eleven administrators received pay raises in the past two years ranging from 7 to 21 percent without board approval at a time when most of the district’s 27,000 employees received 2.2 percent. Sun-Sentinel.

Help for struggling school: Hernando County School District officials are hoping a new $1.2 million family resource center can help turn around Moton Elementary School. Moton received a $2,000-per-student grant under a 2017 legislative program for wraparound services after getting grades of D from the state the previous two years. The center provides supplies for students, offers homework help and arts and crafts classes, dental screenings for students, GED courses for family members and even workshops on how to apply for Medicaid and food stamps. Tampa Bay Times.

Teen parent program questioned: An advocacy group is criticizing the Sarasota County School District’s management of the Cyesis program for pregnant teens at Riverview High School. The group, led by medical professionals, says the district recently closed a health clinic at the school and has made few accommodations to help pregnant teens get their high school diploma in more than four years. School Superintendent Todd Bowden says he doesn’t believe it’s the district’s job to operate a clinic. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School will be rebuilt: The Hillsborough County School Board votes to rebuild the historic Lee Elementary School, which was badly damaged by a fire in September 2017. Insurance will cover the rebuilding. The next question is what to call the school, which bears the name of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Before the fire, the district was gauging public opinion about changing the name. Gradebook. WFLA. WTSP.

Lobbying for tax hike: The campaign to get Hillsborough County voters to approve a half-cent hike in the sales tax for school upgrades and maintenance on Nov. 6 is relying on parent volunteers to knock on doors. The tax increase would raise about $1.3 billion over 10 years to repair faulty air-conditioning systems and for other critical infrastructure needs. Tampa Bay Times.

Behavior observation: Educators from the Netherlands recently visited two Martin County schools to observe how the discipline system Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is used. Researchers from the Windesheim Expertise Centre for Positive Behavior Support and other Dutch educators spent time at Spectrum Academy and Dr. David L. Anderson Middle School. TCPalm.

Union changes: Andrew Spar, 46, president of the Volusia teachers union for the past 15 years, leaves the district to assume the vice presidency of the Florida Education Association. He’s being replaced by Elizabeth Albert, who had been vice president in Volusia. “We want to set a pro-public school agenda that talks about the things we need in our public schools,” says Spar. “Not just funding, but the whole approach to public education.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School board elections: Previewing the race for the District 1 seat on the Seminole County School Board. Orlando Sentinel.

Historic school restoration: Funds are being raised to restore the old Hernando Elementary School through the Hernando Heritage Days and Cracker Cattle Drive festival. About $1.2 million has been raised, and another $400,000 is needed. The school was designed in 1940 by architect Henry Taylor and opened in 1942. “It is the last historic public building in the community of Hernando,” says Kathy Turner Thompson, manager of the Citrus County Historical Resources Office. Citrus County Chronicle.

Ex-teacher pleads guilty: A former New Smyrna Beach Middle School teacher pleads guilty to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student and sending him lewd pictures. Stephanie Peterson, 27, could be sentenced to 5-10 years in prison. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School official’s lawsuit: Both sides have rested their cases in the wrongful termination lawsuit of the Monroe County School District’s former finance director. Kathy Reitzel says she was ordered to resign or be fired in 2009 by an interim superintendent because he thought she was too slow to detect the embezzlement of about $413,000 by the then-superintendent’s wife. Keynoter.

School bus crash: Two students were taken to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries after their school bus crashed in Bradenton. Seventeen students were aboard, headed for H.S. Moody Elementary School. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: When I retired as a Brevard County teacher in 2010 with 21-plus years of experience, my salary was $58,975. The 2017-2018 teacher salary schedule assigns teachers with 21-22 years experience as earning $47,726. To address the problem of the teacher shortage, the school board and the state Legislature must address its paramount duty of funding for classrooms and salaries for teachers. Fred D. Bartleson III, Florida Today. Former Orange County School District teacher Maren Hicks shares her resignation letter. Washington Post. Lake County school resource officers are kept busy with daily crises with threats and students carrying weapons. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: The University of Central Florida receives grants of more than $8 million to train teachers in math and special education instruction. Orlando Sentinel.