Florida schools roundup: Alternatives to college, governor’s race and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

College alternatives: Increasingly, rural students in Florida are choosing to learn a trade instead of going to college. Among the reasons for their choices: Practicality, price and even politics. “It’s all about practicality,” says Wakulla County School District Superintendent Robert Pearce. “The mindset is: What makes the most sense?” Tampa Bay Times.

Governor’s race: Was race the primary reason Democrat Andrew Gillum lost the governor’s race to Republican Ron DeSantis? While many Democrats think so, others aren’t so sure. It wouldn’t explain why Gillum received only 86 percent of the black vote, well below even the 90 percent white Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson got. One possible reason for the low black total for Gillum may have been his call to end tax credit scholarships, which allow low-income, mostly minority students to attend private schools. Tampa Bay Times.

School shooting panel: The state commission investigating the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School begins discussions on its recommendations to improve security in schools. Hardening schools against attackers will probably be among the first wave of suggestions, with recommendations on improving mental health services following. The report is due Jan. 1. Associated Press. Politico Florida. The FBI chose not to attend the last of four days of testimony before the commission, or provide any explanation why it didn’t follow through on tips received about accused shooter Nikolas Cruz before the shootings. Sun-Sentinel. Eight Florida schools districts have not filed school safety assessments: Clay, Calhoun, Gilchrist, Indian River, Martin, Palm Beach, Taylor and Washington. Associated Press. Law enforcement goes retro by issuing pagers to communicate during emergencies, to avoid communication problems with radio systems. Sun-Sentinel. Ex-Parkland school deputy Scot Peterson’s GoFundMe page for his legal defense is drawing more criticism than cash. Sun-Sentinel.

Proposed Title IX rules: Proposed Title IX rules announced by the U.S. Department of Education would allow K-12 schools decide what standard of evidence must be met to prove a sexual assault took place and limit the culpability of schools for incidents that occur outside of schools. The proposed rule draws criticism from women’s groups. The 74.

Educational needs: Florida’s K-12 students need smaller classes, safer schools, critical thinking skills, concludes a panel assessing the problems and potential solutions to the state’s educational needs. And Florida needs to pay its teachers “a wage commensurate with the national standings we wish to achieve and (that) supports the social emotional learning, critical thinking skills and safety of our students.” Miami Herald.

School security: Charter schools officials are lobbying the Legislature to expand access to the school guardian program by requiring all sheriff’s offices to participate in training armed school personnel. “This would help all schools – whether charter or district-run — to comply with the state mandate,” says Lynn Norman-Teck, executive director of the Florida Charter School Alliance. State Sen.-elect Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, says a potential solution is to allow schools to hire guardians trained in any county. redefinED. After three threats to schools last week, Charlotte County parents are petitioning the school district for metal detectors at all schools and clear backpacks for students. Charlotte Sun.

Shooter drills ‘racist’? The president of the Suwannee County chapter of the NAACP says a school district’s recent active-shooter drill was racist because it used two black men as shooters. “As we all know or should know that not one black person has committed a mass shooting in the USA in schools or any other venue,” Alonzo Philmore wrote in an email to Superintendent Ted Roush. “The act of identifying the acting perpetrators as black males upset the black student population so much that a vast majority complained to their parents.” Roush says the drill used people of different races and gender. Gainesville Sun.

School struggles to survive: An alternative school program for girls that contracts with the Manatee County School District is operating at a deficit and may have to close if the district doesn’t step in to help. Just for Girls, which has an elementary school in Bradenton and a middle school in Palmetto, takes on girls who struggle in traditional public schools. When voters approved a tax hike in March to raise teacher pay and lengthen the school day, Just for Girls did as well, increasing costs without added revenues. Bradenton Herald.

Pay raises for some: The Pinellas County School Board approves 2.55 percent pay raises for administrators and support staff. The raises are retroactive to July 1. The district is still negotiating with its teachers. Gradebook.

New school: Members of the Destin community who are pushing for a charter high school in the city say they plan to raise the necessary funds from private donors. The school would provide specialized programs and career academies in areas such as marine science, environmental science, cyber security, hospitality and tourism, and construction fields, and could open as early as August 2020. The group will update the city council today on its progress. Northwest Florida Daily News.

School revival: The Polk County School District is considering reviving the old Davenport Elementary School, which was built in 1927 but has been mostly empty the past 10 years. The district has a plan for renovating the old building, and adding a 16-room building, at a cost of $20 million. Lakeland Ledger.

Selecting superintendents: The debate over the best way to choose a school superintendent has been going on for 133 years in Escambia County. On Nov. 6, Escambia voters decided on appointed superintendents. Pensacola News Journal.

Note of thanks criticized: The head of the Sarasota County teachers union says a note of thanks recently sent to Superintendent Todd Bowden by administrators and principals was a pledge of loyalty. The “letter of gratitude” was solicited by the district’s chief academic officer, Laura Kingsley. Union president Barry Durbin says Kingsley inappropriately urged her subordinates to sign the note. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

I-Ready defense: Officials at Curriculum Associates, which markets the online assessments software i-Ready, defend it against recent criticism. They say the software is designed to reveal to teachers what students don’t know as well as what they do, so teachers can work on more individualized lessons. Florida Politics.

Notable deaths: James Hunt, the first principal at the new Booker T. Washington Junior/Senior High School in Miami in 1999, dies at the age of 80. Miami Herald.

Saying goodbye: The Marion County School Board says goodbye to longtime members Bobby James, who chose not to run for re-election, and Angie Boynton, who lost her bid for a third term. Ocala Star-Banner.

Personnel moves: Four Hillsborough County schools are getting new principals: Andrew Olsen at Greco Middle School, Jarrod Haneline at Jackson Elementary, Michelle McClellan at Springhead Elementary and Ann Rushing at Lincoln Elementary. Gradebook. Three new principals are appointed at Manatee County schools: Anthony Losada at Johnson-Wakeland K-8 School of International Baccalaureate, and Craig Little at the new North River High School and Angela Lindsey at Dr. Mona Jain Middle School, which both open in August. Bradenton Herald.

Educators honored: Amy Banov, a school board member at the Sebastian Charter Junior High School, wins a champions award from the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools. Sebastian Daily. Cliff Greer, a teacher at Naples High School, is honored as an outstanding teacher by Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit that develops STEM courses for schools. Naples Daily News.

Resolving cases: Prosecutors are trying to resolve the remaining two criminal cases against Okaloosa County School District employees who are accused of failing to report a child abuse report. If they can reach plea agreements with former Kenwood Elementary Principal Angelyn Vaughan and former assistant superintendent of human resources Stacie Smith, they would be announced Dec. 6, the day former Kenwood teacher Marlynn Stillions is sentenced. for child abuse. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Teacher arrested: A Pasco County teacher is arrested and accused of video voyeurism. Deputies say Thomas John Kovack, 38, a teacher at Fivay High School, used a cell phone to video-record a female student changing clothes in a closet. Tampa Bay Times.

Ex-school cop arrested: A former Key West school resource officer is arrested and accused of trespassing at the Monroe County School District’s administrative building. Police say Dennis Edwin Ryan, 41, resigned in 2016 before he could be fired for being high and speeding while on a children’s field trip. Keynoter.

Bullet found in class: Hours after a lockdown that closed two schools in Kendall, a bullet and a broken window are found in a special education classroom at the Ruth Owens Kruse Educational Center. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says a stray bullet hit shortly after the students inside the classroom left. Miami Herald.

Principal now a teacher: The principal at Crystal River Middle School is reassigned to the classroom just as a school district investigation centering on him concludes. Charles Brooks, an exceptional-student education teacher, starts teaching next week at Citrus Springs Middle School. Citrus County Superintendent Sam Himmel would not reveal the nature of the investigation. Citrus County Chronicle.

Opinions on schools: Advocates for educational choice were winners in Florida and Arizona when voters elected Republican candidates who supported aggressive school choice expansion over Democrats who were allied with teachers unions that oppose choice. Wall Street Journal. Common sense is getting plowed under in our quest for ever-more secure schools. That’s because we’re asking law enforcement, in our schools, to do too much. Gil Smart, TCPalm. The Legislature should not take the tax referendum victories in Hillsborough and elsewhere as validation of its approach to further starve public schools and shift its responsibility to local communities. Tampa Bay Times. Maybe Florida’s education evaluation schemes should place value on idiosyncratic and serendipitous learning. Tom Tryon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Marion County School Board is going to look different, thanks to the election of two new members, Eric Cummings and Nancy Thrower. What is not going to be different is the board’s top priority — raising student and school performance. Ocala Star-Banner. Difficult and important questions about the role of religion in schooling will be debated and addressed in Florida during the next several years. To best serve the needs of the state’s students, those discussions will have to be clear-eyed and charitable in spirit. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Eight south Florida students and three from Matanzas High School in Flagler County are chosen to play in the 92nd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. WSVNDaytona Beach News-Journal.

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