Florida schools roundup: Scholarships for bullied, education lawsuit and more

Jim Booth

Hope Scholarships: The first two-dozen Hope Scholarships for Florida students who have been bullied or physically abused are being awarded this week. Those public school students may use the scholarships, which range from $6,519 for K-5 students to $7,111 for high school students, to attend a private school or arrange transportation to a different public school. People who purchase or register vehicles can designate $105 of the tax for the scholarship fund, and about $3 million has been raised since Oct. 1. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. Politico Florida.

Change in justices: Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston recently recused himself from the lawsuit that alleges the state has not fulfilled a 1998 constitutional amendment requiring it to provide a “high quality” system of public schools. No reason was given for the recusal. Chief Justice Charles Canady has temporarily assigned Edward LaRose, chief judge of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, to the case, Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education. The court heard oral arguments Nov. 8. Two courts have already ruled in favor of the state. News Service of Florida.

School reassignments protested: A few hundred students and about 60 teachers protested outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before classes Tuesday against  the reassignments of three assistant principals and a campus security specialist for their actions Feb. 14, when 17 people were shot to death on campus. “If these people were such a problem, why didn’t they pull them out at the beginning of the school year?” asks history teacher Gregory Pittman. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. Associated Press. WLRN.

New school boards: Members of the new Orange County School Board are sworn in, and for the first time all the board members are women and one is Puerto Rican. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, the first woman to run the schools in their 149-year history, says she calls it “girl power … When we say girl power, we mean it pretty seriously.” Orlando Sentinel. Alison Crumbley, new chair for the Pasco County School Board, wants the board to focus on teacher pay and recruitment and adding more academic programs. Tampa Bay Times.

Legislature and school choice: State Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, who was just named chair of the Senate Education Committee, talks about his plans to continue pushing for charter school support, and expanding the school guardian program, tax credit scholarships, virtual education, magnet and vocational schools. Florida Politics. redefinED.

Charter school opposed: Some residents of Clermont are threatening legal action to stop the location of a charter school in their Lake County neighborhood. Seven Lakes Preparatory Academy, which would be managed by Charter Schools USA, is expected to open next August. The residents say the 5-acre property is too small for the more than 700 students expected. The city council and school board have both approved the project. WKMG.

Teachers honored: Ten finalists are named for the Pinellas County School District teacher of the year. They are: Andrea Anderson, St. Petersburg High; Karen Bulino, Seminole Middle; Michelle Hajian, High Point Elementary; Lauren Iovino, Boca Ciega High; Angela Johnson-Drummond, McMullen Booth Elementary; Nicole Kenngott, Plumb Elementary; Autumn Lunin, Safety Harbor Middle; Emily Maker, North Shore Elementary; Candace Reed, Azalea Elementary; and Wendy Stryker, Safety Harbor Elementary. The winner will be announced Jan. 28. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Timothy Enos is sworn in as the chief of police for the Sarasota County School District. He replaces Paul Grohowski, who was reassigned. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Natalia Robledo is the new principal at Sunrise Elementary School in Marion County. She replaces Anna DeWese, who is the new principal at Northwestern Middle School in Duval County. Ocala Star-Banner.

Fight over transgender guidelines: Conservative groups that are angry about the Pasco County School District’s guidelines on the treatment of transgender students are focusing on the district school psychologist who works with “marginalized populations.” District officials defend Jackie Jackson-Dean, who has been with the district 16 years, and say her work follows the guidelines established from a model used across the United States for working with transgender students. Gradebook.

School security: Just one Polk County school is out of compliance with the state law requiring an armed officer or guardian on campus when school is in session. Magnolia Montessori Academy in Lakeland pays the Lakeland Police Department to provide an officer for three hours a day, which falls short of what’s required, according to Sheriff Grady Judd. Lakeland Ledger.

Student killed on motorcycle: A 17-year-old Hernando County student is killed on his way to school when his motorcycle was hit at an intersection by a turning vehicle. Troopers say Eric A. Parisi, a student at Springstead High School, ran a red light. The driver of the vehicle won’t be charged. Tampa Bay Times.

Students vs. armed neighbor: A resident near Hernando High School went onto campus with a gun Tuesday to confront two students about speeding in the neighborhood. The sheriff’s office is investigating. Tampa Bay Times.

Two students treated: Two students at the Pillar of Hope private school in Cocoa are treated at a hospital for breathing difficulty after inhaling spray from a mace-like substance that was directed into a fan. School officials say two other students, one 13 and the other 14, are responsible and will be disciplined. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: The extra 30 minutes of class time for Volusia County’s elementary schools will provide the best possible opportunities for our students. Rachel Hazel, Daytona Beach News-Journal. Education savings accounts are the latest entry in the education choice space and provide the best opportunity for turning public education into an effective and efficient market. Doug Tuthill, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Seventeen students who participated in the summer learning program at Alta Vista Elementary School in Sarasota are chosen to receive full tuition to a state college or university from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and nonprofit Take Stock in Children. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. All 42 Clay school district principals, and Superintendent Addison Davis and senior administrators, receive hands-on training on ways to teach science, technology, engineering, art and math to students at every grade level. Florida Times-Union. Students at Cranberry Elementary School in Sarasota County work with University of South Florida scientists on a staged archaeological dig at the school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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