Florida schools roundup: Corcoran on BOE agenda, locking delay, discipline and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

BOE and Corcoran: The Florida Board of Education will consider Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ choice of Richard Corcoran as education commissioner at its just-scheduled Monday meeting. The seven-member BOE is tasked with approving an education commissioner, and in the past has conducted national searches. But BOE chair Marva Johnson and vice-chair Andy Tuck are both on DeSantis’ education transition team, and Johnson has indicated she’s open to DeSantis’ choice. News Service of FloridaGradebook. Capitolist. WUSF.

School lockdown delay: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School officials were confused over who had the authority to order a lockdown when a school shooter opened fire Feb. 14, leading to a delay of several minutes in declaring a “code red” that orders students to hide behind locked doors, according to district emails. As a result, some students were caught in hallways and shot. Sun Sentinel. Two newspapers ask a Broward County court to make witness interviews from the Parkland school shootings open to the public. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Parkland shooting survivors-turned-activists are among 10 finalists for Time magazine’s 2018 person of the year award. Sun Sentinel. The St. Johns County School District is adding 16 resource officers at schools next month. WJAX.

School discipline: The federal school safety commission chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will reportedly recommend ending Obama-era policies meant to cut down racial disciplinary disparities between races in schools, and will not call for any new gun regulations. The plan, which is to be released this month, will also outline ideas for better mental health services and school security. The group has been developing a response to school shootings. Washington Post. What will it mean if the school discipline policies are rolled back? Chalkbeat.

Mental health services: State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, who helped get $69 million earlier this year for mental health services for schools, says the whole mental health system in Florida needs to be revamped. WPTV.

School’s students return: Students returned to Tyndall Elementary School on Monday for the first time since Hurricane Michael swept through the area Oct. 10. The school is on the Tyndall Air Force Base in Bay County. Panama City News Herald.

Superintendent search: Today, the Manatee County School Board will consider a contract to remove the word interim from superintendent Cynthia Saunders’ title. The new contract would run through June 30, 2022. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Schools proposed: The Sarasota County School Board decides to build a new Venice High School instead of adding a wing to the current one. The board’s decision was heavily influenced by community sentiment. Venice High was built for 2,100 students but holds 2,250, and projections have the school at 2,400 within five years. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Somerset Academy is considering a deal with Port St. Lucie officials to lease space in a city-owned center for a vocational education charter school for grades 6-12. If the deal goes through, the $18 million school could open within two years. TCPalm.

Community schools: Some organizations in Manatee County want to consider turning some struggling schools into community schools, which offer instructional, health and other services for students and their parents before, during and after school. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher debt: The U.S. Education Department is going to help teachers who have been hit by debt because of a paperwork problem in a federal grant program, according to NPR. Teachers in the program will get another chance to prove that they were meeting the requirements of the grant program, which was supposed to pay college or graduate school costs for high-need subject teachers who agreed to work four years at schools serving low-income students. Those who can show they worked the four years will have their debts erased. WUSF. Education Week.

New school buses: The Marion County School Board is considering a proposal to borrow money to buy 100 school buses that could be on the road by December 2019. The annual payment on the 10-year loan would be $1.3 million. Ocala Star-Banner.

School tax money: Money from the voter-approved higher property taxes for schools won’t be available until January 2020. The tax, which is effective through 2022, is expected to generate about $17 million a year. Up to $7 million will go toward pay raises for all school employees, $5 million for longer school days, $3 million for security and the remainder for reserves. Charlotte Sun.

Notable deaths: John Thomas Bruce Sr., a teacher in Santa Rosa and Bay counties for 35 years and a civil rights activist, has died at the age of 85 in Panama City. Panama City News Herald.

Employees honored: Finalists are chosen for the St. Lucie County School District’s school-related employee of the year. They are: Dorothy Hall, a paraprofessional at C. A. Moore Elementary; Susan Helms-Smith, a bookkeeper at St. Lucie West Centennial High; and Kim Neilson, a clerk at Port St. Lucie High. The winner will be announced Feb. 9. St. Lucie County School District.

Ex-coach charged: The former assistant principal and swim coach at Boca Raton Community High School is charged with simple battery after a swimmer accused him of inappropriately touching or grabbing her buttocks three times. Eric Hill, 42, pleaded not guilty. His contract was not renewed by the Palm Beach County School District. Sun Sentinel.

Students arrested: Dontae Lamar Hopkins, a 17-year-old student and football and basketball player at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, is arrested on a charge of third-degree murder involving possession of a firearm. No other details were released. Tampa Bay Times. A 15-year-old South Lake High School student is arrested after school officials discovered she was in possession of two knives. Daily Commercial.

Teacher threatened: Two Flagler Palm Coast High School students are suspended and banned from the campus after allegedly threatening a teacher. No arrests have been made, and the school district is investigating. Flagler Live.

School’s band trailer stolen: The Spruce Creek High School band’s new 28-foot trailer was stolen from a school parking lot last weekend. The thieves cut the chain on a gate and a video shows a white truck driving off with it. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: To publicly conclude from the Parkland shooting that arming teachers is the answer to school shootings without empirical evidence dishonors the students, the teachers and the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Oren Alter and Yuval Alter, Sun Sentinel. Instead of inviting the risks of arming school employees, the focus should be on more practical solutions such as improved communication systems and hardened classrooms, better identifying troubled students and changing the culture in schools to embrace basic precautions. Tampa Bay Times. If charter schools are to deliver on their promise, they must offer a vision of how to enable educators and communities to create terrific, empowering schools – not case studies in how to recreate the headaches of hidebound bureaucracies. Rick Hess, Education Week.

Student enrichment: Students at Sawgrass Bay Elementary near Clermont get lessons in caring and charity by running the school’s Care Closet, which offers clothing, food and other items to needy students and their families. Daily Commercial. Students from the St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School and a private gymnastics school in Miami-Dade County video chat for 20 minutes with astronaut Dr. Serena Auñon-Chancellor from the International Space Station. Miami Herald. American Ninja Warrior competitor and physical education teacher Morgan Wright brings a version for students to his classes at Diplomat Elementary School in Cape Coral. Fort Myers News-Press.

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