Florida schools roundup: U.S. panel calls for discipline changes, repair bill and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

U.S. school safety report: The federal safety commission looking into school shootings is recommending an end to Obama administration guidance for schools that was intended to curb discipline disparities for students of color and those with disabilities. The panel, led by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, also urges schools “to seriously consider the option of partnering with local law enforcement in the training and arming of school personnel,” but stopped short of saying it should be a mandate. The 177-page report says school buildings should be hardened and journalists should be “be more responsible in their coverage of school shootings.” The report promptly drew criticismAssociated Press. New York Times. Washington Post. Washington TimesNBC News. Politico. Politico Florida. Education Week. Chalkbeat. The 74. Sun Sentinel. The state commission’s report takes a stronger stance on arming school employees than the federal panel’s does. Politico Florida. Does the future of teacher training include treating gunshot wounds? It could, as soon as next year. WLRN.

A whopping bill: An engineering report concludes that the Duval County School District needs $1.08 billion to repair or replace its 159 schools if it chooses to keep them all open. The report by Jacob Engineers says Duval has some of the oldest school buildings in the state, and 56 need to be replaced. School officials are considering ways to raise money for repairs, saying they need about $80 million a year but receive just $22 million from the state. Florida Times-Union.

Corcoran era begins: A day after school choice and charter schools advocate Richard Corcoran is named Florida’s education commissioner, he and the largest teachers union in the state vow to collaborate on policies to boost student achievement. “We teach our kids, if you have differences, you sit down, you talk it out,” says Florida Education Association president Fedrick Ingram. “We will not agree on everything. But there has got to be some common ground.” Corcoran says “the focus needs to be on providing our school children … the best world-class education possible. Anybody whose motivation is that, I’ll sit down and meet with them.” Tampa Bay Times. An unnamed group commissions a poll on education with language the mirrors that of the FEA during its campaign against policies supported by Corcoran, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans. Politico Florida.

Teachers honored: Jeffrey Becker, the video production teacher at Island Coast High School in Cape Coral, is named the Lee County School District’s teacher of the year. Fort Myers News-Press. Judy Paris, a 5th-grade math teacher at Shadeville Elementary School in Crawfordville, is named the Wakulla County School District’s teacher of the year. Tallahassee Democrat.

Medical marijuana policy: The Escambia County School Board approves a policy that will allow parents to administer prescribed medical marijuana to their children on school campuses under certain circumstances. WEAR.

Board votes to save school: The Pasco County School Board rejects Superintendent Kurt Browning’s recommendation to close Lacoochee Elementary School because of shrinking enrollment. Browning said the district could offer that school’s students better services if they were moved to a school 7 miles away. But a board majority decided the high-poverty community needs the school. “Lacoochee is a successful school doing successful things in a community that needs it,” board member Megan Harding said. “We do not need to take more from a community that keeps getting things taken from it.” Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP.

Teacher pay bill: Six times, state Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, has filed a bill in the Legislature that would require every public school teacher in Florida to be paid at least $50,000 a year. It’s never passed, but he’s trying again in the 2019 legislative session, which begins March 5. Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has not ruled out considering the bill. New Times Broward-Palm Beach.

Replacing teachers: Hillsborough County school officials will replace six Greco Middle School teachers who have “unsatisfactory” scores as measured by the state’s value-added model (VAM), as the Florida Board of Education has demanded. Three new teachers have already been hired, and three more will be by the Jan. 7 deadline. The six being replaced will stay on and co-teach during the transition. WFLA.

Teacher ‘doesn’t feel safe’: A black Flagler County teacher whose life was threatened wants the state attorney to strengthen the charges against the two white students who made them. Kimberley Lee, who teaches at Flagler Palm Coast High School, says she fears for her life, and a local NAACP leader says if the students had been black, they would have been arrested earlier and faced more serious charges. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Contract negotiations: The Brevard County teachers union rejects the latest offer from the school district and is declaring an impasse in negotiations. The district offered a one-time $1,000 bonus to nearly all teachers and pay raises ranging from $540 to $770 a year. A special magistrate will hear both sides and make a recommendation to the school board, which will make the final decision. Space Coast Daily. Bargaining resumes today between the Pasco County School District and its teachers. Teachers have rejected what the district calls its “best and final” offer of a 2 percent raise. The district will move ahead on 2 percent raises for non-instructional employees. Gradebook.

Appointing a superintendent: The Marion County School Board will meet weekly, starting in January, to begin working on the process of switching from an elected superintendent to an appointed one. Voters approved the change in the Nov. 6 election, but no timeline was established for its implementation. Ocala Star-Banner.

School district priorities: Pasco County school officials urge their legislative delegation to boost funding for security and mental health services in schools, and to allow districts to maintain their property tax rates so they can collect more money from rising home values. Gradebook. Leon County school officials ask their legislative delegation for more money for public schools and a greater investment in early education. WJCT.

Bus driver shortage: The Escambia and Santa Rosa school districts are in need of school bus drivers. The shortage is causing students to be late to school, and forcing school transportation managers to fill in. Pensacola News Journal.

Student slain on way to school: A 15-year-old student is shot and killed Tuesday as he was walking to Boone High School in Orlando. Alejandro Vargas Martinez was a half-mile from the school when he was attacked. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel. In an unrelated incident six hours later, a day-care worker is wounded by a stray bullet as she sat outside Scholar’s Prep Academy in Orlando. Her injuries are not life-threatening. Orlando Sentinel.

Student arrested: A 15-year-old student is arrested at Northeast High School in Oakland Park after she allegedly threatened a classmate with a gun. The student faces a charge of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. Sun Sentinel.

School bus crashes: Three Broward County school buses ran into each other near an intersection about a half-mile from Miramar High School, and five of the 67 students on board were taken to a hospital for observation. Police say one bus ran into the back end of another bus, and then a third bus ran into the back of the second bus. Miami Herald. An Osceola County school bus runs into a car in Winter Garden, and one student is hospitalized. Orlando Sentinel.

Board gets new trial: The Polk County School Board is grbnted a new trial in the case of a former Kathleen High School football player who claimed he was permanently disfigured when a football coach twisted his nipple as a disciplinary measure. A circuit judge ruled that the player’s lawyer made improper statements in his closing arguments to a jury, which awarded the player $125,000. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: Yet another study shows that later school starting times lead to high school students getting more sleep, posting better grades and racking up fewer absences. So why aren’t central Florida schools making the change? Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. How do you square the obvious evidence of academic improvement among Florida students with impending predictions of doom? Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Hailey Skoglund is a blind 17-year-old senior at Nature Coast Technical High School, a professional violinist and now, a graduate of Pasco-Hernando State College. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Atlantic University’s A.D. Henderson University School is named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s one of 12 Florida schools honored. Boca Ration Tribune. The Florida Education Association donates more than $28,000 to nine Florida Panhandle school districts that were hard-hit by Hurricane Michael. Holmes County Times Advertiser. Jim Taylor, a 1st-grade teacher at Suntree Elementary School in Brevard County, has a children’s book published. When I was a Boy was developed from a poem Taylor wrote for his mother. Florida Today.

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