Florida schools roundup: Best & Brightest, guns, tests, workforce training and more


Education agenda: Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders outline an ambitious agenda for reshaping education in the legislative session that begins March 5. DeSantis says his budget, due next week to the Legislature, will include changes in the Best and Brightest program for teacher bonuses and will allow willing teachers to carry guns in classrooms. Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, suggests the Legislature will also consider cutting the number of mandatory standardized tests and adding funding for teacher pay raises as a way to address the shortage of teachers. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat. WUFT.

Workforce training: Gov. DeSantis also said Wednesday that he intends to improve Florida schools’ U.S. ranking in career and technical training programs from 24th to 1st by 2030. His first step was to order Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to audit the state’s current programs and make recommendations that will bring them “in line with market demand.” DeSantis says his budget request to the Legislature will include $10 million for workforce apprenticeships and $26 million on vocational programs in state colleges. Gradebook. WTVT. Politico Florida. News Service of FloridaWFLA.

Board ‘accountability’: Gov. DeSantis says he doesn’t think he has the authority to suspend Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie for the district’s actions before, during and after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February that left 17 dead. But he says he is looking into whether he can hold school board members accountable. Board member Ann Murray says she’s stunned at the suggestion that she and other board members might be suspended. “This boggles my mind. I don’t know what’s on the governor’s agenda.” Sun Sentinel. Gradebook. Associated Press.

Board term limits: Next week, the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will consider a proposed constitutional amendment to limit the terms of local school board members to eight years. The House bill was introduced by state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, and the identical Senate bill by state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. News Service of Florida.

District asks for help: Bay County School Superintendent Bill Husfelt is asking the Legislature for an extra $2 million so the district can provide added mental health services to students who are still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Michael last October. He’s also requesting that this year’s state assessment test results not affect school grades, teacher evaluations, turnaround schools, graduation or student progression. Panama City News HeraldWMBB.

Teacher honored: Lindsay Summerlin, a teacher at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, is chosen as the Gulf County School District’s teacher of the year. Port St. Joe Star.

Later starting times: Volusia County school officials are looking at ways to start the high school day later as part of the effort to add 30 minutes to the elementary school day. A committee made up of teachers, parents and school officials has debated several options, which now go to school officials to narrow the options to two. The committee will choose one next week, which then goes to the school board Feb. 12. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Plans for schools: Some Pasco County parents and school board members are questioning the administration’s proposal to shutter two schools on the west side of the county and bring special programs to the schools that remain. “Do we have to close down the schools to get these amazing programs?” asks board member Megan Harding. “I just want to find out a little bit more.” The pros and cons of the plan will be discussed Tuesday. Gradebook. Plans are moving ahead on a new technical high school for the east side of Pasco County. The school board is expected to hire an architect next week for the $48 million project. The projected opening is August 2022. Gradebook.

School security: The Clay County School Board is considering a proposal for the district to start its own police department. Board members are considering two options, but both eventually end with the district having its own police department. Costs range from $6.1 million to $6.8 million in the first year for staff and equipment, and $4.2 million to $5.4 million in the second year. Clay Today. Researchers at the University of Florida are studying how to conduct emergency response preparation in schools without traumatizing students. WLRN.

Student homelessness: The number of homeless students in Duval and St. Johns counties has declined in the past year, according to statistics provided by a nonprofit organization. The number in Duval is down from 3,384 in the 2017-2018 school year to 2,746 this year, and in St. Johns the number declined from 876 to 662. WJAX.

Transportation questions: Two Polk County School Board members are questioning district officials’ plans to end busing for charter schools. “If you look at it on its face, what it most looks like is that we’re getting out of high-risk transportation for charter schools,” says board member Billy Townsend. “It looks like we’re trying to get out of the business of transporting some people who carry a liability.” The district now transports 350 students to and from 12 charter schools, using 90 buses. Eliminating the service is estimated to save about $130,000 a year. Lakeland Ledger.

Superintendent’s contract: Sarasota County School Board members soon will begin consideration of contract extension for Superintendent Todd Bowden. Board chair Jane Goodwin says she’d like it to be a four-year extension. Bowden’s current contract ends June 30, 2020, but a decision on an extension must be made by June 30 this year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: Tracy Clark, the former chief spokeswoman for the Broward County School District who was demoted last summer after making disparaging remarks about a reporter in a meeting of communications professionals, has resigned her job as director of marketing. She’ll leave the district no later than April 30. Sun Sentinel.

Board sued: The family of an autistic, Down syndrome student is suing the Hernando County School Board after a teacher dragged the student across the floor by her ponytail. The incident happened almost three years ago at Moton Elementary School in Brooksville. The teacher, Susan Caravella Moglia, was reprimanded last year by the Florida Education Practices Commission, placed on three years of probation, fined and ordered to take a course in classroom management. Tampa Bay Times.

Employees arrested: A guidance counselor at Ridge Community High School in Davenport is arrested after allegedly shoving a detective who was at the school to arrest a student. Deputies say Marcus Franklin, 39, tried to intervene when detectives were arresting a 15-year-old student accused of battery on a classmate. Lakeland Ledger. An Escambia County teacher is arrested for the second time this month. Deputies say Mark Lua, an English teacher at Washington High School, was arrested Thursday and accused of sexual assault of a victim 16 or 17 years old. Last week Lua was arrested and accused of soliciting a student to send an inappropriate video. WEAR.

Truancy arrests: A Boca Raton couple are under arrest on a charge of failing to have a student attend school. Deputies say Darren Borges, 47, and Nichole Bruce-Galimidi, 40, have kept a now-12-year-old child in their care out of Palm Beach County schools for the past two years. Palm Beach Post.

Threats at schools: A 12-year-old Eustis Middle School student is arrested after allegedly saying he was planning to shoot classmates who were making fun of him. Lake County deputies say he’s charged with making a false report. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel. A student at Holiday Hill Elementary School in Jacksonville is detained after allegedly bringing a knife to school and threatening classmates. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: It’s past time for the Legislature to fix the state education funding formula inequity that takes money from smaller, poorer counties and gives it to larger, richer ones. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: Fourth-graders at Sealey Elementary School in Tallahassee use prints of famous paintings in Heather Mott’s art classroom to analyze and discuss their feelings. Tallahassee Democrat.