Florida schools roundup: Funding, Bright Futures, closing schools, safety and more

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Education funding: The Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations is preparing to take a closer look at how state money is divided among school districts, including hiring a consulting group to make recommendations on adjusting the school-funding formula. That formula, known as the Florida Education Finance Program, uses several factors to decide how the $21 billion-plus is distributed among districts. The focus may begin with the price-level index, which tries to factor in the cost of living differences of districts. Some districts have complained that the current formula shifts money from poorer districts to wealthier, urban ones. News Service of Florida.

Bright Futures boost: The Legislature’s Joint Legislative Budget Commission added $25.3 million to the Bright Futures scholarship program on Thursday. Last spring, lawmakers budgeted $520 million for the program, which offers full and partial college  scholarships for high-achieving students. But a study in November indicated an increase in students eligible would push the amount needed to about $545 million, prompting the increase approved for the fund. News Service of Florida.

School closings: Bay County School Superintendent Bill Husfelt is recommending the “mothballing” of four elementary schools because of storm damage from Hurricane Michael and the ensuing drop in enrollment. Oscar Patterson, Springfield, Callaway and Oakland Terrance elementary schools would be closed for the 2019-20 school year if the plan is accepted. They would be reopened as needed if students return. Husfelt also is proposing to restructure Rutherford High into a grades 6-12 school and create three K-8 schools at Tyndall Elementary, Jinks Middle and Everitt Middle. Panama City News Herald.

‘Lack of urgency’ concerns: Some education advocates want more information about a charge that Florida school districts have a “lack of urgency” in complying with state laws to improve security in schools. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chaired the state commission investigating the Parkland school shooting, made the charge this week and said districts should be penalized for their laxity. State Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who is also the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, says Gualtieri’s statement is serious, and he’d like to see the data on which it is based. Others dispute the charge. The Capitolist. Tampa Bay Times. Eight Broward County deputies heard gunfire Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but did not enter the school to confront the gunman. Here’s how they’ve been disciplined. Sun Sentinel. The one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High will be marked with a morning moment of silence, wellness activities and community service. Sun Sentinel.

Help for waiting list: A lack of funding has led to a growing list of students waiting to receive state scholarships to attend private schools, so some of those schools are responding by offering them free or reduced tuition. More than 400 private schools have stepped in to try to reduce the 13,000-student wait list for tax credit and Gardiner scholarships. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer those programs. redefinED.

Teacher licensing: State lawmakers are promising to review the exams people have to take to become or remain teachers in the state. Hundreds of teachers are losing their jobs because they can’t pass the certification exam, which was revised in 2015. State Rep. Byron Donald, R-Naples, says updating the exam and lowering the fees people have to pay to take it are priorities. WTXL.

Employees honored: Dakeyan Graham, a music teacher at King High School in Tampa, is named the Hillsborough County School District’s teacher of the year. Sandra Misciasci, a reading teacher at Newsome High School, is the diversity educator of the year, and Barbara Maxwell, a secretary at Dover Elementary School, is the support employee of the year. Gradebook. Melissa Pappas, who works with autistic students at Brookshire Elementary School in Winter Park, is named the Orange County School District’s teacher of the year. Anne Lynaugh of Millennia Elementary and Millennia Gardens Elementary schools is principal of the year, David Hardrick of Meadowbrook Middle is assistant principal of the year, and Magalie Davis, a clerk at Robinswood Middle, is support person of the year. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Lakes High School’s David Alfonso is named the Palm Beach County School District’s principal of the year. Palm Beach Post. Laura Wykoff, a math teacher at Fort Clarke Middle School, is named the Alachua County School District’s teacher of the year. Gainesville Sun. Caroline Buechner, a choral music educator at Navarre High School, is named the Santa Rosa County School District’s teacher of the year. Pensacola News Journal. Katrina Snider, a special education teacher at Jefferson-Somerset Middle/High School, is the district’s middle/high school teacher of the year. Second-grad teacher Cynthia Barrington is the district’s elementary teacher of the year, and elementary school guidance counselor Doug Brown is the employee of the year. ECB Publishing. The Bay County School District names five finalists for support employee of the year. Panama City News Herald.

High school importance: Students at Florida high schools in affluent communities are more likely to be admitted to the University of Florida and Florida State than students in schools is lower-income neighborhoods, according to a study of admissions data from the universities. Orlando Sentinel.

Students and Baker Act: The number of children detained under the Baker Act jumped 55 percent between 2010 and 2017, according to Florida’s Baker Act Reporting Center at the University of South Florida. And more than 20 percent of those children were taken into custody in schools. But the state doesn’t require school districts to keep records of these case, and most don’t have policies that detail if or how a parent should be contacted when their children are taken into custody at school. WPTV.

Student privacy: The Orange County School Board is reviewing how it releases information about its students. That information typically includes names, addresses, days they missed school and in some cases, such things as height and weight. After a charter school requested the information, board members denied the request and say they will review the policy. “The item before us today,” said board member Karen Castor Dental, ” I think has less to do with who is requesting it and for me, more to do with my belief that information of our students is not ours to share.” WFTV.

Education podcasts: Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas almost a year ago, says his mission as a Florida Board of Education member is to make sure such a tragedy doesn’t happen again. Pollack’s appointment to the board by former Gov. Rick Scott was rescinded by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but he expects DeSantis will reappoint him. Gradebook.

District’s goals: The Glades County School District’s goals for 2019 are to tighten security, improve the recruitment and retention of teachers, and improve the quality of lessons given by teachers, says Superintendent Scott Bass. Lake Okeechobee News.

Public comment change: The Volusia County School Board will consider proposed changes in the way the public can comment at board meetings. Board chair Carl Persis wants to limit the time speakers can talk about non-agenda items, and provide more chances for comments during meetings about items the board is voting on. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Notable deaths: Allan Skellett, whose 30-year career as a teacher and coach at Satellite High School included being named Brevard County teacher of the year in 1997, has died at the age of 83. Florida Today.

Board’s settlement: The Lee County School Board settles a complaint of racial discrimination by a former administrator for $75,000. Ranice Monroe, the district’s former assistant director of attendance and social work, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July alleging she was let go because she’s black. Fort Myers News-Press.

Appeal set: Former State Rep. Dudley Goodlette has been chosen by Senate President Bill Galvano to hear the appeal of Mary Beth Jackson, who was suspended from her job as Okaloosa County school superintendent by Gov. Ron DeSantis. News Service of Florida.

School employees arrested: The headmaster of a private Palm Beach County school is arrested and accused of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Randy Konsker, 53, is the headmaster at the Matlock Academy in West Palm Beach. Palm Beach Post. A Hillsborough County school guard is arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old student at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Tampa. Police say Malcolm Curtis Tillman, 22, committed sexual battery when he blindfolded and sexually assaulted the girl. Tampa Bay Times. Two Miami-Dade County School District employees are arrested and accused of selling GED certificates for up to $3,000. Arrested were Roxanne Insignares, a former test chair at Miami Lakes Educational Center and Technical College, Antonio Bouzan, a secretary/treasurer at Orchard Villa Elementary School, and a test broker. WPLG. Miami Herald. A substitute teacher for the Citrus County School District is arrested on charges that she committed a sexual act on one student and sent another nude photos of herself. Angela Cone-Stanton, 50, was a short-term substitute teacher in Citrus High School’s athletics programs. Citrus County Chronicle. The former bookkeeper at a Manatee County charter school is suspected of stealing $340,000 from the school and its operator. Deputies say charges are pending against Melissa Tapia, who used to work at the Team Success charter school in Bradenton. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: Two bipartisan, common-sense proposed bills to help ease the teacher shortage in Florida should be passed early in the legislative session. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: The Madeira Beach Fundamental K-8 School in Pinellas County is chosen as a grand prize winner of the Sandy Hook Promise Start with Hello award for its work to prevent social isolation of its students. Patch. Students in the Valleyview Elementary School’s ACCEL program get to control a $2 million da Vinci surgical robot at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center during a visit to show them the latest in surgical technology. Lakeland Ledger. Students in Hazel Sparrow’s intensive reading class at Deltona High School have their poetry printed in book form. Daytona Beach News-Journal.