Florida schools roundup: Safety in schools, accountability, fight over testing and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Safety in schools: Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ public safety advisory team backs the conclusions of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report, wants law enforcement to have more authority in schools and suggests stiff penalties for schools that miss deadlines or ignore state rules on security. “We need to be unleashed into the schools,” says Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, and “show consequences to the kids so that when they grow up and turn 18, we aren’t actually creating a pipeline to the prison system.” Politico Florida. Florida Politics. The state safety commission report is in and recommendations for improving security for schools have been made. How does the Broward County School District stack up on meeting those recommendations? Sun Sentinel. Orlando area school districts will make changes based on the panel’s report. WKMG. Another Broward deputy is suspended for his actions during the school shooting. Sun SentinelMiami Herald.

Corcoran and accountability: In 2012, then-State Rep. Richard Corcoran supported a plan to require standardized testing for students at private schools that accept tax credit scholarships. Now that he’s education commissioner, though, he’s not commenting on that possibility. Gradebook.

Fighting testing decision: A Miami high school student whose improvement on the SAT test was invalidated by the College Board because it suspected she cheated has hired a prominent attorney to fight back. Kamilah Campbell scored 900 on the SAT but knew she had to improve to get into Florida State. After studying for months she scored a 1230, but the College Board invalidated it. Spokesman Zach Goldberg wouldn’t discuss the specifics, saying only that “we do not cancel scores based on a score gain alone. We will only cancel scores after we are confident that there is substantial evidence to do so.” Miami Herald. CNN. Fox News. WSVN. Tallahassee Democrat.

Virtual school lawsuit: Florida Virtual School’s lawsuit against its former attorney and a newspaper goes before a court today. FLVS wants the court to decide what records should be released in the investigation of misconduct by its former attorney, Frank Kruppenbacher. The Orlando Sentinel has sued FLVS for the records, but Kruppenbacher has threatened to sue FLVS if the records are released. Orlando Sentinel.

Private school reinstated: A private school in Orange County is again eligible to receive money from state K-12 scholarship programs after firing a mixed martial arts instructor who had been convicted of manslaughter. Elite Preparatory Academy was removed from the programs in November after the state learned about the man’s employment. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarships and Gardiner scholarships for special-needs students that are used by 230 of the school’s students. Orlando Sentinel.

Superintendents’ contracts: Tuesday, Manatee County School Board members are expected to decide whether to offer Cynthia Saunders the superintendent’s job despite an accusation by the state that she manipulated graduation rates. Two members offered support for Saunders, while two others are urging caution and one isn’t commenting. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier offers to step down in June 2020 if the school board pays her for the final 20 weeks of her term. Maier was elected in 2016, and her term ends Nov. 16, 2020. Last November, voters decided to have superintendents appointed by the board instead of elected. Ocala Star-Banner.

Contract negotiations: The Pasco County School District remains at odds in contract negotiations with the teachers union. Obstacles include the amount of a pay raise and how teachers are evaluated. Gradebook.

New charter high school: A charter high school opening next summer in Hillsborough County is being named after Dr. Kiran C. Patel, a local cardiologist and philanthropist. The school expects 300 students in grades 9 and 10 when it opens, with plans to expand to 11th and 12th grades and a total of 600 students. Project-based learning will guide the curriculum. Tampa Bay Times.

Closing schools: The Pasco County School Board will vote this month whether to close two elementary schools on the west side of the county. Board members rejected the administration’s recommendation recently to close Lacoochee Elementary as part of a consolidation plan, deciding the school was important to the community it serves. Similar arguments are now being made to keep Hudson and Mittye P. Locke, which also have high percentages of low-income students. Gradebook.

Graduation rates: More reports on 2018 high school graduation rates from school districts around the state. Florida’s rate hit a record high 86.1 percent, according to figures released in December by the state Department of Education. Florida Today.

Teacher training grant: Nancy Ruzycki, a professor at the University of Florida, receives a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a program to train 250 teachers in 11 counties how to better incorporate the use of technology in their lessons. Independent Florida Alligator.

School board elections: Robin Bartleman, a four-term Broward County School Board member, says she will resign from the board in 2020 to run for the District 104 seat in the Florida House of Representatives, The seat is held by Democrat Richard Stark, who can’t run again because of term limits. Sun Sentinel.

Notable deaths: Grief counselors are at Belle Terre Elementary School in Flagler County to help students mourning the death of 3rd-grader Connor R. Allen, 8. The boy was pinned under a car driven by his grandfather into a garage. Flagler Live. An assistant wrestling coach at Fort Walton Beach High School is killed when he hit by a van Tuesday in downtown Nashville. Jorge Hernandez, 26, had been with the program five years. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: Our schools, the state safety panel concluded, are unsafe nearly a year after the shooting deaths of 17 at a school in Parkland. And too little focus was given to the real cause of the problem – Nikolas Cruz — and the victim culture we’ve wrapped our national psyche around to ward off our very real demons. St. Augustine Record. Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie and Sheriff Scott Israel should be removed now for their failures to protect students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News. Citrus County teachers and administrative staff deserve accolades for their efforts to improve graduation rates. Citrus County Chronicle.


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