Florida schools roundup: Runcie keeps job, State of the State, tax break and more

Jim Booth

Runcie holds onto job: In a 6-3 vote, the Broward County School Board decides not to fire Superintendent Robert Runcie. Runcie has been a lightning rod for criticism for his actions since the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa died in the shooting, pushed for the firing, saying “we are not under a grand jury investigation because the district is running so smoothly.” Runcie, who has been in the job since 2011, vowed to move the district forward, improve security in schools and help heal the community. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. Miami Herald. Associated Press. WLRN.

State of the State: Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterates his vow to end waiting lists for tax credit and Gardiner scholarships by expanding the state’s school choice programs with general revenue funds. In his State of the State speech on the first day of the legislative session, DeSantis said, “Education opportunity shouldn’t be limited by parental income or ZIP code. … We are a big, diverse state and one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to education.” He also encouraged legislators to “be bold” on education, environmental, safety and other significant state issues. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program and the Gardiner scholarship for special needs students. redefinED. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaTampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee DemocratGateHousePolitico Florida. Capitol News Service. WUFT. Florida Phoenix. Democrats criticize DeSantis’ speech and release their own agenda. Miami Herald.

Education tax exemption: A bill that would grant some senior citizens an education property tax exemption is approved by the Senate Community Affairs Committee. The measure (SJR 344 and SB 562), which is sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, would freeze the taxable property values for people over 65 who have lived in their homes for 25 years or more. It now moves on to the Senate Finance and Tax Committee for consideration. Gradebook.

Online state reports: Florida’s Department of Education launches a new, searchable online website for parents to get information about school and district grades. The update is part of the state’s compliance with the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Gradebook. Florida is one of 12 U.S. states that complies with an ESSA requirement that districts post online reports of spending at all public schools. Education Week.

Financial transparency: State Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, has again filed a bill that would require school districts to provide information online that explains how districts are spending their money and how that money has affected student grades and performance. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter school denied: The Duval County School Board narrowly denies an application for a charter school on the north side of Jacksonville. Superintendent Diana Greene had recommended that the board rejected the application of Seaside Charter North Campus, saying the school’s plan lacked diversity and would promote segregation, and the board complied in a 4-3 vote. School officials are expected to appeal the decision to the Florida Board of Education. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

ELL report disputed: A recent report based on research in Florida suggesting that struggling students who are learning English could benefit by repeating 3rd grade is being disputed by other researchers. Members of the Working Group on ELL Policy, a group of scholars on English-language-learning, challenges the research and says retention can further harm students who are already marginalized and misunderstood. Education Week.

Analytics drives grad rate: Hernando County’s Weeki Wachee High School has embraced the use of data analysis to boost its graduation rate. The process includes building student profiles, then using data to build schedules, assess weaknesses and find more effective ways to help struggling students. The school’s graduation rate has soared from 83 percent in 2016 to 97.4 percent last year. Gradebook.

School security: Wakulla County leaders discuss their school security progress in the past years and future plans to improve it at a roundtable discussion between school and county officials. Tallahassee Democrat.

Superintendent’s appeal: The Florida Supreme Court is giving Gov. Ron DeSantis until March 20 to respond to the appeal filed by the school superintendent he suspended. Citing two grand jury reports accusing Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson of dereliction of duty, DeSantis suspended her in January. Jackson’s attorney contends DeSantis overstepped his authority, and asked for a hearing from the top court. News Service of Florida. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR.

No permission needed: Pasco County School Board members decline to require parental permission for students to join clubs in schools, and reaffirm their intention not to change the district’s rules on the rights of transgender students. Gradebook.

State cites district: A state investigation concludes that Putnam County school officials broke the law by selling a vacant school property for $10 to a company to avoid having a charter school come in and claim it. That company then sold the property to a charter school company for $450,000, with the proceeds minus expenses going back to the school district. State law requires the proceeds from property sales be used for capital improvements. WTLV.

School move requested: The developer of a St. Johns County community called SilverLeaf is asking the school board to allow the move of a proposed high school off the property. The original agreement called for the developer, the Hutson Companies, to donate land for three K-8 schools and the high school among the 6,800 single-family units and 3,900 multi-family units. St. Augustine Record.

School can’t open: Martin County officials say the troubled Barnabas Christian Academy cannot reopen in a seven-unit apartment building, as the school told parents it was doing. The building is not zoned for use as a school. Barnabas was evicted from its previous location last week for failure to pay rent. TCPalm.

Achievement gap: The Hernando County School District has a long way to go to meet its goal of cutting the achievement gap by two-thirds this year, according to a 28-member committee focused on studying the problem. Committee members say the gap fluctuates but has changed little in the past four years, and urge the district to encourage more students from groups that struggle to take honors and advanced courses. Tampa Bay Times.

Accused sub moved around: The substitute teacher accused of molesting elementary school students worked at nine Osceola County schools in three months, according to district officials. Fnu Syedyaseen-Asher, 19, is now accused of molesting at least six students. Orlando Sentinel.

Students arrested: A 14-year-old student at Hallandale High School in Broward County is arrested and charged with possession of a weapon on a school campus. Police say the boy had a loaded pellet gun in his backpack. Sun SentinelMiami Herald. WPLG. A 15-year-old student at St. Cloud High School in Osceola County is arrested and charged with possession of a firearm on school property and possession of a firearm by a minor. Police say the gun was unloaded. Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: A team of students from Lincoln Middle School in Gainesville will compete in the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., in April. WCJB. Ten 8th-graders at Indian Trails Middle School in Flagler launch a project called Waste Not Want Not to help hungry people by reducing food waste. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Charlotte High School video with 1,500 students dancing and lip-syncing wins first place in the technology category at the Florida Association of Student Councils State Convention. Charlotte Sun.

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