New scholarship, security in schools, arming teachers, critical audit and more

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DeSantis touts scholarship: Gov. Ron DeSantis makes another appeal for a new state scholarship that would eliminate a list of 14,000 students now waiting for a tax credit scholarship. The Legislature is considering creating a scholarship (S.B. 7070 and H.B. 7075) that could cost as much as $110.8 million if 15,000 students take advantage of it. Both bills would widen the number of students eligible and would be funded with tax dollars, which could bring a legal challenge. DeSantis says he isn’t worried about that. “To me, it’s a public scholarship. It’s just a matter of how it’s applied,” DeSantis said. “We’re not just giving the money to a church. It’s the parent’s decision that’s taking the money there. I think it would be inappropriate to discriminate against a school that happened to be religious, because it’s the parent’s choice.” Gradebook. Florida Phoenix. redefinED. Watchdog.org. WTSP.

School security: Wednesday, the Florida Senate will consider the school security bill, S.B. 7030, that would expand the school guardian program to allow teachers to be armed in schools and includes other security measures. News Service of Florida. School officials in Okaloosa and Walton counties are considering arming staff members at district schools. Okaloosa Superintendent Marcus Chambers and Walton Superintendent Russell Hughes say they are preparing plans for their school boards to approve that could include arming teachers. Northwest Florida Daily News. The Fort Myers City Council and the Lee County Commission are planning to ask the school district to pick up more of the costs for school resource officers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Shooting coverage wins Pulitzer: The South Florida Sun Sentinel has won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for its coverage of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, where 17 people died and 17 others were wounded. The newspaper was cited for its coverage of the tragedy and its subsequent investigations into failures by the Broward County School District and law enforcement officials. Sun Sentinel.

Auditor faults district: Florida’s Auditor General says the Manatee County School District failed to effectively plan for its multimillion-dollar business software project, which was delivered a year later and cost more than double the original estimate. The audit also criticized the district for awarding Best and Brightest bonuses to ineligible teachers, improperly calculating pay for some teachers, inadequately reviewing construction costs, not properly vetting contractors, and weak oversight of contracts. Bradenton Herald. Hernando County school officials say they have resolved most of the issues raised in a recent state audit. Tampa Bay Times.

Contract negotiations: Pasco County school officials and the teachers union reach a contract agreement with the help of a mediator. The sides had agreed earlier on pay and using seniority in determining layoffs and involuntary transfers. The mediation session resolved disagreements on evaluations and training for teachers at turnaround schools. Gradebook. Brevard County teachers will join those from up to 40 other Florida counties participating in a “walk-in” into schools Wednesday as a show of solidarity in appealing to legislators to make more money available for education and for teacher pay. Florida Today.

Charter changing managers: Board members of Plato Academy’s nine schools in the Tampa Bay area are terminating their contract with their management company, Superior Schools, because they’re dissatisfied with the company’s performance since its founder died last summer. “Unfortunately, based upon the performance of Superior since the passing of Superior’s founder, Steve Christopolous, in the summer of 2018, the Plato Board voted today to immediately terminate its relationship with Superior,” reads a message to parents from Plato Academy Seminole principal Karen Staab. Gradebook. Florida Politics.

Charter decision appealed: The Clermont City Council is appealing a court decision that invalidated its approval of a conditional use permit for a charter school. The permit was approved in October for the proposed K-8 school, now known as Seven Lakes Preparatory Academy, that was scheduled to open in the fall with up to 765 students. The permit was appealed by a nearby resident, and a circuit court judge ruled that the city had “failed to comply with procedural due process.” Daily Commercial.

New boundaries for schools: The Palm Beach County School Board will consider a rezoning plan this week that would move about 400 students to ease crowding at two schools, Highland and South Grade elementaries, and fill empty seats at Palm Springs and Barton elementaries. Palm Beach Post.

Teachers honored: Four Duval County teachers have won the 2019 Gladys Prior Award for Career Teaching Excellence. The winners are: Amy Glendenning, Seabreeze Elementary; Mary Phillips, Duncan Fletcher Middle; Kevin Sullivan, Edward White High; and Terry Woodlief, Central Riverside Elementary. Each receives $15,000. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Specialists proposed: The Charlotte County School District is proposing to add math and literacy coaches in the fall for each level of schooling: elementary, middle and high schools. The cost of the initiative would be $426,000 a year, which will be paid from the proceeds of the property tax referendum passed by voters last year. The school board will vote on the proposal tonight. Charlotte Sun.

Racial ‘infusion’ lacking: The Legislature’s promised infusion of black history and achievement throughout K-12 subject matter has been, at best, shown mixed results, according to black educators. “Even though it’s been 25 years, we still have people in the district that haven’t heard of it,” said Debbye Raing, the black woman who was tasked with putting the 1994 law into action in Palm Beach County. “No doubt about it, it’s not taught. Definitely not infused,” says Palm Beach County School Board member Debra Robinson. Palm Beach Post.

Classmate mourned: Grief counselors were available to help students from both Flagler County high schools, Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas, cope with the shooting death last weekend of Curtis Gray, an 18-year-old senior at Flagler Palm Coast who would have graduated in six weeks. He attended Matanzas for three years before transferring last August. Deputies have arrested a 17-year-old suspect and charged him with first-degree murder. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WJXT.

Nurse shortage in schools: The nationwide shortage of school nurses is being felt in Duval County, where only 57 nurses cover 157 schools. WJAX.

School crossing guards: Forty-five elementary schools in Hillsborough County do not have school crossing guards because no hazardous walking conditions have been identified by the sheriff’s office. The sheriff recently announced a plan to add crossing guards at all county middle schools. WFTS.

Prom problem: At least 40 St. Augustine High School students had their prom privileges revoked because they have too many unexcused absences, tardies or out-of-school suspensions, owe money, have missing textbooks or have a GPA under 2.0. “They started calling all of these different parents and revoking their rights to go to prom after we had already spent a lot of money,” said Rachel Smith, one student’s mother. WJAX.

Student hurt in bus crash: A Sarasota County student was injured when the school bus carrying 10 children ran into the back of a car. The school bus driver was cited with careless driving. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: At the risk of being completely politically incorrect, the Aug. 10, 2020, school start in Palm Beach County is a slap across the face of parents who value sending their kids to overnight camp out of Florida, summer education programs at elite schools, teen tours across the country and other experiences that involve commingling with kids who are growing up in a more normalized society. Boca News Now. Expanding choice is no panacea for the challenges facing public education, but it is a way to engage even more hands, hearts and brains. The facts show that’s what it’s doing. Ron Matus, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Businesses and North Fort Myers residents collaborate to build 57 picnic tables to give children to sit when they wait for school buses, and another 100 are planned. Two children have been struck and killed this year waiting for their school buses. Fort Myers News-Press. The number of Escambia County School District students who completed the federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid is up more than 5 percent this year, and the Florida College Access Network says the district’s completion rate is the most improved among large districts in the state. Pensacola News Journal. Whitney Morrill, a 2nd-grader at Gulf Breeze Elementary School in Escambia County, wins the state’s Black History Month student art contest for her drawing of drawing that combines  sketches of Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, the new Pensacola Bay Bridge that could be named after him, Florida, an U.S. flag, a fighter jet piloted by James, and the late general’s headstone. Pensacola News Journal.

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