School safety commission meeting, arming teachers, bills, college scandal and more

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Commission meeting: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission holds hearings Tuesday and Wednesday in Sunrise to see how far school districts have gotten in improving safety in schools. The panel will also look closely at reports that districts are continuing to file false crime statistics, that some districts are still failing to comply with state law requiring an armed guard at all schools, that Broward County has yet to upgrade its emergency communications systems, and also try to determine if training has improved for Broward deputies. Sun Sentinel.

Arming teachers: Manatee County School Board members are split on whether willing teachers should be trained to carry weapons in schools. Tuesday, the board will consider voting on a resolution taking a side on the issue, which is moving through the Legislature. Two board members say they are against arming teachers and one is in favor. The other two have not commented publicly. Bradenton Herald. Pasco County school officials say they won’t arm teachers, and plan to continue to have law enforcement officers for middle and high schools and armed security guards for elementary schools. Gradebook. Arming teachers is an issue with strong emotions on both sides. Here’s a primer on arguments for and against, and facts to consider. Sun Sentinel.

Legislative update: A hearing on a measure creating a state-funded scholarship that eliminates the waiting list for Florida Tax Credit Scholarships was postponed by the House last week. It’s one of many significant education bills that legislators are trying to move through before the scheduled end of the session May 3. Two other education bills continued to move: one that expand the number of areas where charter schools could open as Schools of Hope, and another that would expand a pilot program on “competency-based” that focuses on skills instead of grades. redefinED. Associated Press. Capitolist. Today, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee considers the bill that would allow concealed-carry gun permit holders to take weapons into churches that share property with schools. Florida Politics.

Administrator in scandal fired: The Manatee County private school administrator who was implicated in a national college admissions scandal has been fired. Mark Riddell, 36, had been the director of director of college entrance exam preparation at the IMG Academy. He is accused of taking college entrance exams for students, and has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Court records indicate he plans to plead guilty. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. The scandal has raised the question of whether the SAT test should be optional for students. Associated Press.

Proposed settlement for Pons: The Leon County School Board will vote this week on a proposed $100,000 payout to former superintendent Jackie Pons as a way to end a long-running dispute with current Superintendent Rocky Hanna. Pons has threatened to sue Hanna and the board for not being rehired after losing the 2016 election to Hanna. The deal would prohibit Pons from seeking employment with the school district, but he could run for superintendent in 2020. Tallahassee Democrat.

Superintendent won’t run again: Tim Wyrosdick, superintendent of the Santa Rosa County School District, says he won’t be running for re-election in 2020. He didn’t say why. Wyrosdick was first elected to the job in 2008. There are two declared candidates so far to replace him: David Gunter, the director of labor relations and compliance for the district; and Michael Alan Thorpe, the director of in-service and instructional technology for the district. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

School discipline: Volusia County School District officials say they are making plans to cut down on the high rate at which they suspend students. Volusia suspended 91 students out of every 1,000 last year, which is 78 percent higher than the state average and the 11th-highest among the state’s 67 districts. The district created a task force called “Rethinking Discipline” to consider ways to discipline students without removing them from schools. “The bottom line is we want as many kids in school as possible,” says Superintendent Tom Russell. “We have worked to put in programs and create positions to help to that end, and we’re going to continue … (to create) a classroom culture where learning is encouraged and takes place every day.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Fighting crime: Duval County school Superintendent Diana Greene says the district will work closely with a Jacksonville crime-reduction task force to reduce violence and keep it from spilling onto school campuses. Greene made the announcement at a task force meeting two days after stray bullets shattered a window at St. Claire Academy during school hours. No one was injured. Florida Times-Union.

Vaping concerns: The Leon County School District is the latest in Florida to call vaping a growing concern. “It’s the fastest-growing drug situation that we’re facing,” said Alan Cox, assistant superintendent of school management, ESE and health services. “One in four high schoolers are trying it.” Principals are urging the district to toughen penalties for vaping at schools. Tallahassee Democrat.

Rezoning plans: At least two Marion County School Board members say it’s time to rezone boundaries to relieve overcrowding in south county schools. About 2,000 students from 1,500 families would be affected by the changes being discussed. It’s unclear if the changes can be made in time for the 2019-2020 school year. Ocala Star-Banner.

Contract agreement: The Osceola County teachers union has ratified a contract agreement with the school district that provides raises ranging from $900 to $1,200 and a boost in a starting teacher’s salary to $41,400. Osceola News-Gazette.

Charter schools: Volusia County school officials are recommending the school board approve the application of one charter school but turn down two others. Southeast Volusia School of Science and Technology, a STEM-related middle and high school, is recommended for approval to open in August 2020 with up to 1,200 students. The other schools, for at-risk teen students and a STEM elementary, fell short of meeting the criteria for approval, according to the district staff. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teachers honored: Two Florida teachers are among 45 in the United States chosen as Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellows. Lyanne Abreu, from the TERRA Environmental Research Institute of Miami, and Stefanie Frump, of Largo High School in Pinellas County, will be included on expeditions to  the High Arctic, Alaska, Central America, Antarctica and the Galápagos Islands. National Geographic.

Superintendent’s job: A Florida educator is one of two finalists for the job as superintendent of the Beaufort County (S.C.) School District. Frank Rodriguez is a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County School District. Island Packet.

School programs: The Flagler County School District has 21 classroom-to-career programs at nine high schools, and school officials credit them with helping the district improve its graduation rate by 6.9 percent last year. Two more will be added in the next two years: a medical program offering certifications in medical assisting, phlebotomy and EKG next year, and an information technology program the following year at Flagler Palm Coast High School. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School calendar: Leon County students will get a week off at Thanksgiving this year and next. The district asked parents, students and teachers for their preferences, and 75 percent of the 5,000 who responded liked having the whole week off. Replies to changing school starting times were mixed, so district officials aren’t recommending any change. Tallahassee Democrat.

School renovations: Monroe County School Board members will consider a proposal to spend $13.7 million over the next five years to upgrade Stanley Switlik Elementary School in Marathon. The plan calls for the construction of 11 new classrooms: three for K-3 students and eight for 4th and 5th grades. Key West Citizen.

Grief counselors at school: Grief counselors will be at North Port High School today after a weekend crash that left a 17-year-old student dead, three other teens injured and another arrested for DUI manslaughter. Police say 13 people were in or on top of an SUV when it crashed in Sarasota County at 2:39 a.m. Saturday. Charlotte Sun.

Unsanctioned events review: Lake County school officials are reviewing their policies on unsanctioned events on school properties after a serious injury last week during a 7-on-7 football game at Mount Dora High School. Daily Commercial.

Football playoffs: The Florida High School Athletic Association has decided to move the football playoffs from Orlando. Classes 1A through 3A will play championship games at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee, and classes 4A through 8A will play title games at Daytona Stadium in Daytona Beach. “After listening to feedback from our membership, we felt having two locations stretched out over two weeks made the most sense,” said FHSAA executive director George Tomyn. Florida Times-Union. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher murdered: A Palm Beach County elementary school is mourning the loss of a teacher who was murdered last week by her boyfriend. Police say Gabriela Marino, 51, a 2nd-grade teacher at Palm Springs Elementary School, was shot in her car at the apartment complex where she lived by Jeffrey Nicholas Garner, who was then shot and killed by police. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher arrested: The band director at Winter Park High School has been arrested and accused of having sex with an underage student. Police say Christopher Michael Blackmer, 47, made a video of himself having sex with an underage student from Colonial High School who was 16 or 17 in 2014. Blackmer has been put on administrative leave by the Orange County School District. Orlando Sentinel.

Obscenity or art? A Broward County art teacher faces a three-day suspension for showing nudity to her students at Western High School in Davie. Brenda Fischer showed her students a video that included nude models in what some students called sexually suggestive positions. The veteran teacher will fight the suspension, and the teachers union is backing her. “She teaches art. The video was art,” said union president Anna Fusco. The school board consider the suspension Tuesday. Sun Sentinel.

Teachers accused: A Broward County mother wants a school administrator disciplined after he grabbed her 8th-grade daughter’s leg and caused her desk to overturn at William Dandy Middle School in Fort Lauderdale. The girl was treated at the hospital for leg and back injuries. WSVN. A Volusia County teacher is on administrative leave while sexual misconduct accusations against her are investigated. Sheriff’s deputies say they were contacted by a Department of Children and Families case worker about an allegation filed against New Smyrna Beach High School math teacher and basketball coach Megan Parris. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student stabbed: A Broward County student is arrested for stabbing a classmate in the leg during a fight after school Friday in the parking lot at Coral Springs High School. The injuries were not believed to be serious. Police say the fight was about a female student. WPLG. Miami Herald.

Students arrested: A 17-year-old Flagler County student was arrested Friday after posting messages on Snapchat that he planned to “shoot up” Flagler Palm Coast High School. He said it was a “stupid joke.” The student was arrested twice and accused of raping children five and seven years ago. He was convicted in one case and sentenced to a diversion program Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Volusia County deputies say a Deltona High School student was arrested after sending a prank bomb text message to a friend at River Springs Middle School. The 18-year-old student said the message had been sent to him by someone he didn’t know, and he sent it on to his friend as a “joke.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: In the spirit of fairness, the Legislature should develop a documented methodology for distributing hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It should shame the state’s leaders that Florida is one of the very worst states for funding public education. But it doesn’t. Instead, the governor and legislature are on a crusade to divert even more money to private, often religious, schools. Palm Beach Post. If the Duval County School District is to gain voter approval of a sales tax or property tax increase to fund its massive facilities plan, then it needs to proactively address its own riverfront administration building. Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Students from Pine Forest High School in Pensacola build 10 octagonal picnic tables for the Epps Christian Center so that the homeless people who get meals there will have a place to sit. Pensacola News Journal. Leesburg High School’s Students in Action club creates a clothing boutique to make sure less fortunate students have formal clothes to wear to prom. Orlando Sentinel.