$15.5 million for settling bonuses suit, new Stoneman principal, mascots and more

Bonuses lawsuit fund: Tucked into the Florida budget is $15.5 million to settle a two-year-old lawsuit against the state’s Best and Brightest program for teacher bonuses. The Florida Education Association and seven teachers sued the state in 2017, alleging the bonuses were discriminatory against thousands of black and Hispanic teachers because eligibility hinged on college entrance test scores that many of them never took, particularly if they began at a community college. The proposed settlement required the Legislature to set aside the money to compensate those teachers who were rated highly effective and should have been eligible, and to remove the test scores requirement for eligibility. Gradebook.

New school leaders: Michelle Kefford, the principal at Flanagan High School principal and the Florida 2019 principal of the year, has been appointed as principal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She starts July 1. Kefford, 44, replaces Ty Thompson, who recently announced he’s stepping down at the end of the school year to take a job in district administration. Sun Sentinel. WSVN. Miami Herald. WLRN. The Indian River County School Board selects retired Lake County superintendent Susan Moxley as the district’s interim superintendent. She’s expected to guide the district for six months to a year as the board searches for a replacement for Superintendent Mark Rendell, who has resigned and is leaving May 24. TCPalm.

New mascots for schools: New mascots and nicknames are being chosen for a Hillsborough County middle school and five elementary schools as a “show of respect” for the Native American community, district officials say. The names Warriors, Chiefs, Braves and Indians are being retired at those schools. Two high schools will keep their Indians and Chiefs nicknames, but modify mascots and costumes to lessen insensitivity and better reflect authenticity. Gradebook. WFLA.

School security: People attending graduation ceremonies in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties will be required to walk though metal detectors and have their bags searched. Sun Sentinel. Lake County School Board members approve the purchase of about 1,600 security cameras for the district’s middle and high schools. The $902,263 cost will be paid with an Educational Facilities Security Grant. District officials say most of the cameras will be installed this summer, and they expect the project to be completed before January. WKMG. Pasco County school workers will get access to a new emergency response system that can quickly send information such as campus maps to first responders, and alerts as needed. The $67,000-a-year cost will be paid from state and federal grants. Gradebook. Schools in the Keys have added officers, hardening measures, mental health services and drills and tips to improve security. Keys Weekly. Two central Florida sheriffs talk about arming teachers. WFTV.

Protest against administrators: A group of parents and teachers are asking Brevard County Superintendent Mark Mullins and the school board to remove the Titusville High School principal and other administrators for creating a “negative climate and hostile environment.” The group, known as Success for THS, says principal Annetha Jones and her assistants are driving away students and teachers. District leaders say they are working with Jones and her team to address the concerns. Florida Today.

Custodial work: Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins says it will be months before the district decides whether to centralize custodial work, outsource it or maintain the status quo. Eakins says he’s waiting on a consultant’s report on how to make the work more efficient. Gradebook.

Literacy initiative: The Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County is recruiting tutors for its Literacy AmeriCorps program to help children, adults and families improve their literacy, English and employment skills. The tutors will work in high schools, after-school programs, libraries and in adult literacy programs. Sun Sentinel.

School workers honored: A Hillsborough County school bus driver is honored as the Good Morning America Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed winner. Terrie Campbell, who has been driving for 21 years, got breakfast in bed served by Emeril Lagasse and won a trip to Mexico for the devotion she’s shown to her students. Tampa Bay Times. Six volunteers are honored as Polk County School District volunteers of the year. About 4,500 volunteers gave 200,000 hours to the district this year. Lakeland Ledger.

Paper wins contempt case: A circuit judge has dismissed the Broward County School Board’s request that the Sun Sentinel and two reporters be held in contempt for publishing redacted information about the accused gunman in the 2018 shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The paper argued that the material about Nikolas Cruz’s educational history was improperly redacted and open to anyone through the Microsoft Word software program. Associated Press. Sun Sentinel.

Private school sued: Parents of a former student at Lake Highland Preparatory are suing the Orlando private school for failing to protect their son from “almost daily” bullying, harassment and sexual abuse. Orlando Sentinel.

Officer brutality alleged: A cellphone video taken of a school deputy taking down a 17-year-old student at Blanche Ely High School is proof of excessive use of force, claim his parents and their attorney. The video was taken Feb. 21. Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony says the 20-second clip isn’t a complete picture of the incident, which is more accurately reflected in the deputy’s report, school surveillance-camera footage and bodycam recordings. Sun Sentinel.

Grief counselors at school: Counselors were on hand to help Fort Myers High School students grieve over the death of freshman William Jenkins. The 16-year-old apparently had an epilpetic seizure while shark fishing in a kayak last weekend and went into the water. Fort Myers News-Press.

Board upholds teacher firing: The Marion County School Board votes 3-2 to uphold Superintendent Heidi Maier’s decision to fire a teacher for making sexually suggestive comments to a student. West Port High School art teacher Marshall Pettway, 63, was accused of telling a female student that she “has beautiful lips.” The girl said he had made other “perverted” comments to her in the past, and Pettway has been disciplined on five other occasions since January 2017. Ocala Star-Banner.

Opinions on schools: Public education would benefit if education choice opponents and supporters spent time talking to each other instead of yelling at each other. We all share a passion for expanding excellence and equity in public education. That’s where we should be focusing our collective energy. Doug Tuthill, redefinED. Florida’s leaders seem to be drifting toward the idea that schools really only need to provide a basic education – and that’s all we are willing to pay for. I hope they change their minds. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Bay County schools name their valedictorians and salutatorians for the class of 2019. Panama City News Herald. About 5,300 seniors will be graduating from Lee County schools. Fort Myers News-Press.

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