DOE grade, issues for 2020 Legislature, school security, meetings end and more

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Corcoran’s self-evaluation: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says his department’s team earned an A grade for the just-ended legislative session by getting “93 percent” of its agenda approved, particularly the expansion of school vouchers and increasing security measures for schools. Four things didn’t get through and will be back next year, he says: the creation of a do-not-hire list for teachers, giving colleges the authority to sponsor charter schools, changing pre-K accountability and an expansion of high school student access to dual-enrollment courses. Gradebook.

School board term limits: Term limits for local school board members is one of the issues expected back before the Legislature in 2020, according to a survey of nearly 200 campaign operatives, lobbyists, money-raisers, political scientists and other veterans of Florida politics. About 33 percent of the insiders say 2019 will be remembered for allowing teachers to carry guns in schools, while 23 percent say the session will be most remembered for the expansion of school vouchers. Tampa Bay Times.

Security in schools: Department of Education officials say they’re on track to have a school security database and social media monitoring tool in place by the Aug. 1 deadline set by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Legislature directed the DOE to compile information about students from a variety of sources and make it available to law enforcement agencies for quick access. Politico Florida. All security measures for Marion County schools, from resource officers to cameras, will cost the district $18.6 million over the next four years, school board members are told. Ocala Star-Banner. DeSantis signs a bill that blocks the public release of “government photo, audio and video recordings that show the deaths of three or more people, not including the perpetrator, in an incident of mass violence,” such as the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel.

Post-meeting meetings ending: The Lee County School Board has decided to end the controversial practice of having recap meetings after board meetings. Board members started the practice of a closed post-meeting meeting in April 2017 as a way to build camaraderie and review the public board meeting. Those meetings were opened to the public in July 2018 after a story about them appeared in a newspaper. Fort Myers News-Press.

Use of tax money: It’s been more than a year since Manatee County voters approved a 1-mill property tax hike for the school district, but the volunteer citizen oversight committee is still trying to decide how the money can be used. More than half of it will go to pay increases, but the committee has yet to decide if the remainder can be used for such things as improved classrooms and upgraded technology. Bradenton Herald.

Education podcasts: Many of Florida’s school districts have announced they won’t arm teachers in schools as now permitted under the new state security law. The Bay County School District, however, has embraced the option of having teachers with guns, and several have already signed up for the training. Superintendent Bill Husfelt talks about the decision. Gradebook. Has the bitter debate over pay raises for Brevard County teachers become a partisan issue? Other topics of discussion are the district’s contract impasse, how teacher pay ranks among state districts, the exodus from teaching, and required district reserves. Florida Today.

Activist criticized: Some parents in Hillsborough County are angry that an anti-abortion activist protested on a public sidewalk outside Randall Middle School this week and talked with several students. “I don’t think that she’s got any business talking to middle school-aged children about something that their parents should be talking to them at home about,” said one parent. The district said it couldn’t do anything about Diane Kline’s protest since the activist was on public property. WFTS.

Superintendent’s exit: Outgoing Indian River County school Superintendent Mark Rendell reflects on the district’s accomplishments in his five years on the job, which include improved graduation rates, minority presence in advanced classes and student performance. Today is his last day on the job; he resigned to take a principal’s position in Cocoa Beach. TCPalm.

Personnel moves: Tammy Berryhill, a former assistant superintendent at the Pasco County School District, is named principal at Cypress Elementary School. She replaces the retiring Tracy Graziaplene. Also retiring is Zephyrhills High principal Angie Stone. Her replacement is expected to be announced next week. Gradebook.

School board member fined: Flagler County School Board member Janet McDonald agrees to pay a $500 fine under a settlement with the Florida Commission on Ethics for failing to list all assets on her financial disclosure form. Flagler Live.

Coach arrested: The volleyball coach at Tavares High School in Lake County has been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography. Darrin Williams, 53, is not a teacher at the school. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel.

Aide’s abusive history: A Broward County teacher’s aide who was recently recorded berating autistic children at Pasadena Lakes Elementary School was arrested in 2014 for hitting an autistic child with a marker. That charge against Joyce Latricia Bradley was dropped because by state law, educators are allowed to discipline children by hitting them. She was reprimanded by the school district. Miami Herald.

Student arrested: A 17-year-old Charlotte County student is arrested and accused of molesting another student in a Lemon Bay High School bathroom. He’s been charged with lewd and lascivious battery and lewd or lascivious molestation on a victim older than 12 and less than 18 years of age. Charlotte Sun.

Opinions on schools: It’s time for the Brevard County School District and the school board stop kicking the can down the road and create a strategy that looks at incrementally raising teacher salaries for years ahead. Florida Today. It’s important to understand that while we’re hemorrhaging teachers in Florida, we’re also losing the next generation of educators. So lawmakers should do more for the students who decided to stay on this challenging path, starting with more reasonable debt forgiveness programs. Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel. Welcome to post-Parkland Florida, where schools are fortresses and teachers can be armed. Eve Samples, TCPalm. The Broward County School Board could demonstrate a level of gratitude and respect for its employees that is long overdue by offering paid parental leave. Sarah Leonardi, Sun Sentinel. The time is now for the Sunshine State to step up with new innovations and programs for early childhood education and childcare. Kevin Sherin and Karen Willis, Orlando Sentinel. There are clearly race-based disparities in the Duval County public school system, vestiges of forces that have never ceased to exist in Jacksonville, and the system doesn’t have enough money because it has been denied some of the revenue streams available to every other county in Florida. Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union. Yes, 625 teachers have departed from the Brevard County School District over the past three years. But it’s not a wave. In fact, Brevard has a comparatively low rate of teachers quitting for any reason. Brevard Superintendent Mark Mullins, Florida Today. The dominant use of the dual-enrollment program in the key STEM subjects of math, chemistry and physics is for students to earn college credit for learning math content that is traditionally learned in high school courses, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Florida’s student achievement gains on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests show that the return on investment of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan for Education is through the roof. Michael J. Petrilli, Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Student enrichment: A graduation ceremony for Lincoln High School senior Noah Siets was taken to a Tallahassee hospital room to fulfill the dream of his mother, Marilyn Siets, who is dying of ovarian cancer. Tallahassee Democrat. A dying Bay County woman, 80-year-old Mary Roberts, didn’t complete her dream to receive a GED, but was presented an honorary degree from the Haney Technical Center just before she died May 6. She was buried in her graduation gown. Panama City News Herald. The Mistele family of Miami-Dade County is now 3-for-3 in providing valedictorians at the Ransom Everglades School, a prep school in Coconut Grove. Matthew (Class of 2013), John (2017) and Anna (2019) all attend Stanford University. Miami Herald. The graduating class at Bartram Trail High School breaks the school record by logging nearly 50,000 hours of community service. St. Augustine Record. Eleven students from the Oxbridge Academy, a private high school in West Palm Beach, recently attended the China International Technology Fair in Shanghai in April. Oxbridge is the only U.S. high school ever invited to the three-day event showcasing new technologies. Palm Beach Post. Three Palm Beach County students are competing in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee May 27-30. Palm Beach Post. A Leon County student’s self-portrait constructed with pictures of birds is chosen to hang in the U.S. Capitol. Chiles High School junior Kate Kirchhoff’s piece is entitled “Feather Head.” Tallahassee Democrat.

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