Sharing with charters: The provision in this legislative session’s bill on taxes that would have required school districts to share extra revenue from voter-approved property tax hikes with charter schools has been removed by the Senate. About 20 school districts that recently had tax hikes approved by voters would be affected. The requirement is still in the House’s version of the bill, and the two chambers will have to reconcile it today, the final full day of this legislative session. Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, says he hopes the House will stand firm and insist the provision remain in the bill. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Sun Sentinel. Florida Politics.
Workforce education bill: A bill to improve career training in schools is approved by the Senate and now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. H.B. 7071 provides alternative paths to graduation for students who are taking a career and technical path to a job instead of considering college, requires school districts to offer a financial literacy course, pushes career dual enrollment courses for high school students, sets apprenticeship guidelines and more. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Politics. WUSF.
Arming teachers: Even as the school safety bill that allows districts to arm teachers is sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature, districts around the state say they aren’t interested in having teachers carry guns in schools. The Orange, Seminole and Osceola school districts in central Florida say they will only use resource officers to protect schools. Lake County schools do use armed guardians, but board members say they’re unlikely to approve guns for teachers. Orlando Sentinel. Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, appointed by DeSantis to replace the suspended Scott Israel, says he’s not in favor of arming teachers. Sun Sentinel.
Deputy defends actions: Former Broward deputy Scot Peterson, the resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School the day 17 people were killed by a gunman, says he acted appropriately by following department policy and is being unfairly blamed for the massacre. Peterson made the claim in a 14-page rebuttal to the conclusion of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission that he “retreated to an area of safety” instead of investigating the source of the gunshots or engaging the shooter. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chaired the commission, called Peterson’s account a “fairy tale.” Sun Sentinel.
District suspensions: The Duval County School District suspends more black students than any other district in the state, according to Florida Department of Education data. Seventy percent of all out-of-school suspensions in Duval were of black students, even though they make up just 43 percent of the total student population. WJAX.
Teacher pay: Florida pays the average teacher $48,395 a year, according to an annual analysis by the National Education Association — more than $12,000 below the national average of $60,477. Only New Mexico, West Virginia and Mississippi pay less. Education Week.
Consultant hiring rescinded: The Manatee County School Board rescinds last week’s hiring of a consultant to fix the district’s troubled business software system. Three board members agreed the board moved too quickly in making the decision last week to spend $100,000 for the consultant, Accenture. The process will be restarted, and bids will be solicited. Bradenton Herald.
No repayment for district: The State Auditor General’s Office will not require the Broward County School District repay $20 million in impact fees that it spent to retire debt instead of building new classrooms, according to a just-released audit. That office’s preliminary audit in March said the fees were improperly used and the money should be put back into its capital budget. Sun Sentinel.
Community school: Crystal Lake Elementary School is being transformed into a community school through a partnership among the Polk County School District, Heartland for Children, Southeastern University, United Way of Central Florida and Central Florida Health Care. Two portable classrooms on the campus are being converted into a clinic, where health, dental and other services will be available for students, their parents and other members of the community. Lakeland Ledger.
Principal pipeline: An eight-year study by the RAND Corp. shows that schools with educators who were specially trained to become principals show improvement in test scores for a minimal investment. Hillsborough County is among the districts that participated in the national experiment. WUSF.
Notable deaths: James Hammond, a Tampa civil rights leader who founded a nonprofit that worked to eliminate economic, social and educational disparities and later had an Odessa elementary school named in his honor, has died at the age of 89. Tampa Bay Times.
Personnel moves: The Hillsborough County School Board is expected to approve new principals for eight schools at its meeting next week. Gradebook.
Student contracts MRSA: An Indian River County student has been diagnosed with an infection caused by the bacteria MRSA. The Osceola Magnet School student was taken to a hospital for treatment for the highly contagious infection. Officials say the school has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. TCPalm.
Student sues board, district: A former Orange County student who was sexually abused by two teachers in 2016 is suing the school board and district for negligence. The girl was a 17-year-old student at Ocoee High School at the time. The two teachers, Chad Michael Coy and Ryan Stewart Kirkpatrick, were convicted of committing sex acts on a child and sentenced to prison. Orlando Sentinel.
Ex-teacher pleads out: A former Spanish teacher at Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers pleads no contest to a charge of sexual activity with a child. Suzanne Owen, 36, was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student in 2018. Sentencing is June 24. Fort Myers News-Press.
Ex-teacher indicted: The former band director at Estero High School in Lee County has been indicted for possession of child pornography. Warren A. Baxter resigned in July 2018 during an investigation of comments he made to a student. He was indicted in April. Naples Daily News.
School employee stabs parents: A paraprofessional and assistant wrestling coach at Gulf Breeze High School in Escambia County stabbed both of his parents before being shot and killed by his father. Erich Reitz, 29, was an officer with the Niceville Police Department from 2015 to February 2018, when he was fired for being unfit. He was hired at Gulf Breeze in August. School officials had no comment on the screening process used in hiring Reitz. Pensacola News Journal.
School threats: A 7th-grade Indian River County charter school student has been arrested and accused of making threats against the Imagine School at South Vero. Earlier this week, an 18-year-old student was arrested and accused of threatening Vero Beach High School. WPTV. A 29-year-old Ocala woman is arrested and accused of threatening to shoot up College Park Elementary School after her son was suspended from taking the school bus for three days for getting into a fight. Ocala Star-Banner.
Students arrested: Two Miami-Dade County students are arrested and charged with resisting arrest with violence and battery on a police officer during a fight at Homestead Senior High School. The officer was trying to control one student when another kicked him in the face. The officer was not seriously injured. WCTV. Miami Herald. A student at Golden Gate High School in Naples is hospitalized when she began hallucinating after taking a puff from a vaping pen at school. Police say it was filled with synthetic marijuana, and arrested the classmate who gave it to her. WBBH. Miami Herald.
Custodian dies in wreck: The custodian at Old Kings Elementary School is killed when his motorcycle ran into a car driven by a Matanzas High School student near that campus. Troopers say Mark Radcliffe, 56, hit the car driven by 17-year-old Zachary Kelly when it pulled into the street. Troopers are investigating. Daytona Beach News-Journal. St. Augustine Record.
Coach ordered off track: A coach helping the Indian Trails Middle School track team is ordered off the track, which is at Matanzas High School, for wearing a shirt with the name of its rival, Flagler Palm Coast High School, on it. The Matanzas coaches who made the decision say they were concerned that he was recruiting. Flagler Live.
Opinions on schools: For better or worse, Jeb Bush’s education plan has come full circle. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. Better outcomes happen when more parents are given more power to drive quality in public education. They find what works and exercise accountability in far more exacting ways than heaps of regulations ever will. State Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., Tampa Bay Times. Education choice is the social justice issue of our time. Florida legislators can be revered tomorrow for passing a landmark bill that establishes equity for all students or they can continue to propagate inequitable systems that will prolong and exacerbate the achievement gap. Keith Jacobs, redefinED. The Duval County School Board needs to start over in trying to convince voters they should provide the money needed to improve the district’s schools — and at the moment there appears to be no coherent plan in place for a campaign. Florida Times-Union. Florida’s current high-stakes testing mandates are immoral and unjust laws. Amanda Lacy-Shitama, Gainesville Sun.
Student enrichment: Sixteen-year-old Drew Falkowitz will become the youngest graduate ever from the University of South Florida in Tampa today. His degree is in cell and molecular biology, and he starts in the university’s master’s program this fall. Tampa Bay Times. Thirty-five Pasco County students are honored for taking advantage of second chances to graduate on time from high school. Tampa Bay Times. More than $125,000 is raised in the Claim a Classroom campaign in Bay County to help replace school supplies lost during Hurricane Michael. Panama City News Herald.