State teacher of the year finalists, superintendent reprimanded and more

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Teacher of year finalists: Three of the five finalists for the 2020 Florida teacher of the year award are announced by the Florida Department of Education. They are: Nicole Mosblech, who teaches Advanced Placement and honors-level environmental science and honors chemistry at Vero Beach High School in Indian River County; Leigh Ann Norris, a 6th-grade math teacher at Hamilton County Elementary School; and Megan Crombie, who teaches 6th- and 7th-grade math in the middle-school division at the Florida State University School in Leon County. The other two are expected to be named this week. The teacher of the year will be announced July 18. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. TCPalm.

State reprimands superintendent: Manatee County’s school superintendent, Cynthia Saunders, has been reprimanded by the Florida Department of Education for the part she played in inflating the district’s graduation rate by ordering students who were unlikely to graduate on time to be reclassified as being home-schooled. Of 121 such transfers in 2015, the state says, only six were legitimate. Saunders and the DOE agreed to a settlement that would have included a $750 fine and two years of probation if Saunders was in a job requiring a teaching certificate. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sales tax hike election: The Duval County School Board approves a resolution asking the Jacksonville City Council to place a proposed half-cent hike in the sales tax on the ballot. If approved, the money would help pay for a nearly $2 billion plan to replace, repair and renovate the district’s aging schools. The board wants the measure put before voters in a special election Nov. 5, but the city attorney says the decision to put the issue before voters and when rests with the city council. Some on the city council oppose the idea of a referendum, and say even if it’s approved it would likely be on the general election ballot in November 2020 to save money and boost turnout. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Florida Politics.

Superintendent’s job: The Lee County School Board votes 4-3 against an attempt to fire Superintendent Greg Adkins. Board member Melisa Giovannelli made the motion, saying Adkins is difficult to work with and has created a hostile workplace. Adkins denied that, and said his evaluations from three board members “should have been higher … if they had acknowledged the truth about the major things that have occurred in a positive way in this school district.” Voting to keep Adkins were Mary Fischer, Debbie Jordan, Cathleen Morgan and Chris Patricca. Voting to fire him were Giovannelli, Gwyn Gittens and Betsy Vaughn. Fort Myers News-Press.

Court case gets date: A suit challenging the constitutionality of a 2017 education law will be heard June 11 by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Some county school boards allege that H.B. 7069, which expanded the ability of charter schools to open and to get a share of the money a district raises through taxes for capital projects, is unconstitutional because it takes authority away from local school boards and creates a public school system that is not uniform. The law has been upheld at the circuit court level. News Service of Florida.

DeSantis’ approval: Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is very happy with the job the Legislature did on education issues. “The education priorities passed this session represent a resounding victory for students, parents and teachers across Florida,” he said in a released statement. He applauded the education funding increases, the expansion of choice programs, bonuses for teachers, the school safety legislation and improvements in career training. Gradebook. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins says his district will receive about $66 million more from the state this year than last, but about half of it is already committed and the rest will go for higher expenses such as utilities and pensions and the cost of an extra 1,500 students expected to enroll in the fall. Gradebook.

Arming teachers: Only 25 of the state’s 67 school districts participate in the school guardian program, and many of them oppose arming teachers. Fox News. Seminole County Superintendent Walt Griffin reiterated Tuesday that he will not be recommending that his district arm teachers in schools. WFTV. Neither will Duval County. WJCT. U.S. House Democrats are telling Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to not allow schools to use federal funds to arm teachers. Last year, DeVos said if states wanted to use education grants to buy guns, the federal government would not stand in their way. Politico Florida.

Another school shooting: One student is dead and eight others are injured when two students open gunfire at a suburban Denver high school. The assault took place at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, which is near Columbine High School, site of a 1999 school shooting in which 13 people died. It was the 12th school shooting this year in the United States, according to Education Week. Associated Press. New York Times.

Mental health services: The Bay County School Board agrees to hire a company to provide expanded mental health services to students. Seven Dippity says it will offer a four-lesson plan to identify at-risk students and better train teachers to help students who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder from Hurricane Michael, depression, suicide thoughts and more. WMBB.

Contract negotiations: The Broward County School Board approves a contract proposal that will temporarily bump teacher salaries anywhere from $2,300 to $8,000 a year for the next four years. Teachers say it’s not enough to live comfortably in south Florida. The raises are made possible by a voter-approved property tax hike that would have to be approved again in 2023 for the bonuses to continue. Sun Sentinel. The Pasco County School approves a contract agreement that provides 2 percent raises for teachers. The teachers union will vote on the deal today. Tampa Bay Times. Custodial workers for the Hillsborough County School District protest the possibility that the district will outsource their jobs. School officials have said outsourcing is just one of the proposals being considered. WMNF. WTSP.

Anti-Semitism alleged: Alachua County parents present a petition to the school board against anti-Semitism bullying that they allege is happening with increasing frequency in the school district. Director of Communications Jackie Johnson said there are more than 20 district policies against bullying, but addressing the problem is an ongoing challenge. WCJB. Gainesville Sun.

Strategy against vaping: Hernando County school officials are looking to peer-to-peer advocacy to fight the explosion of vaping by students and in schools. The statewide youth advocacy board for Students Working Against Tobacco will expand its presence in the district’s schools next year. Jill Kolasa, district supervisor of student services, says students from the 5th grade and up will be targeted for increased information about vaping. Tampa Bay Times.

School start times: Orange County School Board members are again considering making high school starting times later in the day. District officials have presented the board with four options that would have high schools starting at 8 a.m. or later, instead of the current 7:20 a.m. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is recommending one of two options: starting high schools at 8 a.m. and adjusting other schools, with middle schools starting at 10:10 a.m., or starting elementary schools at 8 a.m., high schools at 8:45 a.m. and middle schools at 10:10 a.m. Neither is projected to cost any extra money. Orlando Sentinel.

Personnel moves: The Broward County School Board approves the addition of three positions to the district’s communications staff. The moves boost spokeswoman Kathy Koch’s staff to seven. Two of the jobs would pay between $56,413 and $80,779, and the third from $74,407 to $123,734. Sun Sentinel. The Hillsborough County School Board approves new principals for 11 schools. Gradebook.

Access for disabled: The Lake County School District is making changes to its website that will assist disabled people in accessing the content. For example, those with hearing impairments can activate closed-caption, and those who are sight-impaired can use an audio version. The cost is $60,143 a year. Daily Commercial.

Record graduation number: Orange County school officials expect a record number of Hispanic students to graduate from county high schools this spring. They estimate almost 5,200 to receive diplomas, up by 456 over last year. Nearly 50 percent of the county’s students are Hispanic, and the percentage is expected to continue to grow. Spectrum News 13.

School being closed: The Bay County School Board approves a plan to close, at least temporarily, the historic St. Andrew school because of serious damage sustained during Hurricane Michael. “Logistically we understand the board (making) this recommendation, (but) our hearts hurt,” said St. Andrew principal Janie Branstetter of the school that was built in 1926. Students will be moved to the Oakland Terrace School. WBBM. Panama City News Herald.

Teacher “Jeopardy!”: A Miami-Dade teacher finished runnerup in the first round of the Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament, but still has a chance to advance to the semifinals. Matthew Bunch, a civics and world history at AcadeMir Charter School Middle in west Miami-Dade, took $12,400 into Final Jeopardy! but missed this question: As a teenager, this woman regained her sight thanks to 2 surgeries in 1881 and 1882. The correct answer is Anne Sullivan, who was Helen Keller’s teacher. Miami Herald.

Principal’s job on line: The state Education Practices Commission meets today to discuss an administrative law judge’s recommendation that a Manatee County principal lose his educator’s license for five years. If the commission agrees, Eddie Hundley would be out as the principal of Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto. The judge ruled that Hundley violated the public trust when he made job recommendations for a teacher suspected of sexual misconduct. That teacher was hired by the Sarasota County School District, and was later arrested on charges of possession of child pornography. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher sentenced: An Orange County preschool teacher is sentenced to 15 years of probation for molesting a 6-year-old boy he was caring for at the Bright Horizons day care center in Orlando in 2017. Jayrico Hamilton pleaded guilty in March to three counts of lewd or lascivious conduct. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher pleads no contest: A Citrus County substitute teacher pleads no contest to charges that she had sexual contact with a student under the age of 16 and sent nude photos of herself to the boy and another student. Angela Jean Stanton, 50, was a sub at Citrus High School. She faces up to nine years in prison Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher arrested: A Brevard County elementary school teacher is arrested after police say she yanked an autistic student off a school bus so hard that he fell face-first onto the pavement. He was not seriously injured. Margaret Joyce O’Connor, 54, a teacher at Lockmar Elementary in Palm Bay, was charged with child abuse without causing great bodily harm. Florida Today. WKMG.

Teacher suspended: A Duval County teacher has been suspended without pay after a district investigation concluded she pushed a student into a desk and forcefully grabbed another by the hood of his jacket. Monica Kirby worked at the Joseph Stilwell Military Academy of Leadership. WJXT.

School officer arrested: A lieutenant with the Duval County School District’s police force has been arrested on a fugitive warrant from Michigan for extradition. Sean MacMaster was taken into custody Tuesday and is being held without bond. The district provided no information about the charges, saying only that his arrest is “not related to the school district or any student in the district.” Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT.

School threats: A former Hernando County student is found guilty of making six false bomb threats against Central High School in one week in 2018. Mizella Robinson, 18, pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years in prison, though her plea agreement could make her eligible for a boot camp program. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Charter schools are public schools. Their students are public school students. Their teachers are public school teachers. Charter school parents pay the taxes that fund them — as do charter school teachers. They have a right to a fair share of public funding. Lynn Norman-Teck, Sun Sentinel. By passing H.B. 7093, the Florida Legislature has all but guaranteed the death of a black student at the hands of an armed teacher. State Rep. Shevrin Jones, Miami Herald. The Legislature did little to improve school funding or bolster its pre-K program, but give it credit for its fast action in cleaning up the hot mess at the Florida Virtual School. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Instead of spending a lot of time re-engineering a flawed educator bonus program, why doesn’t the state that ranks 46th in teacher pay use that money to pay teachers more? Now that would be an excellent retention and recruitment program. Mark Lane, Daytona Beach News-Journal. Although Gov. Ron DeSantis might hesitate to veto any bill that the House and Senate passed unanimously, the 32 Jewish Floridians who asked him to reject anti-Semitism legislation (H.B. 741) gave him good reasons why he should. Sun Sentinel. Duval’s citizens need way more information on a proposed sales tax referendum to replace, repair and renovate schools than they have gotten to this point — and November is too soon to expect them to be as fully informed as they deserve to be. Florida Times-Union. The Florida Legislature just reduced the signing bonus amount for new FSU grads going into math and science teaching from about $7,000 to $4,000. Will that hurt the recruiting of math and science teachers? That remains to be seen. But it will not help. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Seven Florida students are among the 161 across the country named as U.S. Presidential Scholars by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. They were chosen for their achievements in academics, the arts and career and technical education fields. U.S. Department of Education. Seven 6th-graders from North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek win $30,000 from the Lexus Eco Challenge, a national STEM competition for grades 6-12. The students put together a plan to lessen the impact of global warming in their community by directing produce from the school garden to the cafeteria for school lunches. Sun Sentinel.