Assessing 20 years of reform, corporal punishment, security, HPV, taxes and more

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Twenty years of reform: It’s been 20 years since then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed the bill creating the A+ Plan, an education reform law that began assigning grades to schools and districts and helped open the door to school choice. Whether it’s been beneficial for the state’s schools and students is a matter of debate. John Thrasher, then House speaker and now president of Florida State University, says it has. “The A+ Plan was controversial back then, but we stuck with it,” he says. “And it became the foundation on which all the improvements we’ve seen over the last 20 years have been built.” But Sue Legg, a retired faculty member at the University of Florida, calls it a failure, saying the average student achievement is “no better and no worse than in 2002.” Florida Phoenix. redefinED.

Corporal punishment: Florida legislators declined to approve a ban of corporal punishment in K-12 schools during the past session, and the state remains one of 19 that still permits it, according to a report by the Civil Rights Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center. While the number of incidents of corporal punishment has declined dramatically in the state from 84,495 in the 1988-1989 school year to 1,352 in 2017-2018, nearly a third of Florida’s school districts reported using force as punishment, according to state data. All but one of the districts are in north Florida. Florida Phoenix.

Security in schools: Collier County commissioners unanimously agree to pay for youth relations deputies for the next school year but also to continue talking to the school district about splitting the costs in the future. Naples Daily News. The Franklin County School Board has decided to participate in the state’s school guardian program, and will allow willing teachers to carry guns in schools. But one county school, the Apalachicola Bay Charter School, says it won’t take part in the guardian program. Apalachicola Times. Gulf County Superintendent Jim Norton says he and Sheriff Mike Harrison are “100 percent on the same page” when it comes to opting into the guardian program. The district is the 34th in the program. Port St. Joe Star. The St. Johns County School District is replacing 109 nonworking surveillance cameras at schools. The new cameras will allow law enforcement access to watch video live. WJAX.

HPV vaccine offer: The Florida Department of Health in Flagler County wants to make voluntary, free vaccinations for HPV available to all students in the school district. HPV is the sexually transmitted disease that can cause cancer. School board members reacted with skepticism, but asked health officials to return at the next meeting with more supporting materials. Flagler Live.

District halts volunteer approvals: The Santa Rosa County School District has suspended approvals for all volunteers while it reviews the vetting process. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick made the decision after the release of a state attorney’s report showing shortcomings in the process, as well as improper payments to school coaches. The district’s investigation of the problems outlined in the report will be countywide, even though the initial report centered on Milton High School. Pensacola News Journal.

Sales tax increase poll: A University of North Florida poll shows 75 percent of registered voters in Duval support a half-cent increase in the sales tax to help the school district replace and repair aging schools. But a plurality – 49 percent – thinks the vote should be held in November 2020, while 34 percent want the election this year and 17 percent don’t want the referendum. WJXT.

Superintendent search: Hillsborough County School Board members agree that an outside company should be hired to conduct a nationwide search for candidates to replace Superintendent Jeff Eakins, who has announced he will retire in June 2020. Board members say they will try to “piggyback” on research done by other school districts also looking for leaders, but still expect the search to take at least six months and cost $100,000. Gradebook.

Ex-board member cleared: The Florida Commission on Ethics has cleared State Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, of allegations that she abused her influence as a member of the Hillsborough School Board in 2015 and 2016 to benefit her family and supporters. The commission said there was no probable cause to move forward on accusations that she got free child care for her preschool grandson and influenced the purchase of computers for millions of dollars to help a campaign supporter. Gradebook.

Education podcasts: Doug Tuthill, the president of a nonprofit organization that helps administer five scholarship programs for the state, explains why he thinks education savings accounts are the next logical step in the school choice movement. His  organization, Step Up For Students, hosts this blog. Gradebook. Brevard County Superintendent Mark Mullins and teachers union president Anthony Colucci discuss the contract negotiations impasse. Florida Today.

Private school conference: More than 850 private school educators are at the Victory Christian Academy in Lakeland for a conference to discuss how to effectively teach, motivate teachers, manage classrooms, create an equity-focused school and use student assessments in Florida. The conference was organized by Step Up For Students. redefinED.

Possible school site: The Destin United Methodist Church is one of two locations being considered as a site for the new Destin High School. The issue will be taken to the church congregation Sunday. Backers of the charter school hope to open in the fall of 2020. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Heat precautions: The Marion County School Board agrees that the district should instruct high school band directors to follow guidelines set by the Florida State Music Association to keep students safe from heat-related problems during summer practices. Directors are urged to schedule rehearsals before 11 a.m. or after 6 p.m. to avoid being in direct sunlight in the heat of the day. Ocala Star-Banner.

District’s legislative priorities: Charlotte County school officials have narrowed their legislative wish list to seven items. Among them are a greater emphasis on career education, more money for mental health services, an end to unnecessary testing and help to address the shortage of teachers. The final list is due to the local legislative delegation by July 26. Charlotte Sun.

Personnel moves: Two new principals have been appointed in Broward County: Kassandra Fried, assistant principal at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, will succeed the retiring Scott Neely as principal; and Olayemi Awofadeju, principal at South Broward High, will replace the retiring John LaCasse at Nova High. Sun Sentinel. Six administrators are taking new jobs in the Palm Beach County School District. Palm Beach Post.

School board elections: Citrus County School Board member Sandy Counts has filed to run for re-election to her District 4 seat. She was elected to the board in 2016. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher faces firing: A Lake County special education teacher could lose her job for spraying water at a nonverbal, autistic student when he didn’t respond to her instructions in October. District officials are asking the school board to fire Cara Sanderlin, who works at Pine Ridge Elementary School, at its Monday meeting. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s past 20 years of educational success show the transformative power of bold, student-centered policies. Jeb Bush, USA Today. Florida’s kids are falling behind, and it should serve as a gut punch for Florida’s leadership. Instead, lawmakers and executives seem almost numb. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Harvard could have been a redemptive experience for Kyle Kashuv. But we’ll never know. Because at 16, he did something privately that violated the boundaries of the thought police. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. If the state really cared about funding education, lottery money would have been used the way it was originally intended: “The net proceeds of lottery games conducted pursuant to this act be used to support improvements in public education and that such proceeds not be used as a substitute for existing resources for public education,” says the 1986 amendment authorizing the lottery. David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel. Sarasota County Superintendent Todd Bowden’s belated decision to suspend the district chief financial officer after allegations of sexual harassment sends the message that if you’re in a position of power, it’s permissible to be abusive, disrespectful and entitled … at least until it’s no longer legally tenable. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Nick Rice is one of five finalists for a national award for a mobile app he developed as a student at Barron Collier High School in Naples. The app, Collier Mobile, allows students to scan their school IDs to get access to important school information. WINK.