Counselor certification, anti-discrimination bill, spelling bee crasher, security and more

Jim Booth

Counselor certification: Counselors and social workers in schools could be subject to new certification requirements under a proposal being considered by the Florida Department of Education. Counselors would have to do a three-hour internship in two certification plans, but also could become certified with a master’s degree in education. Social workers would need a master’s degree and 300 hours of field work. The proposal will be discussed next week at a DOE meeting. Politico Florida.

Private schools targeted: A bill that would ban discrimination against gay students by private schools that receive voucher money from the state has been filed in the Legislature by State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. Rouson said he was prompted to file the bill by a newspaper story that detailed how millions of dollars were going to some private schools that expel gay students or refuse to admit them. Tampa Bay Times. Between August 2018 and March, the Florida Department of Education received written complaints about more than a dozen private schools that accept school vouchers in Orange, Lake and Seminole counties. In all but two of the cases, the DOE said it could do nothing because it doesn’t regulate private schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Spelling bee crasher: A Palm Beach County middle school student took advantage of a little-known loophole to compete twice in the Scripps National Spelling Bee even though he hadn’t qualified. Last year, spelling bee officials decided that students who won a school bee and paid an entry fee of $750 in 2018 or $1,500 last spring could apply. This Florida student had won only his classroom spell-off, but applied and was accepted because bee officials didn’t check his qualifying credentials. The boy finished 370th this year. Palm Beach Post.

Security in schools: The Gadsden, St. Johns and Citrus school districts are joining the state’s guardian program, which allows teachers and other school employees to carry guns at schools. Thirty-three districts are participating, and another 15 have expressed interest, according to the Florida Department of Education. Some of the participating districts say they won’t arm teachers. WFSUWJCT. The Duval County School District is considering replacing some Jacksonville police officers in schools with officers from the district’s department to save money. WJXT.

School testing: Pasco County school officials are working on a plan to cut back on the amount of testing for students, starting this fall. Committees of teachers and administrators are going through the current testing schedules to see what can be dropped, and to see if they can find single tests that can be used to satisfy multiple requirements. Gradebook. The number of Hernando County 3rd-graders passing the Florida Standards Assessments language arts test dropped this year, with 57 percent scoring at or higher than the level needed for promotion to 4th grade. District officials say they’re concerned, but aren’t panicking. Tampa Bay Times.

School construction projects: This summer, the Pinellas County School District hopes to complete $158 million worth of construction projects at nine schools that started in 2018. Associate superintendent Clint Herbic says all nine projects are on budget and on schedule. Tampa Bay Times. About $100 million worth of security, technology and facilities upgrades are underway at schools in Wellington and Royal Palm Beach in Palm Beach County. Palm Beach Post.

Sales tax hike initiative: The Clay County School District has started preparations to ask voters to increase the sales tax by a half-cent. School board members directed Superintendent Addison Davis to get the process going so they can vote on the issue at the June 27 meeting. Some are pushing for a special election this year, while others want to wait until the 2020 general election. Clay Today.

New community school: Sabal Palms Elementary School in Tallahassee is becoming a community school. The Leon County School Board has approved an agreement with the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Florida A&M University and Florida State University College of Medicine to place medical and social services at the school as a way to “address the whole child.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Lottery warnings: Estimates of the amount of money that education will lose if warning labels are added to lottery tickets range from $25 million by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research to up to $232 million a year by Florida Lottery officials. The state’s Revenue Estimating Impact Conference has been unable to agree on an estimate. The bill requiring the warnings has been sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has expressed concerns about it. Capitol News Service.

College admissions: The ACT college testing company is starting a service later this year in which students can ask Alexa for information about when to register for testing, how much it costs, test dates and locations, tips and more. The service will be available from all Alexa-enabled devices. Florida Phoenix. Rick Singer built a thriving business helping students get into college until it collapsed in 2018 under the weight of a national college admissions cheating and bribery scandal that reached from Florida to California. Singer has pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud and obstruction, and will be sentenced Sept. 19. USA Today.

School calendar: Palm Beach County students will get Veterans Day off this year for the first time since 2016, according to the school calendar approved Wednesday by the school board. It will be a work day for teachers, though. About two-thirds of Florida school districts close schools on Nov. 11. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel moves: Katrina Lunsford, the chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County board, is stepping down after the agency discovered she had served beyond the state law’s maximum term limit. Lakeland Ledger. Amy Riddle is named the principal at Gulf Middle School in Pasco County. She had been the assistant at Gulf High. Gradebook. Former Manatee County School District human resources director Sarah Brown is not chosen as the new superintendent of the Bozeman (Mt.) School District. Brown was one of three finalists. KECI. Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Cameras coming on: The Hillsborough County School Board will televise its next two workshop meetings, a departure from the normal operating procedure in place since February, because of the topics and interest, says a district spokeswoman. Thursday, the board will discuss the process for replacing Superintendent Jeff Eakins, who is retiring in a year. The meeting June 25 focuses on student discipline and the district’s relationship with the Florida State Fair. Gradebook.

Coaching supplements: The Santa Rosa County State Attorney’s Office has concluded there is no evidence that improper payments made by the school district to high school coaches were illegal, and has turned the cases back to the district. The district’s investigation disclosed that some coaches did nothing for their pay, received multiple improper payments, were permitted to coach both boys and girls in the same sport, and that volunteers were permitted to work without the proper clearance under state law. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Ex-substitute sentenced: A former Citrus County schools substitute teacher has been sentenced to eight years in prison for having sexual relationships with two teenage boys. Angela Jean Stanton, 50, was a substitute at Citrus High School when she was arrested in January. Citrus County Chronicle.

Charges against teacher dropped: Charges have been dropped against a Miami-Dade County teacher who was accused of breaking both arms of an 11-year-old student. School district police say special education teacher Claude Alerte Paul broke the students’ arms as he was being restrained after hitting a teacher. Prosecutors say they they couldn’t show that the teacher “intended to cause injury” and decided they couldn’t prove the charges “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Paul was fired by the district, but is appealing the dismissal. WSVN.

Opinions on schools: Teacher pay is so bad in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties that many students avoid getting into teaching because it’s not worth the hassle. Better pay alone won’t solve that problem. But given the stakes, we need to start somewhere. Gil Smart, TCPalm. Voucher schools are subject to two forms of accountability: the top-down regulatory model, albeit with a lighter touch than what public schools receive; and the kind you get from the bottom-up through parental choice, something few public schools face. Scott Kent, redefinED. Florida’s lawmakers can’t legislate away ignorance, but they should end the religious exemption for vaccinating children before they attend schools. Tampa Bay Times. Collier County students are learning proper civil discourse in schools. As parents and community members, we need to ensure that our students have the best role models in us. Collier County School Board member Stephanie Lucarelli, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Alachua County students go through simulations of domestic disputes, traffic stop and use of force during a day spent with law enforcement officers at Eastside High School. Gainesville Sun. Silvio Plata, a 15-year-old sophomore at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School in Miami, is one of three Florida students competing this month in the 2019 Braille Challenge National Finals in California. Miami Herald.

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