Contract rejected, sales tax hike vote, assault guns, heat death inquiry and more

Contract rejected: Orange County teachers have rejected a contract agreement between their union and the school district by a nearly 4-1 margin. It’s the first time a proposed contract has been voted down by membership, and now the union and district will have to resume negotiations. The deal called for pay raises of $500, $1,625 and $2,025, depending on evaluations, but an increase in family health insurance rates was more than the raise for many teachers. Of the 4,806 ballots counted, 3,843 voted against the deal. Orlando Sentinel.

Sales tax hike vote: The window to place the sales tax increase referendum for schools on the Duval County ballot Nov. 5 has closed, says Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan. The next Jacksonville City Council meeting on the issue is Aug. 13, and Hogan says, “Aug. 13 would be outside of the window for a November election.” Florida Times-Union. Two allies of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry are offering to help the Duval County School Board lobby the Jacksonville City Council to approve the referendum. Former mayoral chief administrative officer Sam Mousa and Tim Baker, who was a consultant for both of Curry’s mayoral campaigns, proposed charging $12,500 a month for up to three years, although the contract would end if the half-cent sales tax increase doesn’t make the November 2020 ballot or if it does and voters reject it. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics.

Assault gun amendment: A push by survivors of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and others to get an constitutional amendment banning the possession of assault weapons on the 2020 ballot has drawn the opposition of Florida’s attorney general. Ashley Moody has filed a document with the Florida Supreme Court seeking to block the vote because the amendment’s ballot language is  “clearly and conclusively defective.” She says the amendment would “ban the possession of virtually every semi-automatic long-gun … and because that effect is not revealed, the ballot language is deficient.” The court has not yet scheduled a date to hear arguments. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Sun Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida.

Report: Protocol not followed: Middleton High School did not follow the proper protocols for a freshman football player who died last June during workouts, according to a Hillsborough County School District investigation. No paperwork was filed indicating that the player, 14-year-old Hezekiah Walters, had seen a video on heat-related safety, and his athletic physical form was missing, said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. Because of the missing records, Middleton assistant principal Mark Jones was demoted and head football coach Fred Reid was transferred to another school. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Vaccinations for schools: Back-to-school vaccination rates are declining in several Orange County neighborhoods. In more than 30 county schools, rates are hovering around 80 percent, which is more than 10 percentage points below the state average. “We normally pride ourselves in being a leader in so many great things, and this is surprising because it’s a public safety issue,” said school board member Karen Castor-Dentel. WFTV. Free back-to-school vaccinations are available at several locations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. WPLG.

District finances: The Brevard County School Board has instructed Superintendent Mark Mullins to develop three or four options to find a long-term solution to boost teacher pay. Among the ideas he might consider are eliminating some graduation requirements, moving back to a six-period school day or even eliminating some schools. Board members have been reluctant to ask voters for a tax hike, and called it an option only if others can’t be done. “It’s going to take a big, bold plan, and it’s going to hurt somewhere in the community,” said board member Tina Descovich. Florida Today.

Security in schools: Max Schachter, whose son died in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, tells about 2,000 Marion County school employees that having armed law enforcement officers, a national database with student information and holding active-shooter drills are among best practices to improve safety in schools. Ocala Star-Banner. WCJB. The Escambia County School District is in the process of hiring 26 campus security officers so that all elementary schools have an armed guard. WEAR. Several federal agencies say they plan to launch a national clearinghouse database this fall detailing best practices for school security. Education Week.

Mental health services: Students at three Pasco County middle schools will be part of a research program intended to identify students with mental health issues and get them help. Students at Bayonet Point, Crews Lake and R.B. Stewart will be screened over the next three years under a federal research grant awarded to University of South Florida researchers. “They can use that knowledge to recognize some of the risks in their classrooms and get kids help earlier,” said Nate von der Embse, a USF psychology professor who is leading the program. WTSP. WUSF. Citrus County school officials are busy refining how they will comply with the state’s latest mandate to provide at least five hours of mental health instruction yearly for students in grades 6-12. “It’s like taking this round thing that we have, what we were doing, and putting it into a square bucket,” said Scott Herbert, district chief academic officer. Citrus County Chronicle.

Hope scholarships: The state has now raised more than $47 million for the Hope Scholarship program, which awards money to bullied students to attend private schools or pay for transportation to another public school. Since the scholarship began in 2018, 477 students have received money, with 199 using the money to go to private schools. The money is raised through car-buyers designating a portion of the state tax to go for the program. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. Gradebook.

Voting at schools: The Flagler County School District will consider closing schools on both primary and general elections days during the 2020 general election cycle. Other options are to create solicitation zones around schools for campaign workers, or do a background check on every campaign worker on school grounds. Flagler Live.

Personnel moves: Christine Pejot, the Pasco County School District’s human resources director since 2013, is leaving Aug. 9 for a job with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) School District. Senior manager Kim Newberry will serve as interim director while the district searches for a replacement. Gradebook.

Back-to-school events: Free school supplies, backpacks medical and dental exams are available the next two weekends for Escambia County students. WEAR. A Stuff the Bus back-to-school event this weekend offers free supplies to Polk County students. Lakeland Ledger.

Coaching pay variation: Many Georgia and Florida high school football teams are just miles apart. But when it comes to paying the head coaches, they’re in different worlds. WJXT.

Death at day-care center: A 2-year-old boy who was left in a van at a Broward County day-care center died Monday, according to sheriff’s deputies. Deputies weren’t sure how long the boy had been in the Ceressa Learning and Activity Center van, which was parked at the school in Oakland Park. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Porn arrest at day-care center: The son of the owner of a Miami-Dade County day-care center was arrested Monday in connection with a child pornography investigation. The arrest was made by Homeland Security at the Little Seed Academy. Miami Herald.

School workers reprimanded: Four employees at Belle Terre Elementary School in Flagler County have been reprimanded for making inappropriate statements to students. Flagler Live.

Opinions on schools: The Pinellas County School District continues to allow busing issues to set school start times, when it should be the other way around: Set start times that benefit students and then create a busing schedule. It’s not easy, but other districts have pulled it off. Tampa Bay Times. Florida is good at holding public educators to a standard, and I believe they can and should be a second set of eyes to identify young people in need of help. But maybe it’s worth all of us remembering that parents, guardians and communities should be the first line of defense when it comes to mental health education. Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel. For too long, the educators at Beverly Shores Elementary School have been struggling on their own. Now, they know that Leesburg cares, that there’s a partnership to be had. That adds up to a real community. It might even result in some success. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Renee Blynt’s 2nd-grade class at Trinity Elementary School in Pasco County wins the grand prize in the 2018-2019 National Book Challenge hosted by Studentreasures Publishing. The class earned $5,000 for its school with its book, Trailblazers and World Changers — A Book of Biographies. Gradebook. More than 100 students in the Duval County School District’s summer information technology intern program have been updating 80,000 district laptops so they’re ready for use when schools resume Aug. 13. Florida Times-Union. Almost 400 Polk County 1st-graders and kindergarten students get help with their reading skills and more at Camp READY!, a summer school camp staged by the Learning Resource Center. Lakeland Ledger.

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