New virtual school director, pre-K changes delayed, Parkland impact, testing and more

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New virtual school director: Louis Algaze, a teacher, principal and administrator in the Miami-Dade County School District for nearly 30 years, is chosen by the Florida Board of Education as the new executive director of the Florida Virtual School. The school, which serves about 200,000 students with almost 200 online courses, has struggled for the past year with a scandal involving questionable spending by its general counsel, the death of its director and other problems that led to the takeover by the state board. Orlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix. Associated Press.

Pre-K test changes on hold: The Florida Department of Education’s proposed change in the way pre-K providers are graded has been postponed to gather “more feedback from the community prior to completing the rulemaking process.” Providers have been graded on tests taken by students during their first month in kindergarten. The new rule would have also considered learning gains made by students who improve in three of four tests administered at the beginning and end of school years. About 41 percent of pre-K students aren’t ready for kindergarten, according to a state report, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered DOE to make improvements. Politico Florida.

Florida student test scores: More school districts from around the state are reporting how their students did on the Florida Standards Assessments tests. Among the notable results: Test scores are down for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, scene of the 2018 shootings that killed 17. Sun Sentinel. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. Lakeland Ledger. Ocala Star-Banner. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Panama City News Herald. WJHG. Positively Osceola. Fort Myers News-Press. WUSF. TCPalm. TCPalm. TCPalm.

School shooting impact: The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has lost its state law enforcement accreditation for its handling of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the 2017 shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Gov. Ron DeSantis removed former sheriff Scott Israel earlier this year for the department’s performance during the Stoneman Douglas attack. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

District’s radio station: The Miami-Dade County School District is asking for bids from nonprofit organizations to manage WLRN, the district-owned public radio news station. The district and the station have had a tense relationship, and the district tried to exert more editorial control in 2017 that led to a backlash from WLRN employees who worried about their editorial independence. Miami Herald. WLRN.

School health insurance: The Marion County School Board agrees to continue paying health insurance premiums for district employees. But those in the free plan are being switched from a preferred provider organization (PPO) to a health management organization (HMO). Continuing with a free PPO would have cost the district $7.7 million more, while switching to the HMO saves about $2.6 million. Ocala Star-Banner.

Teacher honored: Jessica Rae Wood, an AP biology teacher at Key West High School, is named the Monroe County School District’s teacher of the year. The selection makes her eligible for consideration as Florida’s teacher of the year. Key West Citizen.

Charter schools: A new gymnasium with eight classrooms is nearing completion at the Burns Science and Technology Charter School in Volusia County. The charter school is expanding into 9th grade in the fall, and has a waiting list of 600 students. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Tardy report cards: Students in St. Johns County middle and high schools still haven’t received their report cards for the 2018-2019 school year. District officials say a delay in the release of test scores on the state’s standardized tests held up the report cards, and expect them to be issued this week. WJXT.

Back-to-school vaccinations: The Florida Department of Health is encouraging parents of students to make plans now so their children can be vaccinated before schools start in August. All students new to Florida schools must have documentation of vaccinations, and all incoming kindergarten students must have completed the recommended immunizations. Tallahassee Democrat.

Bus drivers get raise: Escambia County school bus drivers are getting a raise from $11.52 an hour to $12.16. School officials hope the change will help them recruit and retain drivers. WEAR.

No investigation of coach: The Florida Department of Education’s Office of Professional Practices Services has decided not to pursue an investigation of the former Sarasota Booker High School football coach. Dumaka Atkins was suspended indefinitely by the Sarasota County School District after allegations were made last spring that he falsified grades. He now works at the Suncoast School for Innovative Studies. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School custodian arrested: A custodian at Tampa Catholic High School has been arrested and accused of sexual battery on a teenager in a private home. Herbert Jones, 31, has been placed on on administrative leave by the Diocese of St. Petersburg. WFLA. WTSP. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Volusia County and Florida school officials need to get to the bottom of the “placebo tests” debacle at Mainland High School, even if there is no good way to make things right. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Lake County School District is wisely trying to prevent school violence with in-house suspensions so students can still be working on their lessons and get the academic help they need. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. The Collier County School District’s report on the problems at Mason Classical Academy raises serious concerns and deserves serious action. Naples Daily News. Tiny Lafayette County is the No. 1 district in Florida for middle school algebra 1 this year, proving that socioeconomic challenges don’t doom a district to poor math performance. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. If State Sen. Keith Perry or any of our legislators in Tallahassee actually listened to, genuinely considered and implemented the suggestions for which educators have implored over the last several years, he would be acutely aware of the challenges wrought by the ed reform movement initiated two decades ago. But he doesn’t, and they don’t. Ryan Haczynski, Gainesville Sun.