Placebo test punishment, 300 lowest-performing schools, bonuses and more

Jim Booth

Placebo test punishment: Two administrators at Mainland High School in Volusia County are reprimanded for deciding to give a “placebo” Advanced Placement exam to 336 students who thought they had a chance at earning college credit with passing marks. Principal Cheryl Salerno and former chief academic officer Teresa Marcks received letters in their personnel files that stated they acted unprofessionally or inappropriately and were guilty of violating professional conduct standards. Marcks was recently demoted to an assistant principal’s job and then retired. Salerno, who said she didn’t have the $60,000 it would have cost for all 414 freshmen enrolled in the course to take the exam, remains as principal at Mainland. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Lowest-performing schools: Hillsborough County has the most schools on this year’s state list of the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools, with 43. Duval has 33, Polk and Broward 24 each, Orange 21, Palm Beach 19, Pinellas 18, Miami-Dade 17, Escambia 12, and Marion and Manatee 11 each. Thirty-one counties had no schools on the list. The schools named are determined on a three-year average of the language arts performance and gains in the school grade models. WJAX. Florida Department of Education. Grades of several Manatee County schools improved enough to avoid the consequences of state intervention. Bradenton Herald. One Monroe County school received an incomplete grade, but all the rest were gives grades of A or B. Key West Citizen.

Teacher bonuses: Florida’s school districts have until Aug. 8 to submit their lists of black and Hispanic teachers who are rated highly effective but have not received bonuses from the state’s Best and Brightest scholarship program since it began in 2015. The state is settling a lawsuit alleging that the program discriminated by race because it required certain scores on ACT and SAT tests. Many veteran and minority teachers didn’t take the tests to qualify for college, and that criteria has now been eliminated. Gradebook.

Sales tax hike vote: Two Jacksonville City Council committees are expected to recommend today whether and when to put a proposed half-cent sales tax increase for Duval County schools on the ballot, but it appears Florida’s education commissioner is no supporter. When asked Monday if he backed the tax for replacing and repairing schools, Richard Corcoran said: “Every single resource that any local entity has should be going into the classroom. Quality teachers. That’s what’s going to change the outcomes for these students. I’ve been very vocal in my opposition to $2 billion to build new ‘Taj Mahals.’ That’s not a solution.” Superintendent Diana Greene pointed out that some of the schools were a century old and in need of massive repairs, and added: “We’re not looking at ‘Taj Mahal’ structures.” Florida Politics. WJAX.

Personnel moves: MaryEllen Elia, the superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District from 2005 to 2015, has submitted her resignation as New York State’s education commissioner. She said she’s stepping down to pursue another opportunity. Chalkbeat. WKBW. Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Clayton Wilcox, who was Pinellas County superintendent from 2004 to 2008, has been suspended as superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools by the district’s board of education. No reason was given. He’s been in the job since December 2016. Charlotte Observer. WSOC. Glennis Perez, the former principal at Spoto High School in Hillsborough County who was reassigned while the district investigated her work, has resigned. Gradebook. Jennifer Brown, the executive director of KIPP Jacksonville Charter Schools, is appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the board of Florida State College Jacksonville. Florida Politics.

Superintendent search: Flagler County School Board chair Janet McDonald says she favors a broad search for a superintendent to replace James Tager, who announced last week that he would retire when his contract ends June 30, 2020. McDonald said there could be internal candidates, but added, “I know we have some folks that are very broadly aware of the district and their needs both in depth and breadth, but I don’t know if that’s in their hearts to take that on.”  Flagler Live.

Mental health services: Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis, takes her campaign to increase mental health assistance to First Coast High School in Duval County. “The way I look at mental health and substance abuse is the same way I look at the environment,” said DeSantis, calling both society’s “life’s blood.” DeSantis, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Superintendent Diana Greene discussed the district’s plans to expand mental health services for students, and previewed a proposed state rule change that would require five hours of mental health training for students, faculty and staff. Florida Times-Union. WTLV. WPBF. WPTV. A new law extends the time that crime victims can get mental health care paid from a state compensation fund to three years, but it isn’t retroactive. That means the survivors of the Parkland school shooting are no longer eligible under the existing law. A group of health care professionals is petitioning for an extension. WLRN.

Gun training for teachers: Free gun training for teachers will be offered in Florida and 41 other states this weekend during the National Train a Teacher Day sponsored by the United States Concealed Carry Association and TASER. This year, Florida is allowing school districts to decide if they want to have teachers or other employees carry concealed weapons at schools. TCPalm.

New teacher training: More than 600 newly hired Hillsborough County School District teachers get a pep talk from retiring Superintendent Jeff Eakins on the first day of training. Eakins, who is retiring next summer, urged them to “focus on every student.” Gradebook. WFTS.

Home for new high school: The new charter high school in Destin now has a home. The group behind the opening of the school, Destin High School Inc., will pay the Destin United Methodist Church $12.9 million for its 8.34-acre parcel on Beach Drive. Backers of the school say it can repurpose the property’s existing eight buildings for the school, which they plan to open to 9th- and 10-graders in August 2020. The 11th grade would be added in 2021-2022 and the 12th grade in 2022-2023. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Mediation scheduled: A mediation meeting is scheduled Aug. 1 between Collier County school officials and representatives from the Mason Classical Academy charter school. The school board opted for mediation instead of revoking the school’s charter after a district report criticized the school for breach of charter contract, lack of financial oversight and Sunshine Law violations. Naples Daily News.

Coach returns after query: Branford High School’s head football coach, Tim Clark, has been reinstated after investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Suwannee County School District into an allegation of a violation of an undisclosed school policy. WCJB.

Opinions on schools: Some free advice for politicians and school boards: Freedom and education are inextricably linked. Ed J. Pozzuoli, Miami Herald. A high school principal’s statement that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened”  should serve as a wake-up call to the Jewish people and to the agencies around the world that are tasked with educating our children. Todd Cohn, Sun Sentinel.

Student enrichment: A Miami-based LGBTQ youth nonprofit, Pridelines, sponsors its 24th annual prom for high school students who choose not to attend their own schools’ traditional events. Miami Herald.

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