Suit filed over teacher bonuses, sales tax hike vote deferred, cybersecurity and more

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Suit over bonuses: A lawsuit over the state’s bonuses program has been filed by teachers against the Florida Department of Education. It alleges that the DOE wrongly deducted employer taxes from bonuses some teachers received under the state’s Best and Brightest program. The suit, filed in Leon County Circuit Court, claims the state owes more than 100,000 teachers between $25 million and $30 million for losses over the past two years. State education officials did not comment. The suit comes just as the state is trying to complete a settlement of another lawsuit brought by minority teachers who say they were wrongly denied bonuses because of a requirement of 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 since been eliminated. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. WFSU. WBBH.

Sales tax referendum: Two Jacksonville City Council committees have again delayed action on the Duval County School Board’s request to put a half-cent increase in the sales tax before voters Nov. 5. The district says it needs the 10-year increase to help finance an estimated $1.9 billion needed to replace and repair aging schools. Both the finance and rules committees deferred votes, with some council members saying they were worried about the city’s credit rating, the lack of detail on a timeline and the cost of a special election that would have very low voter turnout. Some council members say they could support a November 2020 vote, and school officials say the latest developments probably have closed the window on any possibility of getting the referendum on the Nov. 5 ballot. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. Florida Politics.

Cyberattack concerns: Cybersecurity experts say as schools in Florida and other states increasingly go digital, they become targets for criminals who demand a ransom to regain access to data, juvenile hackers who are just causing trouble and even foreign governments. Last September in the Florida Keys, for example, a malware attack was launched against the Monroe County School District, forcing it to go offline for several days. Associated Press.

Construction problems: Construction work at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale is halted after an inspector said the company doing the work has failed 24 inspections. It’s the second problem the Broward County School District has had recently with Gilbane Construction, a Rhode Island company. Last month, Gilbane’s contract for repairs at Northeast High in Oakland Park was canceled after a disagreement over costs. Sun Sentinel. The Broward district’s $800 million bond issue, approved by voters in 2014, has been plagued by delays. Here’s a timeline of the troubles. Sun Sentinel.

Mascot-naming process: Hillsborough County School Board members tentatively decide that if the district or any schools want to change their mascots, they will have to get the board’s approval. Earlier this year, district officials announced that mascots with Native American connotations at six schools would be changed. School board officials were unhappy because they got the brunt of the complaints. The proposed policy now goes to a public hearing before a final vote will be taken by the board. Gradebook.

Security in schools: The Marion County School Board Police Department has been officially designated as a law enforcement agency by the state. The label allows the six-person department to apply for security grants and Chief Dennis McFatten to receive law enforcement alerts from federal, state and local agencies. All 51 county schools will continue to be guarded by school resource officers from the sheriff’s office and the Ocala and Belleview police departments. Ocala Star-Banner.

CPR for school bus drivers: At its meeting today, the Florida Board of Education will consider requiring all school bus drivers and attendants to be trained in CPR and first aid. The push for the training came from the parents of Terissa Gautney, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy who choked while on her Polk County school bus in 2018 and died before paramedics could help her. WTVT. Several parent groups plan a rally outside the Board of Education meeting today in Lakeland to protest the state’s levels of spending on education and rules that public schools are required to follow. Orlando Sentinel.

Concerns about school: Parents are calling for changes at a Sarasota County school for severely disabled children after a series of violent incidents in which students and teachers have been injured and ongoing problems with school leaders. About two-dozen parents of Oak Park school students lobbied board members for new leadership at the school and against a series of new school policies that they believe puts their children at risk. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School, district grades: More reports and analysis from districts and schools about grades issued from the state last week. Escambia and Santa Rosa. Escambia. Lake. Jefferson. Suwannee. Delray Beach. Orange. Holmes. Lee.

Notable deaths: Pat Dooley, a teacher and former head football coach at Auburndale High School in Polk, dies of a heart attack while on vacation at an Ohio amusement park. He was 53. Lakeland Ledger.

Personnel moves: Neketa Watson, principal of Lehigh Acres Middle School in Lee County, was selected as principal of a high school that will be built in east Fort Myers. The school, which is being called High School MMM until it’s named, is expected to open in the fall of 2021. Fort Myers News-Press. Four appointments are announced by Hillsborough County school officials. R. LaMarr Buggs Jr., an assistant principal of Sulphur Springs K-8, has been named principal at Turner/Bartels K-8, and Nishira Mitchell, an assistant principal at King High, is chosen as principal of Adams Middle. Also, Rachel Runs-Brice will supervise Community Schools and Nikida Lockett will oversee Career, Technical and Adult Education. Gradebook.

District health care: The Bay County School Board signs an agreement with the Florida Department of Health-Bay County and PanCare of Florida Inc. to provide health services for students in schools. WJHG.

Help for homeless students: A faith-based social services organization is asking the Winter Haven City Commission to support a plan to address homelessness of students and others in Polk County. Today, Heart for Winter Haven will ask the city for $120,000 for the first year for financial assistance to families with students so they can stay in their homes, and create shelter space in churches for those who are evicted. Lakeland Ledger.

New school headquarters: The St. Lucie County School District says construction of the new headquarters is on schedule and the building is expected to open in mid-August. Construction on the three-story, $22.9 million building began less than a year ago in Port St. Lucie. TCPalm.

School start dates: Despite complaints from parents, the Palm Beach County School District will start the school year on Aug. 10 in 2020 and 2021. Families complained the early start would interrupt summer plans, but district officials said they wanted to create two 90-day semesters with the first ending early enough so students could take exams before the Christmas break, not after. Schools start Aug. 12 this year. Sun Sentinel.

What’s in a name? Pasco County school officials unwittingly ran into legal trouble when they decided to call their new summer camp Camp Quest. Turns out another camp in Virginia has been using that name, and it sent Pasco a cease and desist request. Local officials said it was too late to change the name this year, and both sides agreed to allow Pasco to use it this summer and change it for future years. Gradebook.

Teacher selected: Rick Nelson, a social studies teacher at Inverness Middle School in Citrus County, is one of 32 U.S. educators selected to attend one of two C-SPAN Educators’ Conferences next week in Washington, D.C. Teachers will get training on research and learn how to use teaching resources. Citrus County Chronicle.

Opinions on schools: A school system in which urban families have the power to access schools of all types should be a central goal of the education choice movement. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Two Manatee County students receive awards from the National Merit Scholarship Program. Bradenton Herald. Rising Citrus County high school seniors can learn about applying for college or career education schools, creating a resume, get interviewing tips and apply for scholarships, grants and other aid at the YMCA’s annual Summer Experience program. Citrus County Chronicle. Twenty-four Bay County high school students who didn’t meet the graduation requirements in May got their diplomas this week after completing a summer program. Panama City News Herald.

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