Teacher pay, mental health classes, school plans, superintendent resigns and more

Jim Booth

Teacher pay: Highly rated Florida teachers will be eligible for bonuses of up to $15,000 if they agree to work in schools that have received grades of D or F from the state, Florida Department of Education officials have announced. The money would come from a $16 million federal grant the state receives annually to help struggling schools. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told the Board of Education on Wednesday that the bonuses and the Legislature’s boost of per-student funding are “just the beginning” of the state’s move to raise teacher salaries. He was responding to board member Michael Olenick’s request that the state provide adequate money for salaries instead of just focusing on bonuses. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. WJAX.

Mental health classes: Florida students soon will be required to take at least five hours of mental health instruction. The proposal was approved Wednesday by the Florida Board of Education, and will be included in the curriculum for grades 6-12. No start date was specified. Districts will be able to choose the required classes from such topics as cyberbullying, suicide prevention and effects of substance abuse. Education Commissioner Corcoran credited first lady Casey DeSantis for the initiative. She’s made an expansion of mental health services for students a priority. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. Bay County school officials outline their plans for expanding mental health services for students. Panama City News Herald.

Turnaround plans approved: The Florida Board of Education has approved the Duval County School District’s plan to close and repurpose two struggling schools. Lake Forest Elementary’s 300 students will be moved to nearby North Shore Elementary, and the school will become a community resource and early learning center. Northwestern Middle School will be converted into an elementary school. The district will also start a program to hire highly rated retired teachers to mentor new teachers. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. The Hillsborough County School District is ordered by the state to hire an outside operator for four struggling schools. Two others are being added to the two schools already operated by Phalen Leadership Academies, a charter company out of Indiana. Gradebook.

More from BOE: Florida school district employees who drive students will be required to have CPR and first aid training, the Florida Board of Education has decided. The move was prompted by the 2018 death of a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy who choked while on her Polk County school bus and died before paramedics could help her. Lakeland Ledger. WFTS. Louis Algaze, the chief executive officer and president of the Florida Virtual School, will be paid $175,000 a year. The BOE, which now oversees the online school, also canceled two contracts FLVS had with lobbying companies. Orlando Sentinel. School choice advocates and opponents rallied outside the BOE meeting. Lakeland Ledger. redefinED. WUSF.

Superintendents’ jobs: Mary Beth Jackson, the superintendent of the Okaloosa County School District who was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis after two grand juries criticized her actions, was reinstated Wednesday and then promptly resigned. A spokesperson for the governor said the move was made “in order to formally accept her resignation.” DeSantis then removed the interim tag from Superintendent Marcus Chambers’ title. Northwest Florida Daily News. News Service of Florida. WEAR. Pinellas County Superintendent Michael Grego says he hasn’t thought about applying for the Hillsborough County job, which will open when Jeff Eakins retires June 30, 2020, but that hasn’t stopped the rumors that he will. Tampa Bay Times.

Principal targeted: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is urging the Manatee County School District to remove Eddie Hundley as principal of the financially struggling Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school. In May, Hundley had his educator license revoked for five years by the state after giving job recommendations for a teacher who was under investigation for sexual misconduct. “It gives me great concern to know that Eddie Hundley, an individual whose Florida educator’s certificate has been revoked for issues related to the safety of students, continues to serve in an administrative capacity at Lincoln Memorial Academy,” Corcoran wrote in a letter to the district. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB.

Arming teachers: Pasco County School Board members have opposed arming teachers in schools, and now they’re going to vote on a proposal that would commit their opposition into district policy. An update to Policy 8407, which the board will consider Tuesday, would clarify responsibilities to state that only “a district employee who is hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian is authorized to serve in that capacity.” Gradebook.

Reduced classtime: Hernando County School Board members will reconsider a district policy that allows some high school seniors who are on track for graduation to attend classes for only part of a school day. The district gets only partial funding from the state for students who get less than 900 hours of instruction a year. Tampa Bay Times.

Education podcasts: Hillsborough County School District assistant superintendent Tricia McManus and Jennings Middle School math team leader April Cobb talk about the initiatives the district has taken to improve struggling schools. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Delshauna Jackson has been appointed principal at Bond Elementary School in Tallahassee. She had led the Havana Magnet School in Gadsden County. Tallahassee Democrat.

School, district grades: More reports and analysis from districts and schools about grades issued from the state last week. Gulf. Clay. Hendry. Escambia, Walton, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa.

Transportation answers: Polk County school officials are opening a call center to answer parents’ questions about busing issues. The temporary center will be open July 29 through Aug. 23. Lakeland Ledger.

Work qualifications: The Bay County School District is struggling to fill jobs for bus drivers, bus aides and maintenance staff, and will consider waiving the requirement that applicants have a high school diploma. “Here’s the issue — we cannot find employees to mow grass. We can’t find employees for our maintenance jobs,” said Superintendent Bill Husfelt. “We want to say we prefer a high school diploma but obviously, to be very candid with you, if somebody’s got the skill set we need to be able to hire them.” Panama City News Herald.

Employees arrested: A Duval County teacher has been arrested on DUI charges after he drove his SUV into a tree, injuring a minor who was a passenger. Thomas Raymond Giaimo, 32, is a teacher at Kernan Middle School. Florida Times-Union. A former bookkeeper at three Duval County schools has been arrested and accused of stealing more than $4,000 from the schools. Tamika Martinez-Abihai was working at Westview K-8 when she was fired for job abandonment. WJAX.

Teacher suspension: A Broward County teacher who is accused of giving unwanted “full frontal” hugs could be suspended for 10 days. Karleef Jamel Kebreau, a math teacher at Miramar High, was originally suspended for one day, but school board members considered the punishment too light and told Superintendent Robert Runcie to reconsider. Sun Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The taxpayer cost of Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie’s pay, perks, pension and travel are excessive, and his legislative activism raises even more questions about the appropriateness of these public expenditures. It’s time to bring the transparency revolution – and some accountability – to the Sunshine State. Adam Andrzejewski, Forbes. If the Jacksonville City Council and the Duval County School Board need to meet for an entire day to thrash out the issues — and to answer the seemingly inexhaustible list of questions that some City Council members apparently have  about the proposed sales tax hike to replace and repair schools — then they should do it. And they should do so in time for a sales tax vote to take place this year. Florida Times-Union. There’s a crisis at the Oak Park school for students were mental disabilities, and it calls for an urgent response from Sarasota County School District officials. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Shoshana Ravede, a 13-year-old nonverbal student at Pathways Elementary School in Volusia County, is one of just seven recipients of an international Live Justice Award for being an inspiration to the members of the school’s Girls on the Run club. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Twenty-three students from Kingsford Elementary School in Mulberry who scored at the 5 level on one or more Florida Standards Assessment tests are surprised with congratulatory signs in their yards from school teachers. Lakeland Ledger.

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