Armed teachers, mental services funding, cancer lessons, transcript delays and more

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Arming teachers: The director of the state’s Office of Safe Schools tells the Senate Education Committee that 11 school districts have asked for the option of arming teachers, though he doesn’t know how many of them have followed through with implementation. Damien Kelly says 1,084 school guardians have been assigned to schools, but he doesn’t know how many are teachers. “That’s not data that we ask (districts),” Kelly said. “We don’t ask for any identifying information at all.” He later said he could get the information if he’s asked to. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that just seven of the state’s 67 school districts have approved the arming of teachers in classrooms or would consider doing so. The committee members were also told that the state plans to ask the Legislature for $100 million in per-student funding for mental health services, which is $25 million more than last year. And a key Republican lawmaker says in another committee meeting that it makes sense to counter mass shootings at schools and elsewhere with better gun background checks. Florida Politics. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

Medical education bill: A bill is filed in the Florida Senate that would require students in public high schools to be taught about breast and prostate cancer. State Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, wants to add information about the characteristics and prevention of breast and prostate cancer to the health curriculum that already includes mandates for students to be taught about such things as the development of the Declaration of Independence, state history and the conservation of natural resources. Florida Politics. WZVN.

Transcript delays: High school transcripts are currently not available in the Orange County School District, and some students and their parents worry they won’t be in time to include in college applications. The district is transferring the material to a new system, causing delays in meeting the requests for transcripts. District officials acknowledged the problem, say they’re working to resolve it and are suggesting students write a letter of explanation to the colleges they’re trying to get into. WKMG.

Lawsuit over sales tax hike: A group of Duval County residents have filed a suit against the city of Jacksonville for blocking the school board’s bid to ask voters to approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax to raise money to replace and repair schools. The city council voted 14-5 in August against the board’s request to place the measure on a ballot. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Contract negotiations: Brevard County’s teachers union is asking for raises of $2,300 for teachers rated “highly effective” on evaluations and $1,725 for “effective” ones, as well as a recurring $2,000 supplement for all teachers once they’ve worked 12 years. The union made the request in the first of three scheduled negotiation days with the district. The board meets this morning to consider the request, and the second public negotiating session is tonight. Florida Today.

Charter fights takeover: A Broward County charter school is appealing its takeover by the school board. The Championship Academy of Distinction at Davie filed the challenge with the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings. The Broward board terminated the school’s contract and assumed control, citing the school’s violation of state law by not having an armed security guard on the first two days of school. News Service of Florida.

School grade appeals: Three of four Pasco County schools that challenged the state’s assignment of an “incomplete” grade have won their appeals. Mittye P. Locke Elementary received a C, down from a B last year, Gulf High got a C for the fourth straight year and the Pasco eSchool received an A for the third year in a row. The state Department of Education denied Pasco High’s appeal, saying because the school didn’t have 95 percent of its students tested, the results weren’t considered representative of its progress. Gradebook.

School board cleared: Marion County’s state attorney says there’s no evidence that the school board met in private during a meeting break recently, as Superintendent Heidi Maier alleged in a complaint. Maier filed the complaint about a week after the board began an investigation into her conduct based on a whistleblower’s allegations that the district is out of compliance with state safety regulations and that Maier’s management style is tyrannical and demeaning. Ocala Star-Banner.

Medical marijuana in schools: The Brevard County School Board votes unanimously to allow students with a valid qualified patient identification card to use nonsmokeable medical marijuana on campus. The drug must be administered by a state-registered caregiver and cannot be kept on campus. WKMG.

Classroom staffing: The Marion County School Board will discuss classroom staffing after board member Nancy Thrower says the district’s reduction in the number of paraprofessionals could have an impact on student achievement, especially in kindergarten and 1st grades. Thrower also says administrators are not being paid for the extra hour of reading the state requires at eight schools that are among Florida’s 300 lowest-rated elementary schools. Ocala Star-Banner.

School makeup days: Lake County students won’t have to make up the two days lost when Hurricane Dorian threatened the state and schools were closed, district officials have announced. “Lake County has enough instructional hours built into its daily schedule for the superintendent to authorize the waiver of the two days missed in anticipation of Hurricane Dorian. There will be no impact to scheduled holidays, student release days or planning days,” according to a district statement posted on Facebook. Daily Commercial.

School start times: This Q&A looks into the three options that the Orange County School District wants parents to consider for making high school start times later in the day. A series of community meetings starts this week. Orlando Sentinel.

Highest paid state officials: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is the highest-paid official in the state, according to the state budget and the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. He makes $276,000 a year, which is $55,600 more than the justices of the Supreme Court. News Service of Florida.

Student dies in crash: A Clay County student is dead and two others are seriously hurt when their car crashed into a tree shortly after school Monday. Sheriff’s deputies say the students may have been racing two other vehicles. Grief counselors will be available today at Oakleaf High School in Orange Park. Florida Times-Union.

Students arrested: A 13-year-old Lee County student is arrested and accused of making a threat to shoot up the Gateway Intermediate School in Fort Myers. WPEC. Miami Herald. A 15-year-old freshman at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg is arrested after shouting that he wanted to “shoot up the class,” according to police. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: The Horizons 2040 Project: PreK-12, a comprehensive study from the Florida Council of 100, concludes that raising teacher salaries is critical to the state’s future. Chris Corr, Tampa Bay Times. The Charlotte County School Board is fulfilling its promise to voters on how it would spend money raised through higher property taxes. Charlotte Sun. The Gardiner Scholarship for children with special needs is the best thing to happen to our son. I hope funding is increased so every family who needs it can experience the same blessing we have. Arely Burgos, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Nineteen high school seniors from Leon County are among the 16,000 U.S. students named as semifinalists for the 2020 National Merit Scholarship. Tallahassee Democrat. About 50 homeless Brevard County students from Jupiter, Mims and University Park elementary schools and the Clearlake VPK get new beds, courtesy of Ashley HomeStore’s “Hope to Dream” program. Florida Today. Bands from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Stranahan High schools are invited to perform in the 2021 London New Year’s Day parade. WSVN. The Altamonte Elementary School teacher whose Facebook post about a student being bullied for his homemade University of Tennessee t-shirt says she’s overwhelmed by the response, which includes the offer of a scholarship from UT for the student. Tampa Bay Times. Students at Arnold High School in Bay County are selling t-shirts to raise money to donate to victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Panama City News Herald.