Charters may arm staff, surveillance videos, active-shooter training and more

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Security in schools: Some Palm Beach County charter schools are considering arming teachers or other school employees because they say they can’t afford to pay for a law enforcement officer or school guardian to protect schools. Just a handful of the county’s 51 charter schools are considering the guardian program, says deputy superintendent Keith Oswald. Palm Beach Post. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says he supports having teachers with guns in classrooms, and predicts that all schools in Florida will have armed teachers within 10 years. WKMG. The Pasco County School District is spending $840,000 on surveillance cameras for schools, and the school board is being asked to approve a policy saying the video is to be used solely for law enforcement purposes. Gradebook. If Scott Israel is reinstated as Broward’s sheriff, as a Senate special master has recommended, he’ll be eligible for nearly $150,000 in back pay. He was suspended for his department’s failures during the 2018 Parkland school shooting. Sun Sentinel. The Lafayette County School District uses a $100,000 grant from the state to create a single point of access at Lafayette High School. Suwannee Democrat.

Active-shooter training: An 8-minute video is now being shown to Broward County school employees as a way to satisfy the state-required active-shooter training by the Oct. 1 deadline. Some teachers are unhappy that the training is being presented by administrators instead of law enforcement professionals. “What’s being rolled out is the exact opposite of what we wanted,” said teachers union president Anna Fusco. “We said this is not the place of principals to roll it out, and that’s exactly what’s happening.” Sun Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: Orange County school officials have rejected the latest contract proposal from the district’s teachers union, saying they can’t afford it. “We have no interest in your proposal,” said district representative Jim Preusser. That proposal called for raises of up to $3,000 with no change in insurance costs. The district is offering raises of $1,625 or $2,025, depending on teacher evaluations, and $1,250 bonuses, and increases in the amount some workers pay for insurance. Orlando Sentinel.

Early-learning formula: State accountability officials have been looking for ways to make the early-education formula more equitable, and are expected to issue their report to the Legislature next month. How the formula was established is a mystery, and efforts to change it have gotten nowhere in the Legislature the past two years. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. State officials say improving early education will be a priority in the next legislative session. Lindsay Carson, the CEO of the Pinellas County Early Learning Coalition, talks in a podcast about what’s needed to better prepare preschoolers for kindergarten. Gradebook.

Lapse in licensing: More than a dozen south Florida teachers still have their teaching licenses months and even years after being arrested or convicted of sexual misconduct, according to police and school records. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says the state will move as quickly as possible to revoke the certificates of teachers who are a danger to students, but the process the district and state have to take to revoke a teacher’s license can take years. WTVJ.

College readiness: Nine years ago, the Osceola County School District ranked 61st among the state’s 67 districts for the percentage of students attending college, at 40 percent. District officials responded with an initiative in which local college students served as “ambassadors” to high schools to talk about the benefits of getting a diploma. By 2017, the percentage of college-going graduates rose to 54 percent and the county is now 24th in the state. Orlando Sentinel.

School courses: All public high schools in Alachua County are now offering an elective course on African history. Santa Fe High was the last to add the class, which the district created to improve racial equity and teach students about other cultures. WUFT.

Teachers seeking office: At least four public school teachers in Hillsborough County have filed to run for state legislative seats in 2020. The four, all Democrats, say they want to help boost support for public education. “For too long, non-educator politicians have been ignoring the voices of educators,” says National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García. “Over the past two years, thousands of educators have stood up to say enough.” Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher bonuses: Teachers at 37 Brevard County schools are eligible for retention bonuses of up to $2,500 from the state’s Best and Brightest Scholarship Program. Brevard Times.

School custodian honored: A Marion County School District custodian is one of 12 U.S. finalists for the “Rock Star Custodian” award given by the Academy of Cleaning Excellence. Connie Smith, head custodian at Liberty Middle School, has worked for the district 23 years. Ocala Star-Banner.

School properties: The Global Outreach Charter Academy has purchased the Impact Church and Impact Christian Academy in Jacksonville for $6.1 million. Global Outreach plans to renovate the sanctuary and place up to 1,100 3rd- through 8th-grade students there. Florida Times-Union. The owner of the historic Villa Woodbine in Coconut Grove wants to transform it into the Woodbine School of the Sacred Heart by renovating the existing structure and adding two buildings in the same architectural style. Miami Herald. Work has begun on a new K-8 school in Navarre, in the Santa Rosa County School District. It’s expected to open next fall. Pensacola News Journal.

Teacher fired over past: A science teacher at an Orange County charter school has been fired when it was discovered he left a previous job after being implicated in a prostitution scandal. Christopher Dalland, who was hired last summer, was a 7th-grade science teacher at Cornerstone Charter Academy. School officials say he was fired for not disclosing “pertinent information” on his employment application. Orlando Sentinel.

Administrator resigns: An assistant principal at Gulf Breeze High School in Santa Rosa County who was under investigation for reportedly changing her daughter’s grades to boost her class standing has resigned. Tori Baker’s resignation was accepted by the school board, which was scheduled to vote on her firing at its next meeting. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Educators removed: A Palm Beach County teacher has been taken out of the classroom for giving students a quiz that included an answer identifying President Donald Trump as the 45th president, a Republican, real estate businessman and “idiot.” Watson B. Duncan Middle School principal Phillip D’Amico apologized to parents in a letter that called the unidentified teacher’s actions “inappropriate.” Palm Beach Post. Dana Vignale, the new head of the Miami Country Day School’s upper school, has been placed on administrative leave for allegedly making racist remarks to students. School officials say Vignale was trying to “maintain order” in the lunch line. What she said was not disclosed. Miami Herald.

Security guard arrested: A Broward County school security specialist has been arrested and accused of punching a high school student during a fight at a basketball game. Bennet Lee Wyche, 43, is charged with battery for allegedly hitting a female basketball player. District officials say Wyche had been reassigned from his job at Lauderdale Lakes Middle School before he was arrested. WPLG.

School bus aide convicted: A former Polk County school bus aide has been convicted of abusing a special needs student in 2017. Brenda Nelson pulled the student’s hair, hit her on the head and sat on her. She could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. WFLA.

Students arrested: A 12-year-old student at Cypress Creek Middle School in Pasco County was arrested this week and accused of threatening to shoot his teachers and others at the school. Orlando Sentinel. A 12-year-old student at Tarpon Springs Middle School in Pinellas County is arrested after he was overheard talking about bringing a semi-automatic rifle to school and shooting five classmates. He told police it was a joke. Tampa Bay Times. A student was arrested for allegedly making threats against Edgewood Junior/Senior High in Brevard County, according to sheriff’s deputies. Florida Today.

School search: Franklin County school officials asked sheriff’s deputies to search for weapons in the lockers of middle and high school students this week. None were found, but deputies did come across plenty of vapes, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and over-the-counter medications. Students who had the prohibited items will be disciplined. Apalachicola Times.

Opinions on schools: School districts in Florida are facing difficulties recruiting and holding onto teachers. So it’s reassuring to hear the governor talking not only about the state’s screwy bonus program, but also about significantly raising teacher pay overall. Mark Lane, Daytona Beach News-Journal. Student vaccinations are vital to defend children from diseases, and to create a safe and healthy environment for everyone around. Debbie Sawa-Szostak, TCPalm. The Florida Legislature should repeal the law that requires police in schools, and instead, require that all schools have counselors and social workers — that is, people who are actually trained to deal appropriately with children. Stan Van Gundy, Anquan Boldin and Quentin Richardson, Orlando Sentinel. It shouldn’t be a felony every time a 6-year-old kid has a meltdown in school. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Florida should establish an advisory council on English learner issues to identify solutions to the issues on English learner education that continue to plague the state. Maria Coady, Gainesville Sun. Pine View, Sarasota County’s gifted public school, wants to diversify its student body. It won’t be easy with its rigid transportation schedule. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Myths have been shattered in the 20 years since the first scholarship program for K-12 students was launched in Florida. Patrick R. Gibbons, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Four Polk County students are among the 16,000 U.S. semifinalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. Lakeland Ledger. Two University of North Florida professors have received a $290,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help train high school teachers on ways to improve computer science lessons. Florida Times-Union. Students from Braden River High School in Manatee County are helping students at G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School with their reading through Skype, the online video application. Bradenton Herald.

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