District investigations: A whistleblower’s complaint against Marion County Superintendent Heidi Maier has prompted two investigations. The school board hired an Orlando law to firm to look into the complaint against Maier, made by a district emergency management coordinator who said he had been assigned too many duties, that the district wasn’t complying with school security regulations and that Maier had created a hostile work environment. Maier then filed a complaint with State Attorney Brad King, saying the board violated the Sunshine Law by meeting in secret and deciding not to let her complete her administrative briefing on Aug. 8. Ocala Star-Banner. Manatee County school officials say they’ll modernize and improve their home-schooling records after an internal audit revealed an ongoing lack of oversight. Bradenton Herald.
Electing a superintendent: At a time when several Florida schools districts are shifting to appointed superintendents or considering it, a movement has started in Duval County to make the job an elected one. State Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, who planned to file a bill to make Duval County School Board members appointed by the Jacksonville mayor, says he’s changed his mind and now is pushing for the superintendent’s job to be an elected one instead of appointed. The Legislature would have to agree to put that initiative on the ballot. Forty-one of the state’s 67 districts have elected superintendents, but nearly all the largest districts appoint their top leader. Florida Times-Union. WJCT. Florida Politics. WJXT.
Schools and Dorian: Students in Pinellas and Polk counties will not have to make up the time they missed when Hurricane Dorian threatened the state, district officials have announced. Polk students missed two days of school and Pinellas one. Even with the missed time, both districts have enough extra hours to meet the state minimum. Orange and Seminole district students will make up the two days they missed. Orange will be in session Oct. 18 and Nov. 25, while Seminole students will make up the time Oct. 17 and 18. Florida Politics. WDBO. Lakeland Ledger. Florida Prep says it will accept students from the Bahamas who were displaced by the hurricane. So far, five are expected. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily.
School demographics: Five years after minorities first made up the majority of students in U.S. and state public schools, the percentage of white students has fallen below 40 percent in Florida and seven other states, according to a review of Florida Department of Education data. Whites make up 37.4 percent of the student population, Hispanics 33 percent and blacks 21.9 percent. Thirty-nine of Florida’s 67 districts still have enrollments of 50 percent or higher white students, and in seven counties the percentages are 80 percent or higher. Florida Phoenix.
School enrollment: Both Broward’s and Miami-Dade’s school districts have fewer students enrolled this year than last. Broward’s enrollment is down more than 2,000 to about 222,700, and Miami-Dade’s is down more than 4,000 to 345,368. Officials attribute the decline to fewer people with children moving into the counties, as well as the alternatives parents have, such as charter schools, virtual school, home-schooling and state vouchers to attend private schools. Sun Sentinel.
District budgets: School boards in Orange and Seminole counties will vote Tuesday on budgets that would increase spending and boost teacher pay. Orange’s proposed budget is about $4.4 billion; Seminole’s is more than $1 billion. Members of both boards criticize the Legislature for limiting the amounts of money they can raise through property taxes. Orlando Sentinel.
Turnaround schools: Leon County school officials are asking the state for a $680,327 grant from the state to help fund the turnaround plans for Bond, Oak Ridge and Pineview elementary schools. Bond has gotten D grades from the state the past two years, while Oak Ridge has received D-D-D-C in the past four years and Pineview has gotten D-C-F-C Tallahassee Reports. Oak Ridge officials describe the work that went into turning a D school grade into a C. Tallahassee Democrat. Pineview officials talk about turning the F school into a C school, and what it will take to maintain the progress. Tallahassee Democrat.
New school building: A new 20-classroom building was dedicated last week at Rickards High School in Tallahassee. It’s phase 2 in the renovation at the school, and another 22-classroom building should be completed next year. Leon County district officials say the changes are part of a plan to bring Rickards’ facilities up to the same levels as other high schools. Tallahassee Democrat.
Three-year degrees: More U.S. universities, including Florida State, are now offering to help students get through school in three years. FSU’s “Degree in Three” program pushes the potential savings of about $20,000. Paul Weinstein Jr., senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, director of the master’s program in public management at Johns Hopkins University and author of a report on the trend, call it “disheartening” because many of the programs “are merely four-year programs squeezed into a three-year window” instead of eliminating unnecessary electives. Florida Phoenix.
Security firm suing: The security company that lost its contract to train guards for Palm Beach County charter schools is suing the school board for breach of contract. The board terminated its contract with Invictus Security Services after the sheriff refused to certify the armed guards it trained, calling the instruction they received inadequate. WPTV.
Superintendent search: Volusia County teachers say they are being ignored in the school board’s search for a new superintendent to replace the interim, Tim Egnor. No teachers are on the 25-person search advisory committee. School board attorney Ted Doran has said it would be a conflict of interest for teachers to have a say in picking their boss. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Personnel moves: A Palm Beach County principal who was demoted last summer will get a three-year contract as a principal, with a pay raise, as part of a settlement in a suit that claimed she was demoted as retaliation for raising concerns about student privacy and bias against Hispanic students. Patricia Trejo will become a “principal on assignment for Hispanic/Latino studies.” Palm Beach Post. Manny Joanos, the Leon County School District’s former director of transportation who was demoted after the district’s school bus problems during the first few days of school, has been named the food service coordinator in the student union at Lively Technical College. Tallahassee Democrat.
Twenty cases against teacher: A former Collier County elementary school teacher arrested in March now faces 23 counts of sexual abuse of students. Among the new charges against Hector Manley, who taught at Parkside Elementary School, are one count of lewd and lascivious molestation against a person younger than 12 and one count of capital sexual battery against a person younger than 12. Manley has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Naples Daily News.
Students arrested: A 17-year-old Lee County student was arrested last Thursday for having a loaded handgun on a school bus. The bus was taking students from Cypress Lake High School Center for the Arts when it was stopped by officers responding to a tip. WINK. WBBH. Fort Myers News-Press. Five Hernando High School students were arrested last week after one of them brought a gun to school and tried to sell it to three other students, who then stole it from him. All five boys were between the ages of 15 and 17. WFLA. Tampa Bay Times.
Students sickened at school: Nine students from a Cooper City charter school were treated at a hospital Friday after ingesting a marijuana-laced substance brought to school by one of the students. The Renaissance Charter School students, ages 10-12, ate the “candy” and became sick. No one was seriously injured. WFTV. Sun Sentinel. WPLG. Miami Herald. Associated Press.
Bus crash injures 2 students: Two students and the driver were injured when a bus from a Miami-Dade County private school collided with a vehicle and overturned. All three were in stable condition. Miami Herald.
Fire damages equipment: The East Ridge High School marching band’s season is in jeopardy after an accidental fire Thursday in a storage room where its instruments were kept. An assessment of the damage will be made today. Orlando Sentinel.
Opinions on schools: Florida’s educational policies seem intentionally designed to dumb down high school. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The Duval County School District sharing proceeds from a sales tax hike on a per-pupil basis with charter schools would undermine the responsibility to first fund the schools that need help the most: those in the historically African-American neighborhoods in northwest Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union. The Sarasota County School District’s handling of employee Cheraina Bonner’s sexual harassment claim has been a classic case of victim blaming. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Marion County teachers and students must have faith in reading, and schools and parents should expect nothing less than success. Stacie Newmones, Ocala Star-Banner. Elizabeth Warren’s heart was in the right place when she called for an open enrollment system for schools. As a practical matter, however, some important details like funding formulas and some tension in the system in the form of choice options are needed to make her view a reality. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.
Student enrichment: Edward Gelwasser, a senior at South Broward High School, is one of 15 county residents named to the committee that will oversee how the city of Hollywood spends $165 million in bond money. Sun Sentinel. An Altamonte Elementary School student who was bullied for pinning his hand-drawn University of Tennessee logo to a t-shirt for college colors day will have his artwork made into a t-shirt by the university’s marketing department. WVLT. KETK. CNN. Kadance Fredericksen, a 12-year-old Okaloosa County student, is named the city of Crestview’s citizen of the year for her volunteer work. Northwest Florida Daily News. More than 800 Lake County teachers have bought nearly 6,000 items for their classrooms through the online ClassWallet purchasing program, which simplifies the accounting process. Daily Commercial.