Tweaking school guardian law, districts’ budgets, 20-year education plan and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Security in schools: Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, wants the Legislature to tweak the school safety law to clarify how school guardians should be trained. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office recently had to retrain guardians for the school district’s charter schools because the sheriff said the training provided by a private company was inadequate. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chaired the commission that investigated the Parkland school shooting, says he wants the law amended to require sheriffs to provide the training. The legislative session begins Jan. 14. News Service of Florida. The Clay County School Board postpones a decision on putting district police officers in charter schools while issues of jurisdiction and insurance are worked out. Clay Today. The Wakulla County School District’s insurer is still trying to decide if it will pay to release the district’s data, which have been frozen by a hacker. Students’ information is apparently safe, but the district can’t use the software that manages the lunch payment system, school bus rider identification, emails and the library. WJXT.

District budgets: The Palm Beach County School Board approves a $3.5 billion budget, which is about 13 percent higher than last year’s. Most of the increase is attributed to a property tax hike approved by voters last November, which will go for higher teacher salaries, better security in schools, improved mental health services for students and more. Palm Beach Post. The Clay County School Board adopts a final budget of almost $449 million that includes a reserve fund of 4.75 percent. The state-required minimum is 3 percent. Clay Today. Hernando County School Board members approve a final budget of almost $310 million, which is an increase of about $8.6 million over last year. Gradebook. The Gulf County School Board approves a budget of about $25.7 million. Port St. Joe Star.

Plans for education: The nonprofit business group Florida Council of 100 releases its vision for the next 20 years in K-12 education. The plan calls for accountability, choice, personalized learning, merit rewards, decisions driven by data, higher teacher salaries, better early education and expanding options for career and technical education. “As business leaders, we know that education is the building block of prosperity,’’ said John Kirtley, chairman of the council’s K-12 Education Committee and founder of Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog. “We want to ensure every student in Florida gets the education that prepares them for success for years to come.’’ Gradebook. Florida Daily. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents and the nonprofit Impact Florida are collaborating on a drive to share educational best practices with school districts. The project will start in Collier, Miami-Dade, Osceola, Palm Beach and Pasco. Leaders from those districts will travel to innovative districts, then share what they’ve discovered. Florida Politics.

Batman to the rescue: A superhero has come to the rescue of a Crystal River woman who said she got no help from the preschool where her 3-year-old daughter was bullied and hit. Erica Calculli pleaded for help on social media, and Batman responded and offered to walk her daughter Lydia to school. Batman is Jack Asbury III, a local Caped Crusader impersonator and paramedic. “I am so grateful for this man,” Calculli wrote on Facebook. “Lydia hasn’t stopped talking about Batman and she definitely got some fans at day-care this week.” Tampa Bay Times.

Contract negotiations: The Orange County School District and its teachers will resume negotiations next week. Last month, teachers rejected an offer from the district that included raises up to $2,000 for some teachers and a $500 bonus, but also steep increases in family insurance coverage. Union president Wendy Doromal said teachers want “decent pay” and “affordable benefits,” not bonuses. Orlando Sentinel.

Rural charter successes: Crossroad Academy Charter School in Quincy is cited in a study as one of four examples of a rural charter school that outperforms its local district and statewide averages in reading and math. The authors say all four have founders and other leaders with deep community ties, fill gaps in the local educational options, and have maintained consistent leadership. Education Next.

Charter expansion: A Texas charter school company’s plans to expand into the Tampa Bay area have gotten a boost with a $5 million gift from the Vinik Family Foundation. IDEA Public Schools plans to open schools in Hillsborough, Polk and Pinellas counties by 2021. redefinED.

After Dorian: South Florida school districts have announced what they plan to do to help students from the Bahamas who are homeless because of Hurricane Dorian. Miami-Dade is raising money and will host a benefit concert, Broward is opening a welcome center for Bahamas students and families, and Palm Beach has begun enrolling students who left the islands. WFOR. CNN. Collier County school Superintendent Kamela Patton says the district will not have to make up the day lost when Hurricane Dorian threatened the state. The district will meet the state-required number of instructional hours even with the missed day. Naples Daily News.

Air-conditioning problems: At least six schools in Brevard County are having issues with their air-conditioning systems. Several were attributed to broken or aging equipment. District officials say it could be weeks or even months before the problems are fixed, and are asking the community for patience. “With nearly 100 facilities and more than 4,000 classrooms, it is not uncommon to have some air conditioning issues that arise,” district officials said in a news release. “Please know our teams are working tirelessly to resolve these issues.” Florida Today.

Corcoran touts competition: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran credits an increase in accountability standards for the improvement in Florida’s schools. Speaking to a Sarasota audience, Corcoran said, “Guess what happens when you put competition in an education world? Every single … school gets better. Competition works; it’s a fact.” The state recently was ranked fourth in the United States for K-12 achievement in Education Week’s Quality Counts report. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Corcoran also explained why he decided to intervene in the ongoing dispute between the Manatee County School District and the financially struggling Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school. Bradenton Herald.

Superintendent searches: Monroe County School District administrator Theresa Axford will be the interim superintendent for up to two years after current Superintendent Mark Porter retires at the end of this school year. Key West Citizen. Interim Indian River County Superintendent Susan Moxley is noncommittal about whether she will apply for the permanent job. Moxley, who had been superintendent in Lake County before retiring, was appointed in May after Mark Rendell resigned. TCPalm.

State motto posting: Manatee County school officials say they have completed the state-required posting of the words “In God We Trust” by printing the official state seal and hanging it in all schools. The total cost was $300. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher leave questioned: Pasco County School Board members want district officials to reconsider a policy that holds a teacher’s job at a school open for two years if she or he takes a leave to work at a charter school. The policy is based on a state law, and some principals complain that it’s unfair to students. Board member Colleen Beaudoin suggests that perhaps the policy could be modified to hold a teacher’s job within the district but with no guarantee that it be the specific one the teacher has left. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Allyce Heflin is named budget director for the Florida Department of Education Office of Early Learning. She had been a lobbyist for the Southern Strategy Group. Florida Politics.

School board elections: Sally Harris, who lost her Hillsborough County School Board seat to Stacy Hahn last year, says she will challenge board member Lynn Gray for an at-large seat next year. Also in the race is Josephine Amato. Gradebook.

Bus driver honored: Citrus County school bus driver Becky Schaffer is honored by the school board for saving a student from being hit by a truck April 18. Schaffer shouted a warning to a high school student who was exiting her bus, and he jumped back onto the bus to get out of the way. Citrus County Chronicle.

Ex-teacher charged: A former Polk County teacher has been charged with sending threatening letters with white powder to three of the schools where she used to work. Maria Lauro, 65, faces six counts of mailing threatening communications and transmitting false information and hoaxes. WFLA.

School threats: A 14-year-old Manatee County student has been suspended after drawing pictures and writing about blowing up a school. The boy, who attended Braden River High School, won’t be criminally charged. Bradenton Herald. Some Volusia County parents complaint that they had to go to social media to get information about two school threats this week. District officials say their first priority is to make sure students are safe. “We try to (contact parents) quicker than students,” said Greg Akin, the district’s chief operating officer. “It’s pretty tough to do.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. Parents in Hernando County also are shaken by several incidents in the past few weeks. Tampa Bay Times.

Student hit by vehicle: A student riding a skateboard to Timber Creek High School in Orange County on Wednesday was hit by a vehicle and taken to a hospital for treatment. Troopers say the injuries are minor, and the driver will be cited for failure to yield at a crosswalk. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The alternative to tests in English for students who do not know English is common sense. Provide English language-learners with tests in their own language so they can demonstrate what they know. Andres Ramirez, Palm Beach Post. It is in Brevard County’s self-interest to have our teachers paid at or above the state average. Fran Baer, Florida Today. Only 1 percent of the student body at Pine View, Sarasota County’s public school for gifted students, is black. But it struggles to get minority students interested in attending a school where there are few minority students. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Thirty-four high school seniors from Alachua County and 24 from Brevard County are among the 16,000 U.S. students named as semifinalists for the 2020 National Merit Scholarship. Gainesville Sun. Florida Today. Emanne Beasha, a 10-year-old student from North Port in Sarasota County, advances to the finals on the TV talent show America’s Got Talent. Tuesday, she sang (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, a 1991 song by Bryan Adams.  Charlotte Sun.

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