Black Caucus chooses choice, Senate votes on sheriff, principal’s firing and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Black Caucus and choice: Expanding choice in the public school system is one of the highest priorities of the Legislative Black Caucus, the 27 members of the group announced Tuesday. “We believe in investing in public education,” said Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, who is the ranking minority member of the House Education Committee. “And we also believe in school choice. But in terms moreso of school choice, in the public school system.” He specifically mentioned magnet and charter schools, as well as private school vouchers for low-income families. The group of 21 representatives and six senators also will lobby for more financial support for the historically black colleges and universities Bethune-Cookman, Florida Memorial and Edward Waters. Gradebook.

Voting on a sheriff: The full Senate is expected to vote today to uphold Gov. Ron DeSantis’ removal of Scott Israel as Broward County sheriff for his department’s failures during the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. If that happens, will it create a precedent setting new standards by which sheriffs and other public officials are judged? Miami Herald. Florida Politics. WFSU. If Israel runs for election as Broward sheriff in 2020 and wins, DeSantis says he wouldn’t re-suspend him. Sun Sentinel.

Principal’s firing proposed: Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy is asking the school board to fire the principal who told a parent in April that he couldn’t say if the Holocaust is a factual, historical event.” Then-Spanish River High School principal William Latson’s remarks caused an uproar, and he was removed from the school and put on home assignment. Now Fennoy is asking the board to fire Latson for just cause at its Oct. 30 meeting. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel.

Superintendent selection: The Jacksonville City Council has rejected a resolution opposing a state legislator’s attempt to make the Duval County school superintendent’s job an elected position. The nonbinding vote was 9-9; 10 votes are needed to approve a resolution. Councilman Matt Carlucci wanted the council to go on record opposing the attempt by state Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, to hold a 2020 referendum asking voters to switch from appointing superintendents to electing them. Duval’s legislative delegation is expected to decide Dec. 1 whether to support Fischer’s bill in the legislative session that begins Jan. 14. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics.

Special board meeting: The Sarasota County School Board will hold a special meeting Nov. 5 to discuss the report into the way the district handled allegations of sexual harassment against the chief operations officer. The report, compiled by Sproat Workplace Investigations, concluded that there was strong evidence that COO Jeff Maultsby did sexually harass his assistant, and that Superintendent Todd Bowden disregarded her complaints. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School repairs: Lakeland Kathleen Middle School, damaged by a tornado last Friday, will be closed the rest of the week, according to Polk County school officials. Portable classrooms and bathrooms are being installed on the school campus now. Permanent repairs to the school will take months, say district officials. WUSF. WTSP. Patch. Lakeland Ledger.

Security in schools: Leon County school officials say they’ve met all their safety and security goals for this year, but still want to improve emergency response and add guard booths at Leon and possibly Godby and Lincoln high schools. WTXL. A $123,151 federal grant will be used to provide more training for school resource officers in Lee County and Cape Coral, Lee school officials say. Fort Myers News-Press. St. Johns County School Board members say they would welcome fewer than the now-required once-a-month active-shooter drills at schools, as recently proposed by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. St. Augustine Record.

Water safety instruction: Florida K-12 students would be required to receive water safety instruction in the health curriculum under a pair of bills filed in the Legislature. State Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, filed S.B. 608 as a companion bill to H.B. 325, which was filed in the House by state Rep. James Bush III, D-Opa Locka. Among the topics that would be covered are “the proper use of flotation devices, awareness of water conditions, how to respond if caught in a rip current … the importance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation for drowning” and more. Florida Politics.

Safety for student-athletes: Key legislators say they are considering ways to improve safety for student-athletes at Florida high schools. State Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Beverly Hills, who chairs the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee, says his committee is weighing such proposals as requiring immersion tubs or buckets of ice and cooling blankets for overheated students, and having schools keep defibrillators at their stadiums. Gradebook.

School concerns cited: The commander at Naval Air Station Pensacola says many military families try to avoid being transferred to Pensacola because they say the schools around the base are substandard. “People shouldn’t have to sacrifice their children’s education to serve their country, and sometimes that’s how they feel,” Capt. Tim Kinsella told the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce this week. Escambia school Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said he was disappointed in Kinsella’s remarks, and believes the Navy should do more to change that perception. Pensacola News Journal. Escambia students improved their performances on the ACT test in 2019 and are above the state average. Santa Rosa students’ scores were about the same as last year’s, and also are above the state average. Pensacola News Journal.

District expansion: The Hernando County School District plans to spend $14 million to add classrooms at three elementary schools in the next five years to help accommodate anticipated enrollment growth of more than 760 students. Beyond that five years, the district is projecting it will need four new schools by 2039. Tampa Bay Times.

Paper report cards: The Leon County School District has decided not to make a district-wide change from printed report cards to digital ones. Individual schools can go paperless if they get the support of an advisory committee or PTA. Tallahassee Democrat.

Medical marijuana at schools: Pinellas County School Board members approve a plan to allow students to use medical marijuana at schools. It would have to be administered only by a parent or caregiver to students with prescriptions, and can’t be stored on campus. WFLA. WTSP. The Indian River County School Board is considering a change in policy to allow students to be treated with medical marijuana at schools. Caregivers or parents would have to bring the drug on campus, administer it and then take the drug with them when they leave. A public hearing will be scheduled next month. TCPalm.

Cemetery on campus: A recently discovered map suggests that the gymnasium at King High School in Tampa was built on top of a pauper’s cemetery. As many as 250 people could be buried there, officials think. Surveys using ground-penetrating radar will be conducted beginning today. Tampa Bay Times.

Ineffective treatments: Weighted vests and stability balls are commonly used in school classrooms to help provide focus for elementary-aged children with ADHD, but a recent study questions their effectiveness. Researchers at Florida International University’s studied the use of vests and weighted balls on 64 children during a summer program, and concluded they had no effect, positive or negative, on the students’ abilities to follow rules or complete their work. WLRN.

Teacher’s assistance saves student: Teacher assistant Sherry Jutkofsky recently used to Heimlich maneuver to save a student choking on cheese at Fruitland Park Elementary School in Lake County. Spectrum News 13.

School calendar: Broward County School Board members say they support making the final day of Ramadan a student holiday in 2021. If they approve, the district will become one of the few in the United States to give students a day off for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. A final recommendation to the board is expected in December. Sun Sentinel.

Custodian to teacher: Kevin Knibbs began his Pasco County School District as a custodian at an elementary school but over time, began to believe he wanted to be a teacher. So he went back to school, got a degree and was hired this year, at age 33, to teach 3rd-graders at Cox Elementary School in Dade City. “He brings that lens of perseverance and that lens of having a dream and working to accomplish it,” says principal Kim Natale. “Children in our day and age need to have people in their lives who have worked through that experience, worked to achieve their goals.” Tampa Bay Times.

Principal honored: Linda Shepherd-Miller, the principal at Lake Minneola High School in Clermont, has been named the Lake County School District’s principal of the year. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel.

Education podcasts: Miami-Dade County school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho talks about school choice and keeping his district competitive for students who have so many educational options. redefinED.

School buses recalled: Nearly 500 school buses in Sarasota and Polk counties are being recalled because some seats in buses that don’t have seat belts failed federal knee foam impact tests. WFLA.

Court rejects lawsuit: A federal appeals court has rejected a civil-rights lawsuit against the Polk County sheriff and a deputy that was filed by the parents of a girl who was arrested and charged with bullying and harassing a 12-year-old classmate who then killed herself. The charges were dropped, but the court ruled there was probable cause to make the arrest. News Service of Florida.

Ex-teacher sentenced: A former Duval County teacher pleaded guilty to having sexual relationships with two of his students in 2017, and has been sentenced to three years in prison. Corey French, 31, was a teacher at Fletcher High School in Jacksonville. Miami Herald. WJAX.

Activist arrested at meeting: Community activist Rodney Jones was arrested at Tuesday’s Manatee County School Board meeting after he refused to be quiet when asked by board members. Jones, the former president of the Manatee NAACP, criticized the board for trying to limit public comments. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student arrested: A 15-year-old student at Robinson High School in Tampa has been arrested and accused of making a threat on social media to shoot up his school. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Teacher under investigation: A Duval County reading teacher has been reassigned during an investigation into allegations that she wrote curse words on a whiteboard in her classroom at Lee High School in Riverside. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: Judging a teacher of the year contest provides example after example of how teachers are everyday heroes, not only because they want to be, but because they need to be. Gil Smart, TCPalm. School resource officers have long practiced restraint and arrest alternatives in our schools backed up by policies outlining alternatives, especially for young children. Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Every student at Breakfast Point Academy in Panama City Beach received a free book this week, courtesy of the Florida Education Association and the nonprofit organization First Book. WJHG. Kathy Schroeder, a science teacher at Palmetto Ridge High School in Collier County, spent two weeks at sea catching and tagging sharks as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teacher at Sea program. Naples Daily News.

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