Charter school effects, academic standards, ex-principal still on job, security and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Combining, closing schools: As an increasing number of Broward County students switch to charter schools, the school district is considering closing underenrolled traditional public elementary and middle schools or merging them with other schools. The K-8 charter school model has been particularly successful in Broward, with 20,000 elementary and 10,000 middle school students moving to them in the past 15 years. District officials are reviewing how much some of their ideas will cost and how the proposed moves would affect on other schools, and the school board is scheduled to review the options at its Oct. 29 meeting. Sun Sentinel.

Academic standards: More than a dozen educators tell state officials during a “listening tour” meeting in Winter Springs that the state’s current academic standards are more rigorous than the proposed ones. The state is considering changing the standards, at the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who made a campaign pledge to kill the Common Core standards. The proposed revisions stress the understanding and applying of skills, and promote more realistic scenarios and a consideration of paths to college and career readiness, says Jacob Oliva, public schools chancellor for the Florida Department of Education. The tour continues today in Alachua County, and makes stops in six more counties through Oct. 23. The DOE’s revised standards will be submitted to DeSantis by January. Highlands News-Sun. Orlando Sentinel. Gainesville Sun.

A tale of two principals: Three months after Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy said he planned to fire a principal over his remarks about the Holocaust, the principal is still working for the district and making $107,000 a year. William Latson, the former principal at Spanish River High School, was removed after telling a parent he couldn’t call the Holocaust a “factual, historical event.” Latson has been on home assignment, and district officials have postponed the Oct. 16 school board vote to fire him. Palm Beach Post. Students and staff at Lake Forest Elementary School in Gainesville talk about missing former principal Karla Hutchinson, who was ordered removed by the Florida Department of Education after the school received D grades from the state the past two years. WUFT.

Arming teachers: Teachers in seven of Florida’s 67 school districts will soon be carrying concealed weapons in classrooms. Bay, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Okeechobee, Putnam and Suwannee have approved armed teachers, and another 32 districts have put guns in the hands of other school employees under the school guardian program. Across the state, nearly 1,100 school employees are armed. “You can’t have a hashtag of putting students first and not want to use every opportunity to keep them safe, so I think districts have to really look at that,” said Dylan Tedders, an assistant superintendent for the Okeechobee County School District. Fox News.

Security in schools: Hernando County School Board members are divided on a proposal to start a district police force as a way to better control costs and direct school resource officers. Earlier this year, the board asked district staff to look at options to getting officers through the sheriff’s office, which has an automatic increase of 5 percent written into the contract. The board will decide Oct. 22 whether to move forward. Tampa Bay Times. Clay County School Board members have asked Superintendent Addison Davis to find security solutions for the district’s two charter schools. Clay Today.

Gifted demographics: Students from higher-income families are more likely to be admitted into K-12 school gifted programs than lower-income classmates who are their equals academically, according to a study by researchers from the University of Florida and Vanderbilt University. It echoes previous studies, but is the first to use national data and factor in achievement results. Chalkbeat.

Contract negotiations: Hillsborough County school and teachers union officials reach a tentative agreement on pay for this school year. Starting pay would be boosted from $38,200 to $40,000 for most teachers, and yearly raises would increase the top salary from $66,200 to $68,000 by year 23. The union and the school board have to approve the contract. Gradebook.

Immigrant students’ suit: A judge has approved a settlement of a 2016 lawsuit that accused the Collier County School District of refusing to enroll students with limited English skills. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the suit after English-learning children of immigrants weren’t permitted to enroll at Immokalee High School, but were instead pushed into the Immokalee Technical Center for adult English courses but no general education classes. Under the settlement, students will be allowed to appeal if they are denied admission. Florida Politics.

Sales tax hike vote: The Clay County Commission votes to place a half-cent sales tax hike for schools on the November 2020 ballot. The district says it needs the $318 million a year the tax would generate for maintaining schools. Clay Today.

More funds for school: Two Manatee County alternative education middle schools for girls are getting an additional $86,000 from the school board to improve programs for students and to pay teachers. The money will be split between Just for Girls Middle School in Palmetto and Just for Girls Elementary School in Bradenton. The schools are “contract” sites not covered by the property tax increase approved by voters last year to support the school district. Bradenton Herald.

District branding: The Leon County School Board has approved a contract with a consultant to develop a new branding strategy for the district and to help it find a marketing director. The district will pay Voss & Associates up to $58,400 over the next 10 months. Tallahassee Democrat.

Education podcasts: In the wake of a study that shows little progress in reading achievement by Hillsborough County students, district chief academic officer Deborah Cook talks about what school officials are considering to make improvements. Gradebook. Miami-Dade County School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he’s “absolutely committed” to the position. Miami Herald.

School elections: Colleen Beaudoin, a Pasco County School Board member since 2016, announces she will run for re-election next year. She has no opponent for her District 2 seat so far. Gradebook.

Superintendent selection: The seven candidates for the school superintendent’s job in Volusia County have been given a homework assignment that’s due tomorrow. They’ve been asked to answer two questions — “What steps would you take in your first 100 days as superintendent to build relationships?” and “As the instructional leader of the district, what initial strategies would you recommend … to improve the Volusia County district grade to an ‘A’?” — and a third of their choosing from an optional list. The school board is expected to pare the list of candidates Tuesday, with interviews and a final selection next month. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Settlement helps buses: Seventy percent of the $166 million Florida will receive from the federal government’s settlement with Volkswagen over an emissions scandal will be used to buy buses for schools and cities that are electric or run on alternative fuels, state officials announced this week. News Service of Florida.

Coach’s suspension reduced: The Florida High School Athletics Association has reduced the suspensions of a Hillsborough County high school football coach and director of football operations from six weeks to three. Plant High coach Robert Weiner and his director of football operations, Misty Winter, had appealed their suspensions for providing impermissible benefits to a player. Tampa Bay Times.

Bleachers under repair: Some bleachers at the football stadiums at Pasco and Gulf high schools have been closed for structural repairs. Construction is expected to last through the spring. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher fired, protests: A Flagler County teacher whose contract was not renewed despite evaluations of being “highly effective” says he was let go because he’s a whistleblower who exposed a senior student’s inappropriate behavior toward several girls. The district says Robert Sprouse’s contract was not renewed because of his issues with administrators that were not related to the allegations of harassment or misconduct. Sprouse has filed for a grievance hearing, and also has asked the Florida Commission on Human Relations to investigate. Flagler Live.

Opinions on schools: After Gov. Ron DeSantis declared that finding the $600 million to raise starting salaries for teachers to $47,500 would be “easily doable,” the biggest question was: Then why didn’t we easily do it long ago? Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Lawmakers should seek more answers from Gov. DeSantis about dealing with the intangibles affecting teacher retention before simply coughing up $600 million that may or may not solve the problem he’s identified. Lakeland Ledger. Raising starting teacher salaries seems like a good idea, but there are drawbacks quite apart from the cost. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. When it comes to students making threats against schools, punishment is important; promoting healing is humane and preventive. Miami Herald.

Student enrichment: Courtney Burkett, a 2nd-grade teacher at Brooker Elementary School in Hillsborough County, has written a children’s book to let students know that everybody learns at their own pace. Tampa Bay Times. Culinary students from five Lee County high schools will compete next week to create the best taco-themed menu in the Taco Cook-Off, a fundraiser for scholarship and hospitality workforce programs. Fort Myers News-Press. The 44-member Cocoa High School chorus will represent Florida at the National Fall Sing-Remembering 9/11 Commemoration at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Monday. Florida Today.

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