Panel backs Broward sheriff’s removal, insurance for armed teachers and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

A sheriff’s hearing: After hearing 10 hours of testimony on Monday, the Florida Senate Rules Committee voted 9-7 to recommend that the full Senate uphold Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Broward Sheriff Scott Israel for his agency’s failures during the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Israel was removed in January, but appealed. A special Senate master who heard the case recommended his reinstatement, saying DeSantis had not made his case for Israel’s removal. That decision was bitterly opposed by parents of victims, who lobbied senators against allowing Israel to retain his job. The committee recommendation now goes to the full Senate for a vote Wednesday. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. GateHouse. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Politics. WLRN.

Armed teachers’ insurance: Armed teachers in Florida schools will be covered through the state’s liability insurance as long as they act within their lawful duties, Florida Department of Education officials have announced. It’s a reversal of a 2018 decision to specifically exclude armed teachers. But other armed school employees will have to be covered by their districts since they still will not have coverage from the state. The DOE is asking for an additional $200,000 from the Legislature to pay the increased costs. Tampa Bay Times.

District faulted by judge: An administrative law judge has found that the Sarasota County School District falsified records to push a special-needs student into a specialized program for students with the most severe cognitive impairments. Doing so denied the student a “free and appropriate public education,” the judge ruled. The district has been ordered to pay for tutoring and private school to help the student make up for the six years he was in the program. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Portables for school: A dozen portable classrooms are arriving at Lakeland Kathleen Middle School, which lost much of its roof after a tornado struck Friday. The school is closed to students again today, but officials hope to have the portables in place and operational so students can return Wednesday. WTSP.

Sales tax hike lawsuit: The legal dispute between the city of Jacksonville and the Duval County School District over the district’s request to put a sales tax hike on the ballot was argued Monday before a circuit court judge. The district sued the city for delaying consideration of the sales tax hike. City attorneys are arguing that under the charter, the district is part of the city’s consolidated government and therefore doesn’t have the authority to file a suit. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Security in schools: Four large Florida school districts are receiving federal grants to improve safety in schools. The Broward County School District is receiving $1.5 million, Hillsborough $1.2 million, the Miami-Dade district $979,700 and the Palm Beach district $500,000. Florida school districts and law enforcement agencies are getting about $27 million of the $85.3 million handed out nationwide. Sun Sentinel. Gradebook. A leading group for school superintendents, the American Association of School Administrators, is  raising ethical questions by recommending the services of school security companies in exchange for a fee. The 74. Active-shooter drills in schools can be traumatizing for children, says the past president of the National Association of School Psychologists. Melissa Reeves, in a Q&A with Politico, says the drills are taking an unnecessary risk, and there are better ways to prepare students. Politico Florida.

Academic standards: The value of changing the state’s academic standards was debated at Monday’s stop in the Department of Education’s listening tour in St. Johns County, but most in attendance agreed that they want less standardized testing for students and more hands-on learning in schools. The tour makes its final two stops today in Hamilton County and tomorrow in Walton County. WJAX.

Politics and charters: Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren says if she’s elected, she’ll cut off federal funding for charter schools, ban for-profit charter schools and require the same accountability rules for charters that public schools must meet. She also said she’d push for a 2 percent “wealth tax” on households worth $50 million or more to increase funding for K-12 public schools. Associated Press. Florida Phoenix. Education Week. Chalkbeat.

School elections: A graduation enhancement teacher at a Pasco County middle school says she’s running next year for the district superintendent’s job. The job is now held by Kurt Browning, who has yet to announce if he’s running for a third term. Cynthia Thompson, 38, who works at Bayonet Point Middle School, says the superintendent should be an educator, which Browning has not been. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Steve Hegarty has been hired as the communications director for the Pasco County School District. He starts in January and will replace Linda Cobbe, who is retiring in March. Gradebook.

District survey says: The Flagler County School District should concentrate on hiring and retaining quality teachers and focus on the safety and mental well-being of its students, according to the results of an online survey. About 75 percent of respondents say they are satisfied with the district. Flagler Live.

School’s utility bill suit: A Manatee County social activist says she’ll file a lawsuit against the mayor of Palmetto for creating a “fraudulent utility bill for Lincoln Memorial Academy,” which was taken over by the Manatee County School District. Michelle Williams accuses the mayor of working with the district to create an appearance of financial problems so the district could take over the charter school. Bradenton Herald.

One dead in school bus crash: A 70-year-old Umatilla woman was killed when she drove into the back of a stopped Marion County school bus Monday morning. A student who was getting on the bus and a bus aide were slightly injured. WKMG. Ocala Star-Banner.

Student hit by vehicle: Two students from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee were taken to a hospital for treatment after being hit by a vehicle just after school let out Monday. The injuries are not life-threatening, according to district officials. Tallahassee Democrat.

School consultant arrested: An insurance consultant for the Walton County School Board has been arrested and accused of bid tampering. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials say John Bradley Hoard, 49, used his position to get information about a competitor’s bid on a telemedicine services contract and then altered his company’s bid after the deadline. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: Maybe it’s time for Gov. Ron DeSantis to go back to his roots as a public school graduate and focus on visiting traditional public schools that enroll the vast majority of students in Florida. Let’s face it: Ignoring them is a slap in the face. Diane Rado, Florida Phoenix. Families should have the option to choose how to spend their K-12 scholarships from the state to maximize the value of their funds given the particular needs and aspirations of the student. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. As charter school enrollment increases as a percentage of the total students within a district, a Fordham Institute report has shown, the achievement gains of all students, within both charter and district, improve. Patrick R. Gibbons, redefinED. Misplaced nostalgia should not be an excuse to deny giving more parents more choices in their children’s education. Education should reflect the way the world is, not the way people want it to be. Scott Kent, redefinED. Rather than complaining about or prohibiting the loss of students away from “regular” public schools, we should welcome more charter schools because they offer a faster way to improve student performance. Len Cabrera, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Julietta Ramirez, a 4th-grader at Pine Forest Elementary School in Jacksonville, is named the winner of the state’s Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest for her profile of Judge Tatiana Radi Salvador of the 4th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. Florida Times-Union. Creating a farm-to-schools process has been more difficult than imagined for Hernando County school officials, but a recent Fresh from Florida Plate Day event at the Challenger K-8 School in Spring Hill demonstrated the potential. Tampa Bay Times. Timothy Rodriguez, from Leesburg High School, has been chosen to be a drum major for Macy’s Great American Marching Band during the Thanksgiving parade. Daily Commercial. The playground at Eustis Elementary School is getting a “buddy bench” where students can sit to make new friends. Daily Commercial. Corie McGraw-Abel, a vocational culinary arts teacher at Coral Shores High School in Monroe County, is awarded a $50,000 grant from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Foundation to renovate the school’s kitchen. Key West Citizen.

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