Sheriff’s hearing, diversion program, charter schools bills, tax holiday and more

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Senate considers removal: The Florida Senate Rules Committee will hear testimony today as it considers whether to reinstate Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who was suspended in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis for his agency’s failures when 17 people died during the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Israel appealed the decision, and a Senate special master said DeSantis failed to justify his decision and recommended that the Senate reinstate Israel. The committee’s recommendation is expected to go before the full Senate for a final vote on Wednesday. GateHouse. Sun Sentinel. Florida Politics. Miami Herald.

School diversion programs: The Broward County School Board says it will fight the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s recommendation that the Legislature end the district’s controversial alternative discipline program and others like it. Broward’s Promise program, which offers alternate disciplinary measures to keep students out of the criminal justice system, was a target of the commission as it investigated the 2018 shooting at the Parkland school. A former student who is accused of the shootings was referred into the program but never finished it, and district officials could not explain why he was able to drop out of the diversion program and not be referred to the criminal justice system. Sun Sentinel. Safety commission member Grady Judd, the sheriff in Polk County, talks about the commission report and how the state can improve security in schools. WLRN.

Charter schools bills: Two bills that would have an impact on charter schools have been filed for the 2020 legislative session by state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. S.B. 536 would streamline the application process to allow high-performing charter schools to expand in a timely fashion. It calls for a council to to review applications from those companies and make decisions within 30 days of receiving them. S.B. 526 would prohibit owners of charter schools that close or are terminated from applying to open another charter school for five years. Florida Politics.

Bill would create list: The state would be required to maintain a list of noncertified school employees accused of crimes so they couldn’t get a job at another school under a bill recently filed by state Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah. He said the bill is a reaction to a case in which a substitute teacher accused of sexually harassing and abusing young girls in the Broward County School District was dismissed but then was hired at a nearby charter school. Florida Politics.

School tax holiday proposal: A Senate Republican has filed a bill that would extend the annual back-to-school tax holiday to 10 days next summer. S.B. 542, sponsored by state Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, calls for no sales taxes for most clothing items and school supplies from July 31 through Aug. 9. Tax breaks for personal computers and accessories under $1,000 would run from Aug. 1-9. News Service of Florida.

Storm damage: A tornado that developed in severe weather when Tropical Storm Nestor hit the state Friday ripped much of the roof off Kathleen Middle School in Lakeland. The school is closed for students today and tomorrow so the damage can be assessed. District officials say they don’t know when the school might reopen. Lakeland Ledger. Orlando Sentinel. WFTS. WFLA. WTSP. Bay News 9.

Cemetery at school? Hillsborough County school officials say they will investigate whether a long-forgotten African-American cemetery is on the campus of King High School in Tampa. The school was alerted to the possibility by a researcher who questioned a few months ago whether another cemetery was under a local housing project. It was, and so far 127 coffins have been found. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF.

Academic standards: Jacob Oliva, the state’s K-12 chancellor, had some advice for those who have attended meetings to discuss revisions in Florida’s academic standards and aren’t necessarily liking what they hear: “We have heard strong suggestions,” he said. “Our third draft will look different from our second.” And the final version that’s sent to the governor in January could be different still after additional public comment in December. The nine-stop listening tour ends this week with meetings in St. Johns County today, Hamilton County Tuesday and Walton County Wednesday. Gradebook. WOKV. Florida Department of Education.

Teachers’ bus tour: Teachers are touring the state this week in a big red school bus to try to win support for more school spending and higher teacher salaries. The first of 52 stops is today in Panama City. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. Spectrum News 13.

Security in schools: A $4 million grant from the state is helping the Duval County School District make safety improvements at multiple schools. District police director Michael Edwards says the money will be spent on surveillance cameras, school lighting, communications systems, access control at schools, and training for students and staff. Florida Times-Union. Six rural school districts in Florida are awarded five-year, $3.5 million federal grants to improve academic, social and discipline conditions at schools to reduce inequities among students and improve school safety and culture. Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and Taylor will each receive money. Panama City News Herald.

Recognition money: Thirty-three St. Johns County schools will receive almost $3.5 million in A-Plus recognition money from the state for their 2018-2019 academic performance. That’s about $200,000 more than the district received last year under the program. The schools will decide by Feb. 1 how to spend the money, which can be used for staff bonuses, materials or temporary staff. St. Augustine Record.

Dual enrollment classes: Pasco County’s virtual school will soon offer college dual-enrollment classes in microapplications and public speaking. The classes, which are both requirements toward an associate’s degree, begin in January through the Pasco eSchool Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent search: The Escambia County School Board has scheduled five community meetings so residents can tell members what skills they’d like to see in a new  superintendent. There’s also an online survey available through Dec. 1. Voters decided last November to switch from electing superintendents to appointing them. The first appointed chief of schools will replace Malcolm Thomas, who is retiring in November 2020 after three terms. Pensacola News Journal.

Personnel moves: Osceola County School District officials appoint four new administrators: Yuling Liu as director of finance, Shawn Woodell as director of technology services, Lastenia Penaloza as coordinator for multicultural education, and Timothy Burdette as assistant principal at the Adult Learning Center Osceola. Positively Osceola.

Notable deaths: George Mayo, a teacher and coach of several generations of students in Lee County schools, and a civil rights leader who in both roles helped ease the county into integration, has died at the age of 85 in Fort Myers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Crossing guard hit: A 63-year-old Pinellas County school crossing guard was hospitalized after being by a car at an intersection near Curlew Creek Elementary School. Susan Creamer was placing warning cones on the street when a car turned right on red and knocked her to the ground. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher suspended: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has ordered the suspension of a Gadsden County teacher who was arrested after passing out at lunch at a Burger King during a school day. Guy Raynak, 44, is a science teacher who reportedly got high on meth and cocaine before school, then took a Xanax at lunch. Tallahassee Democrat.

Students arrested: An 18-year-old Miami Carol Senior City High School student has been arrested and accused of taking a loaded gun to school. WPLG. A 13-year-old student at Carver Middle School in Leesburg is arrested after allegedly telling students he was bringing a Glock handgun to school to shoot some teachers and students. A school resource officer found a soldering gun in his sweatpants. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The Florida Senate has the responsibility to consider the facts in the case of former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, exercise sound judgment and come to the correct conclusion — reinstatement. Palm Beach Post. Sarasota County school Superintendent Todd Bowden has not exhibited the type of leadership and trust the district and public deserve. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. There is more than enough damning detail in an independent report to substantiate that neither Sarasota County school Superintendent Todd Bowden and chief operating officer Jeff Maultsby represent the kind of person we want at the head of our school district. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Raising teacher salaries is the most important thing we can do as a state this year. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. I hope that the message is coming through loud and clear to state officials that we should improve, not toss out, the academic standards so our students stay on the path of educational success. Brian Dean, Ocala Star-Banner. For policy consequences, the most important election in 2018 might have been Florida’s contest for governor. Now we’re seeing the results, as Republican Ron DeSantis expands school vouchers and has already remade the state Supreme Court. Wall Street Journal. If the governor truly wants to prioritize our education system by recruiting and retaining the best teachers, that means significant salary increases for teachers at all levels of experience and for every other school employee. Sarah Leonardi, Sun Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Students at staff at Montverde Academy in Lake County raise $11,000 to donate toward the rebuilding of the Bahamian island of Green Turtle Cay, which was seriously damaged by Hurricane Dorian. Daily Commercial. TikTok, a social media app where short, funny videos are posted, is so popular that high schools around the United States, including West Orange High School in Winter Haven, are forming clubs for students to sing and dance and post the videos for millions to see. New York Times. Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson has promised to take dog tags given to him as a gift from Merritt Island High School students into space. Florida Today.

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