Teacher pay raises, district to be re-audited, teacher’s prize, principal’s job and more

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Teacher pay raises: Four Florida school superintendents are working with the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee to consider whether Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal for a $47,500 starting teacher salary is feasible and how it might be accomplished. The superintendents, from Jackson, Osceola, St. Johns and Sarasota counties, would prefer the $603 million projected cost for the raises be made available through the base student allocation, which would give districts more flexibility, and with few strings attached on how the money can be spent. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

District to be re-audited: Outside auditors will be taking another look at spending by the Sarasota County School District. The Florida Senate Joint Legislative Audit Committee approved a request for the audit from state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who wants a followup to a January state audit that found the school board had difficulty documenting how it spent 40 percent of the district’s general construction costs. The committee’s vote overrides a school board decision to wait for a followup audit until an internal auditor is hired. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Politics.

Martin teacher honored: A Martin County teacher is one of just three in the United States to win a $100,000 award from Harbor Freight Tools for Schools that recognizes teaching excellence by public school teachers in skilled grades courses. Wendy Schepman teaches landscape operations at South Fork High School in Stuart. The award presents $70,000 to the school for the career and technical-education program, and $30,000 for Schepman to use as she wishes. TCPalm. WPTV.

A principal’s job: The Palm Beach County high school principal who was removed after telling a parent he couldn’t say if the Holocaust was a factual event faces dismissal because he ignored urgent messages from his bosses when the news broke, says deputy superintendent Keith Oswald. William Latson, who was the principal at Spanish River High School, took a trip to Jamaica during the uproar, according to a report by the district. He blamed poor phone reception for missing the messages, but did manage to make calls to friends and families and send an inflammatory email to school staff. The school board will vote Wednesday on the superintendent’s recommendation to fire Latson. Palm Beach Post.

Contract negotiations: The Pasco County teachers union has rejected the latest contract proposal from the school district, which would have provided 8-10 percent raises over two years in return for middle and high school teachers adding an extra class to their day. It also would have eliminated about 250 teaching jobs. Union officials countered with a proposal for a one-year deal with 4 percent raises. Gradebook. Pay continues to be the primary issue in contract negotiations between the Bay County School District and its teachers. WMBB.

District seeks impact fees: The Santa Rosa County School District is preparing to again ask the county commission to improve an impact fee on new construction to raise money for new schools. School officials are trying to get on the commission’s Nov. 12 agenda to make their pitch. The district wants fees of $5,000 on new single-family homes, $3,000 for multifamily units in the north end of the county and $1,500 in the south end. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Cell phone tower at school: Pasco County school officials are proposing a lease for a company to build a cell tower at Bexley Elementary School in Trinity. The deal would bring the district $700,000 over the next 30 years. Gradebook.

New charter high school: The Okaloosa County School Board is expected to approve a contract Monday for a new charter high school in Destin. Destin High would become the fourth charter school in the county. It’s expected to open for grades 9 and 10 in August 2020, then expand to grade 11 in 2021 and 12 in 2022. The school will be located at the former Destin United Methodist Church, which Destin High School Inc. bought last summer for $12.9 million. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Special education study: The Florida State University College of Education has received three multimillion-dollar federal grants for university faculty to train future teachers on ways to improve educational outcomes for special-needs students. Florida State University.

Vaccination exemptions: A bill that would have banned religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations won’t be heard in the 2020 legislative session due to pressure from vaccination critics. In a Q&A, Karen Liller, a professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, talks about what these religious exemptions might mean for Florida schools. WUSF.

Naming a school: The Lee County School District is again conducting a survey to help decide what a new high school should be named. The second survey, which ends Monday, offers four choices: Gateway High, Thomas Edison High, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High and Gabriela Mistral High. Results will be announced at the Oct. 31 school board meeting, and the board will vote Nov. 5. Fort Myers News-Press.

School board elections: Four candidates are running for election in 2020 for two Alachua County School Board seats. In District 2, Khan-Lien Bank and Diyonne McGraw are the declared candidates, while incumbent Eileen Roy has yet to announce if she’s running. In District 4, incumbent Leanetta McNealy is being challenged by Sande Calkins. The qualification period ends June 12. Gainesville Sun.

Personnel moves: Lori Romano has been named the Pasco County School District’s director of career and technical education. She replaces Keiva Wiley. Gradebook.

Education podcasts: Alexandra Gilmore, a Hillsborough mother of two and occasional substitute in Hillsborough County schools, explains why she told Florida Department of Education officials at a recent forum that the way academic standards are implemented is draining the love of learning out of students, especially ones of color. Gradebook.

Board fights lawsuit: The Okaloosa County School Board is asking a circuit judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by former superintendent Mary Beth Jackson. Jackson was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis after two grand juries questioned her actions, but later reinstated. She then resigned, which allowed her to collect a lump sum payout of $200,721, a monthly pension of $5,500 and $52,000 as reimbursement for the seven months she was suspended. Now she’s suing the school board to pay her $282,000 attorney’s fees. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Educators and the courts: A former principal at two Brevard County private schools will spend 364 days in jail as part of a plea bargain he reached on charges of lewd or lascivious molestation of a 15-year-old student. Samuel Vidal Jr., 43, was principal of Restoration Church and School Inc. in April 2016 when an investigation into his conduct began. Orlando Sentinel. A former Duval County teacher has been sentenced to nine years and two months in prison for distributing child pornography. Jordan Frederic Schemmel, 38, a former teacher at Terry Parker High School, pleaded guilty in May. Florida Times-Union. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WJXT. A former middle school teacher in Venice has pleaded guilty to charges of sexual battery on a victim 12-18 years old as a custodial authority, prohibited use of a computer or phone depicting a child sex act, and lewd or lascivious molestation. Matthew James Minton, 27, was a teacher at Island Village Montessori School in Venice when he was arrested in January 2017. He has agreed to a sentence of no more than 35 years. Charlotte Sun.

School employee arrested: A Marion County School District custodian has been arrested and accused of possessing child pornography. Fredric Nourse, 61, works at Greenway Elementary School in Ocala. Ocala Star-Banner.

Teacher investigated: The Columbia County School District is investigating accusations that a Columbia High School math teacher has bullied and demeaned students publicly for years. WCJB. WJXT.

Students and the law: A 15-year-old Port St. Lucie High School student has been arrested and accused of bringing three knives to school on Thursday. Police say he intended to stab another student in the throat. TCPalm. Palm Beach Post. Pasco County deputies say an 8-year-old boy brought a loaded gun to Hudson Elementary School on Thursday. No one was injured, and deputies are investigating. WFLA. WTVT. WTSP. Tampa Bay Times. A 12-year-old student at Campbell Middle School in Daytona Beach has been arrested after allegedly pointing a loaded, laser-sighted handgun at a classmate. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Coach suspended: The head football coach at Chiles High School in Tallahassee has been suspended five games by the state for cursing at officials. The Florida High School Athletics Association’s decision means Kevin Pettis will miss the next five games, whether they’re this season or next. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: For teachers to properly intervene when bullying happens in schools, they must first recognize its many forms. Lyndsay Jenkins, Stone Bogart and Kayla Miskimon, Tallahassee Democrat. Most parents and teachers in Florida believe climate science should be a part of the school curriculum. So why isn’t it? Kevin Sullivan, TCPalm. Florida has been a leading K-12 innovator for years, so it is no surprise it became the first state to offer education savings accounts to children in public schools. Patrick R. Gibbons, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Medal of Honor winners share their stories with Hillsborough County schools while they were in town for a convention this week. Gradebook. Two years after the therapeutic horse riding program at the Hillcrest School in Marion County closed because of sinkholes, the program has been restarted to help students with severe physical and learning disabilities. Ocala Star-Banner. Osceola Elementary School is the first school in Volusia County to use biodegradable lunch trays. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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