Board wants superintendent removed, pregame prayer, start times and more

Jim Booth

Governor asked to remove Maier: Marion County School Board members have unanimously agreed to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove Heidi Maier from the superintendent’s job. Board members are sending DeSantis a report on Maier’s treatment of staff that was compiled by an outside company hired by the board. It concluded that Maier violated the spirit of the board’s anti-bullying and harassment policy, but did not create a hostile work environment. Maier was elected in 2016, but voters have since approved a switch to an appointed superintendent. Her term ends Nov. 16, 2020. Ocala Star-Banner.

Pregame prayer lawsuit: A federal appeals court has overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a Christian school that was denied use of a stadium loudspeaker for a pregame prayer before a state championship football game in 2015. The Florida High School Athletic Association denied the request, citing the principle of the separation of church and state. A district judge dismissed the case in 2017, but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling Wednesday, saying Cambridge Christian High School’s claim that the FHSAA’s decision violated its First Amendment rights was plausible enough to be heard by the lower court. News Service of Florida.

School start times: More than half of the Orange County parents who completed an online survey say they don’t want to change starting times for high schools if it also means significant changes to the school day for middle and elementary schools. No change was one of four options offered on the survey, and it drew 53 percent support. The other three proposed later starts for middle schools, in one option starting at 10:15 a.m. and finishing at 5 p.m., and both later and earlier start time options for elementary schools. All the options presented were considered cost-neutral since they would not require buying more school buses and hiring more drivers. Orlando Sentinel.

Social media blocks reversed: Pasco County school Superintendent Kurt Browning has reversed a decision to block a critic from his Twitter and Facebook feeds after being advised that doing so was a violation of the First Amendment. “When a public official creates a social media page … they have created a public forum of sorts under the First Amendment, to which First Amendment rights attach, and they can’t block people,” said Barbara Petersen, who has led the state’s First Amendment Foundation for more than 25 years. Browning, who recently announced he was running for a third term, called his decision to ban block his critic an unthinking moment. Gradebook.

School construction: Gene Witt Elementary School in Bradenton will be renovated and expanded instead of being demolished and rebuilt, the Manatee County School Board has decided in a 3-2 vote. The majority felt the infrastructure needs of the school were critical and need to be addressed as quickly as possible. Building a new school would require a detailed analysis, approval from the state, moving students to other schools and could take up to two years for construction. The renovation cost is estimated at $23.4 million and could take up to 16 months, and students will remain at the school during construction. Bradenton Herald. Ground is broken for Gateway High School in Lee County, which has a pricetag of $98 million and is expected to open in August 2021. Fort Myers News-Press. The Santa Rosa County School District plans to buy two parcels of land, totaling 41 acres, adjacent to Holley-Navarre Middle School to build a future school. The cost is $4.85 million. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Superintendent’s evaluation: Polk County school Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd received high marks from six of the seven school board members in her annual evaluation. Three board members gave her a perfect five-out-of-five score overall, and three others graded her as four out of five. Billy Townsend was the outlier, giving Byrd a 3.84 rating, just under satisfied. Byrd said she would not take a pay raise, since district employees aren’t getting one. Lakeland Ledger.

Educator honored: JoAnne Glenn has been named the Pasco County School District’s principal of the year. Glenn leads the Pasco eSchool, which was named the 2017-2018 Florida virtual school of the year among large districts. She is now in the running for the state’s principal of the year award. Gradebook.

Impact fees reconsidered: Santa Rosa County commissioners have agreed to take another look at levying school impact fees on new construction. The school district requested the fees be added in May to help finance school construction because of enrollment growth, but commissioners turned it down. This week, they changed their minds and have asked the county attorney to work with the school board attorney on an ordinance. Pensacola News Journal.

Two-thirds test success: Sixty-six percent of students in grades 3-10 in the Sarasota County School District passed the Florida Standards Assessments English/language arts test, according to district officials. That’s unchanged from the 2017-2018 results. The percentage of students earning the highest score, a 5, dropped slightly from 16 percent to 15. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District’s goals: The Charlotte County School District has proposed a five-year strategic plan that focuses on benchmarks that, when met, will help the district earn an A grade from the state. Among them: Intervening with struggling students, especially in reading and math, an emphasis on career education, more training for staff, and targeting higher achievement in student subgroups. Charlotte Sun.

Medical marijuana in schools: The Gulf County School Board approves a policy that will allow medical marijuana to be administered to students on campus. A parent or caregiver must bring the medicine to school, administer it, then take the drug shen she or he leaves. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Schools hit with flu: The number of people with the flu is up this year in the Tampa Bay area, and the Hillsborough County School District is being hit especially hard. The state has recorded 12 outbreaks so far this season, and 10 have been in Hillsborough. “We’re seeing multiple outbreaks in schools right now, and we are strongly encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Kevin Watler, a Hillsborough health department spokesman. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Little develops after offer: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s Twitter offer on Sunday, Sept. 22, to address an air-conditioning problem in a Duval County school classroom, and others school maintenance issues like it, have fizzled, district officials say. Curry was responding to a tweet from a teacher who wondered if his air conditioning would work when he went to work the next day. “If that photo is your classroom and you can’t get it fixed now that speaks volume about the state of current management,” Curry responded. “I can get that fixed now. Please send me details.” Curry extended the appeal to others and received about 30 responses. City officials have declined comment. Florida Times-Union.

School calendar: The 2020-2021 school year is proposed to start Aug. 12 for Collier County students and end June 2. Students would get a full week off during Thanksgiving, unless they have to make up days lost to hurricanes, and graduation is set at May 28. The school board still has to sign off on the calendar. Naples Daily News.

Raise proposed for subs: Pasco County school officials are proposing to raise the pay for substitute teachers by $5 to $15 a day. Guest teachers with no college degree would make $75 a day, those with a degree would make $80, and long-term subs would be paid $100 a day. District officials say they need to boost the pay to be competitive with neighboring Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Gradebook.

STEM schools honored: Fifteen Florida high schools that specialize in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum are among the top 500 in the nation, according to a Newsweek magazine ranking based on data from STEM.org. The Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale is ranked as the best in the state, and is 19th nationally. Patch. Newsweek. WCJB.

Union, funding ties: During the recession of 2007, state legislatures made significant cuts in education spending. But a new study, conducted by researchers at the universities of Florida and Georgia, concludes that larger cuts were made in states that prohibit collective bargaining for teachers. “The study points to well-organized teachers’ unions as being the important defender of education spending,” said Walker Swain, a study co-author and professor at the University of Georgia. University of Georgia.

Personnel moves: Miami-Dade County school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has been appointed by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a second term on the National Assessment Governing Board. The 26-member board helps set policies for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which puts out the Nation’s Report Card. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Leon Baxton, who has run the Communities In Schools of Jacksonville, a dropout prevention program, on an interim basis since August has been named its CEO. The organization handles case management and after-school and literacy programs for about 7,000 students from 37 Duval County schools. Florida Times-Union.

Board meeting ejection: A black Manatee County minister was removed from this week’s school board meeting for silently standing in the back of the room. Arthur Huggins said he was standing because of back issues as he waited turn to speak. He was told by a security officer to sit down, and was removed when he didn’t. The president of the Florida ACLU, Michael Barfield, said the district discriminated against Huggins. School officials say they ask people to sit because some meetings become overcrowded and people who are standing block the aisles. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student dies on bus: A 14-year-old Broward County high school student who was found unresponsive on a school bus has died. Paramedics were called to McArthur High School in Hollywood and gave the student CPR, but he died later at a hospital. Police say they don’t suspect foul play. Sun Sentinel.

Administrator arrested: An administrator at a charter school in Apopka has been arrested and accused of video voyeurism. Police say Michael Johnson, 48, an administrator at Sheeler High Charter School, used his cell phone to make videos up the skirts and dresses of several females at the school. WOFL.

Opinions on schools: What are we to make of the disappointing results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress testing? Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: The Clay County School District has received a $750,000 grant from the Department of Defense to help it educate military-connected students in public schools. Clay Today. Students at the Montverde Academy in Lake County are identifying airplanes and the contrails behind them as part of a research project for NASA. Daily Commercial. The 185-member Park Vista Community High School marching band is competing in the Bands of America Grand National Marching Band competition in Indianapolis this weekend. Sun Sentinel. Netflix star Noah Centineo recently gave a Twitter shoutout to his 3rd-grade teacher, Melissa Pierce, who taught him at Morikami Park Elementary School in Delray Beach. Palm Beach Post.

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