Governor’s educator bonuses plan, school officers with records, start times and more

Jim Booth

Educator bonuses program: Florida’s latest Best and Brightest educator bonuses plan would reward teachers and principals who help their students improve academic performance. Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled out a proposal Thursday to set aside $300 million for bonuses tied to improvements in school grades from the state. The biggest bonuses would go to top-rated teachers (up to $7,500) and principals (up to $10,000) who work at schools with mostly low-income students. Top-rated teachers at other schools could get up to $3,700 and principals up to $5,000. “We need to do what we can to reward our really good teachers,” DeSantis said. “We are trying to incentivize teachers and principals to be willing to go to and remain at Title 1 schools.” Last month, DeSantis proposed raising starting teachers’ pay to $47,500. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Miami Herald. WLRN. GateHouse. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Florida Phoenix. TCPalm. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

School officers and their records: At least five of the 37 retired officers in the Orlando Police Department’s Active Reserve Unit who are now filling shifts in central Florida schools and hospitals have arrest records, according to a review of records, and a sixth has been suspended for sending pornographic messages through an Orange County School District email address. Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón calls the reserve officers an “asset” to the department because they supply inexpensive staffing. He said he reviews their histories before they’re added to the reserves and wouldn’t bring back anyone “who we don’t believe can perform their duties to the fullest.” Orlando Sentinel.

School start times: A majority of Orange County School Board members say they don’t plan to change school start times, but want to continue to consider if modest changes can be made without costing the district a lot of money. This week, the results of an online survey taken by parents showed little support for pushing high school starting times later in the day if it also meant significant changes to middle and elementary school days. Orlando Sentinel.

Legislature, students and guns: On a day with another shooting at a school, this time in California, Florida students rally at the Capitol with signs asking the Legislature to do more to protect them from gun violence. “I should be planning my 14th birthday party,” said middle-schooler Zoe Weissman. “Instead I am here missing a day of school to ask my lawmakers to make change.” Alyssa Ackbar, an 18-year-old college student from Tampa, said the latest shooting didn’t surprise her. “Incidents like this … they’re very tragic but they’re not shocking anymore,” she said. “Because it very much is a norm in this nation.” Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent search: Three finalists for the Indian River County school superintendent’s job have been chosen by the school board. They are: Margaret Aune, the associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Collier County; David Moore, assistant superintendent in Miami-Dade County; and Peter Licata, regional superintendent in Palm Beach County. Board members will chose a superintendent Saturday after interviews with the finalists. TCPalm.

Educators honored: Marla Massi-Blackmore, the principal at Tillman Elementary School, has been named the Manatee County School District’s principal of the year. Samantha Webb was named assistant principal of the year for her work at Samoset Elementary School. Both are now eligible for the state’s awards, which will be handed out next spring. Bradenton Herald. Three finalists are chosen for the Sarasota County School District’s teacher of the year award. They are: Heather Young, an art teacher at Venice Elementary School; Marissa Dobbert, a middle school math teacher at Sarasota Military Academy Prep; and Josh Grant, career and technical education teacher at Venice High. The winner will be announced next month. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Promise program support: Educators and community activists affirm their support for the controversial Broward County School District’s alternative discipline program known as Promise. At a community meeting Thursday, supporters say the program’s aim of keeping students out of the criminal justice system for minor offenses is vital. The program came under fire after the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, because the accused shooter was referred to it but never completed it, and no one has explained why he was not reported to law enforcement authorities. WLRN.

Military-school council: Escambia County School Board members are considering creating a council made up of school and military officials to address concerns about the problems some military families have with nearby schools. The commander of the Naval Air Station Pensacola recently said many service members resist a transfer to Pensacola because the schools around the base are below par. Pensacola News Journal.

Counseling concerns: Getting mental health counselors into Citrus County schools has been delayed, and school board members want to know why. Last year the board hired  LifeStream Behavioral Center to provide mental health counseling services for the district. But the contract still has not been signed, though LifeStream officials say they expect to have a final version to the board by its Dec. 10 meeting. Citrus County Chronicle.

School calendar: Pasco County students would start the 2020-2021 school year Aug. 10, have a week off for Thanksgiving and conclude May 26, according to the district’s proposed schedule. Schools would be open on Veterans Day. The school board is expected to vote on the calendar Tuesday. Gradebook.

School rezoning: Marion County School Board members are considering a plan to transfer 198 students from Evergreen Elementary School to College Park Elementary next year because they think the students live too far from the school. About half of Evergreen’s students have been bused past seven other elementary schools for the past two decades. The change, if approved, would bump College Park’s enrollment by 119 students above capacity and require five portable classrooms. Ocala Star-Banner.

Student enrollment: The October county for Gulf County schools showed 1,864 students, which is just 60 fewer than the day when Hurricane Michael swept through the area. “We are pleased we seem to be holding our own,” said Superintendent Jim Norton. Port St. Joe Star.

Education podcasts: The Pasco County School District’s principal of the year, JoAnne Glenn of the Pasco eSchool, talks about the importance of principals, and how they view their responsibilities. Gradebook.

Students arrested: Two students at Tuskawilla Middle School in Oviedo have been arrested for making threats against the school, according to Seminole County Superintendent Walt Griffin. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: By squelching organizations that don’t comfortably fit with administrators’ own personal views, Collier County school officials are teaching young people that freedom of thought, speech, and assembly don’t really matter — only having the power to force others to accommodate your personal prejudices. Tyson Langhofer, Naples Daily News. Somehow, this society must find ways of protecting the moral, intellectual and stylistic integrity of schools while treating both racial and economic integration of families as equally important and compatible with parental authority. John E. Coons, redefinED.

Student enrichment: With colder weather moving in, and many Bay County students still homeless a year after Hurricane Michael devastated the area, school officials are handing out jackets to students who need them. Panama City News Herald. All Lake County high school students will have Chromebooks from the district in December, say district officials. The distribution is part of a five-year plan to give Chromebooks to every student in grades 3-12. Orlando Sentinel. A team of students from Spanish River High School in Boca Raton are working on creating clothes with built-in sensors that can monitor sepsis in hospital patients. Sun Sentinel. Sixth-grade science students from John F. Kennedy Middle School in North Miami Beach prepare for a hurricane and recover from it during a simulation at the Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center. Miami Herald. The Ascend Academy charter high school in Margate has started a yoga club to help students cope with past trauma in their lives. Sun Sentinel. More than 1,000 Manatee County 3rd-graders get a taste of farm life at the annual Ag-Venture at the fairgrounds in Palmetto. Bradenton Herald.

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