H.B. 7069 lawsuit, graves found at Tampa school, later school start times and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Lawyers for the Florida Department of Education file a brief urging the state Supreme Court to not hear a constitutional challenge to the 2017 education law H.B. 7069. Nine districts want the law overturned, saying it usurps the authority of local school boards to oversee the creation of charter schools and illegally directs districts to share money with charters. The state is arguing that there are no grounds for the court to reconsider the original court’s previous ruling and an appeals court ruling upholding that decision. Gradebook.

Graves found under school land: Radar has discovered 145 caskets buried 3 to 5 feet underground in the southeast corner of the King High School campus in Tampa. In the mid-1900s, the property was the site of Ridgewood Cemetery, where paupers were buried. It was sold to the school district in 1959. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins says a small building on the 1-acre section of the property will be removed, and the district’s findings have been sent to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research. Those agencies are expected to take a month to review the report and decide whether to take possession of the land or turn it back to the school district. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT.

School start times: Miami-Dade school officials are looking into ways to push all school start times to 8 a.m. or later. The school board approved the study, with a goal of making the change in time for the 2020-2021 school year. The proposals would push the elementary school start times to 8 a.m., with the middle and high schools starting at 8:30 or 9:30, with dismissal as late as 4:10 p.m. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the proposal “would be a terrific advantage at many, many levels,” including financially. He said shortening the window between pickups and dropoffs could free 40 drivers to carry students in choice programs and save up to $3 million a year. Miami Herald.

Security in schools: The rapidly expanding Palm Beach County School District police force is opening a substation in a former bank next to Jupiter High School. Chief Frank Kitzerow said he expects it to be one of three substations in the county. “From a safety and security standpoint, you don’t want all of your resources in one place,” said Kitzerow. The school board agreed to buy the property for $2.5 million, and it will be home to 20 or 30 people. The department has grown from 255 employees in 2017 to 540 this year. Palm Beach Post. Five new school guardians are sworn in to patrol Gadsden County schools. Superintendent Roger Milton was initially opposed to having people with guns on campus who were not law enforcement officers, but changed his mind when changes were made to the guardian program. WCTV.

Teachers honored: Finalists for teacher of the year awards are chosen in the Orange and Seminole school districts. The finalists in Orange County are April Cooke of Rock Springs Elementary, Jennifer Drone of Keene’s Crossing Elementary, Laura Emig of Avalon Middle, Rob Paschall of West Creek Elementary and Rebecca Wesolowski of Westpoint Elementary. The winner will be announced Jan. 10. Finalists in Seminole County are Caitlyn Baumann of Casselberry Elementary, William Furiosi of Oviedo High and Sherri Watson Hyde of Rock Lake Middle. The winner will be announced Feb. 7. Orlando Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: The Hernando County School Board approves a contract that provides teachers with a 4.25 percent pay increase and merit pay and bonuses for some, and 40 cents more an hour for noninstructional workers. The increases will cost the district $4.1 million. Tampa Bay Times. The Alachua County School Board approves a deal between the district and teachers that includes a 2 percent raise and $300,000 set aside for bonuses. Gainesville Sun.

Superintendent search: When should the Sarasota County School Board start the search for a new superintendent to replace Todd Bowden, who stepped down over his handling of a sexual harassment allegation? Generally, new superintendents like to start in the summer so they can be familiar with the district by the time school opens in the fall, and the person most likely to be named interim superintendent has said he doesn’t want to serve past June 30. But two board seats are being contested in the election next year, and at least one board member and the teachers union president think the search should put off until a new board is seated. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Medical marijuana in schools: The Lee and Monroe school board have approved new policies that will allow students with prescriptions to be treated with medical marijuana on campus by a parent or caregiver, who would then leave the school with the drug. Fort Myers News-Press. Key West Citizen.

New school boundaries: Pasco County School Board members have approved a change in school boundaries that will send about 1,000 students living in the Seven Oaks subdivision of Wesley Chapel to new schools next fall. The board did agree to allow rising juniors to remain at Wiregrass Ranch High School. The board also approved the 2020-2021 school calendar. Students will begin school Aug. 10, get a week off at Thanksgiving and finish May 26, 2021. Gradebook. Marion County School Board members tentatively approved a rezoning proposal that will move 112 students from Evergreen Elementary School to College Park Elementary. Those students have been bused 9 miles to Evergreen to comply with federal desegregation rules, but board members want those students to attend a school closer to where they live. Ocala Star-Banner.

Charter to fight termination: Leaders of the Legacy Academy charter school in Titusville say they will fight the Brevard County School Board’s decision to begin the process of closing the school. An audit showed declining student performance, financial mismanagement and other violations in deciding to end the charter’s contract. School officials called much of the audit “lies.” Florida Today. WKMG.

Conference concerns: A Polk County School Board member is criticizing the superintendent and district lobbyist who are attending the National Summit on Education Reform, a public policy conference that supports and promotes school choice. Billy Townsend said he’s disappointed that Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd is attending, at the expense of a local business advocacy group, a gathering that advocates public spending for private schooling. Lobbyist Wendy Dodge also is there, though her expenses are being paid by the school district. Lakeland Ledger.

School calendar: Lake County parents, students and school employees are being asked to choose between two options for the 2020-2021 school year calendar. One would start school Aug. 10 and give students Veterans Day off. The other would start Aug. 13 but classes would be held on Veterans Day. The online vote ends Friday, and the school board is expected to vote on the calendar Dec. 9. Orlando Sentinel.

Personnel moves: Adrienne Schwab, the principal at Meadowlane Intermediate in West Melbourne, has been named principal of a new elementary school being built in the Viera area of Brevard County. The school is scheduled to open in August 2020. Space Coast Daily.

School board leadership: Perla Tabares Hantman was elected to a 12th term as chair of the Miami-Dade County School Board, and Steve Gallon was elected as vice chair. Miami Herald. Misty Belford was narrowly elected chair of the Brevard County School Board, edging current vice chair Matt Susin, who was then re-elected. Florida Today. Susan Duval has won a second term as chair of the Hernando County School Board, while Linda Prescott was chosen as vice chair for another year. Tampa Bay Times. Janet McDonald was re-elected as chair of the Flagler County School Board, and Colleen Conklin was chosen as the vice chair. Flagler Live. Mindy Conn was elected chair of the Monroe County School Board, and John Dick was chosen as the vice chair. Key West Citizen.

Hotelier honored: Harris Rosen, an Orlando hotelier, is awarded the James B. Green Award from the Orlando Economic Partnership for his contributions to education from preschools to colleges. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher pleads guilty: A 48-year-old Doral charter school teacher has pleaded guilty to sending inappropriate text messages and expensive gifts to a 13-year-old student at Doral International Math & Science Academy in Miami-Dade County. Andrea Jimenez, a science teacher, pleaded guilty to child abuse with no harm. She won’t spend time in jail, but will be on probation for five years. Miami Herald.

Teachers arrested: A Duval County teacher who reacted angrily when told she would be reassigned was arrested and charged with battery on an officer and trespassing on school grounds. Deputies say Stephanie Leuluai, 52, a 2nd-grade teacher at Greenland Pines Elementary School, became “combative” after informed of the transfer and had to be pepper-sprayed by police. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX. A St. Augustine teacher who had been disciplined for his quizzes laced with his personal political opinions has been arrested and accused of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. John Blackford, 50, is an English teacher at St. Augustine High School. He’s been placed on paid leave, pending an investigation. WJAX.

Students and the law: A 17-year-old Duval County high school student has been arrested for having a handgun and ammunition in his backpack at A. Philip Randolph Career Academies in Jacksonville. The arrested prompted school officials to institute daily metal detector screenings for anyone entering. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. A 15-year-old students at Crooms Academy of Information Technology in Sanford was arrested this week and charged with making threats about carrying out a shooting at the school. Orlando Sentinel. A Lake Worth Middle School has been arrested and accused of making threats against the Palm Beach County school. Palm Beach Post.

School bus attacked: A Hillsborough County woman was arrested and accused of aggravated assault and culpable negligence after deputies say she intentionally drove her car into a school bus. Ashley Laquita Moore, 34, was waiting for her nephew at a bus stop, but refused to get out of the car to get the child, as required by the school district, according to deputies. When the bus driver pulled away, deputies say, she deliberately drove her car into its path to prevent it from leaving and rammed it. No one was injured. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

School bus crash injures two: Two Cobb Middle School students were treated by paramedics  after their school bus was involved in a multi-vehicle crash in Leon County. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $91.4 billion budget, which he calls bolder, brighter and better, is not nearly bold enough on education issues such as teacher pay and bonuses. Sun Sentinel. It’s time to stop traumatizing our students and call a halt to realistic active-shooter drills in our schools. Sarah C. Peck, Sun Sentinel. Scores from the NAEP tests should be a wakeup call for education reformers and policymakers. Jonathan Butcher, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Fifteen Florida school districts have been awarded grants from the state for career and technical training. Florida Politics. WEAR. Students at J.W. Mitchell High School in Pasco County will apparently become the first students to use synthetic frogs for dissection. WFTS. More than 400,000 5th-graders have learned about getting a job and a paycheck and paying bills through their visits to Enterprise Village since it was launched by the Pinellas County Education Foundation 30 years ago. Tampa Bay Times. Hannah Jenkins, a senior cadet in the Bartow High School Medical and Fire Academy, has started a drive to collect stuffed animals for children who are going through traumatic situations. Lakeland Ledger.

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