New superintendents, more schools can get job grants, trafficking, taxes and more

Jim Booth

New superintendents: Volusia County School Board members have unanimously selected Ronald “Scott” Fritz as the district’s new superintendent over two other finalists. Fritz is the chief of teaching, learning and leading for the Osceola County School District, and also spent five years as chief academic officer for the Orange County School District. Fritz starts in January, replacing interim Superintendent Tim Egnor, who was hired in July to replace the fired Tom Russell. The other finalists were David Moore, who works in the Miami-Dade district, and Peter Licata from Palm Beach County. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Spectrum News 13. Former Sarasota County school superintendent Lori White is among the candidates to be considered as the interim superintendent for the school district. Current chief Todd Bowden has agreed to step down if the school board approves the departure agreement negotiated with the board. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Leaders of both the Sarasota Republican and Democratic parties are urging the Sarasota County School Board to approve an agreement that would end Bowden’s tenure. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Indian River County School Board is planning to announce its choice for a new superintendent on Saturday. Six semifinalists are being interviewed this week. TCPalm.

Career education fund expanded: A bill that would have directed money from the Florida job growth grant fund to certain charter schools with career and technical education “graduation pathway” programs has been amended to expand the eligibility to every public high school that has the same programs. State Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, offered the amendment after colleagues questioned why only charters would be eligible. The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the bill. Gradebook. Florida Politics.

Teaching trafficking: The Senate Education Committee has unanimously passed a bill that would require public school students to receive instruction on the dangers and warning signs of human trafficking in their health education classes. S.B. 154 also would teach children what sort of inappropriate behavior should be reported, and how to get help if they have been victims. Similar bills failed to advance in the 2019 legislative session. Associated Press.

Back-to-school tax holiday: A bill that would double the length of the back-to-school tax holiday in 2020 has been approved by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. Sponsored by state Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, S.B. 542 would extend the tax-free period for school clothes, supplies and electronics to 10 days, from Friday, July 31, through Sunday, Aug. 9. The last time the tax holiday was 10 days was in 2015. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Politics.

Overdose antidote: The Senate Education Committee has unanimously passed a bill that would allow school districts to buy and use the drug naloxone to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. S.B. 120, filed by Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, would require school employees to be trained in the use of the drug, which can be administered nasally or by injection, and it would have to be kept in a secure location in schools. A companion bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura. Associated Press.

Medical marijuana and schools: Marion County School Board members say they plan to meet the state mandate to allow medical marijuana treatments for students with prescriptions by allowing parents to check their children out of school to administer the drug. That process removes the schools from any responsibility or liability, said a school board attorney. Ocala Star-Banner. The Polk, Collier and Duval school boards are considering or have approved policies that would allow medical marijuana treatment in schools, but to be administered only by a caregiver and removed after use. Lakeland Ledger. WJAX. WBBH.

Contract negotiations: The Pinellas County School District and its teachers have reached a tentative contract agreement that provides pay raises of 3.25 percent, on average, and an increase in a starting teacher’s salary from about $43,809 to $45,000. WFLA. The Orange County School Board approves a contract agreement with its teachers that provides raises of $2,100 or $2,800 to most teachers, bumps the starting teacher pay from $40,000 to $40,700 and freezes health insurance premiums until next September. Orlando Sentinel.

Therapy return delayed: Registered behavior technicians won’t be allowed back into Brevard County schools until after the holidays, school officials have announced. The paraprofessionals were barred from classrooms in August because they were not on the list of state-approved therapists who were allowed in schools with students. School officials said Oct. 15 that the RBTs would be allowed back in two to four weeks, but have since revised the estimate. Florida Today.

Educator honored: Angela Roberts, a 3rd-grade teacher at Felix A. Williams Elementary School, is the Martin County School District’s teacher of the year. Roberts, who teaches English language arts and social studies, has worked for the district 21 years. She’s now a candidate in the state teacher of the year competition. TCPalm. Semifinalists for the St. Johns County School District teacher of the year award are chosen. The winner will be announced Jan. 31. St. Augustine Record. The top 10 finalists are chosen for the Pinellas County School District teacher of the year award. The winner will be announced Jan. 29. Pinellas County School District.

Rezoning plan approved: Manatee County School Board members approve a rezoning plan that will affect students at 14 elementary schools and two middle schools, starting next fall. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

A ‘teachable’ moment: Teachers talk about how they plan to use the impeachment inquiry, which begin today, and the whole process as a “teachable” moment for students. NPR.

School security alerts: Jimmer Roy, the Lake County School District’s safety and security specialist, talks about the considerations and process behind deciding when to issue school threat alerts. Daily Commercial.

Fired principal wants review: The former Palm Beach County principal who was fired after telling a parent that he couldn’t say if the Holocaust was a factual event is asking a state administrative law judge to review the school board’s decision. William Latson, who was the principal at Spanish River High School, disputes that he engaged in unethical conduct and says he was unfairly dismissed. Palm Beach Post.

Turnaround school: The McLaughlin Middle Fine Arts Academy, a charter school in Lake Wales that is in the state’s turnaround program after receiving grades of D, D and F in the past three years, is making progress in student reading and math test scores, school officials said at a recent community meeting. The school, which is now operated by Learning Science International, has two new co-principals, and 23 of its 50 teachers were replaced. Lakeland Ledger.

New construction: Construction is beginning on a new building for a Lee County charter school that plans to open next fall. The K-8 Athenian Academy Charter School has 90 students, but will grow to as many as 530 next year when it moves into its new $15 million building. Its students learn Greek and Spanish. Fort Myers News-Press. The Martin County School District breaks ground this week in Stuart for its new administration building. No timetable for completion has been set. TCPalm.

Charter school moving: Ocean Studies Charter School says it will move its campus from Tavernier to Key Largo for the 2020-2021 school year. Renovations for the new school, which increases space from 5,200 square feet to 7,280, begin in January. It now has 112 K-5 students. Key West Citizen.

Bus-tracking app: Broward County parents will be able to track their children’s school buses with a new phone app that has been approved by the school board. “Here Comes the Bus” will track the locations of buses with an icon that shows how many minutes they are from various stops, and can send messages to parents. The app will cost the district about $3 million, and should be available for use for the 2020-2021 school year. Sun Sentinel.

Bus tour hits Brevard: Brevard County teachers meet with Florida Education Association officials who are on a “Fund Our Future” bus tour around the state to encourage higher pay for teachers and more funding for education. The 50-stop tour ends with a rally Jan. 13 in Tallahassee, the day before the legislative session begins. Florida Today. Alachua County teachers talk about the struggle to make ends meet while being paid less than $40,000 a year. WUFT.

Ex-teacher pleads no contest: A former Naples High School teacher has pleaded no contest to a charge of engaging in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years old. An official plea hearing is scheduled Dec. 10 for Brock Smith, 32. Naples Daily News.

Teacher arrested: A teacher at an Orange County private school has been arrested and accused of molesting a student under the age of 12. Michael Lawrence McMillian, 36, a teacher at Victory Christian Academy in west Orlando, has been fired, police officials said. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher under investigation: The Hillsborough County School District is investigating allegations of abuse against a teacher of students with special needs. The mother of a 9-year-old boy at the Lavoy Exceptional Center in Tampa said a teacher physically and verbally abused the boy. Police investigated but did not recommend charges. WFTS.

Opinions on schools: Growth in Florida’s education choice programs is accelerating, and hopefully when the Florida Legislature convenes in January, there will again be bipartisan support for more families having greater control over how their low-income and unique abilities children are educated. Doug Tuthill, redefinED. It’s been established that sleep deprivation affects academic performance, so we eagerly await the superintendent’s final recommendations on making school start times no earlier than 8 a.m. for the 2020-2021 school year. Miami-Dade County School Board member Martin Karp, Miami Herald. There’s no need for the Indian River County School Board to rush to judgment in choosing a new superintendent. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm.

Student enrichment: Sixteen Lake County schools are named Five Star Schools by the Florida Department of Education for their commitment to community involvement. Orlando Sentinel. About 2,300 Miami-Dade County kindergarten students from 30 schools will be eligible to have a savings account opened for them, with a $50 deposit, thanks to Future Bound Miami, a new program launched by a coalition of local nonprofits. WLRN. The Bay County School District is opening food pantries at four schools, with the food and funding coming from the Feeding Florida and Feeding the Gulf Coast organizations. WJHG.

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