Screen time concerns, vaping suit, goats as landscapers, ‘swing’ school and more

Jim Booth

Screen time and literacy: A new study suggests that children 3 to 5 years old who spend more than an hour a day looking at video screens may be impeding the development of their language and literacy skills. MRI scans of the children in the study showed that those who used screens that often had lower measures of development in the brain’s white matter. But the bigger issue, said pediatrician and study co-author Dr. John Hutton, is that more screen time cuts into the amount of time children interact with adults. “They learn language and emotional connection from humans,” he said. “Screens tend to get in the way.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District joins vaping suit: The Palm Beach County School District has joined other U.S. school districts in a national lawsuit against the e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs. The suit, filed in federal court, alleges that Juul threatens the health of students and that the district’s resources are being depleted by dealing with the resulting health problems and in enforcing district rules against its use in schools. Palm Beach Post.

Goats as landscapers: The Brevard County School District is renting about two-dozen goats next month to clear an acre of land around a pond on the east side of Imperial Estates Elementary School in Titusville that is overgrown with brambles. School officials say renting the goats for two weeks for $4,500 will be cheaper and safer than using the necessary equipment. Grounds services supervisor Matt Nolle said the area around the pond has “very steep banks, vertical dropoffs in some spots. Even putting a guy on foot in there would be hazardous.” Florida Today.

‘Swing school’ named: Alachua County school officials are planning to have Westwood Middle School serve as a “swing school” to hold students from another school that is being renovated. Next fall, Westwood, which has 1,047 students, would place 660 students from Howard Bishop Middle School in portable classrooms on campus during renovations at that school. The following year, Westwood students would move into the portables as 48 new classrooms are built. Gainesville Sun.

School’s medical program: Flagler Palm Coast High School now has a medical flagship program in addition to specialty programs for firefighting, teaching, technology and aerospace. Students in the medical program will take classes in medical skills, anatomy and physiology, health foundations and allied health. “Our students will have the opportunity to enroll and learn things like phlebotomy, EKG technology and ultimately can become a certified nursing assistant, all while still in high school,” said assistant principal Kerri Sands. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Superintendent search: The man who is widely expected to be named the interim superintendent for the Sarasota County School District says if chosen, he will spend his time communicating with the board and the public and trying to reach a contract  agreement with teachers. Bill Vogel was the superintendent of the Seminole County schools from 2003-2012 before retiring and becoming an education consultant. He was the interim superintendent in Manatee County for a month in 2013, and has been that school district’s chief negotiator in union talks for five of the past six years. The Sarasota board is expected to consider naming an interim at its Dec. 10 meeting. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Turnaround school: A new St. Lucie County School District-managed turnaround plan has been approved by the Florida Department of Education for Chester A. Moore Elementary School in Fort Pierce. The school has received consecutive grades of D from the state, the last one after the school implemented its own turnaround program, prompting the district to step in. District officials say the plan will focus on K-2 reading and writing skills, and 4th- and 5th-grade math. TCPalm.

School to act as shelter: Taylor Road Elementary School in Venice will be retrofitted to become a hurricane shelter, thanks to a $1 million grant awarded to the Sarasota County School District. Up to 1,280 people will be able to use the school during emergencies. Some of the money will also be used to fortify Fruitville and Gulf Gate elementaries and North Port High, which also are used as shelters. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Transgender students: A parent is lobbying the Flagler County School Board to add protections for transgender students to its policies. Randy Bertrand said the district’s policies haven’t changed since a 2011 settlement between the district and a student who said he was mistreated because he was gay. School board members say they update policies every three years, and will look into the request. WKMG.

Board attorney moving: Marion County School Board attorney Paul Gibbs is resigning to take the same job with the Brevard board. Gibbs has been the board attorney for more than two years. His contract requires him to give notice of 60 days. Ocala Star-Banner.

Teacher honored: Jennifer Burnett, a 1st-grade teacher at Caldwell Elementary in Auburndale, is one of nine Florida teachers chosen as a master teacher and brand ambassador for Epic!, a company that provides digital material to schools. Lakeland Ledger.

School board elections: Justin A. Koren, an assistant principal at Miami Killian Senior High School, says he’s running for the District 9 seat on the Miami-Dade County School Board. Lawrence Feldman now holds the seat, but isn’t running for re-election in 2020. Other announced candidates are Luisa Santos, Nancy Lawther and Gloria Angel Williams. Florida Politics.

High school’s tragedies: For the third time this year, Amos P. Godby High School in Tallahassee is reeling after the shooting death of a student. Sunday, 16-year-old Amarion James was shot and killed at a shopping center. The other shootings happened in February and August. Godby principal Desmond Cole called Amarion’s death “a senseless act of gun violence,” and Leon County School Board member Georgia Bowen said, “I’m almost not believing this — here we are again at Godby. It hurts. And that sounds so small, but it does.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Principal retires during query: Terence Culver, principal at Belle Terre Elementary School in Flagler County for the past six years, announced his retirement during the school district’s investigation of money missing from the school’s PTO and a complaint that he created a hostile work environment. Culver’s retirement date is Jan. 3, though he’s already gone from the school. Flagler Live.

Officer injured at school: A school resource officer was hit by a car while directing traffic Monday morning at Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines and was hospitalized. The injuries were not life-threatening, said police officers. Sun Sentinel.

School intruder sentenced: A drunken, homeless man who was able to walk into a Volusia County high school classroom in September with a knife in his pocket, then sat down, has been sentenced to a year in jail for trespass on a school property, disorderly conduct, disrupting a school function and trespass in an occupied structure. Derek Marlowe, 51, was convicted last week. He said he was testing the security at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Students and the law: A 14-year-old Putnam County student is in custody after deputies received an anonymous tip through the Fortify Florida app about a potential  school shooting. The students attends Q.I. Roberts Junior-Senior High School in Florahome. WJAX.

Coach wins appeal: A Tampa high school football coach’s $5,000 fine from the Florida High School Athletic Association for recruiting violations has been waived on appeal. Robert Weiner, Plant High School’s coach, said he was simply helping a player out of what he described as an “untenable living situation.” Weiner and football operations director Misty Winter were also suspended for three games. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: For too long, lawmakers have tinkered with public-school funding in ways that undercut community input and often impaired public schools’ effectiveness. If Gov. Ron DeSantis and lawmakers really want to boost Florida’s education standings, they should give fairness and flexibility a try. Daytona Beach News-Journal. By sensationalizing mass shootings, large media corporations profit off of these tragedies and contribute to their frequency. This can lead to a contagion effect in which other potential shooters are inspired to carry out copy-cat behavior. Luke Sechrest, Gainesville Sun. What the Orange County School District is trying to do with its Calculus Project is really, really hard, and really, really important. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. President Trump stands with blacks in Florida who support school choice. Kiyan Michael, Sun Sentinel. Saying money that went to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program “could have gone to public schools” is an erroneous argument from the Florida Education Association. Jon East, redefinED.

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