Security in schools, ‘smart bus,’ arrests for school threats up, new schools and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

Security in schools: A Broward County charter school that was taken over by the school district because it didn’t have an armed guard on the first day of school is fighting back, and is accusing the district of not doing enough to help charters be protected. In a complaint made to the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings, Championship Academy of Distinction in Davie says the district is calling for higher standards for armed school guardians than is required by law, and is challenging the district’s policy that it’s not responsible for finding guards for charters. Politico Florida. Coral Springs High School teachers who were hiding in their locked rooms because of a report of an intruder last week were told by text messages to unlock their doors for police, because no keys were could be found for officers to get in. The Broward County School District’s policy states that teachers should never open their doors for anyone during a code red emergency. “We all need to learn from this and put in procedures that this never happens again for any school in Broward County,” said school board member Lori Alhadeff. Sun Sentinel. Leon High School is creating a stop at the front driveway where visitors will have to check in before being allowed to enter the school. Several other Leon County high schools will add the checkpoints this school year. WFSU.

Internet via ‘smart bus’: Osceola County officials are spending $40,000 to turn a spare school bus into a mobile computer lab that will offer Internet service to students living in motels and hotels along U.S. 92, starting in January. The so-called “smart bus” will have 11 computer stations and high-speed Internet service, and will stop at four different hotels Monday through Thursday until the school year ends to provide access to those students who are considered homeless. “I think (students are) going to come, be excited about being on the bus, getting some assistance with their homework,” said Leslie Campbell, the director of special programs for the district. WFTV.

School threats: The number of Florida students who have been criminally charged for making school threats is up nearly 25 percent in the past three years, according to Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. In the 2018-2019 school year, 779 students were charged. WPTV.

New schools: Walton County will get its first science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics high school when the Magnet Innovation Center opens next fall. The school, which will incorporate engineering, robotics and visual technology and more into classes, is a collaborative effort between the school district and the St. Joe Co. Northwest Florida Daily News. Montverde Academy in Lake County is beginning construction on a $5 million middle school building. The 40,000-square-foot building, which is projected to be finished by January 2021, will have classrooms, labs and a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium for physical education classes, assemblies and events. Orlando Sentinel. Charters School USA is working on plans to open a charter high school in St. Lucie County by the fall of 2021, according to company officials. If Renaissance Charter School of St. Lucie is approved by the school board next month, it will open to about 600 9th- and 10th-graders in August 2021, then expand by a grade in each of the subsequent two years to about 1,200 students by the 2023-2024 school year. The county has just one charter high school, Somerset College Preparatory Academy. TCPalm.

Revisiting school plan: A year ago, the Pasco County School Board rejected Superintendent Kurt Browning’s plan to reorganize struggling schools on the west side of the county. Now, board members say they want to revisit the idea as a way to boost academic performance. Board member Alison Crumbley says students and families deserve new and better options, even if it means consolidating schools. She’d like to see more magnet schools, an emphasis placed on early childhood learning and an expansion of community services tied in with the schools. The issue is on the Dec. 17 board agenda. Gradebook.

‘Cash’ incentives: A principal at a struggling Clay County school is allowing students to earn “cash” for good deeds that they can then “spend” in a school store. Sheree Cagle instituted the Cagle Cash incentive plan at Charles E. Bennett Elementary School as a way to improve from the D school it has been the past two years to a C or better, and do it in one year. Behavior has already improved, with fewer referrals. “This is all-encompassing too because a student with positive behavior will show better discipline which in turn leads to better performance for them during school,” Cagle said. Clay Today.

Scholarship graduation rates: More than 94 percent of students who use Florida Tax Credit Scholarships graduated from high school in 2019, according to a report from Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and help administer the scholarship program. That’s down slightly from last year’s rate of 95.1 percent. redefinED.

Reading program helping: More than 8,700 children, mostly from low-income families, participated in the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading last summer, according to program officials. The goal of the program is to keep students from losing reading skills over the summer. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent election: A second Pasco County educator is challenging two-time incumbent Kurt Browning for the superintendent’s job in the 2020 election. David LaRoche, principal at Hudson High School and a 30-year veteran of the district, joins Bayonet Point Middle School teacher Cynthia Thompson in opposing Browning. Gradebook.

Superintendent search: Just eight people attend a community meeting to discuss the qualities they’d like the new Flagler County school superintendent to have. The Florida School Boards Association’s Bill Vogel, who was facilitating the meeting, said the low turnout could be a reflection of the stability of the district and the satisfaction residents have with it. Superintendent James Tager is retiring in 2020, and the school board wants to hire his replacement by next spring. Flagler Live.

Flu shots up in schools: The number of students and school employees who have received flu vaccination shots in Flagler County schools this year is up 13 percent, according to Department of Health officials. About 1,500 students and employees have gotten shots. Flagler Live.

Fire damages school: An electrical fire has damaged part of a building at Manatee Elementary School in Bradenton. No injuries were reported, and school officials have relocated classes from the affected rooms. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Ex-worker sues school: A former human resources director at the St. James Christian Academy in St. Lucie County is suing the school, alleging he was fired for speaking out against what he called improprieties. James Brower says when he tried to fix things, he was fired because he had “become a thorn in (the school’s) side.” TCPalm.

School sues ex-board member: The Mason Classical Academy charter school in Naples is suing Joe Baird, a former member of its board. Baird filed a complaint in June 2018 after his homeschooled children were declared ineligible to play with the school’s sports team. The school’s suit claims that Baird’s complaint has caused damage to its reputation and finances. WBBH.

Threat draws sentence: A man who threatened to harm students at two Citrus County schools has been sentenced to five years in prison for violating his probation by using drugs. Ryan Scott Connell, 35, could not be charged with the school threat because the state law doesn’t cover verbal threats. State Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, has since filed a bill amending the law to include verbal threats against schools. Citrus County Chronicle.

Students and the law: A 15-year-old student at a Leon County alternative school for students in grades 6-12 has been arrested and accused of trying to hire someone to kill a classmate. The student at the Success Academy at the Ghazvini Learning Center in Tallahassee asked a girl from another school to kill a 14-year-old at his school, according to deputies. Tallahassee Democrat. A 13-year-old Pasco County student has been arrested and accused of making threats against Dayspring Academy Secondary School. He told deputies he was trying to get expelled because his school was assigning too much homework. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: Martin County students deserve superintendent candidates with a passion for children who can effectively lead in an era of change. Potential effectiveness, not politics, should drive the board’s choice. TCPalm. Gov. Ron DeSantis deserves credit for recognizing that low teacher pay is ultimately a problem not just for educators, but also students and the future of the Sunshine State itself. TCPalm. It’s time to move to the next level in fighting against educational disparities between white and black students in Alachua County. James F. Lawrence, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Eleven Volusia County elementary schools and one K-8 charter school now have garden clubs growing fruits, vegetables and herbs through a partnership between the school district and the University of Florida’s Volusia County extension office. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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