State investigating district, dollars for districts, ‘grow your own’ plan, educator bonuses and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

District under investigation: The Sarasota County School District is under investigation by the state for steering a student with an average IQ into a program reserved specifically for students with severe cognitive disabilities in order to protect the district’s grade from the state. “Staff conduct related to such misrepresentations was systemic in the district and fundamentally violated the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which is based on individualized education derived from an honest reporting of the data,” administrative law judge Diane Cleavinger wrote after hearing a complaint in October from the student’s parents. The judge ordered the district had to pay to make up the six-plus years of education the student missed out on because of the placement. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who ordered the investigation by the Office of Inspector General, wrote in a letter to the district: “It is clear to me that an independent review is necessary to determine the full scope of what has occurred, ensure that all students are receiving the required services, and re-establish the public trust.” The Sarasota County School Board meets Dec. 10 to decide whether to appeal Cleavinger’s order. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WUSF. WTSP.

Proposed district funding: If Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education budget is approved, $602,282,686 would be distributed proportionately to the state’s school districts through the Florida Education Finance Program for the 2020-2021 school year, with Miami-Dade getting the most at $41,380,556. News Service of Florida. WLRN.

Teacher shortage: The Lee County School District is fighting the teacher shortage by offering scholarships for local high school and college students who then commit to teach for at least three years in the district after college graduation. The “Grow Your Own Teacher Scholarship Program,” which began in 2017, is funded by state grants to the district and a $250,000 grant from the Suncoast Credit Union. State Rep. Spencer Roach, R-Fort Myers, who sponsored the House version of the bill that provides state funding and allowed the expansion, called the Lee district’s program a “forward-thinking idea.” Fort Myers News-Press. WINK.

Teacher bonuses repeal: A bill that would do away with the state’s Best and Brightest educator bonuses program will get its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee next week. Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed replacing the program with his own $300 million plan that would target educators at schools in low-income areas. Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, filed S.B. 486 to repeal the old plan, which needs to be approved by three committees before getting a full Senate vote. No companion bill has been filed in the House. The legislative session starts Jan. 14. News Service of Florida.

Testing performances: Students from only nine Florida school districts scored above the state average of 1059 on the SAT in 2019, according to the Florida Department of Education. They were St. Johns (1166), Wakulla (1113), Lafayette (1100), Okaloosa (1079), Citrus (1069), Sarasota (1068), Alachua and Leon (1067) and Florida Virtual School (1060). Tampa Bay Business Journal. U.S. students do better in science and reading than most students in the world but are lagging in math, according to the latest results from the Program for International Student Assessment testing. Chalkbeat.

Plans for schools opposed: A proposal to build a school for boys in Coconut Grove is being opposed by residents who say it would be out of place for the neighborhood and create traffic gridlock. The Carrollton School wants to build the elementary school for 336 boys on the grounds of Villa Woodbine, a historic mansion designed by Walter DeGarmo on 3.7 oak-shaded acres fronting Biscayne Bay. Miami Herald. A private school’s plans for expansion in Hernando County have been met with concern from nearby residents. The For Each 1 Reach 1 program for troubled students will ask the county commission for approval to build an educational complex that includes a gym, swimming pool, a splash pad and a playground. Residents say they worry about their security and traffic. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter school application: The Lake County School Board is considering a request by the Pinecrest Academy Inc. charter school company to open a middle/high school. The district’s charter review board gave Pinecrest a high-performing charter designation when it reviewed the application in October. The company has successful schools in Brevard, Orange, Pasco and Miami-Dade counties, as well as the K-8 Pinecrest Lakes Academy in Clermont. If approved, a fall 2020 opening is expected. Daily Commercial.

Overcrowded school: Odessa Elementary School in Pasco has 400 more students than it was built to hold, forcing district officials to add eight portable classrooms and lease nearby space from a church to handle overflow parking during events. The overcrowding is expected to continue until the nearby Starkey K-8 school is opens in the fall of 2022. Gradebook.

District’s radio station: The Miami-Dade County School Board will be asked to approve a plan that would put South Florida PBS in charge of running WLRN, the only public radio news station in south Florida. The district owns WLRN, but has had a strained relationship with the station’s employees over news coverage. Miami Herald.

Notable deaths: Alejandra Agredo, a 17-year-old senior at Coral Gables Senior High who became a notable local advocate for access to public transportation, has died of suicide. “She was well on her way to making incredible contributions locally and beyond,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. “I mourn for the loss of this bright light and pledge to act in her memory.” Miami Herald.

Personnel moves: Jennifer Jaworski has been named the principal of Mittye P. Locke Elementary School in Pasco County. Jaworski, 40, who had been an assistant principal at Chasco Elementary, replaces the resigning Cynthia Bauman. Gradebook.

Choice chat: Retired California law professor Jack Coons, a frequent contributor to the redefinED blog, talks about school funding, giving low-income families educational choice, his role in historic education court cases and more in an interview. The 74.

Employees and the law: Charges that a Duval County school police official molested a young child in Michigan have been dropped because of allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Sean MacMaster, 45, a lieutenant in the Duval County School District Police Department, was arrested in Jacksonville in May and taken to Michigan to face the charges. WJXT. An Escambia County school employee has been arrested and charged with sexual battery. Elizabeth Weddle, 40, is accused of having a sexual relationship with a Tate High School student. WEAR.

Students and the law: A Sarasota County student has been arrested and accused of attacking a classmate with a steak knife on a school bus headed to the Oak Park School on Monday morning. The victim was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries. WWSB. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A Duval County student was arrested Monday and accused of having a loaded gun at Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville, prompting district officials to place metal detectors at the school. It’s the second time in less than a month that the discovery of a gun on a campus has led to the use of metal detectors. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT.

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Clifford December 8, 2019 - 11:53 am

Jim Booth, please contact me.

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