Day-after-Halloween holiday, academic standards proposal secret for now, school parity and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

A Halloween holiday: Teachers have long dreaded classes on the day after Halloween, with students out late the night before and ingesting a lot of sugary treats. State Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, has heard those concerns, and the wishes of students and others who signed a statewide petition, and has filed a bill that would close schools the day after trick-or-treating. “I started hearing from so many kids, parents,” Taddeo said. “And frankly as a parent myself, I know how tough it is the day after to drag them to school.” S.B. 1462 would require school boards to designate Nov. 1 a holiday unless Oct. 31 falls on a Friday or Saturday. Halloween is on a Saturday this year, so even if the bill is approved and becomes law it wouldn’t be used until 2021. Florida Politics. WOFL. WESH. WSVN.

New academic standards: A proposal for the new state academic standards has been prepared by the Florida Department of Education and was delivered Jan. 1 to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called about a year ago for new standards to be compiled. But the governor’s office has yet to release the proposal intended to “erase the vestiges of the Common Core,” saying the recommendations are “not publicly available at this time.” Helen Aguirre Ferré, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said “he executive order just required that the recommendations be presented on Jan. 1 … it’s been received and it’s being reviewed.” Pamela Marsh, president of the First Amendment Foundation, which is a watchdog for open government, said: “They’ve been releasing drafts previously, they’ve been very open about it, so why change now?” Gradebook.

Parity among schools: Private and charter schools would have to meet the same standards as public schools in several significant areas under a proposed bill. S.B. 632, filed by state Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, would require all teachers at all schools to have at least a bachelor’s degree and be certified by the state. Private schools would also have to meet state construction guidelines, follow state academic standards, give state exams to an eligible percentage of students, receive  grades from the state and provide at least 20 minutes of recess for primary schools. Florida Politics.

‘Well-care’ exam: Florida students between the ages of 12 and 18 would have to undergo an annual “well-care” exam under a bill filled by state Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. The exam would include “a physical, developmental, behavioral, and psychosocial screening and assessment, as recommended in the American Academy of Pediatrics.” Parents could get a religious exemption from the requirement. Currently, pre-K through 12th-grade students must have health exam within a year of entering a Florida school. Florida Politics.

Dyslexia screening: A bill has been filed that would require school districts to screen students in kindergarten through third grade for dyslexia. The annual screenings would be done with the first 30 days of the school year. S.B. 1438, sponsored by state Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, would require all schools to have a staff member trained to teach dyslexic students and establish a Dyslexia Task Force in the state Department of Education. Florida Politics.

Bill for the arts: A special program for outstanding high school arts students would be created under a pair of bills filed in the state Senate and House. The Florida Seal of Fine Arts Program would recognize qualified and highly skilled arts students  with a special seal on their diplomas and a designation on their transcripts. State Sen. Darryl Rouson and state Rep. Ben Diamond, both Democrats from St. Petersburg, said S.B. 1100 and H.B. 1123, which are identical, would require students to complete four or more year-long courses in dance, music, theater or the visual arts with a grade of at least a B, participate in at least two fine arts-related extracurricular activities, give at least 20 hours of community service related to the arts, and make a presentation on their experiences to be eligible. Gradebook. Florida Politics.

Security in schools: It’s been nearly two years since a gunman shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, and a statewide commission and a grand jury have both issued safety recommendations and criticized districts that still haven’t complied with new laws governing security in schools. But the state administration and the Legislature are still struggling to figure out how to implement the recommendations. News Service of Florida. The Collier County School District has released a video warning students about the consequences of making school threats. WINK.

Superintendent search: Hillsborough County School Board members have cut the field of 51 applicants for the superintendent’s job to eight. Two are current district administrators, two others are from other areas of Florida, and four are from out-of-state. The finalists will be interviewed on Jan. 16, with the field being cut to two or three, and the board expects to take a final vote Jan. 21. Superintendent Jeff Eakins is retiring no later than June 30. Gradebook. WTVT.

Suicide-prevention policies: The Flagler County School Board is considering adopting a suicide-prevention policy that would require teachers and administrators at all schools to receive training so they can “be alert to a student who exhibits warning signs of self-harm or who threatens or attempts suicide. Any such warning signs or the report of such warning signs from another student or staff member shall be taken with the utmost seriousness and reported immediately to the principal or designee.” Flagler Live. A suicide-prevention program using a peer-to-peer approach will be introduced into the Okaloosa County School District this year. Those students will be known as the Hope Squad, and the program will be run by a group known as United for a Good Cause. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Florida’s media literacy: Florida is an “advanced leader” among states for incorporating media literacy into the K-12 curriculum at schools, according to a new report from the nonprofit advocacy organization Media Literacy Now. The group defines media literacy as the “ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and take action with all forms of communication.” Florida’s Legislature passed a law in 2008 to incorporate media literacy into English language arts standards, and expanded it in 2013 to be integrated into all subject areas. Education Dive.

School choice tips: Gary Chartrand, the former chairman of the Florida Board of Education, talks about ways to take advantage of school choice opportunities offered by the state’s school districts during a prime-time documentary. WJXT. School choice enrollment begins today in Pinellas County and continues through Jan. 17. Tampa Bay Times.

Community partnerships: Leon County school officials are reaching out to the community for support in partnering with the 23 Title I schools in the county. “We need to enlist the entire community,” said board member Darryl Jones. “That means the religious community and the business community.” WTXL.

Back to school: Lee County school officials and law enforcement agencies are reminding drivers that school is back in session today for the district’s 95,000 students. They’re urging drivers to exercise “extreme caution” and to obey the new law forbidding motorists from holding cell phones while driving through school zones. Fort Myers News-Press. Students return to Brevard County schools today, and some parents are complaining that the extra days off after the holidays are an inconvenience to them. They say a midweek start makes it harder for students to get back into the school routine, and that they’ve had to make special arrangements or disrupt their work schedules. Florida Today.

Teacher honored: Elizabeth Grace Rockey, who teachers 3rd-graders with learning disabilities at Saddlewood Elementary School in Ocala, has been named the Marion County School District’s rookie teacher of the year. The district’s teacher of the year will be announced Jan. 24. Ocala Star-Banner.

Lottery for pre-K: The Duval County School District is starting to use an online lottery system for parents to register their children for pre-kindergarten classes. “To alleviate the parents camping out and all the overcrowding at the schools, we thought this would be the best solution,” said Sonya McSwain, the district’s director for early childhood education. WFTX.

Principal reassigned: The Volusia County principal who was removed from Ortona Elementary School after an investigation disclosed his “inappropriate behavior” has been reassigned and is now an assistant principal at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange. Shantell Adkins had received a formal warning in November about his behavior. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Body found in school lake: A Broward County school bus driver dropping students off at Dillard High School on Tuesday morning spotted a body face-down in a small lake on the school’s property. The man was not identified, and a police spokesperson said they don’t know how long he’d been in the water or how he died. Tuesday was the first day back in Broward after the holidays. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Teachers lose certificates: A Miami-Dade County teacher had her educator’s license revoked by the state’s Education Practices Commission for having at least four sexual encounters with a student over two school years. Valeria Costadoni, 32, was a language arts teacher at Miami Arts Charter School in Wynwood when she was arrested during the 2017-2018 school year. Miami New Times. Anthony McDonald, who taught and coached at high schools in Santa Rosa County from 1980 to 2015, has been stripped of his educator’s license by the state for having sex with a student 35 years ago. McDonald was a teacher and the athletic director at Milton High School when the relationship during the 1983-1984 school year. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick said he had “no explanation” for why it took the state so long to discipline McDonald. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Employees and the law: A Pasco County middle school teacher who took his laptop in for repairs has been arrested after it was found to contains child pornography. Deputies say William Crawford, 69, who teaches at John Long Middle School, took his laptop to the Best Buy’s Geek Squad for repairs, where an employee found the pornography. Crawford resigned after the arrest. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS.

Students and the law: A Collier County student has been arrested and accused of making a threat on social media against Pine Ridge Middle School. Deputies said the 15-year-old student attends Gulf Coast High School in Naples. Naples Daily News. Two Miami-Dade students were arrested and accused of trying to take a gun and pellet gun onto the campus of the Benjamin Franklin K-8 Center in North Miami. Neither gun was loaded. WTVJ. Miami Herald. Police are investigating a woman’s allegation that her 12-year-old daughter was raped by a classmate in a bathroom at Gamble Rogers Middle School in St. Augustine. WJXT.

School buses collide: At least 13 students were taken to a hospital for evaluation after two Osceola County school buses collided on Tuesday. About 75 students from Tohopekaliga High School were on the buses. Troopers said one of the drivers switched lanes and struck a bus already in that lane. That driver was cited. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV.

Opinions on schools: Magnet school choices have plateaued since 2012. Why? Because school districts ultimately have an incentive to keep magnet schools contained rather than allowing them to grow to meet parental demand. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Alexis Paredes, a 17-year-old senior at Sunlake High School, has been named the Pasco County School District’s outstanding senior. Bay News 9.

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