Search is on for money for teacher raises, charter authorization and guardian training bills, and more

Compiled by redefinED staff

House on teacher raises: The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, charged by House leadership with finding money from existing state budget items that could be shifted into teacher raises, announced it has identified $520 million. Of that total, $462.2 million could be used for raises through the base student allocation. Subcommittee chair Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, said the largest chunk, $284.5 million, now is used for the Best and Brightest teacher bonuses program, which Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing to eliminate in favor of his own bonus plan. Other areas identified included supplemental academic instruction funds ($150 million), funding compression appropriations ($54.2 million), and digital classroom expenses ($20 million). When it was pointed out that the total didn’t match Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $603 million request for raises or his proposal to spend another $300 million for teacher bonuses, Latvala said his assignment was to find $520 million from within the budget, and “that’s what we did.” Gradebook. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. Citrus County School Board members are sending send a letter to legislators urging them to improve pay for teachers and support staff. Citrus County Chronicle.

Authorizing charter schools: State public colleges and universities would be able to approve the opening of charter schools under a bill in the Florida House. Bills similar to H.B. 953, filed by Rep. Stan McLain, R-Ocala,  have been introduced in the past but never advanced. This year there are two similar bills in the Senate (S.B. 536 and S.B. 1578). Supporters say the current system, which puts authorization in the hands of local school districts, is the equivalent of having Burger King choose sites for McDonald’s. Gradebook. Bay County School District Superintendent Bill Husfelt and Mark McQueen, city manager of Panama City, said a report earlier this week that the city was considering making schools in its boundaries into a charter system was overblown. Panama City News Herald.

School guardian training: A bill has been filed in the Senate that aims to improve training for the state’s armed school guardians as a way to address the concerns expressed by a grand jury that investigated security in K-12 schools. S.B. 7040 would set new minimum standards for instructors, train the guardians on night and low-light conditions, require sheriffs to review mental health evaluations of guardians, widen the authority of the Department of Education to enforce the reporting of school crime, and require school resource officers who are sworn law enforcement officers to complete mental health crisis intervention training. Many Florida school districts have hired school guardians as an alternative to more expensive sworn law enforcement officers. Sun Sentinel. News Service of Florida. Four students from the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts met with legislators this week to lobby for more money for mental health services in schools. Palm Beach Post.

Heat stroke bill moves: The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee also approved a bill that would require schools to have equipment on hand during high school sports practices and games to monitor heat index levels, and provide cooling areas and cold-water immersion for overheated athletes. Schools would also be required to have defibrillators. H.B. 7011, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, now goes to the House Education Committee and, if approved, then to the full House. News Service of Florida.

Superintendent search: Three finalists for the Hillsborough County school superintendent’s job have been chosen from a field of seven semifinalists. They are: Addison Davis, 43, currently the superintendent of the A-rated Clay County School District; Peter Licata, 55, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County School District; and Don Haddad, 58, now superintendent of the St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado. Davis received the most points in the board members’ evaluation system with 35, followed by Licata with 30 and Haddad with 26. Final interviews are Jan. 21. The new superintendent replaces Jeff Eakins, who is retiring no later than June 30. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WTVT. WJXT. Clay Today.

Prayer in schools: President Trump vowed Thursday to protect U.S. students who want to pray or worship in public schools, and to make it easier for religious groups that provide social services to be eligible for federal funding. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said new rules adopted by her agency and others “will level the playing field between religious and nonreligious organizations competing for federal grants, as well as protect First Amendment freedoms on campus and the religious liberty of faith-based institutions.” Associated Press. Washington Post. Politico. WLRN.

Educators honored: Cari Rodriguez, a literacy coach at Harbordale Elementary School, has been chosen as the Broward County School District’s teacher of the year. Melissa Holtz of Wilton Manors Elementary School was named principal of the year, Sean Curran of Fort Lauderdale High School assistant principal of the year, and Jane Fleming of Pioneer Middle School support employee of the year. WPLG. WSVN. Broward County School District. Michelle Coolican of Buddy Taylor Middle School has been named the Flagler County School District’s teacher of the year. Lynn Mellow, who works in the district’s plant services, was chosen as the support employee of the year. Flagler County School District. Virginia Dickert, a music specialist at Jacksonville Country Day School, has been named Florida’s elementary music educator of the year by the Florida Music Education Association. Florida Times-Union.

New MSD building: Broward County school officials say the replacement for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 students and staff died in a 2018 shooting is expected to open when the 2020-2021 school years starts in August. The new building is about the same size as the old one, but is two stories instead of three. The building where the shooting took place is empty but hasn’t been torn down as planned because it’s a crime scene. The trial of accused shooter Nikolas Cruz is scheduled to start this summer. Sun Sentinel.

School flooding problem: Manatee County school officials have struggled for years to find a solution to flooding problems at Palmetto High School, and meet today to discuss the problem. The school’s classrooms and walkways often flooded because of poor drainage, prompting one student to call it “water park.” Board members will meet today with district officials and a representative from an engineering company to talk about potential solutions and costs. Bradenton Herald.

District’s hurricane relief: The Jackson County School District is receiving $1 million in government grants to help in its recovery from Hurricane Michael in 2018. Superintendent Larry Moore said the money will be used for costs the district incurred for transportation maintenance, food and digital technology. WMBB.

Education podcasts: When the Baker Act was created in the 1970s, it was not intended to be used on children. But it’s been increasingly resorted to by Florida school officials to involuntarily commit students. Why? Gradebook.

School programs: South Plantation High School in Broward County is the first traditional public high school in the state with a program to train students to become emergency medical technicians (EMT). Eight students are in the first class. They must complete 250 hours of lecture and practical experience, do rotations at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital and ride for 50 hours in an ambulance with a fire-rescue crew. Sun Sentinel.

New home for school: The North Florida School of Special Education in Jacksonville has reopened its expanded campus and added equine therapy classes. The school, which opened in 1992, educates more than 260 students between the ages of 6 and 22. WJAX. WJXT.

Naming a school: Santa Rosa County school officials plan to appoint a committee to create a list of possible names for a new K-8 school that is expected to open in the fall of 2021 in Navarre. The committee also will solicit suggestions from the community. The school district plans to choose a name by May. Northwest Florida Daily News.

New school’s mascot, colors: Destin High School, a charter school that opens next fall, has chosen the shark for its mascot and cerulean blue, black and silver as school colors. The school is now taking applications for 9th- and 10th-graders. It will expand by a grade in each of the next two years. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Personnel moves: Deborah Borge-Shaffer has been named the principal at East Marion Elementary School in the Marion County School District. She replaces Kendra Hamby, who was moved into the assistant principal’s position at West Port High School. Ocala Star-Banner.

Opinions on schools: As the state Legislature works out how exactly to increase teacher salaries, it is critical that any plan is positioned to promote teacher recruitment and retention, particularly for teachers in high-needs schools. Christopher Redding, Gainesville Sun. The legislative session is under way and the Legislature is still dominated by Republicans, but where is the grand plan? Paula Dockery, Sun Sentinel. The Martin County School District absolutely needs the right person as its next superintendent. We simply hope that candidate can be had for the right price, because the stated maximum of $190,000 a year is too much. TCPalm. We’re not blaming Polk County school Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd for the way she handled the absence of about 1,700 teachers who rallied in Tallahassee for more money. Handed lemons, Byrd simply made lemonade. But we hope that her acceptance of the spillover absences this time won’t tempt future walkouts the next time the state adopts policies teachers don’t like. Lakeland Ledger. Denying a school the use of a loudspeaker for a prayer before a football game is not denying the right to pray. Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: The Sarasota Military Academy charter school has collected $82,000 through a fund-raising challenge campaign. Half of it came from longtime supporter Phyllis Siskel, who matched the $41,000 collected after she issued the challenge to the school. Patch.

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