Study calls state’s new academic standards ‘weak,’ school jobs, reopening plans and more

New academic standards panned: The state’s new K-12 academic standards are “weak” and need revisions, according to a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The new standards, called B.E.S.T. for Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking, were announced in February as a replacement for the Common Core standards the state had been using since 2010. The report argued the new standards for English and math are less rigorous than the Common Core’s, should not be used until revisions are made, and should not be copied by other states, either. “As for other states, they should indeed look for model standards, but they won’t find them in Florida,” the report concluded. A Florida Department of Education spokeswoman, Taryn Fenske, questioned the study, charging that the Fordham researchers are “personally, and financially, invested in keeping Common Core in states across the nation. These authors have countless books for sale analyzing and outlining how to teach and learn Common Core.” Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times.

Early retirement offer: For the first time in a decade, the Flagler County School District is giving teachers and other workers an early retirement offer. Sixty-five teachers and 100 other employees qualify. One option is for employees to get a bonus of 18 percent of their salary and $6,500 toward health-care insurance, ending at 65. The other is a bonus of $6,000 on top of the 18 percent. District officials said they are looking for ways to cut costs and also accommodate workers who are uneasy about returning to school because of the coronavirus. Flagler Live. The number of jobs in private education rose in May and declined in public schools, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 373,000 public school employees were out of work in May because schools were closed, while about 33,000 people were hired for private education. Education Dive.

Reopening K-12 schools: About 53 percent of Hillsborough County parents said in a survey that they’re comfortable sending their children back to school in the fall, and about 52 percent of employees agreed they’re okay with returning. Superintendent Addison Davis said the district will review the 62,000 responses and come up with a reopening plan in the next two or three weeks. WFLA. Lee County School Board members said the district is making preparations to accommodate students who do not want to return in person to schools in the fall. A school survey indicated as many as 30 percent of students, parents ad teachers said they were apprehensive about returning. WINK. The Sarasota County School Board’s special meeting on reopening schools has been canceled because of an undisclosed medical emergency. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Many school districts around the country will require students and staff to wear masks this fall. Other measures being taken include social distancing, temperature checks, stocking up on hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes. Some are even proposing plexiglass shields to be used as dividers in high-traffic areas. Education Dive.

Reopening universities: The University of South Florida’s plan to return to school in the fall was approved Tuesday by its board of trustees. The plan consists of four phases. In the first, which officials say they are in now, 25 percent of students are allowed on campus. They hope to start Phase 2 soon, with 50 percent of students on campus. The plan calls for increased testing of students and staff for the virus, masks for students in all shared enclosed spaces, more emphasis on cleaning and disinfecting public areas, and steps to ensure social distancing. The plan is being sent to the Board of Governors this week. Tampa Bay Times.

More on the coronavirus: Many Volusia County high school seniors want to hold an outdoor graduation ceremony this month instead of waiting until July’s scheduled events at the Ocean Center. So they’ve started a petition that they hope will convince district officials to alter the plans. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Palm Beach County School District is distributing meals twice a week at 52 schools and other sites throughout the summer. WPTV. The Miami Dolphins are collaborating with the Miami-Dade County School District to provide meals for district students twice a week at schools through the summer. WTVJ. High school athletes in Polk County can begin offseason workouts Monday. Lakeland Ledger.

Struggling schools get new operator: The MGT Consulting firm has been hired as an outside operator to oversee eight struggling Hillsborough County schools. The one-year contract will pay MGT about $4.1 million. Tampa-based MGT, which is run by former legislator Trey Traviesa, takes over from Phalen Leadership Academy, an Indiana company that was hired in 2018. Gradebook.

Community colleges honored: Two Florida community colleges are among the 10 finalists for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which is awarded every two years and includes a $1 million prize. Broward College and Tallahassee Community College were chosen for outstanding achievement in teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, workforce success and equitable outcomes for minority and low-income students. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. Florida Department of Education. Aspen Institute.

Superintendent’s fears: Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy recently acknowledged that, as a black man, he is afraid for himself and for his 11-year-old son. “Every morning when I get up to go outside and walk, I’m conscious of ‘Do I wear a hooded sweatshirt?’ because it’s dark outside and I might walk up on my neighbors who are walking, and they don’t recognize me and they call the police,” he said in an emotional speech to the school board. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent search: The top five candidates for the Sarasota County school superintendent’s job have been recommended by a search committee to the school board. Thirty-one people applied. The committee’s finalists are: Marie Izquierdo, chief academic officer for the Miami-Dade County School District; Peter Licata, regional superintendent in Palm Beach County; Brennan Asplen III, deputy superintendent in St. Johns County; Gonzalo S. La Cava, chief of human resources in Palm Beach County; and Keith Oswald, deputy superintendent in Palm Beach County. The recommendation is not binding on the board, which hopes to make a hire by June 23. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent’s health: Volusia County Superintendent Scott Fritz has been diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer, he announced this week, and will begin treatment next week. Fritz, whose tenure began last November, said he expects to work while undergoing the radiation and chemotherapy treatments, which could be finished by the end of July. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Personnel moves: New principals have been named at 34 Hillsborough County schools or programs. All the appointments are effective July 1. Gradebook.

School board elections: Indian River County School Board member Tiffany Justice said she won’t run for re-election to her District 5 seat. “I do not believe a divisive, contentious election is what’s best for kids right now,” she told board members on Tuesday. “I’m choosing my family.” TCPalm.

Districts considering contracts: Lee and Collier school officials said they are reviewing their relationships with a school lunch provider because of Facebook posts made by that company’s owner. Alfie Oakes, the owner of Oakes Farms and Seed to Table market, called the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement hoaxes in a Facebook post and labeled George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer May 25, a “disgraceful career criminal.” A petition urging the districts to end their contracts with the farm has been circulating since Sunday and already has almost 10,000 signatures. Naples Daily News.

New school name pushed: An online petition is lobbying the Duval County School Board to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville. “Robert E. Lee’s name is a social stigma that haunts Jacksonville as it is a constant reminder of the racism and hate that exists today,” the petition reads. The school named after the Confederate general has nearly 1,800 students, and 69 percent are black. WJXT.

New policies approved: The Lake County School Board has given tentative approval to several new policies, including ones on tracking student performance and the use of medical marijuana in schools. Daily Commercial.

New laptops: Every Bay County teacher will receive a new Chromebook in the next two years, the school board decided on Tuesday. The cost will be taken from money the district gets from a half-cent sales tax surcharge. WJHG.

Teacher’s conviction upheld: The 1st District Court of Appeal has upheld the child abuse conviction of Marlynn Stillions, a pre-K teacher for children with disabilities for the Okaloosa County School District. The court rejected Stillions’ argument that she should have been acquitted because there was no evidence that the child was injured. The case led to the removal and subsequent resignation of former superintendent Mary Beth Jackson. News Service of Florida.

Heat rules, new sports added: The Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors have approved new safety rules to protect school athletes from heat-related illnesses. Specific guidelines have been established about when workouts can be held, and cooling zones must be provided for outdoor activities and an employee must be trained how to use them. The board also approved the two new girls high school sports, sand volleyball and wrestling, starting in the 2021-2022 school year, and will allow football players to participate this season in both junior varsity and varsity games in the same week, for a maximum of six quarters. Lakeland Ledger. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Settlement approved: The family of Hezekiah Walters will receive a settlement of $1 million from the Hillsborough County School District. The board approved the payout Tuesday. Walters, 14, died June 11, 2019, after an offseason football workout at Middleton High School in Tampa. WTVT.

Equipment being replaced: Tight end Rob Gronkowski and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation are teaming up to replace an equipment shed at Blake High School and $11,000 worth of football equipment that was destroyed by a fire in May. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

School wall defaced: Flagler County deputies are investigating who painted a Confederate flag and other graffiti on the side of the gymnasium at Matanzas High School. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Teacher arrested: An Alachua County teacher has been arrested and accused of sexual battery. Deputies said Christopher Salamone, 35, a teacher at Santa Fe High School, had sex with a student who was 16 or 17. Gainesville Sun.

Opinions on schools: The murder of another unarmed black man is unnerving, vile and inhumane. Society’s lack of attention to educational equity is equally appalling. Keith Jacobs, redefinED. When schools reopen in September, why not let families decide whether they prefer face-to-face or remote learning? That way students who like remote learning can continue while the students who need in-person teaching can have the schools. Alina Adams, The 74. After successfully pushing an ambitious program to raise the minimum starting pay for teachers, Gov. Ron DeSantis now may have no choice but to redline it. There isn’t enough money to go around. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics.

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