Special school taxes: A series of tax initiatives have been approved by voters around the state in the past two years, allowing some districts to offer higher teacher pay, special academic and programs, and money to repair and replace schools. “The wave of local referendums … demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people of Florida want higher funding for the education system,” said Beth Rawlins, a consultant who has led campaigns in Pinellas County since 2004. But so far, lawmakers don’t appear to be getting the message. “We’re not getting enough money from the state. That’s the bottom line,” said Olga Swinson, chief finance officer for the Pasco district. “The only way for us to have that money is to have these tax referendums.” One downside to the trend of approving higher taxes is a rise in equity issues, with wealthier districts better-positioned than poorer ones to mount a campaign to ask voters for extra help. Tampa Bay Times.
Around the state: Most Broward teachers who asked for permission to work remotely have been turned down, the new Hillsborough County School Board could change the relationship between the district and its teachers, and siblings of students who are sent home with coronavirus-like symptoms are also required to quarantine in Palm Beach County. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: Marcos “Shakey” Rodriguez, a longtime basketball coach who won five state championships at Miami High School and also coached at Florida International University, died this week after suffering a brain aneurysm. He was 67. Miami Herald.
Broward, south Florida: Only about 800 of the 5,000 Broward County teachers who applied to work remotely will be allowed to do so, Superintendent Robert Runcie told school board members Wednesday. Priority was given to teachers who have cancer, diabetes, or heart or kidney disease, while about 1,000 teachers who have at-risk family members or such conditions as asthma, HIV and high blood pressure weren’t approved. Runcie said the district’s accommodations for teachers are generous, and that the district couldn’t function if it granted every request. Sun Sentinel. There are now two Broward County School Board members who lost a loved one in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018. WPLG. About 675 schools in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties have reported coronavirus infections since early September. That’s up 41 percent since last week. Miami-Dade has reported cases at 289 schools, Broward 200, Palm Beach 174 and Monroe 12. WPLG.
Hillsborough: Tuesday’s school board elections could change the relationship between the district and its teachers. Two incumbents were voted out of office and all four candidates elected were endorsed by the teachers union, which has opposed Superintendent Addison Davis’ proposal to cuts hundreds of jobs and increase computer-based testing. “We’re going to have a deeper, more collaborative process than ever before,” union president Rob Kriete said. “There might be a little friction there, but nothing that we can’t sit down at the table and collaborate over.” Tampa Bay Times. WFTS. A Plant City High School teacher died this week of complications from the coronavirus. Michael Wanner was a forensics teacher who had worked for the district since 1998. WFLA. WTVT. The district recorded a record 56 positive coronavirus cases on Monday, and has reported more than 80 cases so far this week. WTVT.
Orange: The Blanker School in Orlando has switched to online learning through Nov. 10 for 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders after six cases of the coronavirus were reported in the past week. Fifty students and four employees at the K-8 school have been ordered to quarantine. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WFTV.
Palm Beach: Siblings of students who are sent home from school with coronavirus-like symptoms must also quarantine, according to a new school district policy. “Any other students attending face-to-face instruction in any district-operated school that resides in the same home as the student exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home with the parent/guardian and assigned to distance learning,” the rule states. Students who are sent home attend remote classes until symptoms have been gone for 10 days or they test negative for the coronavirus. Palm Beach Post. Students return to schools today after being off Tuesday while schools were used as polling places for the general election. It’s also the first day of the second quarter and district officials expect about 68,000 students to be in classrooms, up from 54,000 when schools reopened Sept. 21. WPTV.
Manatee: A private school in Bradenton that had announced an end to online classes has reversed that decision because of a recent spike in coronavirus cases. Bradenton Christian School had announced Oct. 8 that it would stop offering remote learning, but reconsidered because of the “uptick in cases nationally, locally and in our school community,” and notified parents on Oct. 27 that online classes would continue to be offered to middle and high school students. Bradenton Herald.
Marion: A high school dean has been fired by the school board nearly a year after he tested positive for marijuana use. Mike Hickman’s use was discovered after he broke up a fight at Belleview High and had to report to a doctor for a workers compensation claim. He has a prescription to use the drug to alleviate pain from multiple surgeries for combat injuries. Ocala Star-Banner.
St. Lucie: Teachers union president David Freeland said the addition of new school board members Jennifer Richardson and Jack Kelly, as well as the departure of six-term incumbent Kathryn Hensley, will probably change the dynamic of the board and its relationship with teachers. “The personality of the board will likely change and the discussions will be a bit different,” he said. “Certainly, I think conversations surrounding charter schools will be different. I hope personnel discussions will be more robust.” TCPalm.
Leon: The founding principal of the Tallahassee Classical Academy is taking a medical leave of absence for the rest of the school year. According to board chair and school cofounder Jana Sayler, Adrienne Campbell is having a “medically fragile” pregnancy but is expected to return next summer. Filling in will be Maegan Satcher of the St. Johns Classical Academy near Jacksonville. Tallahassee Democrat.
Alachua: School board members voted this week to proceed with a plan to rubberize the asphalt track at Buchholz High School, despite some complaints from the community that the money should be used for more pressing needs. The cost will be about $1.3 million over two years, and the money will come from the 1.5 millage rate on property taxes. The board takes a final vote on the issue Nov. 17. WUFT.
Santa Rosa: Superintendent-elect Karen Barber said Wednesday that the district’s quarantine requirements for students will remain in place. The district says students who come into close contact with someone who has the coronavirus must quarantine for two weeks, even if they were wearing a mask and show no symptoms. “That directive comes directly from the department of health and legally our school district is obliged to comply with that,” said Barber. “We are certainly frustrated and understand the concerns parents and students have.” WEAR.
Bay: School officials will be screening 2nd-graders over the next few weeks to determine who qualifies for acceptance into the district’s gifted services program. Those students who are identified as exceptional will get extra instruction in areas they’re interested in. WJHG.
Indian River: Six more cases of the coronavirus have been reported in three schools, leading to the quarantining of 23 students and employees. Schools affected were Sebastian River Middle School, Vero Beach High and the Freshmen Learning Center. WPEC.
Jackson: The school district is offering free flu shots to students and employees at different schools all months. Students need a signed consent form from their parents. WJHG.
More on the coronavirus: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants to pass a coronavirus aid package before the end of the year, and he said the Senate will consider Democratic requests to include funding for schools and other government institutions. The 74. Experts say U.S. school districts must improve their ventilation systems to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. But the estimated cost to upgrade air-conditioning systems and buy air filters is $145 billion. The 74.
Senate committees: The Florida Senate has scheduled committee meetings for the weeks of Jan. 11 and 25, Feb. 1, 8 and 15 to prepare for the 2021 legislative session. Lawmakers also have scheduled a post-election organizational session for Nov. 17. The 60-day legislative session begins March 2. News Service of Florida.
Education podcasts: Patricia Brantley, the CEO of a charter school company in the Washington, D.C., area, talked with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about the way the company delivers education, the unbundling of education services, the trend toward pod schools and the need for Internet access for all students. SUFS hosts this blog. redefinED.
Opinions on schools: Beyond the important impact on education, the new school sales tax will have other impressive results on the future of Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union. Duval voters put their trust in schools officials, who haven’t always made good choices in past decades. But they’ve made a promise to use the sales tax proceeds responsibly and transparently. It’s time to make good on it. Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union. In order to advance educational equity, we must first define and understand the concept. Chanae Jackson and David Kaplan, Gainesville Sun. Teachers need help from districts and organizations to provide our most vulnerable students with access to technology and critical resources for learning. Lakeisha Wells-Palmer, Orlando Sentinel. Education for our children in these times is challenging to say the least. However, many of our challenges in rural areas have existed even prior to this COVID-19 pandemic and has added another layer of hurdles to the efforts to make a successful environment for our youth. Heather Surrency, Gainesville Sun.