Archive | Education reporting

Florida schools roundup: Immigrants and GED review, security and more

Immigrants and GED: The Miami-Dade County School Board has ordered a review of the way the district educates immigrant students. The review was approved about a month after newspaper reports detailed how arriving teens with limited English skills were often pushed into adult education programs, where they then prepared to get a high school diploma through the GED program. Critics of that process say those students are steered away from regular high schools because school officials think they’ll have a negative impact on graduation rates. More than 1,000 of the 5,000 immigrant teens who arrived this year ended up in Spanish-language GED programs. Board members gave administrators until September to conduct the review and report back. Miami Herald. About 200 immigrant youths under the age of 19 who tried to enroll in Collier County schools were turned away and pushed toward a GED degree, online programs and workforce training sessions, according to a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here’s the story of one, 17-year-old Nehemy Antoine, a Haitian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen. Teacher Project, Naples Daily News.

School security: A Palm Beach grand jury’s suggestion that the school district dip into its reserves to pay for school resource officers is dismissed by school officials as a simplistic and unrealistic solution to a complicated problem. They say the reserve fund as a percentage of the annual budget is already lower than that of most Florida districts, and that reserves should not be used for everyday expenses like new employees and higher salaries. Palm Beach Post. While Sanibel, Fort Myers or Cape Coral city officials have agreed to contribute financially to place resource officers in schools in their cities, officials in Estero and Bonita Springs are still questioning whether it’s their responsibility. They think school protection ought to fall under what they already pay the county for the sheriff to police their cities. Naples Daily News. Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods drops the cost to supply resource officers for schools, and if the city of Ocala can’t do the same the school board is likely to contract with the sheriff. The board meets Monday to finalize its decision. Ocala Star-Banner. Officials from the St. Johns County School District and sheriff’s office talk about how the county will comply with the state’s school security mandate. St. Augustine Record. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: District force ripped, security, tax measures and more

District’s force blasted: A Palm Beach County grand jury looking into school security issues a report blasting the school district’s police department, calling it “understaffed, underfunded and underpaid” and saying it is misleading the public about how well it’s protecting schools. “If the Palm Beach County School Board and the [school district] do not want to adequately fund, hire, pay and equip the [school district police], they are in effect wasting our taxpayer money and could be putting our children’s lives in danger,” the grand jury concluded. If the district isn’t willing to spend the money necessary, the grand jury said, it should turn over the job to the sheriff’s office. School officials call the grand jury’s suggestion to fix the problems by using financial reserves or cutting other school programs “irresponsible.” Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

School security: South Florida schools districts are scrambling to hire police officers to comply with the state mandate of having an armed officer in all schools when they reopen this fall. Sun-Sentinel. Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight and county commissioners criticize School Superintendent Todd Bowden for his handling of negotiations for school resource officers and for the district’s decision to create its own police force. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA. WTSP. About 180 people have applied to become armed guardians for the Volusia County School District. Sheriff’s officials say about 130 met the minimum requirements and will be interviewed. As many as 52 could be hired to guard elementary and charter schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Orlando Sentinel. Estero city officials say protecting schools should be the responsibility of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, not the city. WFTX. The St. Johns County School District and county agree to a deal to have the sheriff hire 16 youth resource deputies to help guard schools. The district will contribute $1.4 million and the county $1 million. St. Augustine Record. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: District’s deal with hospital, school security and more

District-hospital deal: The Volusia County School District and a local hospital reach an unusual agreement that gives the hospital advertising rights in the district in exchange for health care services and education for students. The program will be known as the Florida Hospital Healthy Futures Program of Volusia County Schools. District officials call the deal “a first of its kind agreement between a school district and major health care provider that will serve as a national model.” The contract is for five years and requires Florida Hospital to pay $200,000 a year and provide $1 million of in-kind services. Florida Hospital becomes the district’s “Official Health Care Champion,” and will have direct involvement in the district’s 15 health care academies and programs, support athletic teams and physical trainers and provide health care services to students at 36 schools with high student absenteeism. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School security: Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has rejected a request to provide 50 deputies on overtime to patrol dozens of elementary schools, and district officials now say they will consider hiring private security guards. Palm Beach Post. A report from Sarasota School Superintendent Todd Bowden that an agreement was reached with the sheriff’s office to provide school resource officers is refuted by the sheriff. District officials later said it was just an idea being floated, and that the district will go ahead with its plan to create its own police department. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Paul Grohowski, the new Sarasota County School District’s police chief, has made decisions in his past three jobs that caused controversy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Leon County school officials say they have a deal to pay the sheriff’s office $1.9 million to provide resource officers for 30 schools, and will spend $1 million to hire off-duty officers for the remaining 18 elementary schools. Tallahassee Democrat. The city of Cape Coral is considering ways to help Lee County put an armed school resource officer in each of the city’s schools. The cost for the 23 officers needed will be more than $1 million a year. WFTX. Like public schools, Catholic schools are struggling to find the money to provide security for students. redefinED. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Tax hikes, testing results, school security and more

Tax vote scuttled: Brevard County School Board members don’t think voters will approve a property tax increase to pay for school security and employee pay raises, so they’ve decided not to ask. They say there’s not enough time to educate voters, and they worry that putting the referendum on the ballot will jeopardize the renewal of the half-cent sales tax surcharge. So now the board will be looking at layoffs and cutting expenses and programs. Pennie Zuercher, the district’s chief financial officer, estimated the budget deficit will be about $5.3 million. Florida Today.

FSA test results: More reports on how school districts around the state, and some struggling schools in particular, did in the Florida Standards Assessments testing for reading and math for grades 3-12, science for 5th- and 8th-graders and end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. Testing results are part of the formula used to assign grades to individual schools and districts. Miami Herald. Florida Times-UnionWUSF. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando SentinelWJCT. WSNN. Bradenton Herald. Bradenton TimesSarasota Herald-Tribune. Island Reporter. WBBH. Naples Daily News. Flagler Live. Ocala Star-Banner. Northwest Florida Daily News. Vero News. WJHG. Lakeland Ledger. Charlotte Sun. Walton Sun. Highlands News-Sun. Marco Eagle. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. WLRN. Bridge to Tomorrow. WMBB.

School security: Miami-Dade school officials are asking city and county officials for help in putting school resource officers in schools that do not already have officers. The district has its own police force, and its officers cover all middle and high schools. But that leaves about 240 schools uncovered. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho plans to use $4 million from the state to hire 40 to 50 officers for the district force, and is offering $4 million to be distributed among the county and 34 municipalities. WLRNWFOR. Jupiter Police Chief Frank J. Kitzerow Jr. is chosen to become police chief of the Palm Beach County School District. Kitzerow, 61, has been chief in Jupiter since 2004. The school board is expected to approve the appointment at its Wednesday meeting. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel. The St. Johns County School Board authorizes Superintendent Tim Forson to negotiate and contract with law enforcement agencies to provide armed security at any district school not already covered by deputies from the sheriff’s office. St. Augustine Record. The Palm Beach and Martin county school districts have bought workplace violence insurance in case any of their schools are attacked by anyone with a weapon. WPTV. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Test scores improve, proposed tax hikes and more

FSA test results: Florida students improved their test scores in the state’s math, science and social studies exams, and in reading in some grades, according to results released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education. The Florida Standards Assessments measure reading and math for students in grades 3-12, science for 5th- and 8th-graders and end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. Test results also show a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students in language arts, algebra 1 and geometry. Testing results are part of the formula used to assign grades to individual schools and districts. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-SentinelBridge to TomorrowFlorida Department of Education. More reports on how school districts around the state did in the testing. Ocala Star-Banner. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. Tampa Bay Times. GradebookWJXT. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Space Coast Daily.

Proposed tax hikes: If the Palm Beach County School Board agrees to the placement of a property tax increase on the November ballot, it would be the third school tax increase voters have been asked to approve in the past four years. This time, the request is for an extra $1 per $1,000 of taxable property value, which would be used for teacher salaries, school security and mental health care. The tax is projected to raise $200 million a year for four years. The board vote is scheduled Wednesday. Sun-Sentinel. A school tax referendum in Hillsborough County is likely to be delayed beyond November because it might take up to eight months or longer to get the financial audit that is now required by the state before voters can be asked to approve an increase in taxes. District officials say when they contacted the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to request the audit, they were told there might be a six-month wait and that the results would have to be posted for two months before a vote could take place. Tampa Bay Times.

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Florida schools roundup: Superintendent hirings and firing, security and more

New superintendents: Mark Mullins, the Brevard County School District’s chief operating officer, is named superintendent. The school board was scheduled to whittle down a list of 12 candidates and conduct interviews next week. Instead, all five board members selected Mullins as the only candidate everyone wanted as a finalist, and chose to forgo the rest of the process. Mullins, who has worked for the district since 1994, replaces Desmond Blackburn, who is leaving this summer to become chief executive officer of the national education nonprofit New Teacher Center. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. The Manatee County School Board is negotiating with Cynthia Saunders, deputy superintendent of instructional services, to serve as interim superintendent. She’ll take over temporarily for Diana Greene, who leaves July 1 for the same job in Duval County. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Old superintendent: In a 3-2 vote, the Hernando County School Board has fired Superintendent Lori Romano. Board member Beth Narverud initiated the move, saying she was concerned about “a multitude of misinformation, half-truths and urgent, last-minute decisions thrust upon” the board by Romano. Linda Prescott, who cast the deciding vote, says Romano’s firing of all 47 teachers at the struggling Moton Elementary School without first notifying the board or teachers union convinced her it was time for a change. Board attorney Dennis Alfonso says the board will explain its reasoning in an official termination letter at its June 26 meeting. Tampa Bay Times. Earlier Tuesday, a lawyer apparently representing Romano threatened legal action against school board members Susan Duval and Narverud for “failing to meet” the requirements of Romano’s evaluation. “Several of you have attempted to publicly humiliate and needlessly and irreparably injure the reputation of the superintendent,” wrote Kathryn McHale. Gradebook. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: School crime reporting, scholarships, suit and more

School crime reporting: The Broward County School District has failed to report many students’ crimes to the state as required by state law, according to records from the Broward Sheriff’s Office. For example, the district reported 193 weapons were found in schools during the 2016-2017 school year, but officials acknowledge they no longer were counting such things as ammunition, small knives, throwing blades, nunchucks, BB guns and combustible materials. District spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan says the data sent to the state is meant only to capture “the most serious of incidents, while other incidents are recorded and addressed locally.” Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants’ Association, adds, “The state statute is really kind of unclear and open to interpretation, so it leads to subjective decisions.” Sun-Sentinel.

Scholarship oversight: Several legislators say they want to standardize education curriculum for all state schools. Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, was among those calling for the change after a newspaper report detailing some of the materials used by some private schools that enroll students who get scholarships from the state. Among those lessons: people and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time, slaves who “knew Christ” were better off than free men who did not, and God intervened to prevent Catholics from controlling North America. The state doesn’t track curriculum used by private schools with scholarship students, and bars the Florida Education Department from regulating academics at those schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer two scholarship programs students use to attend private schools. Orlando Sentinel.

One lawsuit on hold: Leon County Circuit Court Judge James Shelfer rules that the Palm Beach County School Board’s challenge of the Legislature’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069, is on hold until an appeal on a broader lawsuit against the law is settled. Palm Beach is challenging only the part of the law that requires the district to share local property tax revenue with charter schools it authorizes. The other lawsuit, brought by several districts, claims the law is unconstitutional because it has “encroached on the authority vested by the Florida Constitution in locally elected district school boards to operate, control, and supervise the local public schools located in their respective jurisdictions.” redefinED. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Hope Scholarship rules, security and more

Hope Scholarship rules: Florida school districts are asking the state to clarify the rules to determine how bullied students can qualify for Hope Scholarships to attend private schools. “The way the statute reads, we would have to make the scholarship [notification] available even if the allegations were not merited,” Santa Rosa County assistant superintendent Bill Emerson said during a conference call with Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice officials. Those officials did not disagree with the interpretation. Local school officials have expressed concerns that the rules could be abused by parents who are more interested in getting the scholarship money than protecting a child. News Service of FloridaGradebook.

School security: The city of Miami Beach agrees to place police officers at the six schools in the city, starting in August. It’s the first city in the county to come to such an agreement with the Miami-Dade County School Board. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he expects to reach similar agreements with other municipalities in the next few weeks. Miami Herald. WPLG. Two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School security watchmen have been barred from campus and reassigned after reports that they saw confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz come on campus Feb. 14 but did nothing to intervene. Sun-Sentinel. Broward County parents are offering to buy metal detectors for Stoneman Douglas High and nearby J.P. Taravella High School. The detectors cost about $3,500 each. Sun-Sentinel. The NRA sends questionnaires to politicians asking if they will repeal the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed by the Legislature after the Parkland shooting. The law created a three-day waiting period to buy guns and raised the legal gun-buying age from 18 to 21. Sun-SentinelTampa Bay Times. St. Johns County officials seem receptive to Superintendent Tim Forson’s proposal to have the school board pay for resource officers and armed security guards for schools, and the county pay for the SROs’ cars and equipment. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT. The Gulf County School Board rejects Superintendent Jim Norton’s recommendation that the district participate in the state program to arm school employees. Port St. Joe Star. The Green Cove Springs City Council approves an agreement with the Clay County School Board to supply resource officers for the two schools in the city, with the board paying the $143,000 cost. WJXT. An active shooter training exercise at Bayshore High School in Manatee County convinces at least two school board members that there should be a sworn officer in every school, instead of the current plan for a mix of armed guards and sworn officers. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A study by the Police Executive Research Forum, commissioned by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, suggesting that the sheriff’s office and school district’s force should merge is rejected by both. The consultant’s report also concludes that the first officer to arrive at a mass shooting should move in to confront the shooter before backup arrives. Palm Beach Post.

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