Archive | Magnet schools

Florida schools roundup: Security plans, chief’s error, housing issues and more

School security: After Manatee County officials declined to provide more money to protect schools, the school district is now planning to hire 44 armed security guards to be stationed at county schools. Deputy superintendent Ron Ciranna says the district will tap into the state’s fund for its guardian program to pay for the guards, and he expects to present the plan to the school board May 22. Bradenton Herald. Pinellas Park City Council members agree to provide money for resource officers at the five Pinellas County schools in the city, but only for the 2018-2019 school year. Gradebook. Cape Coral city officials vow to work with the Lee County School District to place resource officers in every city school. WBBH. The Citrus County School Board is offering the sheriff $954,500 to provide school resource officers at all 22 schools. If the sheriff declines, the board will consider creating its own police department. Citrus County Chronicle. More details on the Brevard County School District’s plan to hire “security specialists,” which came as a surprise to many residents because the possibility hadn’t been mentioned previously. Florida Today. Eighty-three people have applied to run the Pasco County School District’s security department. Gradebook.

Superintendent admits error: Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano signs a settlement agreement acknowledging that her decision to fire all 47 teachers at a troubled elementary school was a violation of the contract the district has with the teachers union. Romano was reprimanded by the school board, and three of the teachers wrongly dismissed were given their jobs back. Romano has maintained that she had to fire all the teachers to prevent Moton Elementary, which has received D grades from the state the last two years, from being taken over by the state. Tampa Bay Times. All but 10 of the Moton positions have already been filled, Romano says. Tampa Bay Times.

Unaffordable housing: A teacher making the $49,013 median salary in Miami-Dade County can afford to buy just 9 percent of the homes in the area, according to new data from the online residential real estate site Trulia. That’s down 9.7 percentage points in just the past year. The median price for a home in the metro Miami area is now $450,000, up 12.8 percent in the past year. The numbers are better in Tampa, at 34 percent, and Orlando, at 20 percent. Affordability is defined as a monthly payment at or below 31 percent of monthly income. Miami Herald. Continue Reading →

A magnet school principal makes the performing arts count

Martin Reid, right, was the 2016 Magnet Schools of America’s principal of the year

Sitting in the back of the classroom, Hermes Velasquez was a quiet student.

He had stage fright and was embarrassed to stand up in front of other students at an award-winning magnet school for the performing arts south of Miami.

But slowly, with the help of his teacher, Adalberto Acevedo, and the school’s family-like culture, Velasquez overcame his stage fright. To get over his fear, he familiarized himself with the stage by helping to put props out. Then he started acting in supporting roles.

Indeed, he competed in the 2018 Florida State Thespians Festival — a theater competition with 6,000 students across the state — earning excellent marks for his sketch of a comic play, the Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged.

Arthur & Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts, a visual arts magnet program, focuses on reaching students like Velasquez and helping them grow academically and in the world of the arts. Martin Reid, the school’s principal, has transformed it from a low-performing small magnet program with a sour reputation and student disciplinary problems to a school with large parental involvement and a high graduation rate surpassing the state average.  School officials say they expect in the least the school’s grade will rise from a C to a B this year.

Its improvement tracks a broader trend in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which has eliminated F-rated schools and expanded district-run school choice programs.

Reid said the school’s mission is to prepare students for college and for work in the arts industry or a hybrid of both.

“They are goal-driven and they are motivated in their careers,” he said of the students. “We are able to give a lot of attention and support to the kids. We are able to drill down to their strengths and weaknesses to motivate them.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Charter school ‘deserts,’ H.B. 7069 appeal and more

Charter school scarcity: A new report concludes that Florida has one of the highest number of charter school “deserts,” which are defined as three or more contiguous census tracts with poverty rates above 20 percent and no charter elementary schools. The charter-friendly Thomas B. Fordham Institute identified about 20 such areas in and around Miami, Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg. “Despite the thousands of charter schools opened [nationally] over the past twenty-five years,” the report concludes, “many more are needed if low-income students in every part of America are to have the options they need.” Gradebook. redefinED.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Duval County School Board members vote against joining an appeal of the latest decision against 13 school boards that are challenging the constitutionality of the state’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069, saying they can’t afford to continue. Lee and Bay county school boards have already committed to an appeal. School boards in Alachua, Broward, Clay, Hamilton, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla counties have yet to decide. Florida Times-Union.

School shooting defense: The Broward County School Board is trying to limit its liability by having a court label the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre as a single incident with many victims. The board’s liability for each incident is $300,000. Seventeen were killed and 17 wounded on Feb. 14, and a lawyer for one of the wounded victims wants the court to declare each victim a separate incident. Sun-Sentinel. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: School security, lawsuit appeal, felons and more

School security: The Hendry and Suwannee county school boards adopt the state’s guardian program and will have school employees carrying concealed weapons in all their schools next August. The school boards will decide who becomes a guardian, and the county sheriff’s departments will provide the training. WBBH. Suwannee Democrat. The Pasco County School Board will be asked to approve a $2.8 million program to put armed safety officers instead of sworn school resource officers into county schools. Gradebook. Some Florida legislators predict the school safety act will be revised in the next legislative session. Florida Today. A majority of people responding to a Lake County School District survey say they do not want to arm school employees. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel. A group of Duval County students share their safety concerns with legislators. WJCT. St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson talks about the financial challenges the district faces in adhering to the state mandate of having an armed person in every school. St. Augustine RecordFlorida senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio introduce a bill to expand the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center as a way to protect students. Sun-Sentinel. Sunshine State News

Education lawsuit appeal: School boards in Lee and Bay counties vote to appeal a judge’s April 4 ruling that the 2017 state education law, H.B. 7069, is constitutional. The other 11 school boards in the suit – Alachua, Broward, Clay, Duval, Hamilton, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla – have yet to decide whether they’ll join the appeal. The plaintiffs say the law is unconstitutional because it takes power away from local school boards. Fort Myers News-PressPanama City News HeraldWJHG. The ongoing legal fight reflects the tension between local school boards, which are given the authority to oversee all public schools in their counties, and the Legislature and Florida Department of Education, which have the power to regulate that authority. redefinED.

Private schools investigated: The Florida Department of Education will investigate three private schools that hired felons as teachers. Kingsway Christian Academy and Winners Primary School near Orlando and Southland Christian School near Kissimmee have been asked for records of the employees, including proof of their background checks. State law prohibits private schools that take scholarship money from hiring employees with certain convictions, but the state relies on the schools to conduct background checks. Orlando Sentinel. Continue Reading →

Magnet schools continue to flourish in Florida

The number of magnet schools continues to grow in Florida. The Sunshine State leads the nation with 536.

The U.S. Department of Education released new statistics showing Florida with 32 more magnet schools than the state of California. Michigan comes in third with 386 magnet schools. As a percentage of public schools, Florida also comes out on top, trailed by Michigan. The statistics in the report show the different types of public schools in the United States.

Magnet schools are more ethnically and racially diverse than traditional public schools and they enroll a larger percentage of low-income students. The school’s curriculum centers on specific educational themes such as the performing arts and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“I think what is important to recognize with magnet schools, especially when you consider Florida, is they are a form of public school choice that are being used to meet the demand of the communities they serve,” said John Laughner, legislative communication manager for the Magnet Schools of America. “They continue to be a form of school choice that is designed to promote school integration.” Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: School safety plans, investigations, a return and more

School safety proposals: Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders present their plans to bolster security in the state’s schools. Both plans would boost the age for buying guns to 21. Scott’s plan, which he estimates would cost $500 million, would also ban bump stocks, an accessory that converts semi-automatic rifles into automatic; allow authorities or relatives to take guns from mentally unstable people without first having them committed; require people who are committed under the Baker Act to surrender their guns for at least 60 days; provide more access to mental health counseling; put at least one armed guard at every public and charter school, including one for every 1,000 students; assign a Department of Children and Families case manager to law enforcement officials in all 67 counties; conduct active shooter drills in every school; and require state-approved school safety plans. The legislative plan also proposes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, a program to train and arm teachers in the classroom, and a requirement that a person be Baker Acted before his or her weapons could be confiscated. Neither plan calls for a ban on assault weapons. Sun-SentinelTampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Politico FloridaOrlando Sentinel. Associated Press. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-UnionBroward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie pleads with legislators to not put guns into the hands of teachers. Miami Herald.

Queries into shootings: Gov. Rick Scott is asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the response by Broward County authorities to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating claims from another law enforcement agency that three other deputies waited outside the school during the shooting. Sheriff Scott Israel insists just one deputy was at the school during the shootings. Sun-SentinelSun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Palm Beach Post. Israel is rejecting a call to resign because of the problems in his department’s response to the shootings. Dozens of Republican state representatives are urging Gov. Scott to replace Israel. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldWPECCNN. Time. Officers are trained to “move to the sound of gunfire quickly and stop it” in school shooting scenarios, say law enforcement experts. Sun-Sentinel.

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Why Florida may be the public school choice champ

Florida remains the leader in public school options, fresh federal data suggest.

The state was home to 653 charter schools and 536 magnet schools during the 2015-16 school year. That means more than 27 percent of the state’s public schools were either magnet or charter. No state had a higher combined percentage of the two options.

Indeed, the Sunshine State has more magnet schools than any other state in the country, both in sheer numbers and as a percentage of public schools. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Funding suit rejected, charter schools and more

School funding suit rejected: The First District Court of Appeal rejects a challenge to the state’s public school funding, saying the issue raises political questions that can’t be answered by judges. Several education groups and some parents contend that the state discriminates against minorities and low-income students, which they call a violation of the state’s constitutional duty to provide a “high quality system of free public schools.” The argument was rejected by a circuit court judge last year, leading to this appeal. The groups suing the state say they don’t know if they’ll take the issue to the Florida Supreme Court. The appeal court also ruled that the McKay scholarship, which provides state money to about 30,000 disabled children, is constitutional. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaOrlando SentinelGradebook. Sunshine State NewsPolitico FloridaredefinED.

Charters are public: The Florida Commission on Ethics has decided that charter schools are public agencies, not private ones. In October, the commission deadlocked on an opinion in a conflict of interest case. The opinion concluded that charter schools are not public agencies, but it was not adopted because of the tie vote. Last week, commissioner Matthew Carson cast the deciding vote and said, “Charter schools are public schools in operation, in function and by statute. Seems to me that what would be good for any other public agency under this statute would also be good for a charter school.” Politico Florida.

Charter school accused: A former Broward County charter school once accused of falsifying enrollment numbers to get more money from the state now faces allegations of fraud. New Horizons, now a private school that used to be the Pathway Academy charter school, allegedly falsified records when applying for tax credit scholarship money, and an administrative judge says the school should be cut off from scholarship funds. School officials deny the charges, and plan to file a response to the Department of Education. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program. Sun-Sentinel.

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