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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: School police chief, budgets, depression and more

School security: Paul Grohowski, who most recently worked as the director of public safety and chief of police for the Allan Hancock Joint Community College Police Department in Santa Maria, Calif., is hired as police chief for the Sarasota County School District. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Some of the everyday people being hired as school guardians in Polk County talk about their motives for taking the job. Lakeland LedgerCBS News. A survey shows that students in Boca Raton want improved active shooter drills, bulletproof windows installed and identification badges on campus enforced. Palm Beach Post. The Gulf County teachers union holds a community meeting to discuss school safety, motivating students and other issues. Port St. Joe Star.

Budget problems: The Volusia County School District is projecting a budget deficit of $4.49 million for the next fiscal year, and district officials and school board members have six weeks to close it before the scheduled board vote. Items unsettled include how much school security is going to cost, pay raises as the district continues to negotiate with the teachers union, and whether there will be money left over from the current budget year, which ends June 30. Dipping into reserves has been mentioned as an option to close the deficit. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teaching with depression: Teachers who suffer from depression spend less time than other teachers in group instruction and explaining new assignments, according to research published in the Journal of School Psychology. Researchers studied 32 3rd-grade teachers and their 326 students in eight schools in north Florida three times over the course of a year, and theorize that depressed teachers may be choosing lessons that require less energy. Education Week.

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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: Armed guards, training, amendment support and more

School security: Broward County School Board members express support for the hiring of armed “guardians” to protect schools that don’t have sworn resource officers. Board members say they would prefer the guardians to be retired police officers or military veterans. Most would be stationed in elementary schools. Sun-Sentinel. The Lake County School Board approves a security plan that will put a resource officer in every school and arm some school administrators. Daily Commercial. The Volusia County School District has paid 100 percent of the cost for having deputies at middle and high schools since 2008. But with the law now requiring an armed guard in every school, school officials are asking the county for help to hire armed guardians to cover elementary schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has begun training more than 100 applicants to become armed guardians. Training includes handgun and rifle handling, how to engage active shooters and written tests. WFTS. WKMG. Lakeland Ledger. The Manatee County School Board is considering several changes to its student conduct code that are required by new state laws. The proposals revise the situations in which the district can send students to mental health agencies, when it can remove students through the Baker or Marchman acts, would broaden the definition of a threat to any of its schools, and would prohibit firearms from being stored in students’ vehicles. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota County school leaders meet with law enforcement officials today to discuss school security and the district’s proposal to start its own police force. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Northwest Florida school and law enforcement officials meet to share ideas on how to provide school security. Panama City News Herald.

Amendments support: Only four of the 13 constitutional amendments that will be on November’s ballot have the support needed to pass, according to a poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. One of of the four is Amendment 8, which would limit school board members’ terms to eight years, require the teaching of civic literacy in public schools and establish an alternative path to approval for public and charter schools that does not involve local school districts. The poll indicated 75 percent support for Amendment 8. Sixty percent is required for passage. News Service of Florida.

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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: Safety task force, Promise, security plans and more

School safety task force: The Broward County School District’s controversial alternative discipline program, Promise, is the focus of the second meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Commission. School officials defend the program, saying it has reduced the schools-to-prison pipeline that has been a problem in Broward. Members of the panel are skeptical that the program changes behavior, and want more answers at the next meeting July 10 and 11. “We need to dig deep into this … program,” says commission member Grady Judd, who is the sheriff in Polk County. News Service of FloridaAssociated Press. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldTCPalm. Politico Florida. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chairs the state safety commission, says he believes lawmakers did set aside enough money to pay for an armed safety officer at all schools. Politico Florida. Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the Parkland shootings, resigns from the commission, saying he wants to concentrate on his own investigation of the tragedy and on electing new members to the Broward County School Board. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldPolitico Florida.

School security: Members of the Marion County School Board say the $5.3 million cost to put certified law enforcement officers in every school may force them to consider arming employees at some elementary schools. Ocala Star-Banner. Volusia County school officials want to add six more school resource officers and hire 44 school guardians for school security, but are having trouble reaching an agreement with local law enforcement agencies on how to pay for them. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Many city officials in Brevard County disagree with the school district’s plan to put school resource officers where it can and fill the gaps with security specialists, and are finding money for SROs. Florida Today. The Jackson County School Board approves the creation of a police department for the school district. WMBB. A report commissioned by the Palm Beach County School District suggests the district should proceed with its plan to create its own police force. Earlier this week, a consultant hired by the sheriff recommended that the school police force merge with the sheriff’s office. Palm Beach Post. Continue Reading →