Cambridge Christian School
ESSA criticism: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ approval of Florida’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act is called a “disappointment” by advocates who wanted the state to test English language-learners in their native languages and to have those students’ results included into the state’s larger accountability system. More than 10 percent of the state’s K-12 students are considered English-learners, and in some parts of the state the percentage is as high as 25 percent. Education Week. Gradebook.
Use of restraints: The number of times restraints have been used on students with special needs by the Hernando County School District has soared from 19 in the 2014-2015 school year to 153 in 2017-2018, according to district records. Cathy Dofka, the head of the district’s Exceptional Student Education department, had planned to cut the use in half two years ago. She blames the lack of qualified special education teachers for the increase. According to the state, Hernando ranks in the middle of Florida’s districts in the use of restraints. Tampa Bay Times.
Legislative proposals: A Florida Senate committee approves two bills that would, if passed, have an impact on local school officials. S.B. 272 would require 60 percent approval for any tax initiative placed on a special election ballot. It would take effect July 1. Many school districts favor special elections when putting tax increases before voters. S.B. 192 would redefine when two public officials may meet privately to discuss public business. Under the state’s Sunshine Law, any meeting between public officials must be open to the public. Gradebook.
School loses scholarships: A private school in Melbourne is kicked out of the state’s three scholarships programs by the Florida Department of Education. Yakol Christian School, which had an enrollment of fewer than 20 students, was evicted for changing principals without notifying the state and for having no students on campus during a visit by a Step Up For Students representative. Step Up, which hosts this blog, administers two of the three state scholarship programs. Earlier this year, a pastor affiliated with the school was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation of a 15-year-old student. Orlando Sentinel.
Gifted school proposed: The Broward County School District is proposing the creation of a school exclusively for gifted students in grades 3-12. The school would be called the “Center for Intellectually Talented Youth,” and be located at Parkway Middle School in Fort Lauderdale. Supporters like the concept, but opponents argue that the proposal promotes segregation. Sun-Sentinel.
School appeals ruling: Cambridge Christian School of Tampa is appealing a court ruling that the state of Florida had the right to deny the school from broadcasting a prayer over the public address system before a 2015 state championship football game. Then-Florida High School Athletic Association director Roger Dearing told the schools that because the game was in a public facility, the prayer was “off-limits” under federal guidelines and court precedent. Cambridge Christian sued the FHSAA after the denial and lost at the district court level. Last week the school, with the help of the First Liberty Institute, filed an appeal of that decision with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Christian Post.
Managing the boom: The Palm Beach County School Board will consider a plan to hire a company to manage the district’s building boom, at a cost of $26.4 million over 10 years. California-based AECOM would act as the program manager in exchange for a 2.2 percent cut of the $1.4 billion the district is spending to repair old schools and build new ones. Voters approved a sales tax initiative in November to raise the sales tax for school infrastructure. “I think, at 2.2 percent, that is a terrific deal for the district,” says Mike Burke, the district’s chief financial officer. Palm Beach Post.
Financial problems: Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins acknowledges at a budget workshop that the district’s financial problems are even worse than previously known. The district’s reserve account lost $83.6 million between 2014 and 2015, and that was after the district transferred $55 million into it, and was on track to lose $130 million or more the following year. School board members brainstormed cost-cutting ideas, but no decisions were reached. Tampa Bay Times. Budget cuts could put the brakes on a proposed technology upgrade for the Pasco County School District. Chief finance officer Olga Swinson is recommending the elimination of $724,000 budgeted for new televisions and projectors to help teachers with presentations. She also suggests not spending the previously budgeted $642,000 for telecommunications upgrades and maintenance, and $310,000 in computer hardware, servers and software. Gradebook. Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning has been pushing the state to return to paper-and-pencil standardized testing, but he’s recommending the district continue to use computer tests because doing so will save money. Gradebook.
Sharing with charters: Under the new state education law, the Duval County School District will be compelled to turn over $16 million from its capital fund in the next five years to charter schools. School officials say the first payment will be $2.4 million for the next school year. Florida Times-Union. In Sarasota County, charter schools’ share of capital funds will be $9.3 million, up from the $5.5 million the board allotted this past school year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Flagler County School District will have to send $570,000 from its capital fund to the county’s two charter schools. Flagler Live.
Financial problems: Heavy debt and growing infrastructure problems are putting the Hillsborough County School District in an increasingly dire financial situation. Deferred maintenance issues alone could cost the district $800 million, and up to 80 schools have air-conditioning problems. Meanwhile, payment on debt totals $65 million a year, and the district’s reserves have dropped by more than $200 million in four years. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. Hillsborough schools will phase out some courtesy busing to save money. More than 12,400 students now can ride a bus even if they live within 2 miles of their school. District officials will study routes and make recommendations on ending some for middle school and high school students in the 2017-2018 school year. Routes for elementary students will be tightened the following year. Tampa Bay Times.
Achievement gap: The Pinellas County School District announces its strategy for closing the achievement gap between white and minority students on state assessment tests over the next 10 years, and how it will communicate its progress with the community. The plan includes aggressive goals, monitoring, extended learning and greater family and community engagement. Gradebook.
Prayer lawsuit: Cambridge Christian School files a federal lawsuit against the Florida High School Athletic Association, alleging that the organization violated its football players’ religious freedom. The FHSAA denied a request from the school to use a loudspeaker to broadcast a prayer before the state championship game Dec. 4 in Orlando. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. WFLA.
Principal-sharing: Ten Orange County schools are sharing five “master principals” this year. District officials say the move will help develop assistant principals and create a pipeline of future principals. Principals who take on two schools receive an extra $30,000, but the district is expected to save about $280,000. Orlando Sentinel.