Removing Runcie: The president of the NAACP Florida State Conference and member of the national NAACP board of directors, Adora Obi Nweze, is warning Gov. Ron DeSantis that trying to remove Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie from office would be “an extreme overreach, highly political and racist.” DeSantis has mused about removing Runcie, though he conceded last week that he doesn’t think he has the authority to do so and instead might target school board members. Sun Sentinel.
Closed meetings: Tensions erupt at a Broward County School Board meeting between members over the actions of Superintendent Robert Runcie. Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa died in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, wants meetings between parents and Runcie to be open to the public. School officials say the meetings are closed so parents can speak freely. The Sun Sentinel is suing, saying the meetings are a violation of the state’s open meetings law. Meanwhile, an audio recording of Monday’s meeting has been obtained. Sun Sentinel. WSVN.
Hurricane Michael: Hurricane Michael blasted ashore near Mexico Beach on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, making it the strongest hurricane to hit the United States in nearly 50 years and the most powerful to hit the Panhandle since records have been kept. Schools in 21 Florida counties are closed again today while officials assess the damage, and five of those districts will be closed again Friday. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. GateHouse Media. Panama City News Herald. Pensacola News Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Citrus County Chronicle. Florida Department of Education. Tallahassee Democrat. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WJCT. The Sarasota County School District cancels a digital town hall meeting because of the hurricane. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Hair policies protested: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is asking the Florida Department of Education to review what it calls “racist” hair policies at private schools that receive money from state scholarship programs. Several students have been banned from schools recently for wearing dreadlocks, braids and other traditionally African-American hairstyles. “The forms of racial discrimination most commonly seen in education have evolved. It is now rare to find a policy that explicitly excludes potential students based on skin color,” says the letter. “However, subtle rules and restrictions based on racial stereotypes and proxies have the same force and effect.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer four state scholarship programs. Huffington Post.
School security: The Broward County School Board and the county have been awarded $1.2 million in grants from the Department of Justice to improve threat assessments and reporting, crisis interventions, training and mental health services. The grants were part of the $70 million awarded to U.S. school districts, law enforcement agencies and cities under the federal STOP School Violence Act. Education Week. The Pinellas County School District is emphasizing the personal side of school security by encouraging students to care for one another and recognize when a classmate is troubled. The strategy was developed by the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit founded by family members of students killed in the 2012 school shooting in Connecticut. Tampa Bay Times. The Osceola County School District is the latest to ban backpacks from after-school sporting events. School officials also say all bags would be subject to a search, and metal detecting wands could be used. Orlando Sentinel.
Legislative meetings: Florida Senate and House leaders say legislative committees will meet during the weeks of Dec. 11, Jan. 7, Jan. 22, Feb. 4, Feb. 11 and Feb. 19. No education bills have been filed yet, but it’s expected to again be a key and sometimes contentious issue. The 60-day legislative session begins March 5. Gradebook.
ESSA plan approved: Florida’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act finally has won the approval of the U.S. Education Department. The state submitted five revisions of the accountability plan, including one this week, before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave her approval in a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. Florida had resisted some ESSA requirements, such as assessments of English language learners and math testing for advanced students in middle schools. Florida’s was the last of the 50 states to have its plan approved. Gradebook. Education Week.
Medical marijuana: School boards in Orange, Volusia and Clay counties are moving forward with policies that will permit students with prescriptions to receive medical marijuana treatments at schools from parents or caregivers, but not school personnel. The Orange County School Board approved the policy this week, and the Clay and Volusia boards will take final vote in October and November, respectively. Broward and Santa Rosa counties have adopted similar policies. Orlando Sentinel. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Clay Today. Orlando Weekly.
Teacher bonuses: A legal challenge to the state’s Best & Brightest teacher bonuses program is scheduled for a mediation session Nov. 13 in Tallahassee. Teachers and a teachers union sued the Florida Department of Education over the program, claiming it discriminates against teachers by age and race in part because it relies on college entry exam scores, which many teachers don’t have. If no settlement can be reached after mediation, the case could go to trial in early February. Gradebook.
School security: Schools in Florida are bolstering security with a mixture of new technology and old-school personal relationships. School resource officers chat with students and give fist bumps, rattle door handles to make sure they’re locked and mentor struggling students, but also use apps to follow leads about threats and monitor social media. Orlando Sentinel. Charlotte Sun. Alan Hall, a charter high school principal in Jacksonville, is one of the first school employees to graduate from the Duval County sheriff’s guardian training program and is now carrying a gun in the halls of San Jose Academy & Preparatory High School. “I’ve always worried, ‘Oh my gosh, what would happen?’ How am I going to put myself in those principals’ shoes that have actually had to live this? And I say, now, I at least have a chance to do something about it,” Hall says. WJAX.
School security: Hillsborough County school officials may consider using the district’s own security staffers, who are not sworn law enforcement officers, to comply with the new state law requiring an armed officer in every school. They and Sheriff Chad Chronister had rejected considering the guardian program in the new state law, but a $16 million shortfall in security funding is forcing the cash-strapped district to look at all options. “We’re having those conversations and reviewing every aspect of this law to know how we implement it, ensure safety at every one of our campuses and come as close to in-budget as possible,” says Superintendent Jeff Eakins. Tampa Bay Times. Treasure Island, a small coastal town in Pinellas County, has 450 school-age children but no schools. Still, its police department is working with the district to lend a few officers to help meet the requirements of the new state law. Gradebook. More school officers and security measures are on the way to Wellington schools but the process will take time, residents are told by school and law enforcement officials at a town meeting. Palm Beach Post. The Parkland school shooting has prompted other states to re-evaluate their school security. Gradebook.
District hiring freeze: The Pasco County School District implements a freeze on all hiring and new purchases. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis, says Superintendent Kurt Browning. District officials are trying to conserve money to help pay for unanticipated expenses, such as placing a resource officer in every school. Gradebook.
Charter school ties: The wives of two of the Legislature’s strongest supporters of charter schools and choice are on charter school boards that hope to open schools in 2019 in Leon and Martin counties. Anne Corcoran, wife of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who founded a charter school, is helping with a proposed school in Tallahassee. Erika Donalds, wife of Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, is helping a group trying to open a school in Martin County. Neither is being paid, and both say they see no conflict of interest. Committees in the two counties have recommended their school districts approve the schools’ applications. Gradebook.