Destin High School
Federal testing waivers, AP testing at home, teachers and bumps in online instruction plans, and more
A day of remembrance: Friday was a day for remembering the 17 people killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, honoring them through civic activism, community service and a moment of silence, comforting their families, and marking the improvements made in school security and access to mental health services as ways to try to stop such events from happening again. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Tallahassee Democrat. WLRN. WPLG. WSVN. WFTV. WTVJ. WFOR. Sun Sentinel. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
School closings: Falling student enrollment could push the Broward County School District into closing or combining about 30 schools in the next couple of years. Most of the exodus is happening in the southern part of the county. The district has 30,000 fewer students this year than it did 15 years ago, and chief financial officer Judith Marte predicts a drop of another 4,000 next fall. Any school with an enrollment of 70 percent or less of capacity is considered underutilized, and nine schools are under 50 percent. District officials said much of the decline can be attributed to growth at charter and private schools, and changing demographics. Most of the county’s growth is coming from older adults with no school-age children. The school board will review its options at a meeting in May. Sun Sentinel.
Holocaust education: A bill requiring Florida schools and districts to educate K-12 students about the Holocaust was approved last week by the House Education Committee. The bill was prompted by a 2018 incident in Palm Beach County in which a high school principal told a parent that not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and that he couldn’t state that it was a factual event. H.B. 1213, sponsored by Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, requires all schools and districts to incorporate materials that they can get from the Florida Holocaust Museum or other organizations, teach students about the state’s anti-Semitism policy, and then prove to the state that they have complied with the requirements. The Senate version of the bill will be heard this week in the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Florida Politics.
Superintendent’s contract: The incoming Hillsborough County school superintendent, Addison Davis, is being offered a contract paying $310,000 a year through December 2023. Davis asked for more money and a five-year deal, but board attorney Jim Porter said “the board was not comfortable with that.” Davis will be paid about $85,000 a year more than the person he’s replacing, Jeff Eakins. Davis’ benefits will mirror those paid to Eakins, though he will get a $3,000 a month housing allowance for up to four months while he looks for a home and up to $7,000 in moving expenses. Davis would begin with the district March 2 as an administrator on assignment, working with Eakins on the transition. After spring break, Eakins would go on administrative leave until his contract expires June 30 and Davis would be acting superintendent until he officially steps into the job July 1. The board is expected to vote on the proposed contract Tuesday. Gradebook.
Contract negotiations: Sarasota County School District teachers and non-instructional employees have overwhelmingly voted to ratify a contract with the district that provides raises. Teachers rated highly effective will get 4.25 percent raises, effective teachers will get 3.25 percent more, and the minimum wage for district employees will be raised to $12 an hour. The school board is expected to approve the agreement at Tuesday’s meeting. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Polk County teachers union couldn’t get raises from the district this year, but teachers will get back some planning time and will no longer have to fill out cumbersome lesson plans. “I also want to say that we were very happy about the lesson planning language — the professional autonomy that you just gave back our folks is awesome,” said union president Stephanie Yocum. Lakeland Ledger.
Teaching issues: Hundreds of central Florida teachers, students and education activists gathered over the weekend in Orlando to call for more education funding from the state as well as higher pay for teachers and all school employees. It was considered a continuation of the rally held Jan. 13 in Tallahassee, and another one is being planned for south Florida. “If it’s really the year of the teacher, let’s hear teachers’ voices,” said Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County teachers union. “What we need to do is lift everyone, and I’m not talking just about teachers. I’m talking about cafeteria workers, bus drivers and secretaries.” WESH. Orlando Sentinel. WOFL. WMFE. School districts in central Florida are getting creative in dealing with teacher shortages. Osceola County, for instance, has brought in more than 30 foreign teachers from such places as the Philippines, Egypt and Ghana in the past year, and is offering its employees bonuses of $250 for every referral that leads to a hire. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes,” said chief human resources officer Tammy Otterson. WFTV. The teacher shortage has left Whispering Pines Elementary School in Boca Raton with 21 vacancies, and some parents are concerned about two teachers who aren’t certified in gifted education are now handling gifted classes. Boca News Now.
Charter schools: A south Florida developer has announced plans to build a K-8 charter school in Osceola County, just west of St. Cloud, for up to 1,000 students. Orlando Business Journal. As members of the Destin community lobbied for a charter high school in town, they turned to a Tallahassee-based consulting company, Collaborative Education Network, for help in getting organized and taking the necessary steps to open a school. Destin High School opens in the fall for about 300 9th- and 10th-graders, and adds a grade in each of the following two years. Northwest Florida Daily News.
Tax increase vote: Monroe County School Board members have agreed to ask voters to approve the renewal of a half-mill property tax levy on the ballot March 17. The tax must be renewed every four years; this will be the fifth time voters have been asked to continue it. School officials call it the flexible fund initiative because it allows the district to decide how to use the money. In return, the school board cuts the capital tax by the same half mill. “So there’s no tax increase at all; it’s a wash,” said board member Andy Griffiths. Keys Weekly.
Vaccination plans: Starting in May, the Florida Health Department in Flagler County will be offering students free vaccinations from 3:30-5:30 p.m. on every second Tuesday of the month. Health officials decided on the expansion after the school board chose not to offer vaccinations to 6th-graders in schools against HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical, tonsil and other cancers. Flagler Live.
Educator honored: Jennifer Casey has been named mentor of the year for the Volusia County School District by the Futures Foundation for Volusia County Schools’ Take Stock in Children organization. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Costly scheduling error: Marisa Davino’s story is a cautionary tale for high school students about using specialized diplomas to qualify for college scholarships under the Bright Futures program. As a senior at Seminole Ridge High School in Palm Beach County, she broke a scheduling rule by taking a class too far removed from a related class and lost her eligibility for a specialized diploma from the University of Cambridge in England. That, in turn, led to the loss of her Bright Futures scholarship. The 19-year-old now has student loans, has needed assistance from her family and works long shifts as a hostess at a restaurant to meet her expenses. Palm Beach Post.
New school building: The Bay County School Board has approved the construction of a building for science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes at Bay High School. The proposal had been discussed for years, but got sidetracked when Hurricane Michael hit the area in 2018. The building is expected to cost $5.5 million and take 12 to 16 months to complete. Panama City News Herald.
Boundary website: Lake County school officials have launched a website to inform parents and others about school attendance boundary changes. The district is opening two schools in the next three years, and will be making changes in current school zones. The website is lake.k12.fl.us/redistricting. Daily Commercial.
A history lesson: Students and others who lived through the turbulent time of desegregation in the Alachua County School District look back at the often painful process and ahead at the challenges of educational equity that the district still faces. Gainesville Sun.
School calendar: Schools will open Aug. 13 for the 2020-2021 year, Monroe County school officials have announced. The last day is May 28, 2021. Key West Citizen.
School makeup day: Today is a makeup school day for Brevard County students for a day they missed when school were closed for three days last September because of Hurricane Dorian. The other two days were made up in January. Brevard Times.
Employees and the law: A Charlotte County teacher has been arrested and accused of possession of cocaine. Cheryl Lynn Vollmar, 53, helps teach 5th-grade students at Peace River Elementary in Port Charlotte. She was placed on paid administrative leave pending the resolution of the court case. WINK. Charlotte Sun. A former girls basketball coach at Buchholz High School in Gainesville will receive $25,000 from the Alachua County School District as part of a settlement over her firing. Rebecca Williams was a student services specialist and coach at the school when she was fired in 2016 after refusing to resign. She sued, alleging racial and gender discrimination. Gainesville Sun.
Students and the law: A Florida appeals court has ruled that a former North Marion High School student who sent a Snapchat photo to a student showing a weapon with the caption “Show and Tell @NM on Monday” can be prosecuted. The decision overruled a circuit judge’s decision to dismiss the case. The ex-student was charged with sending a written threat to kill or do bodily injury to a child two weeks after the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. News Service of Florida. Ocala Star-Banner. Three Seminole County high school students were arrested and accused of bringing a pellet gun to Lake Brantley High School and making a threat. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. A 16-year-old former student at Astronaut High School who allegedly threatened students with a gun early last week was arrested three days later when he crashed a stolen car into a Titusville police cruiser, according to officers. Florida Today. Duval County school officials said they will meet with representatives from the mental health nonprofit that made the decision recently to Baker Act a 6-year-old student for behavior problems. A video of the incident showed a calm girl acting pleasantly while being led out of school by a deputy. Florida Times-Union.
Opinions in schools: No one can promise there will not be another tragedy in the future like the one in Parkland. What I can promise is this: the men and women of the Broward Sheriff’s Office are better trained and our resources better focused so that we can respond faster, smarter and more effectively. Sheriff Gregory Tony, Sun Sentinel. If Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature are truly willing to put their money where their mouth is by properly training teachers, effectively creating paths to higher level math thinking and funding new measures appropriately, Florida has a real shot at leading the way in education. Cortney Stewart, Citrus County Chronicle. Leon County high schools lead the way in northwest Florida in preparing students college for college STEM majors. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Inflicting pain to disadvantaged students by bullying corporate donors to stop contributing to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program is no way to make progress. James Bush III, Florida Politics. Online predators are why middle school students should not have their own cell phones. Gil Smart, TCPalm.
Student enrichment: Weeks of training led to this moment: the opening night of Mainland High School’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Several Alachua County high school students have won national recognition this year for their academic achievements. WUFT. Students at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School complete an unusual assignment: create a pitch for the HGTV makeover show Home Town to convince the show’s producers that their small community should be chosen to receive a half-dozen renovation projects by show stars Erin and Ben Napier of Laurel, Miss. Port St. Joe Star.
Search is on for money for teacher raises, charter authorization and guardian training bills, and more
Educator bonuses repeal: A bill that would repeal the state’s Best and Brightest educators bonuses program was unanimously approved Monday by the Florida Senate Education Committee. The bill aligns with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to do away with the program in favor of his own $300 million bonuses plan, which would provide extra money for teachers and principals working in improving low-income schools. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said: “I think we are all excited about having a conversation this session about teacher compensation … freeing up these dollars and making them available is part of the first step of that conversation.” News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. WFSU. Three seniors from Armwood High School in Hillsborough County appeared before the Senate Education Committee to lobby for a change in the law to allow English language-learners to graduate even if they can’t pass the required 10th-grade reading test. Committee members approved the bill after amending it to make the waiver optional for districts. Tampa Bay Times. More than three-dozen local education bills got the approval of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee at a meeting Monday. Another 30 will be reviewed on Thursday. Florida Politics.
District, educators honored: The Miami-Dade County School District has been chosen as the nation’s school district of the year by the online educational publication Education Dive. The district was honored for its high achievement, continuing improvement and innovation, community involvement and for embracing and adapting changes brought on by the school choice movement. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the district works closely with the school board to send a “clear message of stability to the community.” Education Dive. East Lee County High School’s Melissa Robery has been named the Lee County School District’s principal of the year, and Jackson Morgan of Lehigh Elementary has been chosen as assistant principal of the year. Fort Myers News-Press.
Violence in schools: A push for inclusion has put unstable children into school classrooms without the support those students need, and they are injuring teachers, bus drivers and employees in Broward County and thousands more across Florida, according to records. In just the past 18 months, more than 100 students across Florida have threatened to kill their teachers, classmates or themselves, according to records from 10 major counties. Almost half had histories of mental problems, and more than half had access to weapons. And state and federal laws make it difficult to remove these students. Sun Sentinel.
Baker Act and students: The rate of involuntary commitments of students in the Tampa Bay area under the Baker Act are up 35 percent in the past five years, and in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties the rate rose more than 75 percent. Tampa Bay Times. The Baker Act law was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, a first-year legislator from Miami-Dade County as a way to improve protections for people with mental illnesses. Tampa Bay Times.
Cost of ‘flasher’ costume: Wearing an flasher costume to work at Halloween could mean a demotion for the Broward County School District’s director of procurement and warehousing services. Superintendent Robert Runcie is recommending that Mary Coker, 46, be moved to the position of manager of materials and logistics for wearing the costume that consisted “only a black coat and hat, with a tight fabric underneath which replicated a naked female body” and for “flashing” children, staff, and colleagues at a work brunch. If the school board approves the recommendation, Coker’s pay will be slashed from $154,286 to $110,702. Sun Sentinel.
Board-certified teachers: Just four Florida teachers earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards this year. That’s the same number that earned it in 2018, and puts the state 42nd in the nation. The number of state teachers applying for the prestigious designation has dwindled since 2015, when legislators stopped paying for the training and the bonuses teachers who completed it used to get. Florida remains second among states in the total number of board-certified teachers with 13,552, and Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Palm Beach are still among the top 10 districts. Gradebook.
Board considering appeal: The Sarasota County School Board is meeting today to consider whether to appeal a judge’s ruling that that district must pay for private school for a student who missed out on the standard lessons from 3rd-9th grade because he was wrongly placed in a program for children with severe cognitive disabilities. The cost of doing that could be $100,000, and board members worry that the more than 100 other students who were not disabled and were also placed in the program could sue for the same remedy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
School mental health services: The Lee County School District and Lee Health are collaborating on a one-year program to provide “health navigators” to work at Ray V. Pottorf and Colonial elementary schools. The navigators would be hired by Lee Health and work under the supervision of Kids’ Minds Matter, which raises money for pediatric behavioral health. The navigators would provide mental health services guidance for students and their families. Fort Myers News-Press.
U.S. push for choice: President Donald Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pushed school choice at an educational summit in Washington, D.C. Trump praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who attended, for promoting choice initiatives, and said “people want school choice.” Trump and DeVos are lobbying for a $5 billion federal tax credit program, similar to the one in Florida that’s administered by Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, that would provide scholarships for students to attend private schools or expand their education options. Politico Florida.
Construction updates: Alachua County school officials are holding a community forum Wednesday to provide an update on the district’s construction progress and timetable. More than $10 million has been collected so far from a half-cent sales tax increase for school facilities that was approved by voters in 2018. Gainesville Sun.
Schools taking applications: Destin High School, a charter school that is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020 for 9th- and 10th-graders, has begin accepting applications. The deadline is Feb. 15. Northwest Florida Daily News. Tallahassee Classical School, a charter school that’s expected to open next fall, has begin accepting applications for enrollment. The deadline is Jan. 16, and a lottery will be held the following day to select the 504 K-8 students. District officials say the school also has been approved for a $689,000 from the U.S. Department of Education for the “assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation” of startup charter schools. WFSU.
Superintendent search: Martin County School Board members will be looking for a superintendent who communicates well with the board and the community, they decided at a meeting Monday. Other qualities board members want are a master’s degree, 10 years of experience, including at least five years in an executive leadership position and someone who will be an advocate for students with disabilities and early childhood programs. They want to hire someone by September so she or he can work with Superintendent Laurie Gaylord until she steps down in November. The salary will fall between $145,000 and $190,000. Voters decided in 2018 to switch from an elected superintendent to an appointed one. TCPalm.
Personnel moves: Marion County School Board attorney Paul Gibbs will leave for his new job with the Brevard County School Board on Jan. 6, which is about two weeks earlier than expected. Ocala attorney Suzanne Green, who works for the Bice Cole law firm, will serve as interim board attorney. Ocala Star-Banner.
Old school, new use: Twenty-three years after the old Sarasota High School closed, it will be reopened this weekend as the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College. The renovation cost about $22 million. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
School bus drivers needed: At least five central Florida school districts are short of school bus drivers and actively looking for candidates. School officials from Orange, Lake, Osceola, Volusia and Marion counties all say the number of applicants is down and the number of openings is up. WFTV.
Student struck, injured: A 7-year-old boy on his way to his school bus stop in Immokalee was struck by a vehicle Monday morning and seriously injured. Troopers say Carlos Cortez Jr. was trying to cross a street with his mother when he ran in front of a Jeep Renegade. He was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital. Naples Daily News.
School board sued: A student’s mother has filed suit against the Brevard County School Board, claiming the school district failed to protect the boy from alleged bullying and sexual abuse by a classmate at Audubon Elementary on Merritt Island. Florida Today.
Employees disciplined: A Collier County teaching assistant who is accused of having sex with students and providing them drugs and alcohol has been fired, according to district officials. Kirstie Rosa, a 27-year-old teaching assistant at the Phoenix Naples alternative program, was arrested last week . Naples Daily News. One Pasco County school employee has resigned and several others are being investigated for allegedly misstating their incomes in order to qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches under a federal program. Gradebook.
Students and the law: A 16-year-old Orange County student has been arrested and accused of taking a loaded handgun to Jones High School in Orlando. Orlando Sentinel. A 16-year-old Broward County student is arrested and accused of making threats to commit violence at Cypress Bay High School in Weston. It’s the third such arrest in Broward since Thursday. Miami Herald.
Opinions on schools: Lake County school Superintendent Diane Kornegay won the top award from the consortium of 64 county school foundations in Florida by making her school district’s foundation a real partner in filling roles for which the school has no money, and that’s making real, verifiable change in the lives of Lake’s students. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Perhaps competition from charter schools could motivate Charlotte County district schools to improve so that they would be more attractive to parents. Harvey Goldstein, Charlotte Sun.
Student enrichment: Students in the construction program at South Lake High School in Lake County have built 20 beds that were donated to the Sleep in Heavenly Peace Orlando West organization, a nonprofit that provides beds for needy children. Daily Commercial.