Schools’ anti-drug campaign, management vote, tax vote, educators honored, logistics school and more
Another game shooting: One person is dead and two others wounded after a shooting as fans exited the Raines-Lee high school football game in Jacksonville on Friday night. No one has been arrested, and deputies say the shootings are gang-related. Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene was at the game, and calls the shooting “unacceptable. This is a community issue. I need parents, students to stand up. If you see something, say something.” Greene says she and school district officials will be discussing changes needed to be made to ensure the safety of all students. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. Backpacks and book bags are now banned from Orange and Seminole counties high school football games for security reasons, district officials announce. Orlando Sentinel. Bag searches and metal detector scans are among the new security measures that were unveiled at high school football games in Palm Beach County over the weekend. Palm Beach Post.
School security: Legislators from both parties say the state should take another look at the formula used to determine how security funds are distributed to schools, especially small independent schools. Gov. Rick Scott also has asked the Legislature to revise a law to allow unclaimed money from the armed guardian program to be used for other school district security needs. But House Speaker-elect Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, and incoming Senate President-elect Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, both say the money should stay in the armed guardian fund. redefinED. Ocala Police Department officials say they have clarified with Marion County school officials how to notify parents after an emergency at a school. School officials complained that they were prohibited by police from notifying parents for more than four hours after a gun was found in a student’s backpack at West Port High School last week. Ocala Star-Banner. The Citrus County School District is scheduling training for students in the ALICE program, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate, to respond to school intruders. Citrus County Chronicle. Damien Kelly, the state’s first director of Safe Schools, is profiled. TCPalm.
Bathroom rights upheld: A federal judge rules that transgender student Drew Adams may use the boys bathrooms at Nease High School this year. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan wrote that Adams “poses no threat to the privacy or safety of any of his fellow students. Rather, Drew Adams is just like every other student at Nease High School, a teenager coming of age in a complicated, uncertain and changing world. When it comes to his use of the bathroom, the law requires that he be treated like any other boy.” Officials at the St. Johns County school had ordered Adams, 18, to use gender-neutral bathrooms, prompting the discriination suit against the district. Florida Times-Union. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT.
Teacher pay: An analysis of Palm Beach County School District pay records shows that the district is paying teachers with 20 years of experience $3,000 a year less in 2018 than it did in 2008. The typical 30-year teacher is earning $2,100 less, and a typical 15-year teacher is making $1,000 less. It’s happened because teacher pay was frozen during the recession, salary schedules were abandoned, and the district then shifted more money toward starting pay and younger teachers. Palm Beach Post.
Tight budgets: It’s school budget season, and districts are struggling to make ends meet with the funding they’re receiving from the state. Officials are trying to slash costs in ways that will not violate the state’s class-size amendment and least affect students, and in some cases are dipping in to reserves to close deficits. “We really try to hold schools harmless and keep them out of the fray when it comes to budget reductions,” says Pasco County assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley. Tampa Bay Times. The Marion County School District needs at least $422 million for building and renovation projects over the next five years but will receive only $60.5 million. “In order to get by, we have to piecemeal many projects,” says Robert Knight, the district’s supervisor of facilities. “There is not enough money for everything.” Ocala Star-Banner.
Teacher bonuses: More than 163,500 Florida teachers qualify for bonuses under the state’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, according to Florida Department of Education data. The bonuses range from $800 to $7,200. More than 9,000 will get the top awards. They qualify by being rated highly effective and scoring in the top 20 percent when they took the ACT or SAT. Also receiving bonuses of $4,000 or $5,000 are 638 principals. The state will spend almost $215 million on the bonuses, which will be paid by April 1. The bonus program was created in 2015 but has been controversial, and the Legislature is considering bills this year to amend it. Orlando Sentinel.
More on Nikolas Cruz: Suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz would plead guilty to killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to avoid the death penalty, according to his lawyer. Sun-Sentinel. The FBI apologizes for not following up a tip in January that Cruz may have been planning a school shooting. Miami Herald. Associated Press. The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated Cruz after he made threatening posts on social media, but determined he was a low risk to harm himself or others. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Cruz was regularly in trouble for cussing, insulting people and disrupting classes when he attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to his disciplinary file. Sun-Sentinel. The couple who took Cruz into their home after his mother died say, “We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know. We didn’t see this side of him.” A longtime friend also called Cruz “lonely and ostracized.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.
Other developments: Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie says the district is proposing to tear down Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Legislators agree. Runcie also says the school will remain closed through at least Wednesday. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. A hospital spokesperson says the last critically injured victim of the shooting is improving. Sun-Sentinel. Stoneman Douglas principal Ty Thompson posts an emotional video message for the community. Sun-Sentinel. These are the heroes of the massacre. Miami Herald. CNN. More than nine out of 10 U.S. public schools now hold regular active shooter drills. Vox. An expert on school security warns officials to avoid “knee-jerk” reactions to improving security, and lists several things districts can do now to lead to safer schools. New Orleans Times-Picayune.
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 Florida. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Sunshine State News. Politico Florida. redefinED.
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.
Testing extension: The Florida Department of Education has agreed to extend the window for the Florida Standards Assessments testing and all state end-of-course exams. School districts had asked for a delay in the testing because of a busy hurricane season that caused many districts to miss days of school. Instead, K-12 Chancellor Herschel Lyons extended the testing time-frame by a week. The decision gives districts the option of delaying the tests, or using the full two weeks to complete them. Gradebook.
ESSA plans: A group of 45 bipartisan reviewers gives Florida’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act mixed reviews, with no one awarding the state the highest rating in any of the nine categories studied. The strengths of the plan include a clear, student-focused vision of high standards, an easy-to-understand grading system, inclusion of science and social studies assessments, and the identification of struggling schools. The highest marks came in academic progress, for measuring learning gains, and in continuous improvement for identifying struggling schools and helping them improve. The weaknesses: incorporating subgroups into the accountability system, and in marking progress toward English language proficiency. The 74.
Dangerous school zones: Miami-Dade County has the most dangerous school zones in Florida, according to an analysis of vehicle crash data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles by San Diego company 1Point21Interactive. Eight schools in the county are in the state’s top 10 most dangerous school zones. Miami Herald.