Teachers and guns: Florida should change state law so some teachers can be armed, says the chairman of the state commission investigating the Feb. 14 massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “We know from the history of these things that the majority (of school shooters) are stopped by school personnel,” says Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “People need to keep an open mind to it as the reality is that if someone else in that school had a gun it could have saved kids’ lives.” Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. The Palm Beach County School District is one of eight in Florida to miss the deadline to submit a mandatory school-security review by the Oct. 31 deadline, but that “in no way means that the district is not compliant or responsive to the requirements of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Bill,” says Frank Kitzerow, district police chief. Palm Beach Post.
Tax collections accelerating: Hillsborough County voters just approved an increase of a half-cent in the sales tax to help schools with repairs and construction, and already the Florida Department of Revenue is projecting the measure will bring in more money than expected. School officials thought the tax would bring in just under $140 million a year. The new projection is for $151 million in 2019, and as much as $1.7 billion could be raised over the 10-year life of the tax hike. Tampa Bay Times.
Shootings review halted: Broward County school officials are suspending a retired FBI agent’s investigation into the actions of school employees during the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. The reason given is to avoid duplication with the investigation by the state-appointed safety commission. “We recognize that the staff is continuing to recover from this tragedy,” the district’s statement said. “To avoid asking them to participate in duplicate interviews and to streamline the process, the district has decided to suspend its internal review, and give priority to the (state commission’s) investigation.” Sun-Sentinel. WPLG.
Private school enrollment: Private school preK-12 enrollment is up in Florida for the seventh straight year, according to a report from the Florida Department of Education. The 370,116 students at 2,650 schools was an increase of 0.5 percent, which is the slowest rate of growth since the 2010-2011 school year. Florida Tax Credit Scholarships and McKay Scholarships for special-needs students account for 42.5 percent of private-school enrollment. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the state’s tax credit, Gardiner, Hope and reading scholarships. redefinED.
Water contamination: Cancer-causing chemicals have been found in groundwater in three wells tested in Satellite Beach. The low-level contamination is thought to stem from the use of fire-extinguishing foams from nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Wells near Satellite High School, Sea Park Elementary School and city hall were tested after concerns were raised about cancer clusters in alumni and staff from Satellite High. A community meeting will be held Sunday to discuss the results. Florida Today. Several members of the Hillsborough County School Board are unhappy that they weren’t notified earlier about the district’s testing of water in 50 schools over the past year. Lead was found at 21 of those schools. Deputy superintendent Chris Farkas apologized, saying, “We always want to get better, and one thing I don’t think we did very well was notify staff.” Gradebook.
School security: As the Palm Beach County School District’s police force welcomes a new chief, the previous two chiefs are still on the payroll. Frank Kitzerow was hired as the new chief last week, but the outgoing chief, Lawrence Leon, will remain in the department for at least another year and Jim Kelly, who preceded Leon, has been hired back as a consultant. Also to be sorted is how the district will provide armed officers in all schools. The expanded 160-member police force is at least 75 officers short of covering all schools, and the sheriff has refused to make deputies available on overtime. Palm Beach Post. The mother of one of the students killed in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is being reassigned to the job of director of school safety and security. April Schentrup, mother of Carmen, has been principal at Pembroke Pines Elementary School. Sun-Sentinel. Sheriff’s officials don’t believe the state mandate requiring an armed officer in all schools applies to summer school, but will provide some coverage. Citrus County Chronicle. The Monroe County School District is proposing to upgrade mental health services to students by hiring two fulltime social workers, expanding a contract with the Guidance Care Center to provide more mental health counselors, and reinstating a Medicaid specialist to seek reimbursements for services. Key West Citizen.
School board elections: School board races are set at districts around the state: Broward County, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Seminole, Orange, Lake, Osceola, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Brevard, Lee, Sarasota, Manatee, Manatee, Leon, Alachua, Marion, Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Collier, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, Okaloosa, Monroe, Citrus. Duval County School Board chairwoman Paula Wright will challenge incumbent Kim Daniels in the Democratic primary for the District 14 seat in the Florida House. Florida Times-Union.