Teaching alternatives: As more teachers retire and fewer are graduating from education schools, some districts that struggle to recruit teachers fill the gaps with technology. In Pasco County, for example, far-away teaching experts provide virtual instruction while in-class monitors set up the lesson, help prepare for the connections and police student conduct. “For a couple of years we’ve been really looking for a solution for, typically, when a teacher isn’t able to complete their assignment,” says Vanessa Hilton, an assistant superintendent in Pasco. “It obviously is a whole lot better than a substitute not doing any instruction.” Tampa Bay Times.
Politics kills safety forum: A Palm Beach County town hall meeting about school safety is canceled after the school district gets complaints that it appeared to be related to gun-control events organized by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and to the Democratic party. The organizers say they have no direct affiliation with the March for Our Lives events, and have received no funding or resources from that group. But deputy superintendent Keith Oswald canceled the meeting through an email to organizers that said, “the political tension around this topic is palpable” and that “we cannot risk losing hard earned trust and credibility with our parents by hosting what many are perceiving to be a partisan event.” Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.
School shooting developments: Confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz had been assigned to an alternative discipline program, Broward County school officials are now acknowledging. Superintendent Robert Runcie had previously denied that Cruz had been part of the program that is designed to find discipline alternatives to arrests and suspensions. WLRN. Students who were among the 17 killed in the shootings Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are honored at the school prom. Associated Press.
Scholarships upheld: An appeals court affirms a lower court ruling that the state’s teachers union and other groups do not have legal standing to challenge the program that uses corporate tax credits to issue scholarships to low-income students. The groups claimed the program diverts fund from public schools, but the court ruled there was no evidence of harm. A further appeal is being considered. Step Up For Students, which administers the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, hosts this blog. Associated Press. redefinED. Politico. Orlando Sentinel. Pensacola News Journal. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. WFSU. WUSF. Palm Beach Post. Sunshine State News.
Retention lawsuit: A Leon County judge has decided to hold another hearing Monday in the lawsuit against the state’s policy to retain third-graders who do poorly on the Florida Standards Assessments reading test or opt out. A group of parents is suing the state and six school districts, arguing that more factors should be considered if a student doesn’t do well on the test, and that students who are doing well should not need a test score at all. Gradebook.
Sales tax hike: The Osceola County School Board will ask voters on Nov. 8 to approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax to renovate and maintain schools, reduce the number of portable classrooms and upgrade security and technology. The tax would begin in January and is expected to produce about $25 million a year over the next 20 years. Orlando Sentinel.
Teacher bonuses: All Bay County School District employees on the instructional salary schedule are now eligible for bonuses under the state’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship program. Before the school board approved the change, employees such as guidance counselors, math coaches and media specialists were not eligible. Panama City News Herald.