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.
A day to remember those killed at Parkland, budgets approved in Senate and House, civics bill and more
Scholarship eligibility changes considered, teacher pay hikes, suit against safety assistants and more
Search is on for money for teacher raises, charter authorization and guardian training bills, and more
Marching teachers threatened: The top attorney for the Florida Department of Education says teachers who are taking today off to join the rally for education in Tallahassee could be fired for striking illegally. “A concerted failure to report for duty constitutes an illegal strike under Florida law,” Matthew Mears wrote Friday in an email sent only to Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. Byrd said she asked the department for “guidance” and simply forwarded the email to employees to make them aware of the law, and “not as a threat from me to fire staff.” Teachers and their union leaders said they took it as a veiled threat. “Everything about that email was a disaster from the state level [to] the local level,” said Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend, who is attending the march and rally. “If this is a local decision, over my dead body will anybody be fired.” More than 1,000 Polk teachers are planning to make the trip to Tallahassee. Spectrum News 13. Lakeland Ledger. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. WTSP. WFLA. WFTS. More about today’s march by teachers in Tallahassee, and the legislative session that begins Tuesday. News Service of Florida. GateHouse. Orlando Sentinel. WLRN. Tallahassee Democrat. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. TCPalm. Florida Today. Lakeland Ledger. WSVN. WKMG. WTVT. WFTX.
More education bills: Several bills were filed just before Friday’s deadline to be considered by the Legislature. Among them are one that would require all high school students to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form to graduate, another spelling out parental rights in their child’s education and health care, and one that would make temporary funding increases to 29 school districts permanent and require districts to share any future voter-approved tax hikes with charter schools. Gradebook. Lakeland Ledger. Local government officials, such as school board members, would be allowed to carry weapons to meetings under a bill filed in the Legislature. S.B 1524, filed by state Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, would make an exception to the law prohibiting weapons at government meetings for school board members and other local officials. Members of the public attending the meetings would still be barred from being armed. News Service of Florida. Two bills would make significant changes to the way students are handled under the state’s Baker Act. Tampa Bay Times.
Students and suicide: Florida’s youth suicide rate has increased by 50 percent in the past 10 years, an epidemic that school and other officials say is hidden in plain sight online. There are 632,000 Instagram posts with with the hashtag #lifesucks, and another 550,000-plus tagged with #hatemyself. But there are also 2 million Instagram posts with the less obvious hashtag #kms (kill myself), hundreds of thousands under such #secretsociety123, and online users have developed code names for mental health disorders, such as Annie for anxiety and Sue for suicidal. Many teens who are depressed or suicidal say the first place they turn for help is not a mental health professional, a counselor or parents, but to social media. Sun Sentinel.
Mental health instruction: To meet the state requirement of giving students five hours of instruction about mental health, the Volusia County School District will provide monthly lessons conducted through PowerPoint presentations. In Flagler County, students will have 10 30-minute lessons in subjects designed to be age-appropriate. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Native language testing: Some education officials say a bill that would require the state to allow Spanish and Haitian-Creole speakers to take required tests in their native languages raises issues of fairness for speakers of other languages. The Florida Department of Education says Florida ranks third in the country in the number of English language learning students, and they speak more than 300 languages. TCPalm.
Educators honored: Rob Paschall, a 5th-grade teacher at West Creek Elementary, has been named the Orange County School District’s teacher of the year. Others honored: James Leslie of Lake Weston Elementary was named principal of the year, Fred Ray of Carver Middle was chosen as the assistant principal of the year, and Maria Seijo, who works in the district’s Innovation Office, was selected as support person of the year. Orlando Sentinel.
Superintendent search: Politics and race have crept into the search for a new Hillsborough County school superintendent, tinging the process with strong feelings about certain candidates. The six outside candidates and the lone internal candidate, Harrison Peters, will interview Thursday. Despite the factions, school board member Steve Cona said, “I really believe that this job will be won in the interview.” Superintendent Jeff Eakins is retiring no later than June 30. Tampa Bay Times.
Vaping lawsuit: Lee County School Board members are giving consideration to joining the Brevard, Seminole and Palm Beach school districts in a class action lawsuit against Juul Labs, the manufacturer of e-cigarettes. The suit alleges that the company targets teens in ads, leading to health issues for students and disruptions in schools, which are forcing the districts to divert resources from other issues to deal with the vaping problems. Board members are expected to discuss the lawsuit within the next month. Fort Myers News-Press.
Partial dismissal sought: Attorneys for the Broward County School Board are asking for a partial dismissal in the case filed by families of the shooting victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. They claim the suit goes beyond the scope of Florida law in the areas of school districts’ duties and responsibilities. WFOR.
School repairs: The Palm Beach County School District has spent about $61 million repairing and replacing school air conditioning systems since 2017. That investment has resulted in an overall decline in A/C problems by 7 percent, but an analysis of district records shows that some schools have had persisting problems. Palm Beach Post.
More on graduation rates: The Florida Department of Education reported last week that 86.9 percent of the state’s students who started high school in 2015 graduated last spring. But it also reports that the dropout rate is 3.4 percent. So what happened to the other 9.7 percent? Gradebook. More reports about Florida school districts’ graduation rates. WFSU. WMBB. Charlotte Sun. Space Coast Daily. Orlando Sentinel. Panama City News Herald. WUWF.
Spelling bee winner: Caleb Rimpel, an 8th-grader from Christ the King Lutheran School, won the Flagler County Spelling Bee to qualify for the regional spelling bee in Jacksonville on Feb. 27. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Personnel moves: The Sarasota County School District’s interim superintendent since mid-November, Mitsi Corcoran, was given a contract last week by the school board. Corcoran will paid $207,000 a year and receive an extra $1,150 a month for expenses. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Notable deaths: Dr. Ed Anderson, an Ocala dentist and one-term Marion County School Board member who helped the district desegregate schools in the late 1960s, died Jan. 3 at the age of 90. Ocala Star-Banner.
Charters and candidates: Charter schools have been among the most divisive issue among the leading Democratic candidates for president. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have vigorously opposed them, while Mike Bloomberg is a strong supporter and has said he would push for more of them. Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg have been less vocal but have called for great accountability for charters. There are about 7,000 charter schools in the United States, and they education about 6 percent of the country’s students. Politico.
School elections: A third candidate has entered the race for the Clay County superintendent’s job. Melanie Dawn Walls joined former superintendent Charlie Van Sant in challenging incumbent Addison Davis. WJXT.
District marketing: The Hernando County School District is rolling out a new marketing plan that includes a new, soft blue and green district logo reading: Hernando School District: Learn it. Love it. Live it. The district paid the Sarasota marketing firm Voss & Associates just over $20,000 to develop the plan. Tampa Bay Times.
Hackers change school names: Hackers temporarily changed information provided from Google searches about several central Florida schools last week. Leesburg High School, for instance, was changed to Tatas High School, with the location changed to Skeezeburg and the principal being named “Megamind.” School officials from several districts are investigating. WOFL. WKMG.
Students and the law: Lee County sheriff’s deputies arrested an Estero High School student and accused him of having a stun gun and six bullets in his car in the school parking lot. Deputies also found cocaine residue in the student’s clothing. Fort Myers News-Press. A 15-year-old Flagler County student has been arrested and accused of hitting a teacher who was trying to break up a fight at Flagler Palm Coast High School. The teacher was not injured. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. A 13-year-old Lee County student was arrested and accused of threatening to kill students at the Alva School. WINK. WFTX.
Opinions on schools: Florida students deserve better than to have one of the lowest-paid education workforces in the nation at work in their classrooms. FEA president Fed Ingram, Miami Herald. Mass marches, such as the one planned by teachers today in Tallahassee, don’t change many minds. But they do focus public attention on what organizers want lawmakers to know their constituents care about. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. Legislators need to put students first for a change, and teachers a close second. Sun Sentinel. Republican legislators will have to deliver to fulfill Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pledge to make 2020 the year of the teacher. Tampa Bay Times. Name an issue proposed by a Republican but viewed favorably by 97 percent of Florida Democrats … AND that increases government spending yet is supported by nearly 9 in 10 Florida Republicans. The answer: raising Florida’s base salary for public school teachers. Karen Cyphers, Florida Politics. Teacher pay and student performance must be the top priorities for the Legislature. John Legg, Florida Politics. Florida school districts are looking to the courts for help fighting vaping manufacturers to recoup costs for the damage they’re doing to students and the problems they’re causing the districts. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Florida needs to make sure that high school students earn credentials that will actually prepare them for life after graduation including college, further vocational training or entering the workforce with a high-paying job. Patricia Levesque, Tampa Bay Times. Non-English-speaking students should get the chance to show what they’ve learned by allowing them to take required state assessment tests in their native languages. Jochua Cora Santiago, Orlando Sentinel.
Prosecution over books urged: A conservative group that’s been pushing for school districts to remove books that include explicit sex scenes or LGBTQ relationships is now asking the state attorney general to prosecute schools that make those materials available. “We demand that the attorney general enforce existing anti-pornography statutes,” according to a statement from the Florida Citizens Alliance, “… and that the Legislature take whatever action is necessary to strengthen existing laws that are being completely ignored by public schools!” Among the books the group considers offensive: Mommy, Mama and Me by Leslie Newman, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García. Gradebook.
Charter school expansion: A prominent nonprofit charter school company has announced that it plans to open four schools in Jacksonville in 2022. Texas-based IDEA Public Schools said the schools will educate about 900 students, most of whom are minorities and qualify for free school meals. No locations were named. The company has about 60 schools in Texas and Louisiana, and had previously announced plans to build four in the Tampa area this year. City Council member Rory Diamond wrote that landing IDEA was an “incredible get for our community. Will be transformative for At Hope kids and parents with no other options.” Florida Times-Union.
The DeSantis agenda: Gov. Ron DeSantis has laid out an ambitious agenda, especially on educational matters, including higher starting teacher pay, a change in the way bonuses are given to educators, increasing funding of mental health services for students, and improving security in schools. But there are questions about how much of that agenda can get through the Legislature, even though it’s dominated by his fellow Republicans. Many prominent lawmakers question where the money is coming from to pay for all these initiatives and others. Orlando Sentinel. Education and other issues to watch in the legislative session that begins next Tuesday. Tampa Bay Times.
Education spending: The amount of money available for capital spending in the state’s K-12 schools is expected to increase by nearly $75 million over the appropriated level, according to the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference. More than $353 million would be available from the Public Education Capital Outlay without resorting to bonding. With bonds, the maximum amount available would be $3.129 billion. Florida Politics. The Revenue Estimating Conference also announced that $2.3 billion will be available in the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which is about $53 million more than projected in November. Florida Politics.
School board term limits: A bill has been filed in the Florida Senate that would ask voters to pass a constitutional amendment to limit local school board members to no more than eight consecutive years in office. Filed by state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, the bill is identical to one sponsored in the House by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Clermont. Another Senate bill, filed by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, would cap school board service at 12 years. WFSU.
Security in schools: The Broward County School District and mayors in the county are asking the Legislature for an additional $60 million to pay for full security coverage at each of the district’s schools. The district now pays municipalities $55,000 for each resource officer assigned to schools. But the cost to the municipality for that officer’s salary, vehicle, radio and other equipment can cost as much as $170,000, say Broward officials. Florida Politics.
Career help for students: Florida’s students would get much more information about potential career paths and alternatives to college under a bill proposed by state Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine. S.B. 1578 would require guidance counselors to advise students about the costs of college and the potential earnings in a given profession, and also be told about “alternative career paths.” The bill also would expand the ability of universities and their affiliates to start charter schools. Florida Politics.
Still waiting on FEMA: The Lee County School District has now received about $5 million in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damages caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017. But the district still waiting for another $26 million to pay for repairs. School officials attribute the delay to the process, which requires FEMA to evaluate claims, decide how much should be paid and send the money to the state, which then audits each claim before releasing the money. The district took out a $25 million short-term loan to begin the repairs while waiting for federal reimbursement. Fort Myers News-Press.
Teacher pay: Monroe County has the highest average teacher salary in the state, according to an analysis of Florida Department of Education data. Teachers in the Keys are paid an average of $57,285 on a 10-month contract. Monroe is followed by Collier ($55,211), Sarasota ($54,719), Broward ($51,678) and Miami-Dade ($51,395). Gadsden County’s teachers are the lowest paid with an average of $38,825. According to data compiled by the National Education Association, Florida ranked 47th in the nation with an average salary of $48,395. Orlando Business Journal.
Contract ratification: Pasco County teachers could see 3.25 percent raises in their paychecks as early as Feb. 21 if the school board approves the negotiated deal next Tuesday and the teachers ratify it on Jan. 29. In addition to the raises, teachers won’t pay any extra for health insurance premiums. Gradebook.
Teachers honored: Five finalists have been chosen for the Marion County School District Golden Apple teacher of the year award. They are: Victoria Craig, a West Port High biology and environmental science teacher; Erin Darmody, a Dunnellon High media specialist; Euan Hunter, a Vanguard High chemistry teacher; Lindsey Flanagan, a 7th-grade civics teacher at Belleview Middle; and Katie Weston, a Liberty Middle teacher. The winner will be announced Jan. 24. Ocala Star-Banner. Finalists for the teacher of the year award in the St. Johns County School District were also announced. They are: Julie Durden, who teaches American Sign Language at Palm Valley Academy; Aletha Dresback, a 6th- and 7th-grade social studies teacher at Valley Ridge Academy; Julie Haden, a 1st-grade teacher at Freedom Crossing Academy; Lori Price, a 1st-grade teacher at the Webster School; and Evan Tisdale, who teaches middle school special needs students at the Transition School. The winner will be announced Jan. 31. St. Augustine Record.
Superintendent search: Now that the eight finalists for the job of the Hillsborough County School District have been chosen, the lobbying for and against certain candidates has begun. The finalists will be interviewed by the board on Jan. 16, with the field being cut to two or three, and a final vote is expected Jan. 21. Superintendent Jeff Eakins is retiring no later than June 30. Gradebook.
A district’s agenda: The Sarasota County School Board has a long to-do list for 2020, which it will start addressing at today’s meeting. Board members need to hire a new superintendent, restore relationships with the teachers union and work toward a contract with it, sort through litigation over the district’s treatment of students with special needs, set a security protocol for board meetings and see how the outcome of elections for two seats affects the balance of the board. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Reading plan proposal: Manatee County school officials say on Monday they will roll out an initiative they’re calling the “Big Plan” to bring students from 10 low-income schools in three zip codes up to grade-level reading. “While great strides have been made improving school grades and programs offered at those schools, the work is far from complete,” the district wrote in a news release. “Students who are not reading on grade-level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.” The plan is being supported by the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, United Way Suncoast, the school district, Manatee County government, the Manatee Community Foundation, the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County and the Patterson Foundation. Bradenton Herald.
School enrollment: Enrollment in Volusia County’s traditional public schools is down by about 300 this year over last. Alternative school choice is thought to be one of the causes for the decline. In the 2008-2009 school year, 88 percent of the county’s students attended traditional schools. That’s declined to 83.5 percent last year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
School choice programs: The deadline to apply for a seat in a Miami-Dade County School District magnet program is Jan. 15. About 380 programs are offered at more than 100 schools. WTVJ.
Sidewalks for schools: The city of Leesburg is applying for a $500,000 federal school safety grant to help build 12,000 feet of sidewalks so students can walk safely to Beverly Shores Elementary School. Daily Commercial.
School busing mediation: The Leon County School District is in mediation with Education Logistics Inc. to resolve a dispute over problems with the company’s bus routing and tracking software that resulted in serious transportation issues at the beginning of the school year. The sides agreed to try mediation to avoid going to court. Tallahassee Democrat.
Jackson loses legal fees fight: An Okaloosa County circuit judged has ruled that the school district does not have to reimburse $283,000 in legal fees to former school superintendent Mary Beth Jackson. Jackson was removed from the job by Gov. Ron DeSantis a year ago for incompetence, then reinstated in August as part of an agreement under which she would resign. Jackson then sued the school board for payment of her legal fees. Northwest Florida Daily News.
School district sued: The Manatee County School District is being sued by a software company that says the district owes it almost $780,000. Ciber Global is the software company that installed a new business system that came in more than $15 million over budget and, the district says, didn’t work as it was supposed to. The project began in 2016. Ciber declared bankruptcy in 2017 and was taken over by new ownership. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
School crossing guards hit: A school crossing guard in Orange County is in critical condition after being pinned by a car that was involved in an accident with two other vehicles Wednesday in Winter Garden. Another school crossing guard suffered minor injuries earlier in the day after being hit by a car just southwest of Winter Garden. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. A school crossing guard was helping students across a Clearwater street Wednesday when he was hit by a vehicle. The driver then tried to leave the scene, but was pinned in by other drivers and was taken into custody by police. The crossing guard was taken to a hospital to be treated for what police called “nonlife-threatening” injuries. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFTS.
Shooting at school: A person suffered a self-inflicted wound in the leg inside a car in the parking lot at Glades Central High School in Belle Glade on Wednesday, leading to a brief lockdown at the school, according to Palm Beach County School District officials. No students were involved in the shooting, the officials said. WPTV. Palm Beach Post.
Teacher arrested: A Flagler County teacher has been arrested and charged with battery after allegedly carrying a 14-year-old boy out of his classroom and shoving him down the hallway. Jeffrey Paffumi, 47, is a teacher at Buddy Taylor Middle School. WJXT. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WKMG. WFTV.
Students and the law: A 14-year-old student has been arrested for allegedly bringing a gun to Miami Carol City High School in Miami Gardens. WSVN.
Opinions on schools: Charter schools have a role to play in providing choices in education, especially in communities with legacies of failing schools. But a recent report detailing $1 billion in federal funds have been wasted in the past 25 years clearly shows that there needs to be strict standards to protect parents from schools that are unable to perform either financially or educationally. Florida Times-Union. Parents with means can choose a school for their children by moving to the neighborhood of a preferred public school or paying private school tuition. But the children of the poor also have to be schooled, and their parents’ authority to choose could be realized without increasing the total cost to the taxpayer – if that is an object of reform. John E. Coons, redefined. It doesn’t take statewide legislation for school districts to move a teacher work day up a few days to have students be out of school the day after Halloween. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.
Student enrichment: Alachua County high school students will get lessons in the election process from the supervisor of elections office during campus visits this month. Students must be 18 to vote, but can preregister at age 16. WCJB. Fourteen Lee County schools have been named by the Florida Department of Education as Five Star School Award winners for the 2018-2019 school year. Cape Coral Daily Breeze. Lecanto’s Saint John Paul II Catholic School, in Citrus County, has been named an International Baccalaureate school. Citrus County Chronicle. A social media campaign raised about $600 to pay past-due lunch debts in Brevard County schools and another $1,800 for future lunches. Florida Today.