Administrators of the year: Sarasota Booker High School’s Rachel Shelley is named 2017 principal of the year by the Florida Department of Education. She was appointed principal at Booker in 2011, after being principal at a school for at-risk students. Kelly Stedman, of James Stephens International Academy in Lee County, is named assistant principal of the year. Florida Department of Education. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gradebook.
Lauren’s Kids: State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, voted for a general appropriations bill in the Legislature last month that included $1.5 million for her nonprofit, Lauren’s Kids, from which she earns $135,000 a year as executive director. But apparently that’s not a conflict of interest. While Senate ethics rules forbid members from voting “on any matter” from which they or an immediate family member might profit, those rules don’t apply when voting on the annual general appropriations act. The Florida Department of Education had requested Lauren’s Kids be granted $1 million to continue its “Safer, Smarter” teaching program, which helps students, teachers and parents recognize signs of child sex abuse and the importance of reporting it. Florida Bulldog.
Charter complaints: Republican politicians in the Florida Panhandle say Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to approve H.B. 7069 could cause him problems in his expected 2018 campaign for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat. “He had a chance to stand up for public schools and he didn’t,” says Henry Kelley, who ran Scott’s 2010 campaign in Okaloosa County and is particularly unhappy with what he considers advantages charter schools were given in the bill. “They voted to harm what is arguably the region’s most valuable asset.” Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, agreed, saying “we’re all in trouble” if lawmakers don’t fix the inequities between charter and traditional schools in the next session. Miami Herald. Moody’s Investors Service is warning the state that requiring traditional public schools to share capital funds with charter schools could affect the credit ratings for districts with “significant” charter enrollment. News Service of Florida.
Schools cyberattacked: A cyberattack launched last fall against the Miami-Dade County School District and three others ultimately failed, but it did show vulnerabilities of districts trying to protect the personal information of current and former students, their parents and school employees. Experts say school wifi networks are traditionally easy to connect to, and the proliferation of cell phones among students gives hackers opportunities to get access to those networks. Miami Herald.
Education law impact: Brevard County teachers worry that the new education law will put jeopardized promised raises, and school officials are concerned with the availability of money for capital projects. Florida Today. Some northwest Florida schools will benefit from the new law, and some could be negatively affected. WTXL. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, architect of the K-12 education bill, gets a hostile reception at an event in Tampa. Florida Politics. Corcoran may be the Legislature’s most interesting man, but he may also be the most contradictory. Miami Herald. In an interview, Corcoran defends the education bill. WFLA. Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins doesn’t expect an immediate increase in the number of charter schools – so-called “schools of hope” – moving into areas with persistently low-performing schools. Charter companies have to find locations, submit applications and build a staff, and the Legislature still hasn’t written the rules to be followed, he noted. Gradebook. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, tries to explain how H.B. 7069 came about. Gradebook. Politico Florida.
Civil rights queries: The U.S. Education Department says it is scaling back on civil rights investigations of public schools and universities. Officials say rules set during the Obama administration greatly increased the number of complaints about such things as disproportionate disciplining of minority students and the mishandling of sexual assaults claims. They expect the new policy will help the department more quickly resolve cases it does take. New York Times. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says it will investigate the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies over their practices in enforcing civil rights laws. Education Week.