School security: The Hendry and Suwannee county school boards adopt the state’s guardian program and will have school employees carrying concealed weapons in all their schools next August. The school boards will decide who becomes a guardian, and the county sheriff’s departments will provide the training. WBBH. Suwannee Democrat. The Pasco County School Board will be asked to approve a $2.8 million program to put armed safety officers instead of sworn school resource officers into county schools. Gradebook. Some Florida legislators predict the school safety act will be revised in the next legislative session. Florida Today. A majority of people responding to a Lake County School District survey say they do not want to arm school employees. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel. A group of Duval County students share their safety concerns with legislators. WJCT. St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson talks about the financial challenges the district faces in adhering to the state mandate of having an armed person in every school. St. Augustine Record. Florida senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio introduce a bill to expand the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center as a way to protect students. Sun-Sentinel. Sunshine State News.
Education lawsuit appeal: School boards in Lee and Bay counties vote to appeal a judge’s April 4 ruling that the 2017 state education law, H.B. 7069, is constitutional. The other 11 school boards in the suit – Alachua, Broward, Clay, Duval, Hamilton, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla – have yet to decide whether they’ll join the appeal. The plaintiffs say the law is unconstitutional because it takes power away from local school boards. Fort Myers News-Press. Panama City News Herald. WJHG. The ongoing legal fight reflects the tension between local school boards, which are given the authority to oversee all public schools in their counties, and the Legislature and Florida Department of Education, which have the power to regulate that authority. redefinED.
Private schools investigated: The Florida Department of Education will investigate three private schools that hired felons as teachers. Kingsway Christian Academy and Winners Primary School near Orlando and Southland Christian School near Kissimmee have been asked for records of the employees, including proof of their background checks. State law prohibits private schools that take scholarship money from hiring employees with certain convictions, but the state relies on the schools to conduct background checks. Orlando Sentinel.
Student activism: Hundreds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, parents and teachers are traveling to Washington, D.C., for the March For Our Lives rally Saturday. Another 800 or so marches calling for stricter gun laws are planned in cities around the world, and more than a million people are expected to participate. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Other Florida students will take part in local ceremonies. Sun-Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Palm Beach Post. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Bradenton Herald. Naples Daily News. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. TCPalm. Five Stoneman Douglas students who have become national figures in the #NeverAgain movement to change gun laws make the cover of the April 2 Time magazine. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.
Schools of Hope operators: Two charter school companies apply to become Florida’s first “Schools of Hope” operators. Somerset Academy, which recently took over the Jefferson County School District, and the Texas company IDEA Public Schools were approved by the Department of Education, and the Florida Board of Education votes on their applications Tuesday. Hope operators get a streamlined process to open schools in areas with persistently low-performing schools, and access to low-cost loans for facilities and grants to pay for things such as longer school days. redefinED.
School security: The Miami-Dade County School Board is considering a pilot program giving schools the option of requiring students to wear clear backpacks. Miami Herald. Hendry County schools will require students to wear clear backpacks for the 2018-2019 school year, but Charlotte and Lee counties will not. WZVN. Charter schools are struggling to find money for school security. There’s no road map for agreements between local public districts and charters on finding guards for schools, who those armed guards will be, or who will pay for them. redefinED. The Sarasota County School approves spending more than $1 million beyond what it will receive from the state to place armed law enforcement officers in each of the district’s 21 elementary schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Monroe County School Board is considering asking voters to approve a tax increase to pay for police officers in schools. Key West Citizen. At a town meeting, Hillsborough County parents quiz school officials on what’s been done and what’s being planned to keep students safe. School officials say their plans hinge on funding. Complying with state laws will create a $16 million deficit in security costs for the district, they say. Tampa Bay Times.
Creating charters: Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board and the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, has already proposed constitutional amendments that would eliminate pay for school board members and impose term limits on them, end the election of school superintendents and allow legislators to “make provision” for educational services in addition to the free public schools. Now she’s proposing an amendment that would allow legislators to create “alternative processes to authorize the establishment of charter schools within the state.” If the amendment is approved by the 37-member commission, it would need the support of 60 percent of voters to go into effect. Gradebook. Donalds may have gotten some inspiration on the proposal of no salaries for school board members from Eric Robinson, who is on the Sarasota school board and thinks taking a salary is a conflict of interest. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Regulatory relief: State Rep. Mike Bileca, R-Miami, says he is interested in finding more state regulations that can be removed from top-performing public schools through the Schools of Excellence program. The program, which was authorized through the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069, provides greater flexibility and autonomy to the principals of the highest-performing 20 percent of schools at each level. redefinED.
Recycling success: Two years ago, 2nd-graders at Old Kings Elementary School in Flagler Beach began a recycling campaign for plastic and later boycotted disposable plastic lunch trays. That interest in the environment blossomed, and led to every school in the district using trays made of recycled paperboard, which will remove 1.4 million plastic trays from county landfills and save the district $14,000 a year. Flagler Live. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Displaced teachers: Florida education officials say they’d like to hire teachers who were displaced when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in late September. The state is waiving the application fee for a teaching certificate and will accept unofficial transcripts. But there are still several hurdles Puerto Rican teachers must clear before getting a job in a Florida classroom. Many will have to pass expensive tests. And others are finding that their certifications don’t align with the Florida requirements. In Puerto Rico, elementary teachers are certified in K-3rd and 4th-6th grades. In Florida, it’s either pre-K through 3rd or all elementary grades. State officials say they have no plans to adjust certification requirements or waive test fees. Governing.
Tax-free weekend: The state’s annual back-to-school, tax-free holiday has been cut back in more ways than one. It’s been compressed from 10 days in 2015 to three days this year, and the maximum you can spend on any one eligible item is $60, down from $100. The tax-break days are Friday through Sunday. Sun-Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. TCPalm. Naples Daily News. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
SAT decline: The National Center for Fair & Open Testing reports fewer and fewer colleges are insisting that high school students take the SAT test. Because of that, the number of students taking the SAT has declined 23 percent in the past 10 years, and the College Board, which administers the test, has lost about $6 million a year in revenues. Sunshine State News.
Early start: When the Legislature passed a law allowing districts to start school earlier, most took advantage. Forty of the state’s 67 districts start Aug. 10 this year. While many parents protested the earlier return as a disruption to their summers, most districts liked the idea of ending the first semester at the holiday break instead of carrying the first semester two weeks into January. Tampa Bay Times.
Discipline gap: Even as Hillsborough school officials work to cut racial disparities in school punishment, the disparities persist. Data from the first year of the district’s new approach show student arrests for minority students are declining. But black students are still disciplined disproportionately. Blacks represent 21 percent of the student body, but 44 percent of the students arrested, 44 percent of days in alternative to out-of-school suspensions, 41 percent of days of in-school suspensions, and 41 percent of days in out-of-school suspensions, according to the report. Gradebook.
Nondiscrimination policy: Brevard school officials are still working on specifics to the recently adopted anti-discrimination policy that now covers sexual orientation and gender identity. School board member Amy Kneessy says the policy is meant to deter harassment, and not change existing bathroom and locker room policies. Florida Today.
Plumbers praised: Two plumbers are credited with saving a student’s life at Royal Palm Beach High School last month. Aaron Glover and Jimmy Johnson were working in a girls bathroom when they heard a commotion in a boys bathroom. They investigated and found one student stabbing another. The attacker saw Glover with a 9-inch pipe wrench, dropped the knife, and was detained by Johnson. Palm Beach Post.
Opting out: Parents of two Duval County students allege the school district is retaliating against them for opting out of the state’s standardized testing. A third-grader may be retained, and an eighth-grader is reportedly being kept out of an early college program. Sandy Stenoff, a founder of the Opt Out Florida Network, says cases like these are happening all over the state. Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the rules on testing are a “state policy, not district policy. Arguing with the district regarding the alternatives is futile.” Florida Times-Union.
Bathroom fight: The Sarasota County School Board remains deadlocked over the issue of which bathrooms transgender students should use. Supporters from both sides of the issue spoke and protested at Tuesday’s meeting. Until the board acts, the district will continue to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The fight over bathroom rights for transgender students is raging in the state’s K-12 schools, but not at colleges. Politico Florida.
Dress codes: The Alachua County School Board will consider ending its policy requiring school uniforms. The board meets tonight to discuss the recommendation from the district’s discipline committee. Gainesville Sun.
Resume-padding: Just-hired Pittsburgh School Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, formerly an administrator in the Palm Beach County School District, acknowledges errors on his resume but defends his record in a news conference. “It is unfortunate that we have begun this way but I believe today I have answered these questions,” he said. Palm Beach Post. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
New helmet technology: The Flagler County School District is purchasing new helmet-based impact technology that monitors hits to the heads of high school football players. It’s the first district in Florida to buy the Riddell InSite Impact Response System, which electronically alerts coaches and athletic trainers on the sidelines when a player takes a significant hit. Sensors are placed in the front, both sides, top and back of the helmet. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Top teacher finalists: Amy Miller, a math and science coach at Kissimmee Elementary School, is one of five finalists for Florida Teacher of the Year. The winner will be announced in July. Orlando Sentinel. Jessica Solano, a third grade math teacher at Lakeland’s Highlands Grove Elementary School, is also named a finalist for the award. Lakeland Ledger.
Magnets for failing schools: Magnet programs would be placed at six failing Pinellas County elementary schools if the school board approves a proposal by the group trying to turn around the schools. Some black community leaders say the programs could boost the schools’ grades from the state but may not help the neighborhood children who need it the most. Tampa Bay Times.
Sales tax hike: The Palm Beach County School Board is threatening to pull out of an agreement with the County Commission to ask voters for a 1-cent sales tax hike. Members are angry that the commission cut funding for cultural projects. School board members say if the differences can’t be resolved, they may ask voters for a half-cent sales tax strictly for schools. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.
Discipline changes: A new code of discipline starts this summer in the Lee County School District. Restorative justice tries to show students the impact of their misbehavior and offers them ways to right their wrongs through apologies, mediation and community service instead of suspensions and arrests. Fort Myers News-Press.
Whistleblowers intimidated? Two students who complained about having unqualified substitutes for geometry class all year are being harassed and intimidated by the school’s principal and the area superintendent, two teachers tell Palm Beach School Superintendent Robert Avossa. They say the principal, Cheryl McKeever, told the geometry students they don’t have a teacher because they ran off the job candidate. In a statement, McKeever says she was addressing the students as young adults. Palm Beach Post.
Teacher bonuses: Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, says he wants to expand the teacher bonuses program in the next legislative session. He says more money will be added, especially for teachers in low-income schools, and the program will be made permanent instead of proceeding on a year-to-year basis. Tampa Bay Times. Rep. Corcoran issues a survey to the 5,200 state teachers who qualified for the teacher bonuses, asking them how to improve the program. Gradebook. The Best and Brightest teacher bonuses are distributed in Miami-Dade. Each teacher who qualified receives $8,256.27 minus payroll and income tax. Miami Herald.
Pyrotechnics probe: Palm Beach County school officials will investigate who approved hiring a fire-breather for a pep rally Thursday at Atlantic High School. The act misfired and the performer’s face caught fire. “When you put fire in a building, this is a problem,” says Superintendent Robert Avossa. Palm Beach Post. This was at least the third time fire-breather Ricky Charles has performed in Palm Beach schools in the past three years. Palm Beach Post. A new type of fuel and a lack of practice led to the accident, says Ricky Charles. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.
Education bill: What was in the massive education bill that passed on the final day of the Legislature? Miami Herald. One thing not in the bill is money for City Year, a branch of AmeriCorps that places young adults in schools to help students one-on-one. Orlando Sentinel.
Money = results? Big donations to legislators didn’t necessarily translate into big returns for the industries making the donations. But charter school supporters were among the winners. Miami Herald.