Office of Early Learning
A district’s discipline: The Broward County School District has developed a culture of leniency that allows students to commit what could be considered criminal offenses with little or no punishment and treats students as first-time offenders even if it’s their 10th offense for the same thing, according to discipline records and people familiar with the process. The emphasis on promoting punishment alternatives, known as the Promise program, provides a public relations boost with fewer arrests, expulsions and suspensions for misbehaving students, but has led to a message that “the students are untouchable. Habitual negative behavior means nothing anymore,” according to notes from a recent faculty meeting. Sun-Sentinel. The district’s response to the siege it’s been under for the shooting and the discipline problems has been to try to withhold information and to release statements that are later shown to be incorrect. Superintendent Robert Runcie has even blocked parents from his Twitter account, saying he won’t tolerate “profanity, hate speech or false information.” Sun-Sentinel.
School security: With a deadline approaching and under financial pressure, the Pinellas County School District is now planning to hire armed guards for some positions as a “stopgap measure” to provide security to all schools. Some school board members say they prefer school resource officers, but that Superintendent Michael Grego’s latest plan is understandable as a temporary solution. Tampa Bay Times. Volusia County officials say the school district and sheriff need to develop a plan on school safety before the county commits any money to help pay for it. The agencies meet today to discuss how to proceed to get an armed officer in schools before they reopen in August. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Two months after it passed, the state’s gun reform law is still a focus of debates in school districts. WFSU. WUSF.
Student preparedness: About 45 percent of the students in the state’s voluntary pre-K program students are not ready for kindergarten, according to a report from the state’s Office of Early Learning. The report also concludes that about 42 percent of the state’s VPK providers should be put on probation for having fewer than 60 percent of their students pass the state’s readiness test, but the office is asking for one more grace year before implementing that provision. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Scholarship hearing: Florida House leaders say they are planning a hearing into the state’s K-12 scholarship programs that provide money for students to attend private schools. According to a recent Orlando Sentinel investigation, private schools where students use the scholarships go largely unregulated by the state. Some hire uncertified teachers and administrators, and in some cases even continued collecting payments after being evicted. About 140,000 students receive money from the state’s three scholarship programs, and a fourth is being proposed that would allow bullied students to get money to attend private schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarships for low-income students and the Gardiner scholarships for students with special needs. Orlando Sentinel.
Working the contract: Teachers in Hillsborough County will protest their contract dispute with the district by “working to the contract” for the week after Thanksgiving. They say that means no late meetings, no phone calls from parents, and no grading papers after school. “It’s to make a point that this is what things would be like if teachers really did that all the time,” says Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, director of the teachers union. Teachers are angry that the district says it can’t give them a pay raise promised in 2013. For about a third of the district’s 14,000 teachers, the district’s decision will cost them $4,000. Tampa Bay Times.
Redirecting pay: Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay is proposing to use money that had been providing bonuses for teachers to work in high-poverty schools for bonuses to all teachers in lieu of a pay raise. The district now sets aside $1.6 million to pay teachers bonuses of $1,000 to $3,000 to work in the poorest schools. Kornegay’s plan is to use that money to give all teachers bonuses of $350 or $500. “The initial response was total disbelief,” says union president Stuart Klatte. “A lot of these schools recognize this as a pay cut.” School board member Bill Mathias says the problem is caused by going “into this year with basically flat funding.” Orlando Sentinel.