School closings: Eight Florida school districts remain closed until further notice, according to state officials: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington. Most are without power, have damaged schools, or have schools that are still needed as emergency shelters or as FEMA distribution sites for food, water, or other supplies. Every school in Bay County, where the storm made landfall, is damaged. “It’s not going to be a normal school year. There’s nothing normal about where we are right now,” says Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt. “I would say every single school in Bay County has some type of damage, some more extensive than others,” says Steve Moss, vice chairman of the school board. “Some it’ll probably take weeks or months to get online. Some it will take years.” Florida Department of Education. Florida Governor’s Office. WMBB. CNN. WCTV. WFSU. WTXL. Students displaced by the hurricane are being enrolled in nearby districts such as Leon, Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. Tallahassee Democrat. WEAR.
Amendment 8 opinion: Amendment 8 was removed from the Nov. 6 ballot because its language was defective and did not inform voters of its true intent, according to the Florida Supreme Court opinion that was issued Monday. “That the ballot summary is unclear is best demonstrated by the proponents of the proposed revision, who each give different meaning to the language of the revision, its title, and its summary,” the majority wrote in upholding a Leon County judge’s decision. The amendment had three education subjects: changes in who could authorize charter and public schools, term limits for school board members and a requirement for civics instruction. The League of Women Voters argued that charter schools portion was not clearly defined, and the court agreed. Gradebook.
Tax vote scuttled: Brevard County School Board members don’t think voters will approve a property tax increase to pay for school security and employee pay raises, so they’ve decided not to ask. They say there’s not enough time to educate voters, and they worry that putting the referendum on the ballot will jeopardize the renewal of the half-cent sales tax surcharge. So now the board will be looking at layoffs and cutting expenses and programs. Pennie Zuercher, the district’s chief financial officer, estimated the budget deficit will be about $5.3 million. Florida Today.
FSA test results: More reports on how school districts around the state, and some struggling schools in particular, did in the Florida Standards Assessments testing for reading and math for grades 3-12, science for 5th- and 8th-graders and end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. Testing results are part of the formula used to assign grades to individual schools and districts. Miami Herald. Florida Times-Union. WUSF. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. WJCT. WSNN. Bradenton Herald. Bradenton Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Island Reporter. WBBH. Naples Daily News. Flagler Live. Ocala Star-Banner. Northwest Florida Daily News. Vero News. WJHG. Lakeland Ledger. Charlotte Sun. Walton Sun. Highlands News-Sun. Marco Eagle. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. WLRN. Bridge to Tomorrow. WMBB.
School security: Miami-Dade school officials are asking city and county officials for help in putting school resource officers in schools that do not already have officers. The district has its own police force, and its officers cover all middle and high schools. But that leaves about 240 schools uncovered. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho plans to use $4 million from the state to hire 40 to 50 officers for the district force, and is offering $4 million to be distributed among the county and 34 municipalities. WLRN. WFOR. Jupiter Police Chief Frank J. Kitzerow Jr. is chosen to become police chief of the Palm Beach County School District. Kitzerow, 61, has been chief in Jupiter since 2004. The school board is expected to approve the appointment at its Wednesday meeting. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. The St. Johns County School Board authorizes Superintendent Tim Forson to negotiate and contract with law enforcement agencies to provide armed security at any district school not already covered by deputies from the sheriff’s office. St. Augustine Record. The Palm Beach and Martin county school districts have bought workplace violence insurance in case any of their schools are attacked by anyone with a weapon. WPTV.
Hope Scholarship rules: Florida school districts are asking the state to clarify the rules to determine how bullied students can qualify for Hope Scholarships to attend private schools. “The way the statute reads, we would have to make the scholarship [notification] available even if the allegations were not merited,” Santa Rosa County assistant superintendent Bill Emerson said during a conference call with Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice officials. Those officials did not disagree with the interpretation. Local school officials have expressed concerns that the rules could be abused by parents who are more interested in getting the scholarship money than protecting a child. News Service of Florida. Gradebook.
School security: The city of Miami Beach agrees to place police officers at the six schools in the city, starting in August. It’s the first city in the county to come to such an agreement with the Miami-Dade County School Board. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he expects to reach similar agreements with other municipalities in the next few weeks. Miami Herald. WPLG. Two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School security watchmen have been barred from campus and reassigned after reports that they saw confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz come on campus Feb. 14 but did nothing to intervene. Sun-Sentinel. Broward County parents are offering to buy metal detectors for Stoneman Douglas High and nearby J.P. Taravella High School. The detectors cost about $3,500 each. Sun-Sentinel. The NRA sends questionnaires to politicians asking if they will repeal the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed by the Legislature after the Parkland shooting. The law created a three-day waiting period to buy guns and raised the legal gun-buying age from 18 to 21. Sun-Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. St. Johns County officials seem receptive to Superintendent Tim Forson’s proposal to have the school board pay for resource officers and armed security guards for schools, and the county pay for the SROs’ cars and equipment. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT. The Gulf County School Board rejects Superintendent Jim Norton’s recommendation that the district participate in the state program to arm school employees. Port St. Joe Star. The Green Cove Springs City Council approves an agreement with the Clay County School Board to supply resource officers for the two schools in the city, with the board paying the $143,000 cost. WJXT. An active shooter training exercise at Bayshore High School in Manatee County convinces at least two school board members that there should be a sworn officer in every school, instead of the current plan for a mix of armed guards and sworn officers. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A study by the Police Executive Research Forum, commissioned by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, suggesting that the sheriff’s office and school district’s force should merge is rejected by both. The consultant’s report also concludes that the first officer to arrive at a mass shooting should move in to confront the shooter before backup arrives. Palm Beach Post.
Guns and schools: The number of Florida children killed by guns is up 20 percent since 2010, and injuries are up 36 percent. Some legislators think more guns is the solution to the problem, and are proposing that gun-free zones – including at K-12 schools – be eliminated. State Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says people are less safe in gun-free zones because they can’t protect themselves. “There’s not a school resource officer in every one of our elementary schools,” Steube said. “If a terrorist wants to come in and start shooting our kids, there’s nothing to stop them.” Tampa Bay Times.
Charters vs. districts: The debate about state funding maintenance and construction for charter schools and public schools will intensify when the Legislature begins its session March 7. Both the Senate and House want to increase state funding for charter schools, but have different ideas about how to make it happen. Miami Herald. redefinED.
Whistleblower bills: Two bills are filed that would protect school employees from retaliation for revealing fraud or violations of laws or rules at the state’s schools. The “whistleblower” bills, H.B. 1035 and S.B. 1236, were filed by Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, and Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, respectively. Gradebook.
Teacher’s fall from grace: Samantha Major was a natural for the mentoring program at Boca Raton High School. Her bosses said the young teacher was empathetic and had a rapport with students. But within months of trying to help a troubled 15-year-old girl, Major was the subject of a school investigation alleging she mishandled the situation, and the Palm Beach County School Board will consider firing her this week. How did it come to this? Palm Beach Post.
Budget problems: State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says Florida schools are probably going to have to raise local property taxes to close a $426 million gap in funding. Latvala said the state is unlikely to close that financial gap with state funds for a second year in a row. Latvala’s position contradicts House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s. The Land O’Lakes Republican has vowed not to raise taxes for schools. Naples Daily News. News Service of Florida.
Charter suit dismissed: A lawsuit challenging the state’s rule that withholds money for construction and repairs from charter schools that got consecutive D grades from the state has been dismissed. The case was ruled moot when the state withdrew the rule last week. But just days after that rule was dropped, another was adopted that kept the restrictions but delayed implementation for a year. Charter school advocates say they will fight the revised rule. redefinED.
Fake address query: An investigation into address fraud at Calusa Elementary School in Boca Raton is concluding, and school officials say they have found at least 11 students whose families may have lied about where they live so the students could attend the school. Final checks are being made, but officials say there won’t be enough changes to avoid the proposed rezoning that would move 372 Calusa students to other schools next year. Sun-Sentinel.
Class sizes: Lake County is the only school district in central Florida to violate the class-sizes rules, and it missed the standard by just two students. Lake officials say they will appeal the Department of Education findings. Orlando Sentinel.
LGBT policy: The Brevard County School Board is expected to decide Tuesday whether to expand the district’s anti-harassment policy by banning discrimination against students and staff on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. In April, on a 3-2 vote, the board agreed to schedule a vote on the policy to add lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a protected class. Florida Today.
Soft landing: A year after new school busing routes caused confusion and delays in Palm Beach County, the administrator most directly responsible for the problem is now making $111,000 a year in a district job in which he supervises three people and makes more than the department director. Steve Bonino was demoted in January from director of operations after the busing crisis, and now supervises the district’s program to remodel school cafeterias. Palm Beach Post.
Records lawsuit: The Orange County teachers union is suing the school district, accusing it of “completely ignoring” state law on open records. The union charges that the district put up roadblocks or ignored requests from the union for documents on employee discipline. saying it did not respond or that it put up hurdles when the union requested documents related to employee discipline. The district has not commented. Orlando Sentinel.
Art referendum: Pinellas County voters will be asked in November to renew a tax referendum that supports arts instruction in the district’s schools. The tax, first passed in 2004, provides about $33 million a year to the district. Tampa Bay Times.
Driver’s ed: Driver’s education classes return to the Bay County School District for the first time since the program was cut to save money about a decade ago. Panama City News Herald.