Proposed overhaul: Pinellas County school officials announce a series of changes to address problems at several high-poverty schools in black neighborhoods of St. Petersburg. Under the plan, the district would hire a minority achievement officer, create special centers for students suspended out of school, and establish a “transformation zone” with intense support for Pinellas’ failing elementary schools that includes paying teachers up to $25,000 more a year, a longer school day and more control over the curriculum and schedule. The district is being taken to court for its failures educating black students, and a federal civil rights investigation also has been launched. Tampa Bay Times. In neighboring Hillsborough County, Superintendent Jeff Eakins proposes a decentralization of the district’s structure. Eakins would establish eight area school districts that operate with greater independence and under the direction of an area superintendent. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Tribune.
Financial literacy: There’s a lack of financial literacy education in schools, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Among the findings in Florida schools: Fewer than 10 percent of teachers talk about personal finance, often because they don’t feel qualified, and teachers also say they lack appropriate curriculum and take-home materials. Florida Trend.
Hefty payback? The Broward County School District may have to repay $23 million in federal funds designed to help low-income students. The state’s auditor general says the money was improperly distributed. The auditor also also says the district paid health insurance premiums for former employees who were ineligible and in some cases dead, and didn’t correct safety violations. Sun-Sentinel.
Gender expression: The Hillsborough County School Board approves a policy that includes protections for students and staff based on “gender expression.” It joins gender identity, along with race, religion, national origin and disability as areas protected from discrimination and harassment. More training for staff is also recommended. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Tribune. For the third time in three months, opponents and supporters of transgender bathroom policies protest at the Sarasota County School Board meeting. The district deals with transgender bathroom on a case-by-case basis. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Charters may get a break: Three struggling charter schools in Pinellas County may get an extension for submitting plans to the state outlining how they intend to address their financial problems. The Pinellas County School District is asking the state Department of Education for the extension to give it time to review the schools’ audits. Gradebook.
Testing expansion: The SAT and ACT testing companies are aggressively marketing themselves as alternatives to Common Core-like tests for ranking high school performance. At least nine states will allow or require use of the SAT or ACT to meet federal requirements for testing high school students. A bill in the Florida Legislature to allow students to use one of the tests instead of the Florida Standards Assessments failed. New York Times.
Teacher bonuses: A recognition ceremony for 165 Leon County teachers who received state bonuses renews the discussion about how the bonuses are determined. Tallahassee Democrat.
Superintendent search: The Sarasota County School Board is now planning to hire a new superintendent before the November elections. Members say they moved up the schedule because several other Florida counties are also looking for superintendents. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Virtual school: The Indian River County School District is partnering with the Florida Virtual School to start Indian River Virtual. The online school will be free and open to county high school students. TCPalm.
Budget problems: The Hernando County School District faces a budget deficit of $3.3 million. Previous projections indicated budget deficits of $12 million and $6.5 million. Tampa Bay Times.
No to sales tax hike: A proposal to ask voters for a half-cent increase in the sale tax draws little support among Lee County School Board members. Fort Myers News-Press.
School rezoning: The Manatee County School Board considers three proposals for rezoning to accommodate students from the closing Orange-Ridge Bullock Elementary School. The plan that drew the most attention would have most of the students moving to Rogers Garden Elementary School. The board will vote on a plan Tuesday. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Utility savings: The Duval County School District and JEA Utilities Services collaborate on saving the school district $6 million in electricity costs over the next year. Jax Daily Record.
Notable deaths: Jeffery London, a former South Florida youth pastor and charter school official who was sentenced to life for a child sex abuse conviction seven months ago, has died in a Missouri federal prison. Sun-Sentinel.
Students slain: A 17-year-old junior at Miami’s Norland High School was shot and killed Tuesday as he was walking home from school. Roderick Sweeting is one of more than 300 children and teens murdered in Miami-Dade County in the past decade. Miami Herald. Claverl Joseph, a 17-year-old junior at Palm Beach Gardens High School, was shot and killed as he walked to his school bus stop Tuesday. WPEC.
Accused employee fired: The Escambia County School District says it has fired a teacher assistant who was arrested last week and accused of abusing a developmentally disabled student at Lincoln Park Primary. Brenda Morris, 68, will be in court April 21 on charges of child abuse without great bodily harm, which is a third-degree felony. Pensacola News Journal.
Employees in trouble: Two Palm Beach County teachers could lose their jobs after being accused of acting inappropriately in the classroom. Drama teacher Edward Zamora is accused of making unwanted advances on students at Forest Hill Community High in West Palm Beach. Scott Erich Landstrom, a science teacher at Riviera Beach’s Suncoast Community High, is accused of using offensive language during a lesson. Sun-Sentinel. A football coach at Central Florida Christian Academy in Orlando is arrested on a variety of sex charges. Robert Michael Gordon was caught in an undercover sting operation at which he thought he would be having sex with a 14-year-old girl. Daily Commercial. A Hillsborough County teacher has been pulled from a Monroe Middle School classroom after handing out forms entitled “How privileged are you?” that included questions about sexual orientation and disabilities. WTSP.
Students and weapons: Parents are calling for the expulsion of a South Tech Academy student who posed for the social media site Snapchat with a gun and the message “Don’t come too school Monday.” Sun-Sentinel. A 16-year-old student at Flagler Palm Coast High School is arrested for carrying a pocket knife to school for three days. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Opinions on schools: Perhaps the federal civil rights investigation into the treatment of black students will finally get the attention of Pinellas County School Board members and the community. Tampa Bay Times. Math experts say it’s not that kids aren’t getting enough math, but that we’re teaching K-12 math all wrong. Laurie Futterman, Miami Herald. The Palm Beach County School District should consider going it alone in asking for a sales tax hike. Palm Beach Post. Greg Adkins’ ability to make tough decisions proves he was the right choice as Lee County school superintendent. Fort Myers News-Press.