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Florida schools roundup: Enrollment growth, expulsions, testing and more

florida-roundup-logoEnrollment growth: Florida’s school population is expected to grow from 2.77 million this year to 2.9 million in the next five years, a rate that is straining the resources of many school districts. St. Johns County is growing the fastest, with a 20 percent increase expected by 2020-2021. Other districts, such as Hillsborough and Pasco, anticipate an 8 percent increase in the number of students in that time. Tampa Bay Times.

School expulsions: The Sarasota County School District expelled the second-highest number of students in Florida between 2010 and 2014. More than 350 were kicked out of school – more than Miami-Dade, Broward, Duval, Pinellas, Lee, Volusia, Charlotte, Manatee, Collier, Hernando, Indian River, Santa Rosa and St. Johns counties combined. And generally, punishment disproportionately fell on students of color. Polk County was the only school district to expel more, with 446 over five years. Sarasota-Herald-Tribune. The Miami-Dade County School District has drastically cut out-of-school suspensions with an alternative program called the Youth Engagement Program. It’s an intensive counseling program for misbehaving students, with an emphasis on participation in civic activities. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Polk County School District has cut down on the number of expulsions, from a state-high of 155 students in 2012-13 to 89 last year and only 30 so far this year. But out-of-school suspensions have gone up. Lakeland Ledger.

Smooth testing: The state’s standardized testing, which ended Friday, went smoothly this year, according to the Florida Department of Education. More than 3 million computer-based exams and  650,000 written exams were taken. Orlando SentinelGradebook. As far as state officials can determine, the percentage of third-graders who opted out of state testing declined slightly, from 0.11 percent in 2015 to 0.10 percent this year. Palm Beach Post.

Contract disputes: The Lake County School Board will determine today whether to side with the school district or the district service employees union in a contract impasse. The sides are at odds about how to define seniority when it assign school bus drivers. Orlando Sentinel. Volusia County teachers will get another chance to vent about their contract dispute at Tuesday’s school board meeting. Last week, the board agreed teachers should get a raise, but only if they pay more for their insurance. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Computer science standards: The Florida Board of Governors adopts a set of computer science standards for teaching computer science. The proposed standards have been developed over the past year. Computer science becomes the fifth area of science with specific standards, joining nature of science, life science, Earth science and physical science. Florida is the first state to adopt computer science standards, according to the Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida.

IT emphasis: The Duval County School District recently announced the launch of an IT magnet program to boost Andrew Jackson High School. Some wonder if it will be any more successful than the IT program already at A. Philip Randolph Academies of Technology. There, students say, a lack of instructors, textbooks, classroom materials and consistent computer training put the program in a downward spiral. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti acknowledged the problems, and says there was a shortage of IT-certified teachers. But he says the district is improving its recruiting and offering instructors more money. Florida Times-Union.

Charter schools: Parents of students at three Pinellas County charter schools on the brink of being closed are scrambling to find alternatives for their children. The school district has given the charter schools 90 days to fix their problems or lose their contracts. If that happens, more than 800 students will have to find a new school. Tampa Bay Times. The State Board of Education approves one Palm Beach County charter school appeal and turns down another. Renaissance Charter High School will be allowed to proceed, while Palm Beach Collegiate Inc. will not. Both had been turned down by the Palm Beach County School Board. Politico Florida.

Program threatened: A funding cutback is possible for a Jacksonville program that helps troubled children. The Jax Journey, a citywide crime-reduction initiative, is considering trimming the $800,000 it now spends on the Alternative to Out of School Suspension program because it isn’t being used often enough. The program was created to give students a place to be while serving an out-of-school suspension. Florida Times-Union.

Book questioned: The parents of two seventh-graders at Pasco Middle School want a book removed from the school library. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a novel by Stephen Chbosky, contains graphic references to sex, drugs and alcohol, the parents complain. The book has been removed pending a district review. Gradebook.

Tales in transitioning: Alex, a sophomore at Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach Beach, talks about her experiences and challenges as a transgender student. Alex’s mom says rather than changing laws, she wants “to change perceptions and abolish fear and anger and insecurities.” Palm Beach Post.

Female football coach: Not too long ago, Lakatriona Brunson cracked down on illegally parked South Florida drivers on the reality TV show South Beach Tow. Now Brunson, 39, is the football coach at Miami Jackson High School – the first female coach of a high school team in Florida. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher/wrestler: During the day, Steve Damico teaches kindergarten at Three Oaks Elementary School in Fort Myers. At night, he becomes Syther (pronounced Sigh-ther), professional wrestler. Associated Press.

Stadium renovations: The $7.3 million renovation of the Indian River County Citrus Bowl is complete. A certificate of occupancy was issued Friday, though the first event – a spring high school football game – was canceled by weather. TCPalm.

Notable deaths: Daniel Krysa, who started teaching social studies, economics and history the day Miami Norland Senior High School opened in 1958, has died at age 91. Krysa retired in 1984. Miami Herald.

School closings: Hundreds of former students, teachers and families attend a farewell ceremony for Lake Como Elementary School in Orlando. The school, which opened in 1951, will be torn down this summer and a K-8 school will replace it. Orlando Sentinel. The community and the staff of Bradenton’s Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School celebrate the school’s history in a closing ceremony. The school is closing in June after 58 years. Bradenton Herald. Tampa’s Richardson Montessori Academy, which has been open since 1997, is closing at the end of the school year. It has struggle financially and had just 27 students at one point this year. Tampa Bay Times.

Job change: The principal at Horace O’Bryant School in Key West is removed and transferred to the job as Monroe County School District’s coordinator of alternative education. Mike Henriquez had been given a five-day unpaid suspension for his handling of a recent day-care scandal in which nearly $22,000 disappeared. Keynoter.

Sex at school: A 15-year-old girl admits having sex with as many as 25 boys in a bathroom at South Fort Myers High School after school last Tuesday. Principal Melissa Layner would not talk about the punishment for those involved except to say it was “dealt quickly.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Teacher arrested: Polk County School District teacher Jason Argo is charged with three counts of sexual battery by a custodian on a victim between 12 and 18 years old. Argo, 34, is accused of having sex with a Mulberry High School student during the 2014-2015 school year, when he was an English teacher there. WPTV.

Ex-teacher convicted: A former Lake County high school teacher is convicted guilty of coercion or enticement of a minor, solicitation to commit a violent crime and threatening to kidnap. Dane Gillis, 58, taught at Lake Minneola High School in 2011-2012. He could be sentenced to life in prison. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Even after last week’s federal report confirming the disturbing trend of resegregation in America’s schools, there is a bitter debate over ensuring those schools are getting the public money they deserve. Tampa Bay Times. Talented but frustrated teachers are leaving the profession, pushed away by Florida politicians. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Three of the loudest critics of the Obama administrations directive on transgender students are Republicans with primary opponents, giving each political incentive to take a hard-line, conservative stance on this issue. Tia Mitchell, Florida Times-Union. Polk County School Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd acknowledged a mistake in the weight given to end-of-year exams, and fixed it. That’s commendable. Lakeland Ledger. The question Manatee County voters should weigh before casting a ballot on the almost certain sales tax initiatives from the county and the school district in November is straightforward: What kind of community do you want to emerge from this? Bradenton Herald. Flags on campus have been a point of contention in Collier schools for more than a decade. With school in session 180 days, and students from 114 countries enrolled in Collier County schools, you can begin to see the problem. Brent Batten, Naples Daily News. Sending troublesome kids home, especially for long stretches via suspensions or expulsions, should be a last resort and a rare one. Tom Lyons, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. If Marion County schools are scoring below average across the board, our superintendent and school board needs to engage in some serious soul-searching and change. Striving to be average is hardly what any of us wants. Brad Rogers, Ocala Star Banner. Without the fear of failure, teachers can focus on teaching students to be more prepared for the tests of life than for a life full of tests. Richard Evans, Ocala Star Banner. A confluence of events causing financial problems for the Citrus County School District forces the district to ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax surcharge on the August or November ballot. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: Bay County School District seniors talk about the value and necessity of graduating from high school. Panama City News Herald. Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies mentor 20 at-risk fifth-grade students at South Grade Elementary School in Lake Worth weekly to try to steer them away from the influence of gangs. Palm Beach Post. Oakleaf Village Elementary School music teacher Paula Summers receives a $5,000 grant that she plans to use to teach her students the basics of African and Caribbean drumming, singing and movement. Florida Times-Union. The YMCA of Central Florida is offering a free summer camp for rising 7th to 10th grade students that includes meals and transportation for students living in Cocoa. Florida Today. Bradenton’s Ballard Elementary School receives a $7,000 grant from the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries to buy books and magazines. Bradenton Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff