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Florida schools roundup: Retentions down, tax rates, testing suit and more

florida-roundup-logoRetentions decline: Fewer than 10,000 Florida third-graders were retained in 2015, a drop of about 40 percent from 2014 and about 25 percent fewer than in any year since 2003. The Department of Education says the blip happened because local school officials had greater say for a year in whether students should be retained, and many of the students promoted would have been retained in any other year. Many school officials say they expect the number of retentions in 2016 to return to previous levels. Orlando Sentinel.

Testing lawsuit: Fourteen parents from Sarasota, Hernando, Seminole, Broward, Orange, St. Lucie and Osceola counties are preparing to file suit against the Florida Department of Education over the retention of third-graders who refused to take the state’s standardized tests. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District tax rates: Florida school boards are preparing to set local property tax rates that will help determine how much money their districts have to spend. The rates are controlled by the state Department of Education so that wealthy districts don’t significantly outspend poorer ones. Gradebook. The Highlands County School Board approves a slightly lower tax rate while setting an overall budget of just more than $150 million. Highlands Today.

Police in schools: The Marion County School District will pay more to have police officers in middle schools under an agreement reached with the city of Ocala. The district also will have to assume the full costs for the officers after this coming school year. Ocala Star Banner. Escambia County senior sheriff’s deputy Ronnie Gill, the school resource officer at Ernest Ward Middle School in Walnut Hill, is named the top school resource officer in Florida by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Association of School Resource Officers. Escambia’s SRO unit is also named the state’s best.

New teacher orientation: Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins tells about 600 new teachers “we all have to remember that we can be ‘the one’ for somebody.” Eakins also stressed character and caring at the beginning of the week-long orientation. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter faces closure: The Hillsborough County School Board has given a virtual charter school 90-day notice of termination. The board cited the Hillsborough Virtual Academy’s low participation rates in standardized testing and mismanagement. The school is contesting the termination. redefinED.

Charter hires ex-official: A Florida charter school company hires a consultant who resigned from his previous job because his district ran a deficit of $18 million in one school year. The Pinnacle Charter School Management Group says Michael Bobby, former chief financial officer and interim superintendent for the Charleston (S.C.) County School District, will advise two South Carolina charter schools. Charleston Post and Courier.

Historic high school saved: Boynton Beach’s historic high school will be a part of the downtown’s redevelopment, city commissioners have decided. The vacant school, built in 1927, has been at the center of four-block Town Square redevelopment discussions. Sun-Sentinel.

District now Facebooking: The Indian River County School District launches a Facebook page to help communicate with parents and students. TCPalm.

Counselor sentenced: An after-school counselor pleads no contest to aggravated child abuse and is sentenced to 20 years of probation. Michael Nathan Jones, 25, was found not guilty of inappropriately touching an 8-year-old girl at Forest Hills Elementary School in Coral Springs, but reached the plea deal on two other charges. Sun-Sentinel.

Cheerleading coach plea: Amanda Dahl, a 24-year-old West Palm Beach cheerleading coach, will be sentenced Aug. 19 for leaving the scene of an accident involving a death. Dahl hit and killed Khiar Raymond, 15, as he walked home from Boynton Beach High School. Dahl had been part of a performance at the school. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: A collaboration between the Volusia County School District and Halifax Health Medical Center could serve as a model for integrating students with disabilities into the workforce. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: Five Treasure Coast Elementary educators are chosen to take part in a pilot program, Florida Instructional Leadership Team Initiative, to improve instructional leadership skills. TCPalm. Members of the South Miami Police Department participate in a Cops and Students Talking program with summer-school children to help build relationships and break down barriers. Miami Herald. Middle school boys in Jacksonville get lessons in financial literacy, career preparation and entrepreneurship during Junior Achievement’s JA Boy$ program at DuPont Middle School’s Team Up summer camp. Florida Times-Union. Three Books Bridge buses are taking literacy to children this summer in Polk County, offering reading lessons and books for children to take home. Lakeland Ledger.

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BY NextSteps staff