Florida schools roundup: Budget, bonuses, charters, mediation and more

florida-roundup-logoBoard actions: The Florida Board of Education approves a budget request of $20.9 billion for the state’s K-12 schools. The request, which now goes to Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature, calls for a 3.4 percent increase in overall spending and a 2.5 percent boost in per-pupil spending. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. The board approves a proposal to end the $49 million Best and Brightest teacher bonuses plan. In its place would be a $43 million recruitment and retention program. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. The board also approves rules that tie charter school facilities funding to the types of students they serve. redefinED. Politico Florida. Board members are enthusiastic about the Department of Education’s strategic plan that sets a goal of a 6- or 7-point increase in state test scores by students by 2020. Gradebook. Politico Florida. Turnaround plans for eight struggling Polk County schools are tabled by the board while 40 others are conditionally approved. Members say the Polk plans were submitted too late for proper review, and will be considered at the Oct. 26 meeting. Lakeland Ledger. Politico Florida.

Mediation for Duval: The Duval County School Board is considering hiring a mediator to resolve its differences with Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. Board chairwoman Ashley Smith Suarez has accused Vitti of being untruthful with the board and not being aggressive enough in trying to close the achievement gap between white and minority students. Florida Times-Union. Can mediation work after a year of crumbling relationships? Experts say it could, but everyone involved has to buy in to the process. Florida Times-Union.

School elections: A TV ad attacking his opponent is creating problems for Leon County Superintendent Jackie Pons. The ad focuses on a 2013 paternity lawsuit filed against Pons’ opponent, Rocky Hanna. Several prominent members of Pons’ re-election team have resigned over the ad, which they call an embarrassment. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opt-out promotions: Nine-year-old Broward County twins who opted out of the Florida Standards Assessments testing are promoted to fourth grade. Their mother, Brandy Paternoster, was one of the parents suing the state and several school districts over retention policies for students who choose not to take the tests. Sun-Sentinel.

Contract agreement: The Martin County School District and its teachers reach an agreement on a contract. There is no change in the pay scale for teachers, but it does offer performance pay between $900 and $1,500 for teachers who are judged on evaluations to be effective. TCPalm.

School safety: Leesburg High School officials say the security measures they put into place after a difficult 2015-2016 school year are paying off. Violent confrontations between students are down significantly. Last year’s problems even sparked community meetings. Daily Commercial.

Zoning changes: The first major proposed school boundary rezoning change in several years in Palm Beach County draws criticism from parents. The district wants to move more than 300 students from the popular Calusa Elementary, which has almost 1,200 students in space built for 840. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher evaluations: A teacher who was moved from one Polk school to another because of her unsatisfactory value-added model score talks about the rating system and its impact on students. “These schools are struggling and now every classroom a teacher gets pulled out of is being disrupted,” says Elizabeth Keep. “(Students) need consistency and stability.” Lakeland Ledger.

More cutbacks: The Hillsborough County School District cuts another 55 jobs, two weeks after cutting 50 mostly clerical positions. The new cuts includes classroom aides and secretaries. Gradebook.

Charter school: The founder of the charter school approved by the Clay County School Board made campaign donations to the district superintendent and the board chairwoman. St. Johns Classical Academy was approved despite a staff recommendation that it be denied because it failed to meet state standards in six main areas. Superintendent Charlie Van Sant Jr. recommended approval, and board chairwoman Johnna McKinnon was one of three voting to approve the application. Both lost their re-election bids. Florida Times-Union.

Alternatives to arrest: Miami-Dade, Lafayette, Monroe, Nassau, Okaloosa, Pinellas, Union and Wakulla are named the best school districts in the state at using civil citations as an alternative to arrests in schools. Suwannee Democrat.

Fundamental changes: The Pinellas County School Board will consider a change that would allow students who are kicked out of a fundamental school to reapply for another fundamental school at the next level. Gradebook.

Teaching tips: Four highly honored teachers from the Florida Panhandle give tips on how to become an effective teacher. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Math masters: The Buchholz High School math team has won 10 straight national championships, in large part due to the demands coach and math teacher Will Frazier places on team members. Gainesville Sun.

District picnic: More than 3,000 Brevard County school employees turn out for the district’s first employee picnic. Florida Today.

Playoff format: New high school football playoffs rules are up for a vote today at a Florida High School Athletic Association meeting. The rules would scrap district classifications for 1A through 4A schools, and no longer give automatic playoffs sports to district runnersup in the 5A through 8A classes. The changes are intended to get schools to schedule tougher opponents. Orlando Sentinel. Pensacola News Journal.

Programs expand: The Marion County School District is expanding its middle school sports programs. Ocala Star Banner.

Booster activity: The Santa Rosa School Board approves a manual on collaborating with outside booster clubs. The district will help those organizations follow federal tax regulations and file for tax-exempt status. District schools will also keep the financial records for the organizations that are not incorporated as nonprofits. Pensacola News Journal.

Murgio defense: Emails that linked former Palm Beach County School Board member Mike Murgio to a federal bribery case were forged, his attorney claims. Murgio goes on trial Oct. 31 in New York City. Palm Beach Post.

Students charged: A 15-year-old Winter Haven middle-school student is charged with felony battery after shoulder-bumping a teacher at Westwood Middle School. Lakeland Ledger. A 13-year-old Jacksonville girl is arrested and accused of making a false report Sept. 13 about a bomb planted at her school, LaVilla School of the Arts. Florida Times-Union.

Employee arrested: A graduate enhancement technician at Lincoln Middle School in Palmetto is arrested and charged with child abuse. Lamont Houston, 31, who was also a junior varsity basketball coach at Palmetto High, is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl who is now pregnant. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: The folks who run Florida’s largest labor union are smart, talented, thoughtful and certainly not crazy. So, why do they persist in fighting the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship program? Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Hillsborough County should expand its use of civil citations instead of arrests for youths. Tampa Bay Times. There’s no excuse for parents not preparing their young children for school. Ora Wills, Pensacola News Journal. Lee County School Superintendent Greg Adkins has earned the high scores he received in his evaluation. Fort Myers News-Press. Focus on the early years to help children succeed in school and in life. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun. Since the vast majority of Florida’s students take the ACT, replacing the high school FSA and EOC exams with the ACT would reduce the testing load on the state’s high schoolers. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Students at Boynton Beach High School raise money to help children in Bali get an education. Palm Beach Post. Sixteen Naples students are named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Naples Daily News. Twenty Tallahassee students are named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Gainesville Sun. Reinhardt Holm Elementary School in Pensacola is the go-to school for Escambia County children with special needs. Pensacola News Journal. Santa Rosa County fifth-graders have raised more than $36,000 for the county’s 14 elementary schools through the Kids Art Tag program. Pensacola News Journal. Fort Myers’ Oak Hammock Middle School pushes reading through a schoolwide competition, and tracks results with a program called Accelerated Reader. Fort Myers News-Press. Newberry High School’s Academy of Criminal Justice is getting a donation of $1.2 million worth of law enforcement duty gear from Phalanx Defense Systems. Gainesville Sun. The North Marion High School Future Farmers of America is named one of the best 171 chapters in the country. There are more than 7,600 chapters nationwide. Ocala Star Banner.

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BY NextSteps staff