Florida schools roundup: Florida grad rate lags, legislative leaders and more

florida-roundup-logoGraduation rates: Florida had the eighth-worst graduation rate among U.S. states and the District of Columbia in 2015, according to the White House. The state’s rate was 77.9 percent, its best ever but far behind the national average of 83.2 percent. The rate is measured by the percentage of students who graduate within four years after starting ninth grade. Orlando Sentinel.

Education leaders: New leaders for the Florida Senate and House mean new appointments after the election for legislators who will help set education policy. Here are some of the candidates to push education bills when the Legislature convenes in March. School recess, testing and choice are expected to be hot topics. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent search: The Sarasota County School Board is weighing the recorded opinions of the community as it prepares to select a new superintendent at today’s meeting. The finalists are Todd Bowden, the executive director of Career, Technical and Adult Education for the district; Brennan Asplen III, St. Johns County deputy superintendent; and Mark Porter, Monroe County superintendent. Superintendent Lori White is retiring in February. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Two students hit, killed: A 15-year-old student walking to Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville is struck and killed by a car Monday morning. Elizabeth A. Ross was trying to cross a street about a mile from school but was not in a crosswalk when she was hit. Police are investigating. WTLVFlorida Times-Union. A 19-year-old senior at Mainland High School is struck and killed by a vehicle as she walked to school Monday morning. Stephanie Boebert, a special needs student taking life skills classes, had missed her school bus and was hit while trying to cross a street. Police are investigating. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Portfolio defined: The Pasco County School District’s memo to teachers on mid-year promotions includes specific details of the portfolio documentation to be considered. The district was one of several sued over the summer by parents who allege it didn’t follow state laws on what criteria can be used in promoting third-graders. Gradebook.

Surprising twist: In four years on the Duval County School Board, Ashley Smith Juarez has been a consistent supporter of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. So her suggestion in September that he resign or face termination came as a shock to board observers. Florida Times-Union.

School enrollment: Public school enrollment in Marion County is up more than 200 students after 40 days of school, and now is just 260 students short of the district’s 2007 peak. Ocala Star Banner.

Superintendent evaluation: Pinellas County School Superintendent Michael Grego receives very high marks in his annual evaluation from the school board. Board members will likely discuss Grego’s pay at today’s workshop meeting. Gradebook.

Poem of violence: Bensley Bornelus, a senior at Fort Myers High School, pens a poem about the violence in his neighborhood and his friends who have been claimed by it. Fort Myers News-Press.

Top teacher finalists: The field of candidates for Orange County teacher of the year has narrowed to five from 194 nominated. They are: Christina Arenth, a pre-K teacher for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at Lake Sybelia Elementary School; Elizabeth Eskin, an AP English literature teacher at Timber Creek High School; Jennifer Gautier, an AP English literature teacher at Lake Nona High School; Amanda Kraemer, a math teacher at Freedom High School; and Eric Yuhasz, an engineering teacher at Howard Middle School. The winner will be chosen Dec. 6. Orlando Sentinel.

Educator honored: Marlene Straughan, an assistant principal at Mount Dora High School, is named Lake County’s candidate for the state’s 2016-17 Assistant Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership. Orlando Sentinel.

No makeup day: Pasco County students will not have to make up a day lost Oct. 7 when Hurricane Matthew moved up the east coast of Florida. Gradebook.

New schools: A new private school, South Walton Academy in Santa Rosa Beach, opens in January with the expectation of enrolling 30 students. The academy for students from 3 years old through sixth grade will accommodate children with special needs. Northwest Florida Daily News. Two new Florida schools will be added to the technology platform of the AtlSchool, a California technology company and school operator that was founded by a Google executive. The Greene School in West Palm Beach, Temple Beth Sholom Day School in Miami Beach and a Virginia school were the three chosen among 200 applicants for access to the AtlSchool’s digital platform. Hechinger Report.

Schools’ cleanliness: Indian River County school officials say a third of the county’s schools are dirty, but they aren’t ready to outsource custodial services. Some believe the fault lies with principals who are failing to properly supervise their custodial staff. TCPalm.

No charges for Leak: The 16-year-old girl who accused former Edgewater High School football coach Chris Leak of sexual misconduct decides not to press charges. Leak, a former University of Florida quarterback, resigned Oct. 3, after the accusation was made. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The job of an educator is not to tell students what to think about politics. It’s to teach them how to think — how to sift through information and make informed decisions. Jill Jones, Orlando Sentinel. Incoming Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier is spending a lot of time talking to principals and teachers. It’s a smart, sound strategy for someone with Maier’s limited administrative experience. Brad Rogers, Ocala Star Banner.

Student enrichment: Miami-Dade middle school students compete in a photography contest of pictures taken of animals at Zoo Miami. Miami Herald. Students at Howell L. Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens use a ham radio to interview Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi, who has been on the International Space Station since July. Sun-Sentinel. The early education career academy at Escambia High School provides practical experience and a potential career path for students. Pensacola News Journal. The Sebastian River High School Marching Sharks band wins the 12th “Battle on the Border” competition in Valdosta, Ga. TCPalm. Ben Harbaugh, a senior at Buchholz High School, is one of 125 U.S. students chosen for the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. Harbaugh plays the trombone. Gainesville Sun. Bay County school officials think a donation from Florida State University of $40,000 worth of lab equipment will spike interest in physics programs at Bay, Mosley, Arnold and Rutherford high schools. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff