Florida schools roundup: Tuition fight, better grades, charter boost and more

florida-roundup-logoIn-state tuition fight: State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is unhappy that newly elected Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has introduced a bill that would prohibit undocumented immigrant students from receiving in-state tuition for college. Latvala, who is the House appropriations chairman, was one of the backers of that measure. “The final chapter hasn’t been played on that,” Latvala vows. Gradebook.

Grade improvements: Only 51 of the 3,333 Florida schools improved their grades from an F to a C or better last year, according to the state Department of Education. Six of those were in Duval County. Officials there credit new principals and teachers, and a focus on the needs of individual students through small-group instruction. Florida Times-Union.

Boost for charters: The wave of school choice election winners should be a boost to the charter school industry, say political analysts. They think Florida lawmakers are likely to reduce school boards’ control over approval of charter schools, give struggling neighborhoods the freedom to form “educational success zones” and bring in for-profit charter companies, and give more tax money for construction to charter schools. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher shortages: Mid-year resignations have left schools in Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties with more teaching vacancies now than when school started. Those districts still have 52 teaching openings, up from 39 in August. TCPalm. More than half of the 200-plus classroom vacancies in Hillsborough County have been filled by redeploying subject coaches, resource teachers and some assistant principals. Only about 80 jobs have yet to be filled. Gradebook.

Appointed superintendent: A drive begins to turn the Leon County school superintendent’s job into an appointed one. Organizers hope to get the initiative on the ballot in 2018. If it passes, the school board would start hiring the superintendent in 2020. Tallahassee Democrat.

Contract negotiations: A hearing on a contract dispute between the Indian River County School District and the teachers union will be held today by the school board. The issue: Who should pay about $300,000 for rising health insurance premiums? TCPalm.

Rezoning changes: An advisory committee for rezoning Pasco County school boundaries reverses course and switches neighborhoods to be rezoned to alleviate overcrowding at Wiregrass Ranch High School and John Long Middle School. The recommendation goes to Superintendent Kurt Browning, who has said he does not intend to make any changes, and then to the school board for approval. Gradebook.

Charter schools proposed: Three more charter schools are being proposed for Hillsborough County. One would serve K-5, another K-8, and the third would be a middle school. The school board will consider the applications Tuesday. The district now has 41 charter schools. Gradebook.

Superintendent’s plan: Newly elected Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis issues his “Elevate Clay” plan, which emphasizes student achievement and repairing relationships between the school administration and school board members. Florida Times-Union.

Budget questions: The Lake County School District’s finance still doesn’t have a calculation of how much money is going into the classroom, something school board chairman Marc Dodd requested eight months ago. Dodd says the district’s academic performance has declined, and he thinks putting more money back into the schools can reverse that. Daily Commercial.

Office space: The Santa Rosa School District wants to buy a vacant grocery store in Milton and turn it into office space, but first it will have to get a restriction against that specific use lifted. The school board will consider the contract Tuesday. Pensacola News Journal.

New academic officer: Michael Akes, 50, assistant superintendent of high school curriculum in the Osceola County School District, will become the chief academic officer for the Polk County School District. He was chosen from 12 candidates to replace Jacque Bowen, who resigned in July. Lakeland Ledger.

Employee honored: Receptionist Kelley Windham, who works at Ocala’s Eighth Street Elementary School, is named Marion County’s 2016-17 school-related employee of the year. Ocala Star Banner.

Superintendent thanked: The Education Foundation of Sarasota County thanks retiring School Superintendent Lori White by setting up an endowment fund in her name. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sunshine question: Two Polk County School Board members probably broke the state’s Sunshine Law when they traded emails about the timing of an upcoming meeting, according to Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. The subject between Billy Townsend and chairwoman Kay Fields was the future of board attorney Wes Bridges. But Petersen added, “It’s not a horrible violation by any stretch of the imagination.” Lakeland Ledger.

Student assaulted: Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies are looking for a man who slapped a 15-year-old Seminole High School girl on the buttocks on her way home from school, then chased her for a half-mile before giving up. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: If lawmakers can scale back some of the requirements that prevent schools from accommodating recess, school will be a happier place for students and teachers alike. Lakeland Ledger. As we search for ways to better educate our children in an increasingly competitive world, we can’t afford to overlook providing teachers with the coaching support they need to improve their performance. Don Pemberton, Orlando Sentinel. While the FEA tries to cloud the state’s tax credit scholarship issue and act like it’s fighting on behalf of teachers, I’ve yet to meet a single teacher who supports the lawsuit against the program. Rep. Richard Corcoran, Daytona Beach News-Journal. Trying to define the Florida Education Association and our members solely by our opposition to the tax credit scholarship program is not going to work. Joanne McCall, Tallahassee Democrat. Every college-bound student should have at least precalculus (and preferably calculus), chemistry and physics when they arrive on campus. Any early college scheme that doesn’t recognize that imperative is closing the doors to the best economic opportunities (and satisfying and exciting careers) for its own students. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Boynton Beach police officers and tutoring and spending time with students at Congress Middle School. Palm Beach Post. Bobbi-Ann Matheson, a senior at Royal Palm Beach High School, spent her summer at a biomedical program at the University of Florida researching the performance of heart stents made out of a polymer instead of the traditional metal. Palm Beach Post. The 6,000 homeless students in Miami-Dade County are getting help to stay in school from Project UP-START. Miami Herald. The Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum stresses educational exhibits to get children ready for kindergarten. Pensacola News Journal. Students at Orange Park Junior High School learn about the shipwreck of the Spanish merchant ship Santa Clara 452 years ago during a visit by a traveling museum exhibit from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West. Florida Times-Union. About 135 Jackson Middle School seventh-graders get life skills lessons in tying a tie, shaking hands and making eye contact in the “Tied Together” program. Florida Today. Blues fiddler Ilana Katz Katz performs for Manatee High School students as a preview for the Bradenton Blues Festival. Bradenton Herald. The Warner Christian Academy’s Velvet Blues high school band will play at the ceremony in Hawaii Wednesday commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Ellen Marie Weddle of Lake Wales is awarded her high school diploma – 72 years after she left her Arkansas high school before graduating. Lakeland Ledger. Special needs students in Union County celebrate their abilities in a superhero-theme baseball game. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff