Florida schools roundup: Recess, early education, district rankings and more

florida-roundup-logoDaily recess: Elementary school students in the Orange County School District will be given 20 minutes of recess daily. The school board approved the measure, although it also allows teachers some discretion in how recess is scheduled. Orlando Sentinel.

Early education: Most of Florida’s children eligible for the Head Start program aren’t enrolled because there isn’t enough money to add classrooms, according to a study by the National Institute for Early Education Research. Fixing the problem would cost about $20 billion a year. Orlando Sentinel. Washington Post. The 74.

District rankings: The St. Johns County School District is named tops in the state in an annual survey by Niche.com. The Seminole County School District is second, Okaloosa third, Sarasota fourth and Brevard fifth. Ratings are based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, including test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores and teacher quality. WPLG.

Failing schools: New Miami-Dade County School Board member Steve Gallon is proposing the district focus on improving schools that have received grades of D or F from the state. Florida Bulldog.

SpringBoard survives: The Hillsborough County School District will keep using English and math textbooks from SpringBoard. Teachers and students have complained about effectiveness of the materials, which the district buys from the College Board. Replacing the textbooks would have cost almost $12 million, a price the financially strapped district was unwilling to incur. Tampa Bay Times.

Lagging test scores: Marion County school officials are worried that the county’s list of struggling schools that will require a turnaround plan could increase significantly in the near future. Officials have been assessing the district’s schools to determine what will be required to boost test scores. Ocala Star Banner.

School impact fees: The school impact fee will double if Manatee County commissioners agree with a school board resolution approving the increase. Bradenton Herald. The Volusia County School Board unanimously approves a $3,000-per-dwelling-unit impact fee to run through 2021. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Legislative goals: The Brevard County School District has a wish list of three things it wants from the next legislative session: getting more flexible testing methods, more money for transportation, and money to start a new college and career readiness program. Florida Today.

Home schooling law: A proposal to add oversight to the state’s home schooling law won’t be included in the Manatee County School Board’s request for consideration to legislators. Board member Charlie Kennedy has pushed for greater oversight after a home schooled 11-year-old girl’s body was found in a family freezer in 2015. Superintendent Diana Greene said the change would require untrained staff to assume a major liability risk. Bradenton Herald.

Contract approved: The Brevard County School Board approves a deal that gives small raises to teachers. Teachers rated highly effective will receive $581. Effective teachers will get $475, and those on leave or who need improvement will get $158. The president of the teachers union said many of his members expressed “disgust” at the raise. Florida Today.

Graduation rates: Preliminary figures indicate the graduation rate for the Hillsborough County School District will increase by about 3 percentage points, according to Superintendent Jeff Eakins. Gradebook.

Rezoning plan: More than 370 students should be moved to ease overcrowding at Calusa Elementary School in Boca Raton, recommends a Palm Beach County School District boundary committee. The committee also recommends moving 182 students out of Forest Hill High School, the district most crowded high school. The recommendations go to Superintendent Robert Avossa, who will decide what to present to the school board for approval. Palm Beach Post. Superintendent Kurt Browning’s decision to take over the rezoning of several school boundaries is drawing criticism from those who worked for months on rezoning committees. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher honored: Katie Riemenschneider, the media specialist at Heights Elementary School, is named Lee County’s teacher of the year. Fort Myers News-Press.

Teacher turnover: Persistent problems at Moton Elementary School in Hernando County are driving up teacher turnover. Since the previous principal was removed in April, 18 teachers and support personnel have quit, retired, been fired or transferred. Tampa Bay Times.

School apology: In a letter to parents, St. Andrew’s School officials acknowledge they should have reported a sexual assault allegation in 2014 to the police, and say they have taken steps to make sure the mistake is not repeated. Sun-Sentinel.

Curriculum audit: A preliminary curriculum audit of English language arts for Duval County School District elementary schools indicates the materials are good. The next phase will report how the curriculum is being implemented. It’s due in January. The third and final phase is expected to be completed by February or March. Florida Times-Union.

Charter audit sought: Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki wants the state to audit the Cape Coral Charter Schools after an independent auditor found $6.7 million sitting in an account earning little interest. Sawicki alleges that the school superintendent, Nelson Stephenson, is mismanaging the school district. WZVN.

Superintendent candidates: The six finalists to replace retiring Lake County School Superintendent Susan Moxley are interviewed by the School Board. A second round of interviews is Dec. 19-21, and the board will choose the new superintendent Dec. 22. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel.

New spot for ex-superintendent: Clayton Wilcox, who was superintendent for the Pinellas County School District from 2004-2008, has been selected to lead the 147,000-student Charlotte-Mecklenberg school system. Charlotte Observer. Gradebook.

Board attorney stays on: Wes Bridges will remain the Polk County School Board’s attorney through 2020, the school board has decided. Bridges recently resigned to take a job in Oregon, then rescinded the resignation and asked for his old job back. Lakeland Ledger.

Personnel changes: New Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna appoints two new principals and says the district’s administrative office will be reviewed by Florida Sterling Council, a business management group that will be paid $17,000. WFSU.

Social site blocked: A parent’s complaint has led the Pasco County School District to block access from its networks to wattpad.com, a social website designed for sharing stories. The parent said her daughter was using the site at school to exchange “descriptive sexual actions.” Gradebook.

Virus hits school: More than 80 students at Gifford Middle School in Indian River County come down with norovirus, which causes vomiting, diarrhea and slight fever. TCPalm.

New school: The Manatee County School Board gives the go-ahead to talk with an architect and a construction company that will plan and build a new high school in the north part of the county. The school will be built to accommodate 2,100 students but can easily be expanded. Bradenton Herald.

Bus employee fired: The Polk County School Board votes to fire a transportation employee who lied about a bus assignment for a student, and then covered up her lie after the student was hit and killed trying to cross a road in May. Brenda Young had worked for the district 17 years. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Bomb threat: A 16-year-old student at Father Lopez Catholic High School is arrested Tuesday after making a bomb threat against the school. He told police he had been joking around. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: Hands-on vocational programs at schools are an invaluable tool for schools. Bill Hoatson, Tallahassee Democrat. Florida is still struggling to prepare its high school students for the 21st century economy, even as there are signs of progress in math and science education at the elementary level. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: An 11-year-old sixth-grader at Jennings Middle School in Thonotosassa is honored for saving a classmate’s life. Janae Huff saw a boy in her class choking on a lollipop and did the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge it. WTSP. The Fraternal Order of Police throws a Christmas party for exceptional-education students from eight Duval County public schools. Florida Times-Union. Students at Gainesville’s Sidney Lanier Center start a business making natural dog treats. The center helps prepare students with disabilities to enter the workforce. Gainesville Sun. BASF Corp. chemists help fifth-graders at Hawks Rise Elementary School conduct experiments at their desks. Tallahassee Democrat. Twelve Leon County arts teachers receive grants from the Council on Culture & Arts to buy materials for their students. Tallahassee Democrat. The Seaside Neighborhood School hires its first police resource officer with the help of a $25,000 grant from Seaside Associated Stores. Northwest Florida Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff