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Florida schools roundup: Graduation, common exams, growth and more

florida-roundup-logoGraduation path: State Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Citrus County, files a bill that would give students a way to graduate without passing the Algebra I or the 10th-grade language arts Florida Standards Assessment exams. H.B. 407 would allow graduation for students who have earned 24 credits with a 2.0 GPA if they earn an industry certification, complete a classroom performance portfolio or post an adequate score on an alternative test. Gradebook.

When a 66 is an A: The Pinellas County School Board approves the use of common exams for high school health and physical education, biology, U.S. history and art classes. Common exams, which are already used in the county’s middle schools, have a wider grade scale range. In history, for example, a score of 66 is considered an A. School officials say the tests are hard, and the scale doesn’t lower standards but are a valid way to bring uniformity across the county. Tampa Bay Times.

Board issuing bonds: The Manatee County School Board authorizes the issuing of $150 million in sales tax revenue bonds to build three new schools. The schools are a 2,000-student high school in Parrish for $80 million, an 823-student elementary school for $20 million and a 1,164-student middle school for $45 million. Bradenton Herald.

Addressing growth: The Brevard County School Board will consider a plan to deal with expected growth over the next five years. For the next school year, the plan would include portable classrooms, converting a district building into a school, adding classrooms at existing schools and redrawing boundaries for some schools. In future years the plans also include new construction. Florida Today.

School rezoning: The Seminole County School Board approves a rezoning plan that has about 1,000 elementary students switching schools next year. Over the protests of parents, board members said the moves were necessary to relieve overcrowding and allow for future growth. Orlando Sentinel. About 180 students in Parkland are being rezoned, and school officials say there will probably be more movement in the next few years as Broward County officials expect 5,000 new homes to be built. Sun-Sentinel. Under the recently approved Pasco County School District rezoning plan, younger high school students are not automatically guaranteed a spot in the school they’re in if they live outside the new zone – even if they have an sibling who is a rising senior. Gradebook.

Employees honored: Tiffany Howland, a math teacher at Parrott Middle School in Brooksville, is named the Hernando County School District teacher of the year. Tampa Bay Times. Kathy Cantrell, the front office manager at Springwood Elementary School in Tallahassee, is named the Leon County School District’s support employee of the year. Tallahassee Democrat. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is named the first Ambassador of Mindfulness by the nonprofit Mindful Kids Miami, which aims to improve children’s lives by teaching them skills to create a sense of well-being. Miami Herald.

Vocational programs: The Marion County School District plans to partner with the business community to create vocational programs at each of the county’s seven public high schools within the next three years. Longer term, the district wants to start vocational feeder programs at all middle schools. Ocala Star Banner.

Suspensions rising: Suspensions and referrals are up in Manatee County schools, and school board members are considering ways to bring the numbers down. The report also noted that racial disparities in discipline continue. Bradenton Herald.

School merger: The Jefferson County School Board approves the merger of Jefferson Elementary School into the existing middle-high school, over the objections of Superintendent Marianne Arbulu. The merger would take place at the end of the school year. The district has had ongoing problems with its finances and declining enrollment. WFSU.

School uniforms: The Volusia County School District is receiving $405,000 from the state because it has a districtwide school uniform policy. The school board voted to spend $105,000 for school uniforms, and distribute $300,000 among all schools based on the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced meals. The schools must use that money to buy uniforms for schooldays, academies, sports, clubs and bands. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teachers protest: About 100 teachers protest their contract impasse with the Polk County School District outside a school board meeting. Money is the big issue, but health insurance, evaluations and transfers are also being negotiated. Lakeland Ledger.

Personnel changes: The Clay County School Board approves the hiring of seven people – including the board chairwoman’s son – as cabinet and senior staff members for Superintendent Addison Davis. Florida Times-Union. The Brevard County School Board approves the hiring of three Cabinet officials for Superintendent Desmond Blackburn. Florida Today.

Internet rules: After a debate over the wording of an update code of student conduct on Internet usage, the Citrus County School Board asks for further revisions. Some members thought the wording was confusing. Citrus County Chronicle.

Stadium renovation: The Bay County School Board approves $9.5 million for the construction of the new 7,000-seat Tommy Oliver Stadium. The district has already spent $2.1 million on demolition and other site work. Panama City News Herald.

Tax referendum: The Charlotte County School Board declines to pursue a property tax referendum, but says it’s still a possibility for next year. Charlotte Sun.

Administrator removed: The head of the Academy of Environmental Sciences is temporarily reassigned after another complaint that she improperly grabbed a student. Sandy Balfour had been reprimanded after a Citrus County School District investigation alleged that she belittled and improperly disciplined students and created an uncomfortable atmosphere at the charter school. Citrus County Chronicle.

Ex-superintendent served: A former Manatee High School superintendent is served with paperwork that names him in a defamation lawsuit. Rick Mills is being sued, along with the school board and a former school investigator, by former Manatee High School football coach Joseph Kinnan for defamation. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher arrested: A Broward County teacher is arrested and charged with DUI after her car rammed a dump truck on the Florida Turnpike near Miramar. Ilana Muransky, 26, is a second-grade teacher. Miami Herald.

Employee accused: A school employee is accused of biting a 10-year-old special-needs student on the ear because he had a hoodie on during lunch at Hyde Park Elementary School in Jacksonville. The employee has been reassigned while school officials investigate. WTLV.

Opinions on schools: Next week a confirmation hearing is scheduled for the architect of the worst example of school “reform” in the country to become the U.S. secretary of education. Americans, especially students, parents and teachers, deserve better. Karla Hernandez-Mats, Miami Herald. Congress should pass the Bridge Act to extend the U.S. stay of the so-called Dreamers – about 750,000 young, unauthorized immigrants now in our schools or working. Orlando Sentinel. President Trump is sending signals that he’s in no hurry to overturn the 2012 executive order that defers deportation for approximately 750,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to our country as children by their parents. That is good news for young people scared they’ll be deported. Sun-Sentinel. If a good student inadvertently makes a poor decision, should the school come down like a ton of bricks even if it doesn’t have to? Gil Smart, TCPalm.

 Student enrichment: Samantha Barber, a student at Melody Christian Academy, wins the Suwannee County School District Spelling Bee. Florida Times-Union. Clair-Mel Elementary School in Hillsborough County is now home to a community food pantry. About 97 percent of the school’s students are in the free and reduced lunch program. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff