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Florida schools roundup: Transfers, Saturday school, hacking and more

Open enrollment rules: The state’s new open enrollment law was intended to give any student a chance at any open seat at any public school in the state. But in practice, the law could reduce a student’s chances of enrolling in an out-of-district school. The law gives in-county transferring students priority over out-of-county students for open seats, so many students who now attend an out-of-county school go to the end of the application line in the future. Tampa Bay Times.

Saturday school: More than two dozen Pinellas County schools are offering voluntary classes on Saturdays to give students a chance to keep up with their work. Most of the schools offering instruction are low performing. Funding comes from programs for extended learning and low-income students. Tampa Bay Times.

District hacked: The names, addresses, wages and Social Security numbers of more than 7,700 Manatee County School District employees are in the hands of hackers after a Friday night cyberattack on the district. District officials say a school employee turned over the information in response to a fraudulent email that appeared to have been sent by Superintendent Diana Greene. Bradenton Herald. WFLA. WTSP.

Dismissal recommended: A federal magistrate is recommending the dismissal of a suit against the Florida High School Athletic Association for its refusal to let a Christian school broadcast a pregame prayer over the stadium’s public-address system at a 2015 high school football championship game. Cambridge Christian School of Tampa filed the suit, saying the refusal violated its rights. “Nowhere in the verified amended complaint (filed by Cambridge) is there a single allegation that Cambridge Christian or any of its members were deprived of their right to pray at the championship game,” magistrate judge Amanda Arnold Sansone concluded. News Service of Florida.

Retention rules: The Pasco County School District, which is one of the districts being sued for not providing promotion options for third-graders who fail the state assessment tests or decline to take them, issues new promotion guidelines to principals and teachers. A letter sent home to parents indicates a student who doesn’t have a passing score on the state test may still be promoted based on a portfolio of work or by passing an alternate reading test. The lawsuit, lodged by parents against the state and several districts, will be heard by a court of appeal today. Gradebook.

Class sizes: Seven Lake County School District classrooms were over the class-size requirements by two students, but district officials say they plan to appeal the ruling because the students were simply assigned to the wrong teacher. If the finding stands, the district could be fined $10,326. The extra students were at Clermont Middle, Leesburg High and Tavares Middle schools. Daily Commercial.

Computer coding: A bill that would allow students to use computer coding classes to fulfill foreign language requirements is unanimously approved by the Florida Senate Education Committee. It must pass one more committee before going to a vote of the full Senate. Miami Herald.

Employee honored: Beth Avilez, the bookkeeper at Caloosa Middle School, is named Lee County’s school-related employee of the year. Fort Myers News-Press.

Wellness campus: The Lee County School Board approves spending up to $900,000 to begin building a “wellness” campus. The project would include a walking path, gardens, exercise stations, outdoor training space and a courtyard. It will be built around the school district headquarters, and will be open to the public. Fort Myers News-Press.

Right on red: The Manatee County School District will allow its bus drivers to turn right on red during a pilot project to see how much time they might save. Jason Harris, the director of transportation vehicle maintenance, says he hopes the change will save drivers 10-20 minutes per route. The project runs through this school year. Bradenton Herald.

Contract negotiations: Two hours of negotiations between the Santa Rosa School District and its teachers union end in a stalemate. The district is offering 1.8 percent pay increases, which would amount to $2.4 million. The union rejected the offer in a 31-0 vote. The school board is likely to discuss the deadlock at its next meeting on Feb. 16. Pensacola News Journal.

Marion update: The Marion County School District is making changes in testing frequency, rezoning, social media rules and more. Ocala Star Banner.

Moving programs: The Leon County School Board is considering moving the Adult and Community Education program from its current home to the Lively Technical Center campus, and using the space for the PACE Secondary School for special education students. Tallahassee Democrat.

New school worries: St. Johns County teachers worry that the opening of a new elementary school in August will lead to “budget non-reappointments” for teachers at the schools students are being moved from. Those teachers are given preference in looking for other district jobs, but there are no guarantees they will be hired. St. Augustine Record.

New school planned: The Clay County School Board votes to build an elementary school in the Oakleaf area. It will be the first new school for the district since 2008. Clay Today.

Honoring old schools: The Volusia City Council will honor two segregated schools with state historical markers. The Malloy and Coleman Head Start center, formerly known as the DeLeon Springs Orange City “colored schools,” respectively, were open to black students from the 1920s until 1969. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Notable deaths: Former Oakland mayor Jon VanderLey, who helped bring a charter school to the tiny town in west Orange County, has died at age 78. Orlando Sentinel.

Suspension review: The Indian River County School Board will review the suspension handed out to a teacher who broke up a fight at Sebastian River High School in 2015. Joseph Nathaniel was suspended and almost fired for intervening in the dispute. But a state administrative law judge with the state Division of Administrative Hearings disputed the disciplinary action, writing that for gaining control over a violent, abusive student, Nathaniel should “be given a pat on the back, not a pink slip.” TCPalm.

District sued: The Polk County School District is being sued for allowing a teacher once accused of inappropriate contact with students to remain employed for another 10 years, when he was then accused of sexually molesting a 15-year-old student. The suit, brought by the parents of the 15-year-old, questions why Jason Argo, 35, was hired to teach at Mulberry High School despite his previous problems at a district elementary school. Lakeland Ledger.

Guilty plea: A 17-year-old pleads guilty to stabbing a classmate in a bathroom at Royal Palm Beach High School last May. Jose Perez Decorcho will be sentenced March 27, and could get eight years to life. Sun-Sentinel.

Student arrested: A 17-year-old Bay Haven Charter Academy student is accused of stealing a school bus and fleeing from Lynn Haven police officers. Panama City News Herald.

Opinions on schools: The Manatee County School District needs to take a different approach to student discipline. Bradenton Herald. Having a special counsel investigate allegations against Academy of Environmental Science administrator Sandy Balfour is clearly the right move for the district, because regardless of how fairly an internal investigation is performed, there would be the lingering questions among some regarding whether personal feelings or political agendas played into the final decision. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: Miami’s Debora Gonzalez is one of eight U.S. high school seniors honored with a National Hispanic Heritage Foundation National Youth Award. Gonzalez’s was for her work in health care and science. Miami Herald. Moton Elementary School officials turn after-school lessons into the Leopard Pride Club, where students get 30 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes of computer time. Tampa Bay Times. About 100 Manatee and Sarasota counties students compete in the Manasota Regional Envirothon. Bradenton Herald. Gainesville Eastside High School’s Institute of Culinary Arts is rated the 12th best hospitality program in the nation by the National Center for Hospitality Studies. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff