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Florida schools roundup: Charter district, incentives, recess and more

Charter district: The Florida Board of Education approves a charter schools company taking over a public school district’s operations. Jefferson County, which had been struggling financially and with enrollment, will combine the elementary and middle/high schools on a single campus. The district hopes to have applications from charter schools companies by the first week in March. It’s the first time a Florida school district has ever ceded operations to a charter school company. redefinED. Tallahassee Democrat. Associated Press. WFSU. The Polk County School Board is considering closing struggling McLaughin Middle School and reopening it under the Bok Academy, an A-rated charter school. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter recruitment: Representatives from four national charter schools companies tell a Florida House committee that they’d like to expand into Florida. BASIS, IDEA, Achievement First and the SEED Foundation all express interest, if the state can set up equitable funding to public districts. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has suggested such changes are being considered. redefinED.

Teacher incentives: Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, the Senate’s pre-K-12 education budget chairman, wants the Legislature to consider bumping the amount of money available for teacher incentives to at least $200 million. Gov. Rick Scott has recommended $58 million for teacher incentives. “I’m not concerned that we’re talking about $200-250 million,” said Simmons. “It’s an investment; it’s not an expenditure, and I think we can find it in an $83 billion budget.” Miami Herald. The statewide teachers union, the Florida Education Association, says the incentive programs are gimmicks, and that it wants better pay for all teachers. Miami Herald.

Recess doubts: Two members of the Senate PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee want lawmakers to consider the whole picture of education and the financial implications before approving a bill that would require 20 minutes of recess every day in Florida elementary schools. “This is an important issue, recess, but I think we need to look at it in a more holistic way,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. Gradebook.

School start times: Orange County School Board members would like to see later starting times for high schools, but they’re not sure it’s worth the $5 million it would cost. Several members said they’d like to see how much money they get from the state before making a final decision. Orlando Sentinel.

Striking for immigrants: Hundreds and possibly thousands of Palm Beach County School District students stay home from school Thursday as part of a national “Day Without Immigrants” demonstration. Palm Beach Post.

DeVos cites Florida: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says Florida is a model on school choice for the rest of the country. DeVos, speaking in a radio interview, says: “Florida is a good and growing example of what can happen when you have a robust array of choices.” She notes that about 40 percent of the state’s students go to schools other than the ones they are zoned to attend. Education Week.

Testing pressure: Ten struggling Marion County schools are under the gun when testing starts in less than two weeks. If they don’t show improvement, they could be in for greater oversight from the state and federal governments. Ocala Star Banner.

Turnaround stories: Representatives from several struggling schools in Pinellas County talk about their progress in turning their schools around. Gradebook.

Rezoning court case: A lawsuit challenging the Pasco County School District’s rezoning plan will be heard by a circuit court judge June 2. Some parents are asking for a temporary injunction to stop the rezoning. Gradebook.

Contract negotiations: The Santa Rosa County School Board approves a contract with its maintenance union, and hears from the public and teachers about the impasse over teachers’ raises. Pensacola News Journal.

Superintendent search: Flagler County residents are asked to tell the school district what they want to see in a new superintendent. Once that input is collected, it goes to a citizens’ advisory committee and the School Board for review. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Lead in school water: A report by the advocacy group Environment Florida suggests that water in Florida’s schools and day cares may contain dangerous levels of lead. The report urges testing. Research shows that exposure to lead exposure in young children causes developmental problems.  WLRN. A project by fifth- and sixth-graders at Academy Prep in St. Petersburg reveals that water in their homes includes lead. The levels aren’t high enough to attract the attention of the EPA. WUSF.

Cheating teacher rewarded: One of the Vero Beach High School teachers who tampered with state tests received a $2,000 bonus after the scandal for student test achievement. TCPalm.

School calendar: The Leon County School District starts the 2017-2018 school year Aug. 14 and ends May 31. There’s also a week-long break for Thanksgiving. Tallahassee Democrat.

Virtual school cited: Florida Virtual School is named a winner for engaging elementary students in an online environment. The award was given by the eSchool Media and Xirrus Innovate to Educate program. Education Dive.

Teachers in trouble: A Duval County teacher has her teaching license suspended for a year and is fired from the Duval County School System for allegedly pulling chairs out from under third-graders in 2013. Robin Welch Kennedy had been a teacher at Neptune Beach Elementary School. Palm Beach Post. WJAX. A Palm Beach County charter school teacher is arrested after police say he kissed two students. Brian Kornbluth, 28, is a teacher at Somerset Academy. He’s charged with two counts of simple battery. Sun-Sentinel. Veronica Fleming, a teacher at Parkside Elementary School in Collier County, is transferred to administrative duties after making a social media post urging mass deportations. Naples Daily News. Susan Creamer, a teacher at Merritt Brown Middle School in Panama City, is under investigation by the Bay County School District for remarks she made about students on a Facebook atheists’ page. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Guns at schools: A Celebration High School student is arrested after deputies find an AR-15 rifle in his car’s trunk. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinion on schools: Students need recess at school, and legislators need to find a way to make it happen. Joe Henderson, Tampa Bay Times. A dispute between the ex-principal at Family Christian Center School in Clermont and some school parents is a preview of the drama to come under Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Between now and the selection of the new Alachua County school superintendent in May, the issue of racial disparities is not likely to subside. Gabe Hillel Kaimowitz, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Miami-Dade culinary students cook for judges and guests to raise money at the Education Fund’s A Taste of Education event. Miami Herald. Twenty Tampa-area students get a close look at law enforcement in the FBI’s Junior Special Agents Program. Tampa Bay Times. Students at Lake Park Elementary School in Naples meet Laura Numeroff, author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Naples Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff