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Florida schools roundup: Selling the bill, Title I troubles, a top teacher and more

Selling the bill: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, posts a cartoon on YouTube to explain and defend the education bill that was passed last week. Corcoran calls it “#toontruth for anyone who likes the truth in animated video format.” Orlando Sentinel. How the education bills passed in Tallahassee on recess, testing and charter schools could affect St. Johns County schools. St. Augustine Record. Teacher bonuses would be smaller and many more teachers would earn them under the new education bill. Bridge to Tomorrow. The school choice movement is breaking into two camps: one that wants to use choice to improve public schools, and one that wants greatly expand choice by using tax money. Associated Press.

Title I, Medicaid concerns: The Legislature’s decision to distribute federal Title I funding directly to schools and spread it to more schools could have devastating long-term effects on poor students, say district officials. Districts will be forced to cut special programs for low-income students, including after-school and summer school, or shift money from other programs to make up the difference. “A number of our community members and parents are aware of the services we provide in our 63 Title I schools,” said Felita Grant, Title I director for Pinellas County schools. “It would be a shock to them, if this bill goes through, the number of services we would have to cut back on.” Tampa Bay Times. School districts around the country say proposed cuts in the Medicaid program will have a significant impact in schools. Associated Press.

Teachers honored: Diego Fuentes, who teaches music to students with severe disabilities at the Hillcrest School in Ocala, is chosen as one of five finalists for the Department of Education’s 2018 Florida teacher of the year award. Fuentes was awarded $5,000. The winner will be announced July 13. Ocala Star Banner. Palm Beach County’s teacher of the year and school-related employee of the year are surprised with free, two-year leases of BMWs. Palm Beach Post.

Teaching incentives: Experienced teachers are being offered up to $70,000 in incentive pay over three years to work at struggling Carver Middle School in Orlando. More than 100 teachers have already applied, school officials say. Those hired will get an extra $20,000 for the 2017-2018 school year, and $25,000 in each of the next two years. Carver has received two Fs and a D in school grades in the past three years, and nearly 80 percent of its students failed their Florida Standards Assessment exams. Orlando Sentinel.

New superintendents: The Alachua County School Board will choose a superintendent Tuesday after interviewing the five finalists last week. The finalists are Vickie Cartwright, associate superintendent for exceptional student education, Orange County; Karen Clarke, deputy superintendent, Alachua County; Scott Fritz, chief of staff for teaching, leading and learning, Osceola County; Mark Mullins, deputy superintendent and chief operating officer, Brevard County; and Geneva Stark, human resources administrator, Jefferson County, Ky. Gainesville Sun. The Volusia County School Board is expected to vote Tuesday on a three-year contract for new School Superintendent James Tager. He’ll be paid $135,000 in the first year. He replaces Jacob Oliva, who is taking a job as vice chancellor of K-12 public schools for the state Department of Education. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Vitti’s contract: Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti will get an annual raise of $20,000 when he becomes superintendent of the Detroit school system the week of May 22. Vitti will be paid $295,000 in the first year of his five-year contract, and $322,000 in the fifth year, plus medical, dental and vision insurance, a $20,000 annuity and a $9,000 car allowance. Florida Times-Union. Detroit Free Press. WJAX.

Retention lawsuit: The state Department of Education and school officials in Pasco, Hernando and Seminole counties have filed briefs arguing that the Florida Supreme Court should not consider a lawsuit filed by parents challenging the state’s third-grade retention law. The pivotal point is jurisdiction: The original lawsuit was filed in Leon County, and those opposing the suit say the complaint should have been filed in local courts. Gradebook.

A charter’s troubles: Problems with leadership, finances, staff turnover and unfulfilled promises have led to ongoing chaos and an exodus of students from the Eagle Arts Academy in Wellington, one of the largest charter schools in Palm Beach County. Many question why the district hasn’t intervened. Palm Beach Post.

Charter opening: A charter school for kindergarten and first grade is opening in the fall next to the troubled Potter Elementary School in Tampa. School officials hope the new school, closer ties between nearby preschools and Potter’s kindergarten teachers, and the designation of Potter as a teacher training site for University of South Florida students, will improve the school Tampa Bay Times.

School sold: The Diocese of Venice in Florida buys the Rhodora J. Donahue Academy from Ave Maria University and will turn it into a K-12 parochial school. The Diocese also owns 10 elementary, one special needs and three high schools. Naples Daily News.

Mental health day: The Clay County School District is devoting Tuesday to educating students about bullying, risky behaviors, social skills and coping techniques at the first Schoolwide Mental Health Awareness Day. Florida Times-Union.

Talking education: Volusia County legislators talk about education, the legislative session and other issues in a meeting with West Volusia Chamber of Commerce officials. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Personnel changes: Ross Bubolz, principal at the Cathedral School of St. Jude in St. Petersburg, is appointed as principal of St. Petersburg Catholic High School. Tampa Bay Times.

Smoke-modified schedules: Two Pasco County schools continue today on a modified schedule caused by early-morning smoky conditions from wildfires. River Ridge High School and Middle School both will be in session from 10:45 a.m. to 5:10 p.m. WFLA. Gradebook.

Teachers arrested: Two Broward County teachers are arrested and accused of beating a 9-year-old child. Delvin Randolph, 36, and Stephanie Bianca Garcia, 33, both of Boynton Beach, face charges of child abuse. Both will remain in the classroom during the investigation. WPEC. Palm Beach Post. Pamela Stigger, 33, an eighth-grade drama teacher Forest Glen Middle School on Coral Springs, is caught having sex with a 15-year-old boy in a car and arrested, according to police. She’s charged with two counts of sexual battery and one count of lewd conduct. Palm Beach Post. Miami Herald.

Gummies sicken students: Four West Orange High School students need medical treatment after eating gummy bear candies that were laced with an illegal substance, according to school officials. Orlando Sentinel.

Assault recanted: A 15-year-old Lake County students admits she made up a story about an attempted abduction near her school bus stop last week. Lake County sheriff’s deputies say she could be charged with filing a false police report. Orlando Sentinel.

Quote goes viral: Savanna Tomlinson, a senior at a West Palm Beach high school, attracts attention from around the world when she posts her yearbook quote on Twitter. “Anything is possible when you sound Caucasian on the phone,” wrote Tomlinson, who is black. She borrowed the theme of the quote from a guy who says he used his “white voice” on the phone to get a free plane ticket. “I thought it was funny, but when it came time to find a job or handle business, I caught myself using this so-called ‘white’ voice,” said Tomlinson. Miami HeraldPalm Beach Post. Buzz Feed.

Opinions on schools: Gov. Rick Scott should stand up to the Florida Legislature by vetoing the anemic public schools budget and a mammoth education bill that was negotiated in secret and micromanages school districts to death. Unless Scott acts decisively, the march to suffocate local control and promote the privatization of the public school system will accelerate. Tampa Bay Times. The League of Women Voters supports the Florida constitutional requirement for access to a uniform system of high-quality schools for all students. We do not support a fragmented, cost ineffective system of charters and private schools. We must recognize that not all choices are good choices. Sue Legg, Gainesville Sun. The Florida Legislature shouldn’t use the budget to undermine public schools and community colleges, yet that’s what happened in Tallahassee. Gov. Scott needs to veto the whole budget and call lawmakers back to the capitol for a special session. Rep. Perry Thurston, Sun Sentinel. I understand that these are volatile times, but let’s not allow disagreement to blind us from rare opportunities to expand educational opportunities and access for everyone. Rev. R.B. Holmes, Tampa Bay Times. We are often reminded by public education advocates that a lot more good happens every day in our schools than bad. We concur. Ocala Star Banner. True schools of hope would pay teachers like the educated professionals that they are, be equipped with 21st century technology, reward rather than punish teacher longevity by reinstating teacher step increases, use tests as simply one of many ways of assessing student knowledge, and protect all students. Cheryl Duckworth, Palm Beach Post. Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program simply gives parents options if their children are stuck in the wrong learning or social environment for their unique needs. It is not a condemnation of public schools or a seal of approval for private schools. Jeb Bush, the 74. According to the senior lead auditor, the Collier County School District is the “best in the state” when it comes to internal controls and FEFP compliance. Superintendent Kamela Patton, Naples Daily News. Parents shouldn’t let a theft from a prestigious arts school discourage them from volunteering. Rick Christie, Palm Beach Post. Diane Kornegay is in the process of doing what no other Lake County school superintendent in memory has: She has kicked aside the props, laying the success or failure of her ideas on increasing student performance squarely on her own shoulders. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. I was overjoyed to learn that Florida leaders were committed to expanding the Gardiner Scholarship Program to children with rare diseases and those with traumatic brain injuries like my son. I would ask the governor not to take away the hope of the scholarship for students with special needs. Cristina Maxwell, Sun Sentinel. The Legislature’s massive education bill earns an F for transparency. Scott Kent, Daytona Beach News-Journal. The recently passed education bill both shortchanges our local public schools and increases the state’s trend of support for privately run charter schools at the expense of public schools. We urge the governor to veto the bill and send it back to the Legislature for amendment to make it more supportive of public schools. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: Ten south Florida students earn a college degree from Florida Atlantic University even before graduating from Florida Atlantic High School. Sun Sentinel. Students at San Jose Elementary School in Jacksonville celebrate the memory of murdered teacher Deborah Camp Liles by carrying on with the Day of Arts event she created. Florida Times-Union. Vanessa Yan, a senior at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton, is one of 161 U.S. students chosen as a U.S. presidential scholar. Bradenton Herald. Eight Marion County students are selected as semifinalists in the elite National Merit Scholarship Program. Ocala Star Banner. Godby High School students learn about flying and aerodynamics through a special partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Tallahassee Democrat. About 400 Bay County students try on diving equipment and watch divers train at the the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center. Panama City News Herald. A dozen St. Johns County high school seniors dig up a time capsule they buried seven years ago. St. Augustine Record. Students from Crystal River Primary School plant eelgrass at Hunter Springs Park to protect a beach from erosion. Citrus County Chronicle. The top 3 percent of graduating Lake County seniors are honored by the Educational Foundation of Lake County. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff