Florida schools roundup: Administrators of year, Lauren’s Kids, charters and more

Administrators of the year: Sarasota Booker High School’s Rachel Shelley is named 2017 principal of the year by the Florida Department of Education. She was appointed principal at Booker in 2011, after being principal at a school for at-risk students. Kelly Stedman, of James Stephens International Academy in Lee County, is named assistant principal of the year. Florida Department of Education. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gradebook.

Lauren’s Kids: State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, voted for a general appropriations bill in the Legislature last month that included $1.5 million for her nonprofit, Lauren’s Kids, from which she earns $135,000 a year as executive director. But apparently that’s not a conflict of interest. While Senate ethics rules forbid members from voting “on any matter” from which they or an immediate family member might profit, those rules don’t apply when voting on the annual general appropriations act. The Florida Department of Education had requested Lauren’s Kids be granted $1 million to continue its “Safer, Smarter” teaching program, which helps students, teachers and parents recognize signs of child sex abuse and the importance of reporting it. Florida Bulldog.

Charter complaints: Republican politicians in the Florida Panhandle say Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to approve H.B. 7069 could cause him problems in his expected 2018 campaign for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat. “He had a chance to stand up for public schools and he didn’t,” says Henry Kelley, who ran Scott’s 2010 campaign in Okaloosa County and is particularly unhappy with what he considers advantages charter schools were given in the bill. “They voted to harm what is arguably the region’s most valuable asset.” Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, agreed, saying “we’re all in trouble” if lawmakers don’t fix the inequities between charter and traditional schools in the next session. Miami Herald. Moody’s Investors Service is warning the state that requiring traditional public schools to share capital funds with charter schools could affect the credit ratings for districts with “significant” charter enrollment. News Service of Florida.

Software overhaul: An overhaul of the Manatee County School District’s software will take more time and money, auditors tell a school committee. Work began in March 2016 with an end date set in April 2017. But the scope of the project was expanded in December to include Manatee Technical College and internal accounts. The new timeline would complete the K-12 portion by March and Manatee Tech by April. Bradenton Herald.

New schools: Six new schools will open in Orange County in August, including the first high school built in 10 years. Seven other schools are getting extensive makeovers. WKMG.

Financial matters: The Madison County School District has increased its reserves to 4.59 percent, interim financial officer Mary Loughran tells school board members. That’s below the 5 percent the board wants, but is an improvement over the 3.72 percent reported earlier this year. Greene Publishing Inc.

Charters merged: The Sarasota County School Board approves the merger of two military charter schools. Sarasota Military Prep Academy and Sarasota Military Academy will become a single school for 6th to 12th grades. The new school’s charter has also been extended to 2025. Charlotte Sun.

Personnel moves: Somerset Academy, a charter school company now operating all the schools in Jefferson County, announces that Cory Oliver will be principal and Andre Gainey will be the assistant principal. Rachel Kravitz and Courtney Oliver will be curriculum directors. ECB Publishing. New principals, assistant principals and department directors are appointed in the Escambia County School District. Pensacola News Journal.

A leave for adventure: The 32-year-old assistant principal at Alonso High School in Tampa resigns to travel the world for a year. “I always told people, ‘Never delay something you really want to do.’ Now that applies to me,” says Scott Hazlett, who is also the school’s athletic director. He leaves July 4. “My own Independence Day,” he says. Tampa Bay Times.

Meal prices up: The Clay County School District is hiking prices for school meals next year. Breakfast and elementary school lunches will cost 25 cents more, and secondary lunches are going up 15 cents. WOKV.

Teacher resigns: The band teacher at Nease High School in St. Augustine resigns after being accused of having an affair with a former student. Michael Johnson, who was under investigation by the St. Johns County School District, also was accused of hazing students at a summer band camp. St. Augustine Record.

Teacher arrested: A Winter Haven teacher is arrested for choking a 17-year-old boy and burglarizing his home. Deputies say Thomas Griffin, 43, a teacher at Lake Region High School, also threatened to kill the boy if he went near his 14-year-old daughter again. WFLA. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: It is hard to find a provision in H.B. 7069 that someone interested in educating kids and helping the disenfranchised should disagree with. Jesse Phillips, Orlando Sentinel. H.B. 7069 is the latest offspring of the efforts of corporate America, clear evidence of the drive to privatize Florida’s public schools without the public debate such a radical action deserves. Marion Brady, Orlando Sentinel. The Vero Beach High School free speech case is a reminder that schools should be free-speech zones, where common sense and First Amendment principles prevail. TCPalm. The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is one of 15 U.S. community programs honored by the All-America City Awards. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The teaching profession has been degraded and devalued, and there will likely be consequences. Joe Henderson, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Twenty Broward County high school students enroll in a pilot computer coding program started by the school district, Innovation Florida, Wyncode Academy and the South Florida Accelerator. Miami Herald. The Audubon Society of the Everglades is looking for open areas to relocate burrowing owls at schools and elsewhere. Crystal Lakes Elementary School in Boynton Beach already provides habitat for the owls. Sun Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff