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Florida schools roundup: School grades, charters, bathroom suit and more

School grades: More Florida schools received grades of A and B from the state this year and fewer received an F grade, according to the annual report from the Florida Department of Education. Fifty-seven percent of schools received an A or B this year, up from 46 percent in 2016. The number of F schools declined from 111 last year to 43 this year. With the improved school grades came better grades for districts. Forty-eight of Florida’s 67 school districts earned A or B grades this year, up from 38 last year, and 11 earned A’s: Brevard, Collier, Gilchrist, Martin, Nassau, Okaloosa, St. Johns, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole and Wakulla. Fifty districts have no F schools. Florida Department of Education. Associated Press. Sunshine State NewsGradebook. Politico Florida.

District reports: Reports from around the state on grades for school districts and schools. Tampa Bay TimesWTSP. WFLAPatch. WUSFMiami HeraldOrlando Sentinel. WFTV. WESH. WKMGPalm Beach Post. WPTV. WFLXSun Sentinel. Florida Times-Union. WTLVWJAXWJXTFlorida Today. Space Coast DailyTCPalm. TCPalm. TCPalm. TCPalmTallahassee Democrat. WCTVWTXL. Lakeland Ledger. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSBBradenton Herald. Charlotte SunFort Myers News-PressWINK. WFTX. Naples Daily NewsGainesville Sun. Ocala Star Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler LivePensacola News JournalPanama City News Herald. WMBBPulseDaily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Charter schools reports: Six Florida charter schools face closure after receiving F grades from the state for a second straight year, while several other charter schools serving low-income students earn A’s or B’s. redefinED. Villages-News.

Bathroom use lawsuit: A transgender student in St. Johns County is suing in federal court for the right to use the boys bathroom at Nease High School. Drew Adams, a 16-year-old junior, was told by school officials in 2015 to use a gender-neutral bathroom instead of the boys bathroom. In his suit, he says that request is a violation of his 14th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Florida Times-Union. St. Augustine RecordWJAX. Associated PressPatch.

Charter founder arrested: The founder of a charter school company who is accused of fraud and racketeering is taken into custody in Pensacola. Marcus May, founder of Newpoint Education Partners, allegedly stole more than $1 million from charter schools he operated in six Florida counties and used the money for travel, plastic surgery, homes and more. Also charged is Steven Kunkemoeller, who owned two companies that allegedly sold materials to May’s schools at inflated prices. Both face up to 30 years in prison if convicted. WFLA.

No phone use on buses: The Leon County School District bans the use of cell phones and cameras on school buses. Michael Moore, director of transportation for the district, says the change is intended to align school board policy with state law in terms of privacy. Tallahassee Democrat.

Bright Futures: Even though he vetoed the bill that would have made the expansion of Bright Futures scholarships permanent, Gov. Rick Scott says he’ll push for that expansion during next year’s legislative session. Scott vetoed the bill because he didn’t like the restrictions placed on the State College System. Miami Herald.

The AP loophole: Tallahassee’s Rickards High School follows Godby High’s example by steering students to take Advanced Placement courses to avoid having them take the state’s  U.S. history exam. They’re taking advantage of the so-called “AP loophole.” End-of-course and Florida Standards Assessments test scores affect school grades – and the amount of money schools receive – more than AP participation. Tallahassee Democrat.

Pay raises: Volusia County School Board members approve a 2.5 percent increase for district employees and a lower health insurance premium for the plan most employees use. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Pasco County school employees are unlikely to get a raise this year, acknowledges Superintendent Kurt Browning. Enrollment growth and rising costs for insurance, retirement benefits, utilities and other items are adding up to the current district deficit of about $750,000. Gradebook.

Contract negotiations: Contract talks begin today between the Hillsborough County School District and the union representing its 20,000 workers. The union expects a continuation of the pay plan that began in 2009, which calls for $4,000 raises every three years for teachers who rate satisfactory or above. The district hasn’t commented directly, but it is in a financial crisis and has pointed to a study that shows its veteran teachers significantly outearn those in neighboring counties. Gradebook.

Data breach claim: An attorney for 20 employees sends a letter to the Manatee County School District, a first step toward suing the district for mistakenly giving the employees’ personal information to hackers. Bradenton Herald.

New school: The Clay County School District starts building a new elementary school today. The school, located on the Oakleaf Plantation Parkway, is expected to be completed by the 2018-2019 school year and hold 868 K-6 students. WJAX.

Historic school: The former Norwood Elementary School building in Jacksonville should be designated as a local historic landmark, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission says. The school closed in 2008. The issue now goes to the city council. Florida Times-Union.

School vandalized: Police are looking for three young men who broke into Dunbar High School and caused hundreds of dollars of damage. Fort Myers News-Press.

Teacher sentenced: A teacher who warned a drug gang leader that he had an informant in his operation in 2013 is sentenced to three years in prison. Porsha Sessions, a 5th grade teacher at Cypress Elementary School in Pompano Beach, apparently made the call to get back at her police officer husband, whom she suspected of having an affair. Miami Herald.

Councilwoman suspended: Lisa Rivera, a former treasurer at Boca Raton High School and a Greenacres City Council member, is suspended from the council by Gov. Rick Scott after her arrest on charges of stealing more than $23,000 from the school between 2013 and 2015. Sun Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: It makes sense for the Palm Beach County School District to hire a company to manage the district’s building growth, even at a cost of $26 million. “Our core business should be teaching and learning,” Superintendent Robert Avossa says. “Our core business should not be running a construction firm.” Palm Beach Post.  Choices made by school and district leaders – and parents – play an enormous role in determining whether Florida middle and high schools are preparing students adequately for college majors in STEM fields. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: More than 80 middle and high school students get insight into the jobs of police officers at the Youth Summit 2017 at Eastside High School. The students participated in domestic violence role-playing situations and federal crime scenarios. Gainesville Sun. About 140 students from around the South volunteer to spruce up 30 Panama City houses as part of a community project. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff