Florida schools roundup: Second district joins H.B. 7069 suit, algebra 2 and more

H.B. 7069 suit: The St. Lucie County School Board unanimously agrees to join Broward County in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of H.B. 7069. The board authorizes spending up to $10,000 to fight the new law in court. The broadly drawn bill provides additional money for charter schools, expands a bonus program for teachers and principals and requires 20 minutes of daily recess for elementary students, among other things. Board member Kathryn Hensley says the bad in the bill outweighs the good. “I am not willing to do that trade-off,” Hensley said. Other school districts also are considering joining the court challenge, which has not yet been filed. TCPalm.

Algebra 2 test ends: The algebra 2 end-of-course testing is no longer being given, the Florida Department of Education has announced. “There is no statutory requirement for students to obtain a passing score, so it is up to districts as to how to address course grades moving forward,” Department of Education spokeswoman Audrey Walden wrote on Facebook. Gradebook.

Dispute over funding: If the Duval County School District withdraws funding for several community-school initiatives at high-poverty schools, the Quality Education for All Fund (QEA) says, it will sever ties with the district. “If you are not willing to invest in those programs that have proven successful, we must consider that this bond has been broken and we will have no choice but to step back our part of this arrangement until a new understanding can be established,” according to a letter QEA has sent the district. School officials say they have to tighten the budget. Florida Times-Union.

Raise for superintendent: The Brevard County School Board approves a 5 percent raise and a contract extension to 2020 for Superintendent Desmond Blackburn. Blackburn will be paid $220,500 a year, which makes him the 10th-highest paid superintendent in the state. Florida Today.

Salary dispute: A special magistrate is recommending that Santa Rosa County teachers get $3.3 million in raises and back pay from July 2016. The school district had offered a pay hike that would cost the district $2.1 million. The school district has 20 days to accept or reject the recommendation. If the district rejects it, the issue will be settled by the school board. Pensacola News Journal.

School impact fees: Pasco County commissioners informally endorse an agreement between builders and the school district for a 92 percent increase in school impact fees on newly built homes, spread over three years. A public hearing is required before commissioners can formally vote. Gradebook. The Manatee County Planning Commission will consider a new tier of school impact fees proposed by the school board. If the commission signs off on the changes, they will go to the county commission for a vote. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Community school: Eight Polk County schools are under consideration to become a community school, which uses partnerships to bring education, health and social services into a single location. The commission studying the issue will make a recommendation to the school board July 25. Lakeland Ledger.

Proposed charter school: The Florida Charter Educational Foundation, backed by Charter Schools USA, files an application to build a charter school in southeast Marion County. The Southeast Marion Charter School would hold 1,145 students and open for the 2018-2019 school year. The same company has also filed plans for a school in Alachua County. Ocala Star Banner.

Charter school closing: An Orange County charter school is closing after receiving state grades of F for two straight years. Oasis Preparatory School in Orlando had 141 students. It was one of five county charter schools to be given an F grade, and school officials decided an appeal to the state would not be successful. Orlando Sentinel. Four of the other five Florida charter schools that face automatic closure after receiving grades of F two straight years are considering appealing their grades to the state Board of Education next week. redefinED.

School testing: The Florida Department of Education orders an investigation into the Florida Standards Assessments math results from Pinellas Preparatory Academy, a Largo charter school. The state’s grading system indicated the school’s test results were “statistically improbable.” School administrators, supervisors during the testing and 10 percent of the students will be interviewed for the investigation. Gradebook. Madison County students show improvement in most areas in the FSA testing. Madison County Carrier.

Learning barriers: About 90 percent of Florida teachers say their students have learning barriers outside the classroom, such as no Internet access, hunger and family crises, according to a report by Scholastic. That’s higher than in most other states, the report concludes. Naples Daily News.

Bathroom policy: Supporters of a St. Johns County transgender student lobby the school board to allow students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. Board members said they couldn’t respond because of a lawsuit filed by Nease High School junior Drew Adams. He claims his rights were violated because the school required him to use gender-neutral, single-occupancy bathrooms. St. Augustine Record.

Personnel moves: A Pinellas County principal who retired after sending a racially tinged email has been hired by a foundation to run an alternative school. Christine Hoffman, who was principal at Campbell Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg, is the new director at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy in Clearwater, which is a school for struggling students that partners with the school district. Gradebook. Oak Ridge and Hartsfield elementary schools in Leon County are getting new principals and administrative teams. Tallahassee Democrat.

School board elections: Terry Clark, a small-business owner and pastor, will run for the District 5 seat on the Polk County School Board currently held by Kay Fields. Fields has not yet said if she is running for re-election. Lakeland Ledger.

Notable deaths: A popular Clay County speech pathologist is killed in a boating accident. Jodi Nesi, 42, died when she fell out of a boat and was struck by the propeller. She worked at Plantation Oaks Elementary, though she was moving to Oakleaf Junior High next month. WJAX.

AD arrested: The athletic director at Tate High School has been arrested and accused of larceny and fraud. It’s Mitch Ashford’s third arrest in four years on charges that he performed contracting work without the proper licenses. Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says Ashford won’t face disciplinary action from the district because “it’s a civil matter that is not connected to the students or the school district. From what I can see, it’s a non-disqualifying offense.” Pensacola News Journal.

Opinions on schools: As a Democrat, I’m especially disappointed to see some Democratic lawmakers oppose the choices their constituents want. Having more options in education isn’t “cynical” or “onerous” or some kind of attack on public schools. It’s progress. Wenzel Lewinsky, Sun Sentinel. The new law allowing challenges to classroom materials likely will lead to an adoption process that will become more geared toward avoiding controversy/challenges than it is about selecting excellence. Gil Smart, TCPalm. I agree the education bill may have more good parts than bad. But there are also devious parts. And unvetted parts. And unaccountable parts — all of which were cooked up in a covert crockpot that undermines traditional public schools and appears to violate the Florida Constitution. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff