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Florida schools roundup: Teacher of the year, Bright Futures, charters and more

Teacher of the year: Tammy Jerkins, who teaches pre-calculus at Leesburg High School in Lake County, is named Florida’s teacher of the year by the Florida Department of Education. In the letter supporting her nomination, principal Dennis Neal wrote: “I have never seen her give up on a student, no matter how tough and/or unmotivated the student was she always provides the consistent, tough love that is more like that of a mother than a teacher.” Jerkins, 58, who is a graduate of Leesburg High, wins $25,000, a trip for four to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, a $1,000 wardrobe, $1,000 for her school, and a year out of the classroom to be an education ambassador for the state. The other finalists were Katelyn Fiori, an elementary school teacher from Indian River County; Diego Fuentes, who teaches children with disabilities in Marion County; Vanessa Ko, a middle school math teacher in Pinellas County; and Michael Miller, a 5th grade teacher in Osceola County. Each wins $17,535 and $1,000 for her or his school. Florida Department of Education. Orlando Sentinel. TCPalm. WKMG. Here are two profiles of Jerkins written earlier this year, when she was named one of three finalists for Lake County teacher of the year. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Bright Futures: In a letter this week to universities and colleges, the Florida Department of Education confirms that top award winners of Bright Futures scholarships will have full tuition and fees covered this year and next summer, and also receive $300 stipends for the fall and spring semesters. The state budget provided money for the upgrade, but it hadn’t been confirmed by the DOE until Wednesday. More than 40,000 students will benefit from the boost from about $3,000 last year to about $6,000 this year. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat.

Charters win a battle: An administrative law judge rules that the Palm Beach County School Board exceeded its authority by imposing several restrictions on charter schools. The judge says the district engaged in an “an invalid exercise” of their legal authority by requiring charter schools to prove they are innovative, can’t open near traditional schools and that charter school board members must be county residents. Palm Beach Post.

Board member sanctioned: A member of the Miami-Dade County School Board loses his Florida teaching license over an arrest in New Jersey in 2010. Steve Gallon, who was elected to the school board in November, was accused of using a false address to send his godsons to school in Plainfield, N.J., where he was superintendent. The charges were later dropped, but the New Jersey Department of Education revoked Gallon’s school administrator certificate in 2012. Thursday, the Florida Education Practices Commission revoked Gallon’s license and permanently barred him from reapplying for certification. The decision has no impact on his position on the school board. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069 suit: Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa says his district has “an obligation” to join Broward and St. Lucie counties in a lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. Avossa says he has been working with school board members to build a consensus to join the suit. Palm Beach Post.

Charter accused: The Marion County School District is accusing a charter school of creating fake classes to help students graduate. That was just one of the irregularities district officials said they found during a surprise inspection of the Francis Marion Military Academy. All are detailed in a letter to the Department of Education. Academy officials deny most of the allegations in the letter, and say the surprise visit was illegal. District officials were tipped to the school’s problems by Megan Losito, the district’s former overseer of charter schools. Ocala Star Banner.

Charter school fight: A group of Alachua County residents form a political action committee to fight a proposed 1,145-student charter school proposed by Charter Schools USA. Parents Against Corporate Takeovers is pointing to the differences between local charter schools and those managed by large, for-profit corporations like Charter Schools. Gainesville Sun.

School impact fees: The Manatee County Planning Commission approves a new tier of school impact fees proposed by the school board. The fees on new home construction now go to the county commission for a vote. If it agrees, the higher fees go into effect Nov. 13. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Per-student funding: Flagler County school officials say while the county’s tax rate is among the highest in Florida, its per-student funding is among the very lowest in the state. The state formula for funding gives Flagler $6,965.28 per student, well below the state average of $7,296.23. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Poverty and performance: An analysis by the Albert Shanker Institute finds there is still a strong correlation between poverty and performance in Florida’s school grading system, despite changes intended to measure learning gains more precisely. Albert Shanker Institute.

African-American hair: Four legal scholars send a letter to North Florida Christian School in Tallahassee to protest school officials’ decision to tell an African-American student she couldn’t attend school this fall if she wore her hair in an Afro. The letter, which called the decision discriminatory, also was directed to the education departments in all 50 states and to presidents of school board associations throughout the country. Washington University in St. Louis.

Athletic trainers: Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of $2.4 million in funding for USF’s Sports Medicine and Athletic Related Trauma Institute has many worried whether athletic trainers will be available for Hillsborough County high school athletic events. Tampa Bay Times.

Personnel moves: Ray Bonti, former Pasco County school administrator, is hired to run the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators, an advocacy group for school leaders. Gradebook. Janice Kershaw, president of the Brevard Schools Foundation, is named vice chair of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, and Mary Glass, president of Manatee Education Foundation, is also elected to the foundation. Bradenton Herald. Space Coast Daily. Bill Lee, director of operations for the Washington County School District, is sworn in as president of the Florida Association of School Administrators. Holmes County Times Advertiser. Three new principals are appointed to schools in Lake County. One is Marlene Straughan, who was one of three finalists for Florida assistant principal of the year. She leaves Mount Dora High School to run Triangle Elementary School. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel.

School board elections: Pasco County School Board member Cynthia Armstrong says she is running for re-election. She’s been on the board since 2010. Gradebook. Ron Terry says he will run for re-election to the Collier County School Board. He’s been on the board since 2010. Naples Daily News.

New school: A new private school is opening in St. Augustine that offers personalized learning for middle-schoolers. Pioneer School students will take online classes from the Florida Virtual School, and work with their hands on such things as boat building, gardening and robotics. St. Augustine Record.

Opinions on schools: The only way to stop the revolving door for Hillsborough County school communications directors is to clarify exactly what the expectations are for the job. Joe Henderson, Tampa Bay Times. There are positive marks in Collier County education for the first six months of 2017, while Tallahassee disappointed during the recent legislative session. Naples Daily News. When you cast your ballot, you are always voting for schools, teachers, parents, caretakers and, most importantly, students. Cody Miller, Gainesville Sun. If your child is being advised not to take physics or calculus for some reason, get your advice elsewhere. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Ninety-seven percent of International Baccalaureate students at St. Petersburg High School earned their diplomas this year, the most in the school’s 30 years with an IB program. The U.S. pass rate is 67 percent. Gradebook. Four students with disabilities are recognized by the Able Trust for their presentations at the Florida High School High Tech Speech and Research Contest. WTXL. Take Stock in Children, a Manatee County nonprofit that provides mentors and scholarships for low-income students, is starting a for-profit camp business to generate more revenue. Bradenton Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff