Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069 suit, retention, school grades and more

H.B. 7069: The Duval County School Board votes 4-2 to join at least 10 other districts in a lawsuit challenging the state’s controversial new “schools of hope” legislation. “This is not about taking choices away from kids,” school board member Becki Couch says about the challenge to H.B. 7069. “This is not about disliking charter schools.” Florida Times-UnionFlorida Politics. WOKV. WJCT.

Third-grade retention: A new study in the Journal of Public Economics examines Florida’s policy requiring most third graders to show basic reading proficiency before advancing to fourth grade. It finds mixed results. Students held back under the policy went on to perform better in high school, the study finds. But they still completed about the same number of credit-hours as their peers. They also graduated at roughly similar rates. Education Next.

School grades: Twenty-four of 33 south Florida schools that initially received incomplete grades from the state finally get their grades. Five receive A grades, and three alternative schools get an F. Sun-Sentinel. Nine Pasco County schools also finally get grades. Two improved, and seven maintained their 2016 grades. Gradebook.

DeVos visit: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits two Tallahassee schools today. This morning she’s at a private school, Holy Comforter Episcopal School. In the afternoon she will tour the Florida State University High School, a developmental research charter school. Tallahassee DemocratMiami Herald.

Schools reopen: Public schools in Lee and Collier counties open today after being closed Monday due to flooding. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News.

Student dies in class: A 7th-grader collapses and dies Monday between classes at DeLaura Middle School in Satellite Beach. The cause of death is unknown. Florida Today. WTXL.

Enrollment down: The Pinellas County School District has 99,651 students, the lowest total in years, according to its 10-day count. Almost 6,000 of those students attend charter schools. Gradebook.

School spending criticized: A Palm Beach County elementary school gave toys donated to Toys for Tots to students with high test scores, spent $14,000 on a field trip to a Miami zoo, and used $185 of the school’s money to buy Saks Fifth Avenue sandals for an assistant principal, according to a district investigation. The district is recommending that Grove Park Elementary principal JoAnne Rogers receive online training on the proper use of school money. Palm Beach Post.

Group disbands: Marions United For Public Education, an advocacy group that has been an advocate since 2009 for more education funding, disbands. Many educators credit the group with helping get a 1 mill tax passed by Marion voters in 2014. The district receives $15 million a year from that tax. Ocala Star-Banner.

Principal under fire: A principal at a Duval County charter school is placed on leave after posting several controversial remarks on social media, among them one that calls to “round up all of them bad boys, hang them high in the street.” Kimberly Stidham, principal at the Duval Charter School at Baymeadows, says: “I am absolutely devastated that my personal political views were perceived to be racist in any way.” WJAXBET. LawNewz.

Exchange students: State Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Miami, is asking the U.S. Congress to improve screening for people who host foreign exchange students. In July, a Cutler Bay man was arrested and accused of seducing an exchange student and marrying her, then sexually abusing her younger sister. Miami Herald.

Traffic concerns: Bicycle and pedestrian advocates in Brevard County say a “culture change” is necessary to stem the rising number of accidents in school zones. There were two accidents last week that injured two students and a parent. “No amount of signage is going to help” with distracted drivers, says Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization coordinator Kim Smith. TCPalm.

Teacher fights eBay: A Winter Haven teacher says he’ll fight eBay after the online commerce giant challenges his trademark application for a website. Justin Lewis, a 6th grade teacher at Westwood Middle School, wants to start a healthy lifestyles website called naturebay.com. Lakeland Ledger.

School board elections: A former teacher files papers to run for the District 5 seat on the Polk County School Board. Jennifer Sabin, 39, joins Terry Clarke in challenging incumbent Kay Fields. Lakeland Ledger.

Ex-teacher sentenced: A former Polk County teacher is sentenced to 12 years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old student in 2015. Jason Argo, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of lewd battery and one count of child abuse. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: The decision to join the litigation against H.B. 7069 was not made lightly, and was made only after concluding that constitutional principles of a uniform, high-quality education and local control of our neighborhood schools were worth fighting for. Orange County School Board member Bill Sublette, Orlando Sentinel. Like most things in life, there is no guarantee that every child who receives a quality early learning experience will find success. But providing the opportunity to all young children in Florida could dramatically increase the number of students truly ready to succeed in kindergarten and in life. David Lawrence, Miami Herald. The Lake County School District misses an educational opportunity by keeping children inside instead of allowing them to watch the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Jupiter Elementary School students send school supplies to needy students at a rural elementary school in Guatemala. Palm Beach Post. The Marion County School District and the Marion County Hospital District begin building a greenhouse at Vanguard High School. It’s part of a joint farm-to-school initiative. Ocala Star-Banner. About 300 Lake County students will test a digital classroom concept in October with new Chromebooks and several applications written specifically for those laptops. Daily Commercial.

Travis Pillow contributed to this post.

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BY NextSteps staff