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Florida schools roundup: ESSA, Irma, charters, teacher absences and more

ESSA plan: Florida’s plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) did not include requests for waivers on some rules, but it does detail how the state will work around the rules the state originally wanted waivers from. Florida would continue to report the progress of students by a variety of demographic breakdowns, but would not use those students’ performance in compiling school grades. The U.S. Department of Education still has to approve the plan. If it’s rejected, the state would have to adjust it or potentially lose federal funding. Gradebook. The 74.

Charters, district reach deal: A recently reached settlement calls for the Indian River County School District to pay $2.5 million to five charter schools. The agreement ends a lawsuit the charters brought that alleged the district unlawfully withheld money the charters should have received during the past four years. Each charter will receive an amount based on enrollment. TCPalm.

Storm aftermath: Some school districts announce decisions about making up days lost to Hurricane Irma, while others are still considering their options. Lakeland Ledger. Gradebook. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. Ocala Star-Banner. A review after Hurricane Irma raises questions about the safety of shelters – many of them public schools. Tampa Bay Times. Flagler County school officials expect to file a claim for reimbursement of about $500,000 from FEMA. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher absenteeism: Traditional public school teachers are much more likely to be chronically absent from work than charter school teachers, according to a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. About 28 percent of the traditional public school teachers took more than 10 sick or personal leave days a year, according to the study, compared to about 10 percent of charter school teachers. In Florida, the rate is 41.5 percent of traditional public schools teachers, compared with 9.3 percent of charter school teachers. “I think the biggest takeaway is that teacher chronic absenteeism seems to be driven by state policy and local collective bargaining agreements,” says study author David Griffith. Education Week. Fox News. redefinED.

Gender neutrality apology: A 5th grade Leon County teacher is apologizing for any confusion caused by a letter she sent home requesting that students use gender neutral pronouns in class. Chloe Bressack released her statement through the school office, and Superintendent Rocky Hanna also apologized, saying, “As superintendent, I want to apologize for the letter going out to parents as I am the person who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in our school district.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Superintendent evaluation: Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie is rated “highly effective” in his annual evaluation from school board members who pointed to the district’s academic success: About a quarter of the district’s schools received an A grade from the state. Runcie was criticized by two board members for delays in construction projects. Sun-Sentinel.

Teachers reject offer: The Brevard County teachers union rejects a 1 percent salary raise offer from the school district, calling it insulting. The offer would mean $516 more for teachers rated highly effective, and $422 for effective teachers. Last year the teachers received a 1.3 percent raise. School officials say the 1 percent raise would cost the district $4.5 million. Florida Today.

Abuse case fallout: The Okaloosa County School Board will consider policy changes that would require the district to promptly notify parents of any abuse allegations involving their children, as well as the board chairperson. Three employees were recently arrested and accused of child abuse or failing to report child abuse. Northwest Florida Daily News. The story behind a mysterious memo in the abuse investigation. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Legislative request: The Duval County School Board is asking local legislators for more money to raise teachers’ salaries, and to allow the district to collect more tax money for school upkeep and construction. Florida Times-Union.

Sex education: The Santa Rosa School District is partnering with the Pregnancy Resource Center in Milton to provide sex education to the county’s high school students. “It is our purpose to help our students achieve their goals, keep their priorities straight in relationships and keep them on their path to a healthy lifestyle,” reads the agreement, which runs through 2022. Parents must approve their children’s participation. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

Rezoning trial: Mediation fails to resolve a rezoning dispute between the Pasco County School District and parents who claim the advisory committee considering the school boundaries violated the state’s open meetings law. So the issue will go to court Dec. 4-7. Gradebook.

Student dies: Ben Johnson, a sophomore student-athlete at Fleming High School who collapsed during a weightlifting class earlier this week, died Thursday. WJAX. Florida Times-Union.

Employees arrested: A school guidance counselor is arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old Mount Dora High School student earlier this year. Jason William Roberts, 40, has been on paid suspension since August on an unrelated issue. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel. A Leon County School District maintenance worker is arrested and accused of helping a friend steal three mowers and a trailer from the district’s maintenance facility. Billy R. Paige II, 35, is charged as an accessory to the burglary and an accessory to grand theft more than $20,000. WTXL. A Collier County teacher is arrested on drug charges. Deputies say Jason Siciliano, 40, a 5th grade teacher at Osceola Elementary School in North Naples, had methamphetamine in his car. Naples Daily News.

Students questioned: Two Windermere High School students may be charged with making a shooting threat that prompts a four-hour lockdown at the school. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

Opinions on schools: Time is running out for our communities, and we cannot wait another moment, let alone another decade to live without the kind of good choice among good schools that will eventually make a world of difference. T. Willard Fair, USA Today.

Student enrichment: Three World War II veterans share their stories of combat with members of Marion County high school JROTC units. Ocala Star-Banner.

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BY NextSteps staff