Florida schools roundup: Teacher recruiting, H.B. 7069, retention and more

Teacher recruiting: The Palm Beach County School District is trying to fill open positions in part by recruiting teachers from neighboring Broward County. Broward teachers have received postcards boasting about Palm Beach County’s “highest teacher salary in south Florida” as well as affordable health insurance.“We’re trying to think differently about how to attract teachers. The traditional ways don’t work,” says Palm Beach County schools chief human resources officer Gonzalo La Cava. Thirty-eight Broward teachers have moved to Palm Beach County this year, which is slightly more than in 2016. Sun-Sentinel. If the best teachers in Manatee County are driving south to Sarasota for better pay, Manatee County School Board member Charlie Kennedy says, Manatee should offer the same pay scale as Sarasota. Kennedy says the proposal could improve the chances of voters approving a 1-mill hike of property taxes in a special election in March. Bradenton Herald.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: The Collier County School Board will decide this week whether to join other districts in suing the state over the constitutionality of the new education law, H.B. 7069. The bill will force the district to share $3 million in property taxes with the county’s six charter schools. Naples Daily News. Florida students need access to charter schools as an alternative to failing public schools, says State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. He also criticized school officials who are suing over the state education bill, which encourages more charter schools to open. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Retention bill: State Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, files a bill that would end the state rule requiring retention for 3rd-graders who don’t pass the state reading test or have a good cause exemption. Cortes filed the same bill in the last legislative session, but it never got a committee hearing. Gradebook.

State oversight bill: State Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, files a bill that would increase state oversight of local school board financial management. Last summer, Daniels joined Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, in criticizing the Duval County School Board for not requesting an audit after district officials discovered they had spent $21 million more than budgeted. Florida Politics.

Aftermath of storms: Some school districts announce decisions about making up days lost to Hurricane Irma, while others are still considering their options. Gradebook. WOKV. News 13. Bradenton Herald. WJXT. WJHG. WJAX. Miami-Dade school officials think Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico could lead to a surge of students from the island to the county’s schools, at least temporarily. Miami Herald. Brevard County school officials think the damage from Hurricane Irma was about the same as the $500,000 in damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Florida Today. About 300 people are working to repair Collier County schools damaged by Hurricane Irma. Naples Daily News. Lee County schools are preparing to reopen. WFTX. WINK. Michael Vasallo, a new principal in Pinellas County, finds running a storm shelter is harder than dealing with middle-schoolers. Tampa Bay Times. Former Louisiana school officials who rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 offer advice to Florida school officials. Naples Daily News.

Child abuse case: Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson says she received an email four months ago that detailed the results of a child abuse investigation of an autistic child at Kenwood Elementary School, but never opened it. Northwest Florida Daily News. Two former Okaloosa school superintendents are critical of how school leaders handled the abuse allegations. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Contract negotiations: Hillsborough County school officials and teachers are millions of dollars apart as they begin negotiating a new contract. School officials say they can’t afford even the $17 million in benefits and raises already scheduled, let alone the $84.7 million they say teachers are asking for. The teachers union disputes that number. The sides did agree on distributing $12.4 million in educator bonuses and $10 million for teachers working at the poorest schools. Gradebook.

Charter turnaround plans: Turnaround plans for three struggling Duval County charter schools will be considered this week by school board members. Waverly Academy, Somerset Academy Middle Eagle Campus and Somerset Preparatory Academy had to submit the plans after receiving D or F grades from the state for two straight years. Florida Times-Union.

Enrollment growth: Rapid enrollment growth is prompting the St. Johns County School Board to talk about rezoning at today’s meeting. The proposed rezoning would affect hundreds of students from every school in the county. WJXT. St. Augustine Record.

Principal returns: A Duval County charter school principal who was put on leave after making several racially provocative posts on social media has been reinstated. Kimberly Stidham was back last week as principal at the Duval Charter School in Baymeadows after a review by school officials, who said Stidham was apologetic and didn’t mean to offend anyone. WJXT.

Notable deaths: A Tampa charter school principal is killed when his personal watercraft collides with a boat off Clearwater Beach. Craig Butz, 52, had been principal at Pepin Academies, a charter school for children with learning disabilities, since 2013. Butz’s 4-year-old daughter is in critical condition. Orlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Whistleblower not rehired: The St. Lucie County School Board declines to rehire a teacher who was fired in 2013 after she reported that her fiance was having sex with students. The board rejected the recommendation of an administrative law judge who said Janifer Thomas, a music teacher at Manatee Academy K-8 school, should be rehired. Thomas was fired for failing to report child abuse and for other policy violations. Thomas was charged with being an accessory after the fact and failure to notify law enforcement of knowledge of a suspect of child abuse, but the charges were dropped in 2016. TCPalm.

School segregation: Sixty years after federal troops escorted black students into a previously all-white high school in Little Rock, Ark., school segregation lingers in the United States. In 1980, the average black student attended a school that was 36 percent white. In 2014-2015, that dropped to 27 percent. And while about two-thirds of black and Hispanic students go to schools with at least 75 percent minority enrollment, only 5 percent of white students do. Associated Press.

Scheduling problems: Escambia High School’s football game Friday was canceled because the opponent, Lighthouse Private Christian Academy, booked two games on the same night. Lighthouse forfeited the Escambia game, and is being fined $7,856 by the Florida High School Athletic Association. Pensacola News Journal.

Opinions on schools: The public-private partnership model is the sort of creative idea needed to provide timely funding to build and maintain schools while also freeing up funds for teacher raises and many other deserving programs for students. Art Johnson, Palm Beach Post.

Student enrichment: Two students from Buchholz High School in Gainesville qualify for the Advantage Testing Foundation’s 9th annual Math Prize for Girls in Boston. Sidhika Balachandar and Grace Douglas are among eight Florida qualifiers. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff