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Florida schools roundup: Displaced students, budgets, charters and more

Displaced students: Almost 300 students from Puerto Rico already have enrolled in Orange County schools, and officials anticipate hundreds – if not thousands – more will follow. The district also has hired some bilingual Puerto Rican teachers and plans to hire more. Orlando Sentinel. The 74. The chairman of the Osceola County School Board thinks as many as 2,000 students from Puerto Rico and other islands displaced by Hurricane Maria will enroll in the county’s schools. The county has already added 130 students affected by hurricanes. WMFE. The Florida PTA joins educators and lawmakers in urging the state to relax the rules in order to make more money available for all school districts that take in displaced students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Gradebook.

District budget problems: An audit of the Duval County School District’s finances shows officials overspent last year’s $1.7 billion budget by about $17.8 million. That’s about $3 million less than originally thought. The auditor stressed there was no misappropriation of funds. The district spent $8.8 million more than budgeted on personnel, $8 million more in contracted services, and the state also cut funding to the district by $1.39 million. The overspending was taken from a reserve fund, which still exceeds the minimum required by the state. Florida Times-Union.

Charter school conversion: Jefferson County school officials are cautiously optimistic that their conversion to a charter school district – the first of its kind in Florida – is going well. Christian Steen, a student testifying before the Florida House Education Committee, says students are more focused and fewer of them are skipping school under the new Somerset Academy charter management organization. Committee chair Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami, says he’s “encouraged” by the news from Jefferson County and wants to organize a field trip for a closer look. “This is a long-term effort,” he says. redefinED.

Charter application rejected: A charter school company’s application to build a 745-student school in Marion County is rejected by the Marion County School Board. Superintendent Heidi Maier told the board that while she favors “giving parents school choice,” the school proposed by the for-profit Charters Schools USA offers nothing new or innovative. The company can appeal the decision to the Florida Department of Education. Ocala Star-Banner.

Charters as shelters: Florida Democrats introduce bills that would require charter schools to serve as hurricane shelters, as some other public schools do, and require greater oversight of emergency plans at nursing homes. Associated Press.

Bethune statue: The House Government Accountability Committee overwhelmingly approves a bill calling for a statue of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune to replace Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith’s in the U.S. Capitol. News Service of Florida.

Homeless students: Almost 15,000 central Florida K-12 students are homeless, according to a recent survey by the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida and the nonprofit Miami Homes for All. Those students are three times more likely to miss significant days from school than other students, and do half as well in state assessment tests. Orlando Sentinel.

Another child abuse case: A special education teacher at Silver Sands School in Okaloosa County lost his teaching license in June after allegations that he hit students, put them in boxes and tied them to an exercise bike with a belt. Roy Michael Frazier, 61, had retired just weeks before his license was revoked. Northwest Florida Daily News. Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson wants to hire an attorney to represent her in disputes with the school board. She proposes paying the attorney from a $1.5 million budget for unexpected legal expenses. The school board would have to approve the request. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Property tax hike vote: Holding a special election March 20 to ask Manatee County voters to increase their property taxes for schools by 1 mill will cost the school district $300,000, Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett tells school board members. A majority of the board wants the March election to get access to the funds for the 2018-2019 school year. If the election is held in November and passes, the district wouldn’t have access to the funds until the 2019-2020 school year. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School on MLK Day: Despite complaints from the NAACP, Collier County School Board members vote to hold classes on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to make up a day lost to Hurricane Irma. Naples Daily News.

Superintendent’s contract: The Broward County School Board could make a contract proposal to Superintendent Robert Runcie as early as next month. Runcie was judged by board members as highly effective in his recent evaluation. He makes $307,503 a year, which is less than his counterparts in neighboring Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Sun-Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: The Madison County teachers union and the school districts reach an agreement on a contract that will pay bonuses of $3,000 to teachers rated “highly effective”and $2,000 to those rated “effective.” Madison County Carrier. Brevard County teachers demand higher pay during a demonstration outside the school board meeting room. The district has offered 1 percent raises, and the teachers union is asking for the same 5 percent Superintendent Desmond Blackburn just received. Florida Today.

School start times: Hillsborough County high schools would start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m. next year if the school board approves the recommendation of district officials. Middle school hours would be in session from 9:25 a.m. to 4:20 p.m., and elementary schools would start at 7:40 a.m. and end at 1:55 p.m. The new starting times could save up to $2.7 million on transportation costs, and they also align with research that shows high school students perform better with more sleep. The school board votes on the proposal Oct. 17. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. If Hillsborough can start high school times later, why can’t neighboring Pinellas? Gradebook.

District settlements: The Palm Beach County School Board is expected to approve the payment of more than $3.5 million to four former students who were molested by a 3rd grade teacher at Coral Sunset Elementary School in 2005. The teacher, Blake Sinrod, now 46, pleaded guilty in 2006 to two cases of child abuse charges and was sentenced to five years of probation. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel. The Leon County School Board approves a payment of $125,000 to a student who was burned during a chemistry experiment at Lincoln High School in 2015. Three students were injured during a flame test conducted by the teacher. Tallahassee Democrat.

Schools and social issues: More than a dozen people lobby the Indian River County School Board to ban the display of Confederate flags on school properties. TCPalm. A dozen protesters urge the Manatee County School Board to reconsider the district’s policy requiring students to stand during the national anthem or pledge of allegiance unless they have parental approval to stay seated or take a knee. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WFLA.

Rezoning approved: The St. Johns County School Board approves a rezoning plan recommended by Superintendent Tim Forson to ease overcrowding in the northern part of the county. The changes go into effect for the 2018-2019 school year. St. Augustine Record.

Picking an adviser: The Polk County School Board is expected to reject an advisory committee’s recommendation and retain Ford & Associates of Tampa as the district’s financial adviser. Board members cite the decade-long relationship the district has had with Ford. Lakeland Ledger.

Schools honored: More about the Florida schools that were given Five Star School awards from the state Department of Education for their family involvement, volunteerism, community service by students, partnerships with the community and businesses, and the school advisory council. TCPalm.

Students arrested: A South Fort Myers High School student is arrested and accused of bringing a gun and ammunition to school. The 16-year-old boy and his backpack were searched after a teacher reported smelling marijuana on him. Fort Myers News-Press. Two Arnold High School students are arrested after photos are posted on a social media site showing one of them holding a gun on a Bay County school bus. Panama City News Herald.

School bus mistake: A 6-year-old special-needs student from Colson Elementary School is mistakenly put on a Hillsborough County school bus and dropped off alone at a busy intersection. She got home safely when a substitute teacher saw the girl and walked her home, but the girl’s mother wants to know how it happened. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: The proposed expansion of Bright Futures scholarships is good policy, and even better politics. Peter Schorsch, Florida Politics. When really vulgar words are uttered by students at school, it’s time to intervene. Terri Friedlander, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: A Spruce Creek High School freshman is one of just 30 U.S. students selected to participate in the Broadcom MASTERS science competition. Scott Tobin, 14, created a device that can purify a liter of water in 30 minutes. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff