Florida schools roundup: ‘Schools of hope,’ waivers, scholarships and more

‘Schools of hope’: Just 11 struggling Florida schools are designated “schools of hope” by the Florida Board of Education. More than 50 schools applied, and the state’s new education law set aside about $52 million to provide extra funding to as many as 25 schools. Each of the 11 schools will get $2,000 extra per student to provide such additional services as tutoring, counseling, more teacher coaches and salary supplements for teachers to run student clubs. The “schools of hope” are Lucille Moore and Springfield elementaries in Bay County; Homestead Middle, Lorah Park Elementary, Miami Carol City Senior High, West Homestead K-8 and Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary in Miami-Dade; Gove Elementary, West Riviera Elementary and Palm Beach Lakes High in Palm Beach; and Idyllwilde Elementary in Seminole County. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says she will allow the schools that didn’t get chosen to amend and resubmit their applications. She said the next round will add no more than 14 schools to the program. News Service of Florida. Palm Beach PostGradebook. Politico Florida. WLRN. Florida Times-Union. State Board of Education member Gary Chartrand says the state needs to quickly complete its rules for implementing charter school legislation. The charter companies the state hopes to recruit are starting to make decisions now about where to open new schools, and need to know the rules before expanding into Florida. redefinED.

Waivers requested: The Central Florida School Boards Coalition, which represents 13 school districts, is asking the state to grant waivers for class size violations penalties because of the influx of students from the islands who were displaced by hurricanes. The coalition is also asking for more time to count students, more money to educate the displaced students and for “flexibility” on the state’s school accountability rules. School districts in the coalition are Brevard, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Manatee, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Polk, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties. Orlando Sentinel.

‘Schools without rules’: An Orange County private school with a troubled past took in $5.6 million in state scholarship money in five years even as it falsified fire safety inspections, hired people with criminal records and didn’t pay some of its teachers. Last summer, the state finally banned Agape Christian Academy from the scholarship programs for 10 years. Orlando Sentinel. A private school operator in Brevard County continued to benefit from the state scholarships even after one of his three schools was closed when he was charged with felony lewd or lascivious molestation. Orlando Sentinel. Here’s a list of private schools in Florida that have students who get scholarships from the state though the tax credit, Gardiner or McKay scholarship programs. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit and Gardiner programs. Orlando Sentinel.

Computer science priority: Florida Board of Education members say their highest priority for the upcoming legislative session is to expand computer science and coding education classes in middle and high schools, increase teacher training for computer science, and pay bonuses for teachers who have or get certification in coding. Gradebook.

Superintendent evaluation: Pinellas County School Superintendent Michael Grego gets high marks on his annual evaluation. Three of the seven members gave Grego a rating of “outstanding” in every category. Grego’s lowest rating was a 3 on the 5-point scale, on “developing and sustaining a healthy, respectful, caring, safe learning environment for students, faculty, staff, and community resulting in individual employee learning, student achievement and overall school improvement.” Gradebook.

School construction: Construction for education, which was on an 11-year slide from 2001 to 2013, is rebounding and could soon accelerate, according to industry experts. In Florida, school construction peaked around 2006, then declined through 2012. The recovery has been uneven, but a modest upward trend is expected after the state approved the issuance of $233 million in school construction bonds. Dodge Data & Analytics.

Settlement approved: The Palm Beach County School Board approves payments totaling almost $3.6 million to four girls molested by their teacher in 2005. Blake Sinrod, a 3rd grade teacher at the time at Coral Sunset Elementary, pleaded guilty to molesting two of the girls. Board members also criticized their legal team and apologized for the lawyers claiming the girls contributed to the abuse because they were “careless and negligent’ and “old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions.” Palm Beach PostSun-SentinelMiami Herald.

Contract agreements: The Charlotte County School Board reaches an agreement with its union representing teachers and support staff that calls for a 4 percent raise. Charlotte Sun. Polk County school bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers will get a 1.5 percent raise after their union reached a contract agreement with the school district. The district also agreed to continue paying bonuses to bus drivers and aides for perfect attendance. Lakeland Ledger.

Makeup days: Five early-release days are being converted to full days in Martin County to make up for classroom time lost when Hurricane Irma swept through the state. TCPalm.

State of the district: In a state of the schools speech, Sarasota County School Superintendent Todd Bowden says the district wants every school to earn an A or B grade from the state. Last year, eight schools were given a C or D. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Principal honored: Dawn Massey, principal at Florosa Elementary School in Mary Esther, is one of nine Florida principals to be given the 2017 Florida TaxWatch Principal Leadership Award. The principals were honored for their success at high-risk schools. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

Union raps superintendent: The Holmes County teachers union says Superintendent Terry Mears violated the union’s contract agreement with the district by criticizing teachers for being late to a training session. Holmes County Advertiser.

6th grade sports: A Pasco County School Board member is proposing that district middle schools allow 6th graders to participate in football, soccer, basketball, volleyball and track. Pasco limits sports participation to 7th and 8th graders. “It is something that I think is worthy of looking at, and getting sixth graders more involved at the middle schools they are in,” says board member Steve Luikart. Gradebook.

Robots as aides: Six small robotic devices will be roaming the hallways at Braden River High School in an experiment to help homebound and hospitalized students. The robots can be controlled by the offsite students, moving between classrooms and allowing the students to interact with teachers and fellow students in class. The devices cost about $5,000 each. Bradenton Herald.

Gas leak at school: Fourteen Miami Springs Middle School’s cafeteria employees are treated at a hospital after a carbon monoxide leak forced the evacuation of the area and a nearby classroom. No students were in the cafeteria at the time. Miami Herald.

Teachers in trouble: A teacher at Redlands Christian Migrant Association’s Leadership Academy is arrested and accused of inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl. Sonny Juarez, 29, was working as a teacher’s aide when the incidents allegedly occurred. He was promoted to be a teacher on Aug. 1, but was fired after his arrest Oct. 1. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. Former University of Florida quarterback Chris Leak has voluntarily surrendered his teaching license following a 2015 accusation that he asked a 15-year-old student to touch his penis. Leak, who had been the football coach at Edgewater High School, resigned after the charges were filed. Last week, the girl and her guardian chose not to press charges. Palm Beach Post. WFTV. Paul Paleczny, a special education teacher in Citrus County, resigns after he’s accused of sending sexually inappropriate text messages to a student. Citrus County Chronicle.

Custodian accused: A custodian and assistant coach at Coral Springs Middle School is arrested and accused of molesting a 15-year-old student. Robert Grant is charged with 10 counts of lewd and lascivious molestation by an adult of a victim between 12 and 16 and one count of sexual battery by a custodial adult. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald.

Boy left alone on bus: A 5-year-old boy in a Boynton Beach after-school program fell asleep and was left alone in a school bus at the city’s Art Center last week. He was there about an hour before a city employee saw him and called for help. The city is investigating. Sun-Sentinel.

Driver, student scuffle: A mother complains that a Miami-Dade County school bus driver grabbed her 13-year-old son by the shirt to move him to another seat outside the Aventura Waterways K-8 Center. She says the school isn’t taking the incident seriously. School officials say it’s under investigation. WPLG.

Opinions on schools: The Orlando Sentinel identified some legitimate issues with the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship that deserve fixes but also distorted the overall effectiveness of the program and participating schools by omitting crucial information and context. The full body of evidence does not support the newspaper’s characterization of the system as broken – in fact, just the opposite. Jon East and Ron Matus, redefinED. Objective research has shown that Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, administered by Step Up For Students, helps children on scholarships, children who remain in public schools, and taxpayers. Robert McClure, Sunshine State News. School choice is again under attack, with private schools facing a renewed onslaught of well-worn, tired and inaccurate claims. Phil Ammann, Florida Politics. We need to help college applicants fill out their FAFSA form so millions of dollars in federal Pell grants don’t go unused. Marlene Spalten and Bill Goede, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Seven Manatee County schools are named “Schools of Excellence” by the Florida Department of Education. Bradenton Herald. The rock band GOODING bring its message of financial literacy and planning to Miami Senior High School. Miami Herald. Three Flagler County schools win Five Star School awards from the state Department of Education. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Joan Trumpauer Mulholland describes her experiences as a Freedom Rider during the 1960s’ civil rights movement to students at the Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens. Palm Beach Post. The Public Education Foundation of Marion County receives a $60,000 grant from the state that will help fund local teacher projects and the foundation’s teacher supply store. Ocala Star-Banner.

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BY NextSteps staff