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Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, choice, workplace hostility and more

Teacher pay: School districts should stop paying teachers by a rigid formula that is calculated solely by degree obtained and experience, Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, tells a group of charter school leaders. “They’re treated in a fashion as if they were labor workers in a technical industry,” says Diaz. “They’re not. They’re professionals.” He says pay considerations should take into account classroom skills and field of expertise. Otherwise, he warns, good teachers will continue to pursue administrative jobs to raise their salaries. redefinED.

Education choices: Advocates of charter schools and public schools find little to agree about in a forum sponsored by the Tampa Tiger Bay Club. Public schools advocates say funding is being diverted to charter and private schools that aren’t required to meet the same standards as public schools. “When systems are set up that are unequal and have different sets of accountability, in a way that the competition isn’t fair, that’s what brings out the negativity,” says Melissa Erickson of the Alliance for Public Schools. Charter and private school supporters say choice must be necessary, since it’s popular with parents. “It should be a matter of great public policy to provide every alternative possible,” says Lincoln Tamayo, head of school at Academy Prep Center of Tampa. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics.

Hostile workplace? Two black Pinellas Park Middle School teachers request transfers, saying their workplace has become “hostile and racially charged.” The two were among nine minority teachers who started an after-school tutoring program that specifically aimed to help minority students improve their reading, but was open to all students. A letter to the district from NAACP officials claims those teachers were harassed and accused of being racists because they didn’t do the program for white students too. Tampa Bay Times. Bay News 9.

Blaming abuse victims: The Palm Beach County School District isn’t the only one that’s used a “blame the victim” legal defense in lawsuits involving sex abuse of students by district employees. A review of public records shows that attorneys for the Broward and Miami-Dade school districts have also claimed in court that abused students were “negligent” or “culpable.” Sun-Sentinel.

Displaced students: The Polk County School District has enrolled 230 students displaced by natural disasters – 159 from Puerto Rico, 47 from other counties in Florida, 13 from the U.S. Virgin Islands, 6 from the British Virgin Islands, 3 from Texas, and 1 each from Mexico and the Dutch Antilles. District officials aren’t expecting any extra money from the state, since the threshhold for added funds would be an additional 5,000 students. It’s possible any one school could see enrollment go up 25 percent, which would make it eligible for additional state money. Lakeland Ledger.

Policies reconsidered: The Okaloosa County School Board will consider several options to change the district’s policies on reporting suspected cases of child abuse, harassment and civil rights violations. Recent investigations have drawn attention to the existing process and the way school board members and parents are notified after an allegation. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Charter conversion: The Jefferson County School District, which was handed over to the Somerset Academy charter school network this fall, says that enrollment at the elementary-middle-high combined school is 763 students, or 48 more than last year. In a report to the state, the district notes that there is plenty of room to grow. There are about 1,500 school-aged children in the county. To get them to return, the district has upgraded infrastructure and technology, required school uniforms, added a culinary lab, and plans to upgrade its teaching staff by offering higher salaries. Tallahassee Democrat.

District adds positions: The Marion County School District has added 53 jobs since the school year started. Most have been instructional jobs needed when 373 more special-needs students enrolled than expected, and to meet state class-size requirements. Ocala Star-Banner.

Oil money for school: The Santa Rosa County School Board is applying for money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill fund to build a new high school. Triumph Gulf Coast is the nonprofit that administers most of Florida’s share of the $300 million settlement with BP. If the grant application is approved, Santa Rosa would build Innovation High School, which would focus on STEM subjects tailored to the needs of regional industries. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

Administrators honored:  Susan Sanders, of R. C. Lipscomb Elementary School, is named Escambia County School District’s principal of the year. Sandra Ames, of Ransom Middle School, is named assistant principal of the year.

In-school clinics grant pulled: Monroe County commissioners withdraw a $68,000 grant to a group that wanted to put health clinics in eight schools, because local pediatricians complained about the competition from the clinics. Keynoter.

School board pay: Members of the Santa Rosa County School Board decline an increase in pay. The current salary is $32,450, and could have bumped to $35,813 under state law, according to the Florida School Board Association. But the board unanimously agreed to decline the increase. The last raise for board members was in 2011. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

Student definition: A Jacksonville city council member is asking Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to define what a student is. John Crescimbeni made the request after a member of the Duval legislative delegation wanted legislation to expand the use of crossing guards to 6th-graders. Crescimbeni’s question for Bondi: “Whether the definition of ‘student’ set forth in Section 1006.23, Florida Statutes, includes 6th-grade students in middle school or whether the term ‘student’ only includes students up to 5th grade in K-5 Elementary Schools?” Florida Politics.

Teacher arrested: A Seminole County teacher is arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. Deputies say Jaclyn Truman, 30, had sex with the girl multiple times at Hagerty High School over a two-month period in 2016. Truman, who is charged with two counts of lewd acts on a minor, has resigned. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV.

A teacher’s admission: Marsh Pointe Elementary teacher Julie Salvatoriello admitted she had her 4th-grade students vote on whether an autistic 9-year-old was “annoying,” according to police reports. A lawsuit was filed against Salvatoriello and the Palm Beach County School District by the child’s mother, alleging negligence and a violation of a federal ban on discrimination against the disabled. Palm Beach Post.

Administrator attacked: A Ribault High School administrator is attacked during a melee at a pep rally for homecoming week. A video posted on social media shows the administrator trying to break up a fight, only to be knocked down by students several times. Duval County school officials say they are investigating. WJXT.

Rape reported at game: A Riverview High School students says she was raped while sitting in her car during a school football game. Deputies say they will increase security for the next Riverview home game Nov. 3. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: Florida owes taxpayers, parents and students tighter scrutiny of the state’s program providing scholarships for students to attend private schools. Orlando Sentinel. An investigative project on school vouchers exposed a wicked hypocrisy among politicians who scream for “accountability” for public schools but let anything go when your tax dollars are whisked away to private ones. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. It would be wise for us to support state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, in his creative, efficient and prudent effort to give Lee County voters the ability to control term limits of local school board members. Lee County School Board member Steve Teuber, Fort Myers News-Press.

Student enrichment: Lehigh Acres Middle is the first school in the state to become an affiliate for the CrossFit exercise program. Eighth-graders go through the challenging workouts during school with physical education instructors who are Level 1 CrossFit certified. Fort Myers News-Press. Students from Lakeland’s Harrison School for the Arts paint a mural of a heart caught in a bear on the side of a building housing the Volunteers in Service to the Elderly. Lakeland Ledger. Two Collier County students are invited to march in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. Royal Palm Academy 8th-grader Alexis Anand will perform with Camp Broadway, and Naples High senior Luis Nicacio will play with the All-American Marching Band. Naples Daily News. Thirty sophomores at Steinbrenner High School in Hillsborough County give up their cell phones for a day. Here’s what happened. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff