Florida schools roundup: English-only tests, board’s agenda, finances and more

English-only tests: Florida is asking the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver from giving statewide assessments tests in any language other than English. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to make every effort to test students in their first language. About 12 percent of all K-12 students in Florida – almost 300,000 children – are considered English-learners. The waiver request points to the state constitution, which declares English as the state’s official language. Education Week.

Board group’s agenda: The Florida Coalition of School Board Members’ agenda for the 2018 Legislature includes expanding school choice by creating a scholarship for bullied students to attend private schools, using paper and pencil testing through the 8th grade, allowing SAT and ACT scores to be used in place of state assessments as a requirement for high school graduation, and more. Gradebook.

Financial questions: How will the finances work for the company that is managing the first charter takeover of a public school district in Florida? Members of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee have questions about Somerset Academy’s ability pay the district’s administrative overhead of about $421,000 when it’s receiving just $254,000 to pay a superintendent, another employee and five elected Jefferson County School Board members, and still raise salaries for teachers significantly. Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah Gardens, says Somerset’s budget is still a “work in progress,” and says legislators are trying to get an accurate assessment of the district’s assets. redefinED.

Homeless students: Monroe County school officials say 473 students and 12 district employees are now considered homeless due to damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Key West Citizen.

Internet reconnections: The chairman of the Federal Communications Communications wants an emergency order to help restore Internet connectivity to Florida, Texas and Puerto, where service was disrupted by hurricanes. Ajit Pai hopes to get the order approved by the FCC before its next meeting Nov. 16. Education Week.

Hurricane shelters: The issue of using charter schools as hurricane shelters was raised again this week by a member of the House preK-12 appropriations subcommittee discussion. Rep. Wengay Newton, D-St. Petersburg, questioned whether any of the money earmarked to put charter schools in neighborhoods with struggling schools would be set aside to make those charter schools available for use as hurricane shelters. Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala’s answer: “I believe in Florida a hurricane shelter has to hold at least 1,000 people. Charter schools are oftentimes built to hold less than 1,000 people.” The state Emergency Operations Center says there are no rules that set minimum or maximum capacities for hurricane shelters. Gradebook.

Contract negotiations: St. Johns County teachers would get raises of $514 or more under a tentative contract agreement between the school district and teachers union. The cost to the district would be about $1.4 million. St. Augustine Record. The Hernando County teachers union is asking the district to adjust the requirement for teachers to take part in common planning. District officials agreed to consider the request and respond at the next negotiation session Nov. 16. Tampa Bay Times.

Candidate on education: Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam says in an interview that he wants to increase spending on education, especially for state colleges. “They’ve taken a sharp stick in the eye over the last several years,” said Putnam. “From Day 1, rebuilding and supporting our community and state colleges will be a passion of mine because that’s the only way we’re going to rebuild the middle class and diversify our economy.” Putnam did not offer specifics, but did say he wouldn’t pit community colleges and universities against K-12 schools for state financial support. Lakeland Ledger.

Educators honored: Ben Osypian of Old Kings Elementary School in Flagler Beach is named the Flagler County School District’s principal of the year. Katherine Crooke of Indian Trails Middle School in Palm Coast is assistant principal of the year. Flagler Live.

Rezoning protests: The rezoning of students required by the closing next year of Odyssey Middle School in Boynton Beach is prompting more than a dozen parents to protest the placement of their children. The ripple effect of Odyssey’s closing has some students from other schools also being moved, which is bringing criticism from parents whose children are being moved to lower-rated schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Fighting cyberbullying: Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier talks about what the district is doing and can do to counter cyberbullying among students. Ocala Star-Banner.

School district salaries: Salaries of every Manatee County School District employee are made available online. School board member David Miner says he thinks the disclosure will show that salaries of district employees aren’t keeping up with those in neighboring districts. Bradenton Herald.

School choices: Florida offers a growing variety of options for students who want to attend a school other than the one they’re assigned to by attendance zone – open enrollment, charter schools, magnet programs, scholarships for low-income students, online learning and homeschooling. Here are details on those options. Tampa Bay Times.

School board elections: Jimmy Lodato enters the 2018 race for the District 3 seat on the Hernando County School Board. The seat is being vacated by Beth Narverud, who is running for the county commission. Gradebook.

Teacher arrested: An Orlando teacher is arrested and accused of stalking his ex-girlfriend. Deputies say Stephen Boyd, a 49-year-old 4th-grade teacher at McCoy Elementary School, has called the woman hundreds of times since they broke up in December, and even installed a GPS device on her new boyfriend’s car so he could track their movements. WKMG.

Students arrested: Three teenagers are accused of spray-painting hate-based graffiti on the walls of Venice High School. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A third student has been arrested and charged with battery after pushing a Ribault High School administrator to the ground several times during a melee at a school pep rally last week. Two other students were arrested earlier this week. Florida Times-Union. A 15-year-old student is arrested for bringing a handgun to Lake Minneola High School. Daily Commercial.

Treasurer pleads guilty: Cathleen Spring, the former treasurer at Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, pleads guilty to a charge of falsifying records relating to $66,000 that went missing from the school between 2012 and 2015. Spring was never charged with the theft, but was later accused of forging the school principal’s signature on two checks. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Erik Fresen, the former legislator who controlled school spending in the Florida House, is going to jail for filing no income tax returns the entire time he was in the Lesiglature. It’s too bad it didn’t happen sooner. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. The Orlando Sentinel series on the lax oversight of private schools getting state money through three education scholarship programs should be a call to action to our legislators. Rebecca Sickles, Orlando Sentinel. Where would we be without the guidance and generosity of teachers in our formative years? Jack Levine, Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Bishop Verot Catholic High School of Fort Myers is one of 400 U.S. schools honored for the iPad access it provides students and the students’ use of them. Fort Myers News-Press. A garden is created at Hillel Academy in Tampa as a tribute to Rachel Hatfield, a 5th-grader who died almost a year ago from brain cancer. Tampa Bay Times. The 1Million Project, a partnership between the Miami-Dade County School District and Sprint, is putting a new a new cell phone into the hands of every 9th-grader in the district. Miami Herald. Summit Bank makes a $100,000 donation to Step Up For Students (SUFS), which will disburse the money among students in Escambia, Okaloosa and Bay counties. SUFS, which hosts this blog, helps administer Florida’s tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs. Pensacola News Journal. Students from Gateway Charter High School in Fort Myers repaint a faded state seal at a Florida Highway Patrol station. Fort Myers News-Press. The Manatee Education Foundation hands out $108,000 in grants to 230 teachers for educational projects. Bradenton Herald. Students from six Sarasota County pair with six chefs to create meals for members of the community in the fifth annual Chefs Move to Schools program. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Jasmine Weathers, a West Port High School senior, is one of 12 Florida students chosen as a finalist for a Leaders 4 Life Scholarship through the Take Stock in Children program. Ocala Star-Banner. Bay County students get a taste of fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets held at elementary schools throughout the district. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff

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