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Florida schools roundup: Education amendments, book ban and more

Education amendments: Two Florida school officials are offering amendments to the state constitution that would provide more public financial support for schools other than traditional public schools. Marva Johnson, a member of the Florida Board of Education and Florida Constitution Revision Commission, is urging changes that would allow public money to be used for private schools “in the event that a student’s right to an education that meets his or her individual needs and learning differences.” Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board and the commission, is proposing an amendment allowing the Legislature to make a provision for “other educational services that benefit the children and families of this state that are in addition to the system of free public schools.” If the amendments are approved for the ballot, they would need the support of 60 percent of voters to go into effect. Tampa Bay TimesredefinED. News Service of Florida.

District’s book ban: The superintendent of the Dixie County School District has issued a ban on instructional materials that contain “profanity, cursing or inappropriate subject matter.” Mike Thomas issued the ban after a parent complained about sexual references in the book A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines, but Thomas denies any connection between the complaint and the ban. Thomas says a committee will be formed to review instructional materials. Gainesville Sun.

Educators honored: Five finalists are chosen for Orange County teacher of the year. They are: Kenneth Boyd, music teacher at West Orange High School; Cindi Brasch, a teacher for the “hospital homebound”; Kyle Dencker, computer science teacher at Timber Creek High School; Bernie Hendricks, band director at Ocoee High School; and Sandy Mercer, a teacher for disabled students at Lake Silver Elementary School. The winner will be announced in December. Orlando Sentinel. Larissa Bennett, counselor at Virgil Mills Elementary School in Palmetto, is named school counselor of the year by the Florida School Counselor Association. Bradenton Herald. WWSB.

Contract negotiations: Pasco County school officials and the employees union resumes negotiations this week. The district says it has about $3.3 million for pay raises. The union is proposing a 2.75 percent pay raise for all employees, and wants $142 per person to help pay health insurance premiums. Gradebook.

Rezoning process: The Pasco County School District is changing the process of redrawing school attendance boundaries. Advisory committees will be eliminated, and district staff will redraw the boundaries for the superintendent. Only then will a public hearing be held, followed by the superintendent’s recommendation to the school board. Gradebook.

District’s wish list: Leon County school officials are asking their legislative delegation to reconsider the state’s move to encourage the expansion of charter schools. “We need you to protect our public schools,” said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. “Anyway they can look to expand voucher programs — that’s a huge concern for us.” Florida Politics.

Turnaround school: The plan to turn Pasco County’s struggling Ridgewood High School into a magnet technical school is taking shape. The school would close in the spring and reopen in the fall. It would offer academic and technical courses that could lead students to industry certification or college. Current students would be reassigned and have to apply for admittance to the new school, and the school would have no sports teams. The recommendation goes to the school board next week. Tampa Bay Times.

Displaced teachers: The Polk County School District has hired a special education teacher displaced from Puerto Rico, and hopes to fill more of its 48 open teaching positions with others who fled from the island after Hurricane Maria. WTSP.

New lunch policy: Lake County students who forget their lunch money can now “charge” their meal and pay the next day. If they continue to come to school without lunch money, they’ll still receive a turkey or other cold cut sandwich with a fruit, vegetable and milk. School officials hope the policy change will keep kids from going hungry because they don’t have money, and identify students who should be moved into the free or subsidized lunch program. Daily Commercial.

AP test-taking: The number of Florida high school students taking the Advanced Placement physics 1 exam continue to decline, but more are taking the AP biology exam, according to the College Board. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Teacher pleads guilty: A former Alachua County teacher pleads guilty to sexual abuse of a child. Alan Wade Coleman, 47, who taught at Eastside High School in 2015 and 2016, committed the abuse on a 14-year-old girl at the KIPP D.C. Key Academy during the 2004-2005 school year. He was fired in Alachua County in June 2016 for failure to disclose a previous arrest. Gainesville Sun.

Teacher in trouble: A Crystal River High School teacher is suspended for allegedly trying to change the grades of a student so he could remain eligible to play football. Superintendent Sandra Himmel is recommending that the school board fire Marlon Felton, who is the coordinator of a program that motivates students for scholastic improvement. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teen shot at bus stop: A 13-year-old Okaloosa Academy charter school student is shot by a 15-year-old Davidson Middle School student at a school bus stop in Crestview. The shooter used a gun stolen from an unlocked car. The victim is in fair condition at a Pensacola hospital. Northwest Florida Daily NewsWPEC.

Student hurt in fight: A student at North Miami Middle School is hospitalized after a fight. It’s the second time in a week that a Miami-Dade County student has been hospitalized after a fight at school. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s public school teachers deserve to have their salaries raised to at least the national average, instead of having to make do with small increases to their classroom supply funds and ill-conceived bonuses. Gainesville Sun. Schools have a desperate need for money to build and maintain schools, and the Legislature should allow districts to once again levy a 2 percent capital property tax. Gil Smart, TCPalm. Critical thinking instruction is important so students can be taught how to verify facts, how to go to different sources for information, and how to analyze the legitimacy of those sources. Bill Hoatson, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: The CHELCO electric cooperative donates $12,000 to Okaloosa County teachers to buy instructional materials to support STEM teaching. Crestview Bulletin. Immokalee High School’s all-girls robotics team wins first place out of 37 teams at a VEX Robotics tournament in Miami. Naples Daily News. Students at Rymfire Elementary School in Palm Coast run a mile before school every day as part of school program to fight obesity. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff