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Florida schools roundup: School removing teachers, amendments and more

All teachers to be removed: Every teacher at a struggling Hernando County elementary school will be removed at the end of the school year, school officials said at a meeting Friday. Administrators decided to give Moton Elementary School a “fresh start” after it has received D grades from the state the past two years. District spokesperson Karen Jordan says without the move, the state would have taken over the school. Veteran teachers will be transferred, while newer teachers will have to apply for other open jobs in the district. Tampa Bay Times.

Education amendments: The Constitution Revision Commission will consider 12 ballot proposals this week. Two of them address K-12 education. Proposal 6003 would place an eight-year term limit on school board members, allow an alternative process for approving public and charter schools, and require civics education in public schools. Proposal 6008 would allow “high-performing” school districts exemptions from following some laws that apply to districts. The commission must send its ballot proposals to the secretary of state by May 10. News Service of Florida. redefinED. The proposal to bundle three education proposals into a single amendment for voters to consider in November is drawing criticism from education leaders around the state. Gradebook.

Charter schools’ troubles: Even as the Eagle Arts Academy charter school missed making a payroll for its teachers, it continued to pay another company owned by school founder Gregory Blount for the use of the school name, logo, website and data-processing system, according to school records. The company has been paid at least $42,000 since last June by the Wellington school. Palm Beach Post. Eagle Arts Academy teachers got a full paycheck Friday, though they remain concerned about the checks they’re due at the end of the month. District officials say they’ll close the school within the next 90 days unless it can balance its budget and pay more than $700,000 in back rent. Palm Beach Post. The Brevard County School Board will decide Tuesday whether to close the Legacy Academy Charter School in Port St. John. District officials say the 200-student K-6 school is in a financial emergency, employs noncertified teachers and operates without basic instructional materials. Florida Today.

Reading help: Florida 3rd- and 4th-graders who are struggling to pass the Florida Standards Assessments reading exam now have the option of applying for a $500 scholarship to pay for tutoring or materials to help them catch up. But the Legislature provided only $9.7 million for the scholarships, and last year 187,169 students did not make a passing score on the tests. Tampa Bay Times.

Impact fee misuse: If the Lake County School District is found by the Florida Department of Education to have improperly used school impact fees collected in 2016 and 2017 to pay down debt, as a Florida auditor general’s report suggests, the district could be forced to repay $10.3 million. The district is already struggling to cope with pay inequity issues for veteran teachers and the need to build a new school in south Lake County. Orlando Sentinel.

School security: Okeechobee County commissioners agree to take $382,400 from reserves to hire five school resource officers so that every school will have one this fall. The city’s police department has agreed to supply two more officers, bringing the total in the county to 13. Okeechobee News. Flagler County school officials are negotiating with the sheriff on how to split the costs for putting a resource officer in every county school. Seven officers would have to be hired, doubling the school security costs to $1.8 million a year. Flagler Live. The Bay County School District is surveying its employees to see who would volunteer to carry a gun in schools as part of the state’s guardian program. Superintendent Bill Husfelt says the response will determine if the district goes ahead with the program. Panama City News Herald. A group from Broward County, including the father of a Parkland school shooting victim and district Superintendent Robert Runcie, tours Southwestern High School in Shelbyville, Ind., which is widely considered “the safest school in America.” The school has bulletproof doors and windows, key fobs for teachers that have panic buttons, smoke cannons to obscure a gunman’s view, and a surveillance and communication system with a direct connection to law enforcement. Sun-Sentinel.

Social media monitoring: The Flagler County School Board is considering hiring a company to monitor social media for words and phrases that could signal potential threats. Board members and school officials meet Tuesday with a Vermont company selling an automated system that can parse social media posts for “hundreds of thousands” of phrases, keywords, hashtags, emojis and keyword combinations that may be a threat. The cost is $18,500 for a year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School testing: Florida Standards Assessment testing begins this week for Hawthorne Middle/High School. The school has received a grade of D from the state the past three years, and without improvement on the FSA the school will close. WUFT.

Charter enrollment: Enrollment in Pasco County charter schools is expected to increase by almost 25 percent next fall, to more than 5,500 students, according to district officials. Nearly all the growth will come from the openings of two schools: Union Park Charter Academy, a K-6 school expected to have 650 students, and the Plato Academy Charter School, which expects 288 K-3 students. Gradebook.

Contract negotiations: Lake County teachers protested the district’s failure to come to an agreement over pay Friday by refusing to work beyond the 7.5 hours a day their contract requires. The district’s 3,000 teachers have been working without a new contract since July 1, 2017. The protest will be repeated this Friday. Teachers are angry that newer teachers can make more money than those with far more experience. Orlando Sentinel.

Schools and politics: Orange County teachers and other employees are told they may not wear buttons, pins or any clothing to school that promote political candidates, parties or proposals. The school board added the language to the policy that banned employees from participating in political activities at work or using their positions with the district to aid political causes. Orlando Sentinel.

Hacking settlement: An insurance company for the Manatee County School District agrees to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by employees whose payroll information was mistakenly handed over to hackers. More than a dozen of the district’s 7,700 past and present employees were the victims of fraud or identity theft because of the release, according to the lawsuit. Bradenton Herald.

Teachers honored: Two Crestview High School teachers are honored as high impact teachers by the Florida Department of Education. Both Miranda Delpozo and Kelly Donofro teach algebra at the Okaloosa County school. WEAR.

New schools: Construction on Dune Lakes Elementary School in Walton County is about halfway complete and district officials tout it as a school of the future, with built-in security measures, an innovative media center and labs, and courtyards for outdoor learning spaces. It has a capacity of 1,000 students and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019. WJHG. Ground is broken in Manatee County for the Dr. Mona Jain Middle School, which is named after an educator and longtime director of the county’s Head Start program. The $45 million school will have a capacity of 1,100 students and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019. Bradenton Herald. Willy and Beth LeBihan are opening a private French immersion school in St. Petersburg this fall, and expect to have as many as 100 students. The school will follow a French curriculum, and all the educational materials are being ordered directly from French suppliers. Business Journal.

Prom season: A home-schooled student in Walton County is “devastated” when she’s told she cannot attend the Walton High School prom. Superintendent Russell Hughes says the school board policy prohibits home-schooled students from attending prom unless they are the date of a registered student. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR. The Miami-Dade County School District is handing out about 3,000 free prom dresses to students who couldn’t afford them otherwise. WPLG.

School survey: The Sarasota County School District is conducting its annual online survey for students, parents and employees through Friday. “It is important for the school district to hear from as many families as possible for the results of the survey will be helpful in guiding decisions,” reads a statement from the school district. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Text message hotline: A Montessori charter school in Islamorada launches a text messaging hotline that allows students to immediately report instances of weapons, bullying, drugs, harassment, suspicious behavior and suicidal students to school officials. Key West Citizen.

Substitute arrested: A substitute teacher in Polk County is arrested for grabbing a 12-year-old boy and pushing him against a wall, say sheriff’s deputies. Robert Knight, 39, was teaching a physical education class at Westwood Middle School in Winter Haven when the incident occurred. WFTS.

School bus adventures: A woman who captured a Jacksonville school bus speeding on video Thursday got into an accident with two school buses on Friday. Duval County school officials are reviewing both incidents. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: The Constitution Revision Commission needs to separate bundled proposals, then radically reduce the final list it will present to voters in November. Orlando Sentinel. The idea that some public schools will lose students because parents believe that their children could be educated better elsewhere is a good thing. We need to welcome, not fear, parental power now, for the good of our children, for whom the system was to have been designed and has been failing for too long. Edward B. Harmon, Gainesville Sun. Hopefully, the conversation on how we fund education in Lee County continues in order to make certain students have the best schools to meet the needs of today and they do not fall behind the curve. Brian Page, Fort Myers News-Press. Private schools do not have to hire certified teachers, adhere to curriculum standards or participate in the state’s obsession with high-stakes tests. And yet, when legislators are told that private schools might have trouble coming up with money for dual enrollment programs, they immediately rush in with a solution in the name of fairness. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. I wonder how much schools and teachers will be affected by forcing students to take a high-stakes test that they were not prepared for? I wonder when we are going to look at our education system, and decide that enough is enough? I vote for the end of testing season, and the extension of learning season. Berney Wilkinson, Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff