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Florida schools roundup: Charter school ‘deserts,’ H.B. 7069 appeal and more

Charter school scarcity: A new report concludes that Florida has one of the highest number of charter school “deserts,” which are defined as three or more contiguous census tracts with poverty rates above 20 percent and no charter elementary schools. The charter-friendly Thomas B. Fordham Institute identified about 20 such areas in and around Miami, Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg. “Despite the thousands of charter schools opened [nationally] over the past twenty-five years,” the report concludes, “many more are needed if low-income students in every part of America are to have the options they need.” Gradebook. redefinED.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Duval County School Board members vote against joining an appeal of the latest decision against 13 school boards that are challenging the constitutionality of the state’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069, saying they can’t afford to continue. Lee and Bay county school boards have already committed to an appeal. School boards in Alachua, Broward, Clay, Hamilton, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia and Wakulla counties have yet to decide. Florida Times-Union.

School shooting defense: The Broward County School Board is trying to limit its liability by having a court label the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre as a single incident with many victims. The board’s liability for each incident is $300,000. Seventeen were killed and 17 wounded on Feb. 14, and a lawyer for one of the wounded victims wants the court to declare each victim a separate incident. Sun-Sentinel.

School security: Gov. Rick Scott says in an interview that the state’s school districts have the money to comply with the new school safety law to put a resource officer in every school, and it’s simply a matter of allocating resources. “Right now, our school systems around the state are sitting on $2 billion in cash,” says Scott. WJXT.

Preparing for college: When the nonprofit organization GreatSchools set out to honor U.S. high schools that best prepare students to enroll in college, continue after the first year and succeed academically, it discovered that only nine states collect enough information to determine which schools would get “College Success Awards.” Florida is one of those nine states, and here are its winners. The 74. Education Week.

Superintendent evaluation: Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively says she speaks frequently with Superintendent Jeff Eakins about matters ranging from fiscal management to effective communication, but prefers to give her evaluation of his performance to him in person instead of in writing as other members of the board did this week. Gradebook.

Mental health needs: Education leaders and state schools superintendents say the mental health of students should be the top priority in schools, even more so than testing and budgets. They were attending a Mental Health Summit put on by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. Spectrum News 13.

District facilities use: The Palm Beach County School Board will consider a proposal to restrict the use of school facilities for political events, funerals, public swims and more. Kris Garrison, the district’s planning director, says the proposal is prompted by some renters who used school facilities after hours in ways that were deemed incompatible by the district. Sun-Sentinel.

New magnet school: The Pinellas County School District is converting the Midtown Academy in St. Petersburg into a K-5 school with two magnet programs. One addresses what district officials call a need for a fulltime gifted program in the south part of the county, and the other is focused on cultural arts. Tampa Bay Times.

Students being punished: Some North Fort Myers High School students who left campus during the April 20 walkout marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shootings are being disciplined, school officials say. Fort Myers News-Press.

School disinfected: Bay Haven School of Basics Plus, a K-5 school in Sarasota, is disinfected after a teacher contracts an infectious disease last week. In an email to parents, principal Chad Erickson said the health department does not believe any students or other staff members are affected. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers plead guilty: A teacher at a private school in Osceola pleads guilty to charges that he molested a 12-year-old student. Domynik Lewis, 21, who taught at Esther’s School of Kissimmee, is sentenced to 30 months in prison. Orlando Sentinel. A former Haines City High School teacher who sent nude photos of herself to a 15-year-old Texas boy pleads guilty. Robin Nicole Dunlap, 28, will serve five years of probation and will surrender her Florida teaching license. Lakeland Ledger.

A teacher’s past: A Sarasota County teacher arrested for possession of child pornography had been accused of inappropriately touching young girls three times in Manatee County. But Sarasota school officials were unaware of the allegations and hired Quentin Peterson as a math teacher at Booker High School. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher’s fine settles case: A teacher the Palm Beach County School District tried to fire for her counseling of a troubled student in 2015 has settled the case by agreeing to pay a $750 fine to the state. Samantha Major, now a psychology teacher at Spanish River High, was targeted for failing to disclose the student’s conflicting reports about being sexually abused. Palm Beach Post.

Abuse case review: The Okaloosa County State Attorney’s Office will consider reopening a child abuse case against a former Wright Elementary School teacher. Lora Phillips Rankin was accused of grabbing and injuring a student’s arm. The state attorney declined to prosecute, and now will say only that it’s continuing to review the case. Northwest Florida Daily News.

AD sues parent: The athletic director at Pompano Beach High School is suing a parent slander and libel after he called the AD a sexually inappropriate drunk who has the potential to kill students. Parent Larry Little began the name-calling after Jason Frey banned him as a volunteer for the school’s football team. Sun-Sentinel.

Students arrested: A 15-year-old Driftwood Middle School student in Broward County is arrested for bring THC-laced chips to school and giving them to a friend. The friend thought they were Cheetos, ate them and had to be hospitalized. WSVN. Sun-Sentinel. A 17-year-old Hernando High School student is arrested after allegedly threatening to shoot his classmates, according to deputies. He was on suspension when he made the threat. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. A Tampa middle school student is arrested and accused of bringing a gun to school. Sheriff’s deputies say they were alerted to the gun by another student. WFLA.

Autistic student committed: A 10-year-old autistic student at Stone Lakes Elementary School in Orlando is involuntarily committed after he acts up in class and Orange County sheriff’s deputies are called. WFTV.

Opinions on schools: When charter schools close for poor performance, that’s actually a good thing. Despite the temporary disruption, it means the kids who go there now have a shot at something better. I wish we could say the same for kids stuck in perpetually failing public schools. Lane Wright, Capitolist. Florida voters should reject all eight of the amendments proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission. Rick McAllister, Pensacola News Journal. Bundling loosely related proposals by the Constitution Revision Commission, such as the three-piece education amendment, is asinine and counterproductive to the purpose of this state organization. TCPalm.

Student enrichment: A Bay County 7th-grader is honored for reaching out to a classmate who was considering harming himself. Jinks Middle School student Paul Grabner won a two-year scholarship to Gulf Coast State College. Panama City News Herald. About two-dozen Venice High School students shadow city leaders to learn the workings of a government during the fifth annual Student Government Day. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff