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Florida schools roundup: Backlash on backtrack, choice, security and more

Backlash on discipline backtracking: Broward County school officials face a torrent of criticism after the revelation that confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz had been referred to a disciplinary program that promotes alternatives to arrests and suspensions. Superintendent Robert Runcie had previously denied any connection between Cruz and the PROMISE program. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, called it a “stunning revelation” and says “the Broward County School Board has failed in its responsibility as an oversight body.” School officials say Cruz apparently did not complete the three-day program. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Politico Florida.

Choice strategizing: School-choice advocates meet to discuss ways to get their message out during a time of polarization and a perceived “Trump effect” that could change the balance of political power in November. “Our coalition is holding together,” says Democratic pollster Deborah Beck. “It is under strain.” She says school choice may be losing support among urbanites and people of color. Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says emphasizing civil rights could help shore up support. “I can’t think of a more crystalline example of social justice than enabling poor families to have the same rights and same power and same decision-making over their children’s education than rich people,” he says. “If that is not just, what is?” redefinED.

School security: The Brevard County School Board is expected to decide tonight whether to move forward with a security program that trains and arms school employees who volunteer. Teachers and students don’t want to arm school employees, while parents narrowly support the idea, according to a survey by the Brevard County School District. That split was reflected in the discussion at Monday’s town meeting in Titusville. Florida Today. The Broward County School Board is expected to decide today whether to ask voters to increase property taxes to raise money for school security. The tax would generate $93 million a year. School officials say some of it would be used for teacher bonuses. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach County school officials are trying to get a handle on how to proceed in protecting their schools. They say sprawling schools built with open campuses will make the creation of a single point of entry expensive. WPTV. The Manatee County School District will pitch a compromise plan to the county commission today to pay for putting a resource officer in every school. WFLA. The Pasco County School District has received 125 applications for one of the 53 armed security guard openings. Fifty-six people have applied for the job as director of safety and security. Gradebook.

Budget-cutting: A proposal to cut almost 800 jobs in order to save $38.2 million will be discussed today by the Hillsborough County School Board. Superintendent Jeff Eakins’ budget cuts 220 elementary school teachers, 116 custodians and 106 bilingual classroom aides. The board will also consider options to place an armed guard at 105 schools that do not have one now. Tampa Bay Times.

Educators honored: Miami-Dade County teacher of the year Molly Diallo is named as one of five finalists for Florida teacher of the year by the Florida Department of Education. The selection comes with a check for $15,000. WSVN. Florida Department of Education. Lori Hadley, principal of the Mount Dora Christian Academy Lower School, is named educator of the year by the National Christian School Association. The association represents 78 secondary schools in 26 states. Orlando Sentinel.

Educational approach: In a recent TEDx talk, author Ashley Berner makes the case for pluralism over uniformity as a better way forward for public education in the United States. redefinED.

Outside operator: Marion County school officials are recommending that Kentucky-based Educational Directions be chosen to take over operation of Evergreen Elementary School if it doesn’t receive a C grade from the state. The school board is expected to vote tonight on the recommendation to give the company a three-year contract. Ocala Star-Banner.

Contract negotiations: About 500 teachers and other Volusia County school employees are expected to march to the school board meeting tonight to demand raises of 2.5 percent this year and 4 percent in each of the next two years. The district has offered a 1 percent raise and an $800 bonus for the 2018-2019 school year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Hillsborough County School District is offering its 15,000 teachers a total of $30 million for pay raises for the next school year. Gradebook.

Pledge sparks lawsuit: The mother of a Pasco County 1st-grader who was reprimanded for taking a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance is suing the school district, saying it violated her son’s constitutional rights. Gradebook. WTSP.

Sunshine violation: Lake County prosecutors have concluded that a private school board meeting to discuss security was a technical violation of the state’s Sunshine Law, but will not prosecute. Daily Commercial.

Virtual teachers want answers: Thirty-three Florida Virtual School (FLVS) teachers who live out of state want some answers before they decide in the next week whether they’ll move to Florida or lose their jobs. The teachers say FLVS has offered to provide details on severance pay, unemployment benefits and more only after the May 15 deadline for their decision. Gradebook.

Vaping makes a yearbook: The principal at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs is apologizing for an article on vaping that appears in the school yearbook. Trent Daniel’s apology was followed by a statement from Superintendent Walt Griffin calling the yearbook pages “unacceptable” and saying that “the process that we have in place for proofing content was not followed.” Orlando Sentinel.

Drug testing: The Monroe County School Board is expected to reinstate a program to randomly test high school student-athletes, cheerleaders and band members for drugs. The testing for such drugs as marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines would be done as a trial for one year, and start in the fall. The policy was put on hold when Hurricane Irma swept through the area last fall. Keynoter.

Student advisory council: Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis is forming a student advisory council to give advice on school issues. Two students will represent each grade from 7-12, and will be chosen after a review by school staff. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher takes plea deal: A former Seminole County substitute teacher agrees to a plea deal on charges that she had sex with a 15-year-old student in a Hagerty High School classroom in 2016. Jaclyn Truman, 30, will register as a sex offender and be on probation for 15 years. WFTV.

Students and the law: A Volusia County student is arrested for making threats against University High School in Orange City, according to sheriff’s deputies. There have been 28 arrests in the county since the massacre at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland on Feb. 14. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Leon County student faces battery charges after she allegedly pepper-sprayed a teacher at Lincoln High School. Leon County School Board members will be asked to approve the student’s expulsion. Tallahassee Democrat. A gun similar to ones used in paintball is found in a kindergartner’s backpack at Browning Pearce Elementary School in Putnam County. WJXT.

Students get counseling: Grief counselors are at Leesburg High School to help students grieving the death of 17-year-old senior Jakeila Young, who was killed in an auto accident Sunday. Orlando Sentinel.

School bus crashes: Seven of the 10 Duval County school bus drivers cited for crashes this school year drive for the same company. Student Transportation of America handles about 50 percent of the bus routes for the school district. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: The state’s appropriation of $97.5 million to help districts hire more school resource officers is akin to using a Dustbuster to do the job of a Shop-Vac. Ocala Star-Banner. Alternatives in juvenile justice are paying dividends in breaking the school-to-prison pipeline for many students, particularly those of color or with learning disabilities. Leslie Scott Jean-Bart, Jacksonville Daily Record. A cooperative spirit among educators, rather than divisive anti-school choice rhetoric, will best benefit all of our students. Isn’t that everyone’s goal? Amy Banov, TCPalm. Until and unless the state does fully pay for the unfunded school security mandate, the Manatee County Commission’s decision not to pay its share of the responsibility for providing a safe environment in these schools is — in a word — irresponsible. Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner, Bradenton Herald. Acts of crime and violence appear to be on the rise in Collier County schools. But data can be misleading, and Collier County School Superintendent Kamela Patton says uneven reporting and ambiguous language, not dangerous schools, are the problems reflected in the numbers. Brent Batten, Naples Daily News. Teachers persist in the face of many challenges. Khanh-Lien Banko, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: A Pasco County student’s research on antibiotic effectiveness against resistant bacteria earns him an invitation to the International Science and Engineering Fair next week in Pittsburgh. Adis Kukuljac, 18, is a senior at J.W. Mitchell High School. Tampa Bay Times. Several Boynton Beach police officers escort special-needs students to the John I. Leonard High School prom. Palm Beach PostWFLX. WPTV. Fifty-three Alachua County seniors who went through the Take Stock in Children mentoring and scholarship program win $400,000 in scholarships. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff