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Florida schools roundup: Security, deputy’s pension, charters and more

School security: St. Petersburg officials reverse themselves and say they will not take 25 police officers off the streets to work as resource officers in the city’s elementary schools. City officials point to the cost, more than $3 million, and a reluctance to remove officers from their beats. The decision means the Pinellas County School District will hire security guards for those roles until the district can expand its own police department. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. The Flagler County School Board approves an agreement with the sheriff to split the $1.8 million cost to increase the number of resource officers in schools to 13. Flagler Live. WJXT. A majority of Lake County students want the school district to arm school personnel, reinforce locks and doors in schools and integrate a mental health curriculum into their classes, according to a survey conducted by a student advisory committee. Daily Commercial. The Sarasota County School Board’s creation of an independent police force gets debated further at a Sarasota Republican Club meeting attended by supporters and critics of the decision. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

A school deputy’s pension: The Broward County sheriff’s deputy who took cover outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and waited while 17 people were shot to death is now receiving an $8,702.35-a-month-for-life pension from the state. Scot Peterson, 55, retired under fire eight days after the shootings in Parkland Feb. 14. Sun-Sentinel.

Charter schools: Sarasota County School Board members deny an application from a controversial charter school company. The plan to put Pinecrest Academy in the Palmer Ranch area drew an organized protest from people who criticized Academica, the management company behind the charter school. Board members framed their decision on the larger issue of public education’s future, and also made the distinction between Miami-based Academica and the homegrown charters already in the county. “I don’t think it’s a good use of our tax dollars to turn it around and give it to a for-profit company that’s out of the county,” said board member Shirley Brown. The company is expected to appeal the decision to the state appeals commission. A second charter school application, for the K-5 Dreamers Academy with an English-Spanish immersion program, was withdrawn. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. redefinED. After 22 years of operation, the Escambia Charter School is closing at the end of the school year. The school in Gonzalez has struggled financially for years because of declining enrollment, according to school district officials. WEAR. WKRG.

Tax hike consideration: Superintendent Jeff Eakins says the Hillsborough County School District faces billions of dollars in debt and unfunded capital needs, and he says it’s time to start talking about asking voters to approve a tax referendum to supplement the funding it receives in property taxes and from the state. Eakins says the state “simply isn’t funding education at the level our students and teachers need to continue our success,” and that “we have some clear needs.” The district is almost $1 billion in debt, and needs another $2 billion for construction of new schools and repairs for existing ones. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent search: Brevard County School Board members say they are leaning toward toward an internal replacement for outgoing Superintendent Desmond Blackburn. The board ruled out a national search, such as the one it conducted when Blackburn was hired in 2015, citing the two months it took and the $40,000 plus expenses it cost. “I think we have some qualified people within our organization,” says board vice chair Tina Descovich. Blackburn’s last day will be no later than Aug. 10. He is resigning to become CEO for the California-based nonprofit New Teacher Center, which trains and mentors new teachers. Florida Today. Blackburn says he did not go looking for a new job, and denies that he wanted to leave because he was recently named as one of the Broward County school officials responsible several years ago for the adoption of a discipline program that pushes alternatives to arrests and suspensions. Florida Today. Manatee County School Board members are preparing to lose Superintendent Diana Greene to Duval County, and have high praise for her work. Bradenton Herald.

Health insurance protest: Osceola County teachers and other district workers are preparing a public protest May 31 against proposed health insurance premium increases that could be as much as 65 percent. Osceola News-Gazette.

Teacher honored: Nancy Rosenbaum, a 5th-grade teacher at Florida State University Schools in Tallahassee, receives the 2018 June Scobee Rodgers Innovative Educator Award from the Challenger Center. The national award recognizes an educator who understands the importance of STEM education and demonstrates enthusiasm and passion in teaching its subjects. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher spending on supplies: About 94 percent of U.S. teachers spend their own money to buy classroom supplies, and they spend an average of about $500 a year, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics. Washington Post.

Ex-legislator plots comeback: Ten years after a political scandal forced Ray Sansom to resign as House speaker, he is considering a run for the superintendent’s job in Okaloosa County. Sansom was accused of grand theft and conspiracy charges for helping secure $6 million in the 2007 state budget for an airport hangar for a friend who was also a campaign contributor. The charges were dropped in 2011 when the testimony of a key witness was blocked by a judge. Sansom, now 55, is an employee of a charter school company and says he oversees five dropout prevention schools in three counties. Tampa Bay Times.

School board elections: Two parents of students killed in the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School announce their candidacies for Broward County School Board seats. While both Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty have been critical of Superintendent Robert Runcie’s discipline program Promise, which pushes for discipline alternatives to arrests and suspensions, neither is calling for his resignation. Alhadeff is running for the District 4 currently held by Abby Freedman, while Petty will challenge incumbent Donna Korn and Elijah Manley for the District 8 seat. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. Three Manatee County School Board incumbents have challengers. District 2 board member Charles Kennedy faces Alice S. Kaddatz. In District 4, incumbent Scott L. Hopes is being challenged by Joseph L. Stokes, and District 5 board member John A. Colon is running against James T. Golden. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: The Hillsborough County School District announces the appointment of several principals. Arlene Castelli is the new principal at King High School, Elisa Suarez at Westchase Elementary, Frankye Bulmer at Palm River Elementary, Dawn Stites at Dunbar Elementary and Amber Cronin at Pizzo K-8. Gradebook.

Teacher dismissals protested: The Gadsden County teachers union alleges that the principal at James A. Shanks Middle School did not follow the evaluation process set by the school board when he chose not to renew the contracts of several teachers, including the county’s teacher of the year. WFSU.

No private meetings: Pasco County School Board member Steve Luikart has stopped taking part in regular private briefings with school administrators. “I told them, ‘Make it a public meeting where we all hear what is being said to every one of us,’ ” says Luikart, who is retiring from the board later this year. Gradebook.

Road closing approved: The Sarasota County School approves the temporary closure of a road that runs through the campus of Sarasota High School. School Avenue will be closed between 6:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. on days when school is in session. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Struggling school: The Gadsden County School District merged its two struggling high schools into one, Gadsden County High School, last year, and district officials hope the changes that went along with the merger will improve the school’s grade from the state. WTXL.

Phone bill overcharge suit: The Orange County School District is suing AT&T, alleging the phone company overcharged the district by at least $1 million even as it was collecting money from a nonprofit meant to help keep bills down. The Federal Communication Commission had ruled that AT&T did overcharge schools in Orange and Dixie counties, but has taken no further action against the company. Orlando Sentinel.

Teacher suspended: A Marion County agriculture teacher is suspended while the school district investigates reports that he drowned “nuisance” animals during classes. Dewie Brewton, who teaches at Forest High School, had students help him drown multiple animals, say the students who reported him. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it “is looking into an incident that occurred at Forest High School in Marion County involving a raccoon.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Social media poster arrested: An Ocoee man who made several social media posts about “sexy boys” at an elementary school has been arrested for conspiracy to commit sexual battery. Police say other charges are pending against Kristopher Martin Oswald II, 19, who was arrested in a city park with his pants unbuttoned as children played nearby. Orlando Sentinel.

Student arrested: A 12-year-old Santa Rosa County student is arrested and accused of making a false report about a shooting threat to Emerald Coast Middle School. WEAR.

Parent fights at school: The Duval County School District is investigating a video showing a student’s mother going onto the Wolfson High School campus Tuesday and fighting with two students who were allegedly threatening her daughter. WJAX.

Sickness hits school: A norovirus is sweeping through Hudson Elementary School in Pasco County. More than 100 students and much of the school staff stayed home with the stomach bug on Tuesday. WFLA. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: Palm Beach County School Board members should carefully consider a decision to ask voters to approve a tax hike so teacher pay can be improved. Palm Beach Post. Introducing more weapons into schools will result in an increased risk of death or injury to our children and our school staff. Our community deserves safety decisions based on analysis and expertise, not fear, political agendas or cost cutting measures. Scott Rooke, Florida Today.

Student enrichment: A group of students from Rymfire Elementary School in Palm Coast win a regional problem-solving competition and will compete in the Future Problem Solving Program international competition in June in Wisconsin. The students created a campaign to boost math scores. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Florida Partnership for Healthy Schools recognizes the Manatee County School District as a Florida Healthy School district for its work to improve the physical, mental and social health of students and staff. WWSB.

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BY NextSteps staff