Florida schools roundup: Reading scholarships, school security and more

Reading scholarship rules: The Florida Department of Education releases draft rules for the new reading scholarship for struggling 3rd- and 4th-graders. Students who score below 3 in reading on their Florida Standards Assessments tests are eligible for up to $500 for tutoring or reading materials. Parents apply directly to the nonprofit scholarship-funding organization Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, then pay for the tutoring or reading materials and seek reimbursement. redefinED. Gradebook.

School security: Two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students testify to the House Democratic Task Force on Gun Violence on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Both plead for “meaningful” gun legislation. “There’s been a lot of talk, especially around here, about putting America first,” said Stoneman Douglas junior Alfonso Calderon. “I agree, let’s put America first and put the gun lobbies and the NRA second. I don’t understand why this is such a difficult conversation to have.” Sun-Sentinel. Escambia County school officials will conduct random metal detector screenings at schools. WEAR. Holmes Beach and Palmetto appear likely to help the Manatee County School District pay for school resource officers, and Bradenton is now considering the request. Manatee County has said it won’t help. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Volusia County School Board is told it would need to hire 44 armed guards to cover every school for 2018-2019. The presentation of the final plan is scheduled at the June 12 board meeting. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A ban on backpacks is extended to all Manatee County high schools and middle schools for the final three days of the school year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Several St. Johns County School Board members say they think it’s law enforcement’s responsibility to provide security at schools. The board meets with county officials June 6 to discuss the options. St. Augustine Record.

Dress code ‘clarified’: The Manatee County School District is making a slight change to its dress code in response to the uproar caused when a school dean ordered a braless student to cover her nipples with bandages because she was causing a “distraction.” District attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum says the revised code will use the word disruption instead of distraction. “It would clarify the language and also give the student expectations and give a legal citation behind it … and if they say to me, ‘Hey, you may have ambiguity,’ I want to clear up the ambiguity,” Teitelbaum says. He also responded in a letter to the ACLU, saying its allegations of sexist discrimination are based on untrue allegations, embellished for “media sensationalism.” Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Dropout recovery program: A private, for-profit learning center that operates seven dropout recovery high schools with 861 students in the Jacksonville area tells parents that it might not be open in the fall because it hasn’t reached a contract agreement with the Duval County School District. The district says the letter Catapult Academy sent to parents is puzzling because it’s negotiating with the company now. A company spokesman says the letter was “sent prematurely.” Several other Florida districts terminated contracts with Catapult in 2017 due to performance issues. Florida Times-Union.

Zero tolerance policy: Monroe County School Board members overrule administrators who wanted to suspend a student who was found with “specks” of marijuana inside his car earlier this year. “I don’t necessarily think somebody caught with trace amounts of marijuana should be in the same room as violent offenders, which is essentially where we’re at,” says member Mindy Conn. Superintendent Mark Porter says his staff will review the board’s judgment about the zero tolerance policy on drug possession and have a recommendation for policy changes next month. Keynoter.

Contract negotiations: Hillsborough County teachers and the school district near a contract agreement that could give teachers at least some of the pay raise they were expecting this year. The two sides have been at odds over $4,000 raises promised in 2013. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter system in trouble: The Cape Coral Charter School District will use its reserves to fill a $500,000 shortfall for the 2018-2019 school year, and the city council has agreed to help by having City Manager John Szerlag keep track of school expenses and fund balances. “There are some administrative services the city can cover that can free up money for teacher salaries and things like that,” says Superintendent Jacqueline Collins. Cape Coral Daily Breeze.

Personnel moves: David LaRosa, the principal at Fort Myers High School for the past 12 years, is leaving to take a job in the district administration providing leadership training for other administrators. Mariner High School principal Robert Butz replaces LaRosa, and Mariner assistant principal Tom Michel replaces Butz. Fort Myers News-Press.

Educator decisions questioned: Parents in Holmes County are questioning the recommendation of Superintendent Terry Mears to not retain two popular employees at Poplar Springs School. Holmes County Times Advertiser.

Free busing ending: The Indian River County School Board agrees to end free busing the district had provided for students to get to after-school programs run by three nonprofit organizations. The move saves the district about $78,000 a year. “We can’t afford to keep subsidizing these costs,” says Superintendent Mark Rendell. TCPalm.

Bus drivers sue district: Five Palm Beach County school bus drivers are suing the district, alleging they’ve been denied overtime pay over the past several years. The drivers say they routinely worked 50 hours a week, but that the district would only pay three hours of overtime instead of the 10 they should have gotten. Palm Beach Post.

Bus driver hailed: A Palm Beach County school bus driver is being called a hero for helping save a 6-year-old girl. The driver, Sharonda Akins, had just dropped the girl and others off in Jupiter when she noticed the child in the street and a car speeding toward her despite the bus’ flashing lights and extended stop sign. Akins laid on her horn and got the driver’s attention just in time for her to stop about 10 feet away from the girl. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher resigns (correction): A special education teacher in Brevard County has resigned after pornography was found on his district-issued laptop. It was incorrectly reported yesterday that Jonathan Goosey, who taught 3rd- through 6th-graders at Columbia Elementary School in Palm Bay, had been fired by the school board. Florida Today.

Students arrested: A 15-year-old student at Franklin Academy Pines Middle and High Campus in Pembroke Pines is arrested and accused of threatening to shoot his classmates at the charter school. He told police he was joking. Miami Herald. A 13-year-old student at Denison Middle School is arrested after calling in a threat to kill dozens of people at a school dance, according to Winter Haven police. Lakeland Ledger. A 14-year-old River Springs Middle School student is arrested and accused of threatening to shoot up the school. It was the 30th arrest by Volusia deputies for school threats since the massacre in Parkland on Feb. 14. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School janitor arrested: A janitor at Parkway Middle School in Osceola County is arrested after he allegedly threatened to bring a gun to school and attack his coworkers. Gilberto Colón-Vega, 55, faces charges of making a false report concerning the use of a firearm. Orlando Sentinel.

School employees suspended: A Lake County elementary school dean and 1st-grade teacher are suspended after they’re discovered kissing and hugging in a classroom closet. District officials are recommending Groveland Elementary School dean Alan Rosier, 56, and first-grade teacher Katie Lassen, 34, be fired. They’re appealing that recommendation, and a hearing may be held in June. WFTV. WKMG.

School evacuated: A fire in a bathroom causes a one-hour evacuation of Dunbar High School in Fort Myers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: Florida teachers can’t strike. But they and other voters can penalize candidates who undercut public education. Half a century after the last teachers’ strike, it’s time. Randy Schultz, Sun-Sentinel. Two writers with different opinions on arming teachers have a conversation about it. Orlando Sentinel. What’s behind Florida’s success on the NAEP scores, and what are the lessons for other state leaders? The main takeaway is that student progress is possible when a portfolio of core student-centered reforms is given time to work. John Bailey, The 74. School officials should not have to stand alone in their financial commitment to provide a safe learning environment for students, since all of the players share responsibility for making our schools safe. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: A team of students from Northeast High School in Oakland Park wins a $10,000 award for its mosquito disrupter invention, and will attend EurekaFest at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this summer. WPLG. Second-graders in Cindy Manley’s classroom at Elliott Point Elementary School learn about flying drones as part of a STEM program made possible through a partnership with the HSU Foundation and Choctawhatchee High School aerospace teacher Sean McSheehy. Northwest Florida Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff