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Florida schools roundup: Tax hikes, testing results, school security and more

Tax vote scuttled: Brevard County School Board members don’t think voters will approve a property tax increase to pay for school security and employee pay raises, so they’ve decided not to ask. They say there’s not enough time to educate voters, and they worry that putting the referendum on the ballot will jeopardize the renewal of the half-cent sales tax surcharge. So now the board will be looking at layoffs and cutting expenses and programs. Pennie Zuercher, the district’s chief financial officer, estimated the budget deficit will be about $5.3 million. Florida Today.

FSA test results: More reports on how school districts around the state, and some struggling schools in particular, did in the Florida Standards Assessments testing for reading and math for grades 3-12, science for 5th- and 8th-graders and end-of-course exams in biology, civics and U.S. history. Testing results are part of the formula used to assign grades to individual schools and districts. Miami Herald. Florida Times-UnionWUSF. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando SentinelWJCT. WSNN. Bradenton Herald. Bradenton TimesSarasota Herald-Tribune. Island Reporter. WBBH. Naples Daily News. Flagler Live. Ocala Star-Banner. Northwest Florida Daily News. Vero News. WJHG. Lakeland Ledger. Charlotte Sun. Walton Sun. Highlands News-Sun. Marco Eagle. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. WLRN. Bridge to Tomorrow. WMBB.

School security: Miami-Dade school officials are asking city and county officials for help in putting school resource officers in schools that do not already have officers. The district has its own police force, and its officers cover all middle and high schools. But that leaves about 240 schools uncovered. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho plans to use $4 million from the state to hire 40 to 50 officers for the district force, and is offering $4 million to be distributed among the county and 34 municipalities. WLRNWFOR. Jupiter Police Chief Frank J. Kitzerow Jr. is chosen to become police chief of the Palm Beach County School District. Kitzerow, 61, has been chief in Jupiter since 2004. The school board is expected to approve the appointment at its Wednesday meeting. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel. The St. Johns County School Board authorizes Superintendent Tim Forson to negotiate and contract with law enforcement agencies to provide armed security at any district school not already covered by deputies from the sheriff’s office. St. Augustine Record. The Palm Beach and Martin county school districts have bought workplace violence insurance in case any of their schools are attacked by anyone with a weapon. WPTV.

Deputy’s defense: Attorneys say Scot Peterson, the Broward deputy who waited outside for backup instead of confronting the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, had no obligation to confront the killer and therefore can’t be held legally responsible for their deaths. They made the court filing in a lawsuit brought against Peterson by a parent of one of the 17 victims. Those allegations suggest only that Peterson “opted for self-preservation over heroics,” the attorneys wrote. Sun-Sentinel. Meanwhile, the California-based Murder Museum says it has sold two rocks taken from Stoneman Douglas for $85. Sun-Sentinel.

AP history course: The College Board plans to drop 9,000 years of world history currently taught in AP courses in the 2019-2020 school year, and start instruction with the year 1450. Some teachers and students are protesting, saying the cutback will remove material students need to better understand later periods and that the changes will make the course too focused on Europe. College Board officials say many teachers have complained there’s too much material to cover in a school year. Washington Post.

Public record requests: Members of the public who ask the Sarasota County School District for public records often face lengthy wait times and hefty fees. Paralegal Michael Barfield, who makes frequent requests from the district and other government agencies, says the district’s digital records system doesn’t comply with state law and is outdated. District spokeswoman Tracey Beeker says it “is doing all that it possibly can to make sure that we are in compliance with the law as we understand it and know it. I don’t believe that there is any case where we are purposefully not fulfilling a certain request or being responsive.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Education and politics: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene’s education platform includes a call for mandatory preschool education for all 3- and 4-year-olds, an emphasis on arts, music, and other humanities education, technical education for jobs of the future and free community college. He says if he can’t find existing money for his proposals, he’d consider increasing taxes on the “super rich.” Florida Politics.

School board elections: David Haight is challenging incumbent Steve Moss for the District 5 seat on the Bay County School Board. Panama City News Herald.

Personnel moves: Lyle Heinz, who has been an assistant principal at Windermere High School, is named principal at Apopka High School. Apopka Chief. Citrus County School Board member Thomas Kennedy is named the chairman of the Florida School Boards Association’s Advocacy Committee. Citrus County Chronicle. Trey Csar, who has been president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund since it began in 2009, is stepping down. Executive vice president Rachael Tutwiler Fortune is named interim president. Florida Times-Union.

Educator honored: The Indian River County School District is honoring educator and civil rights pioneer Joe Idlette Jr. by naming its teacher education center after him. “The dedication was an awesome experience,” Idlette said. “I’m so thankful to the community for the opportunity to serve. We had a long relationship together and got a lot done.” TCPalm.

School construction: Seven buildings at Bartow High School are being torn down to make way for a new two-story science center, the construction academy and a new culinary center. Completion of the $17.5 million project is scheduled next summer. Lakeland Ledger. Gene Cox Stadium, which is used by all five Leon County high schools and some middle schools, is getting a turf field and a new scoreboard. The nearly $800,000 project is expected to be finished by the time schools reopen in August. Tallahassee Democrat.

District sued: The Monroe County School District is being sued by a deaf man for not having closed captioning for videos of their meetings. Eddie Sierra’s suit against the board and the city of Key West demands closed captioning for all audio-visual services, the creation of an “accessibility policy” to be placed on their websites and an undisclosed amount in damages, court and attorney fees. Key West Citizen.

Opinions on schools: With Florida’s school districts anticipating a difficult budget year, there’s one program that both Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on terminating: a bonus program for teachers that controversially relies on the ACT or SAT score earned by a teacher, often decades before when the teacher was applying to college. Paul Cottle, Tallahassee Democrat. While enhancing school security is a legitimate short-term measure in keeping students safe, it falls seriously short of a comprehensive approach to the problem. Thomas Gabor, Sun-Sentinel. I believe part of the solution to school safety is to intervene on a systemic level by instituting a periodic assessment of school-specific climate to gauge students’ feelings of powerlessness, frustration and anger. Eileen Widerman, Florida Times-Union. Protecting children should not be the sole responsibility of the school district. Period. Cities and counties should also share in the costs because safe schools only enhance the value and quality of life in each of the communities. Fort Myers News-Press. School security is a community-wide interest, and thanks to the Legislature it suddenly has become more expensive. Every local government should pitch in to help keep students and faculty safe. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Finally, Sarasota County school officials sat down with law enforcement to acknowledge what’s needed to secure our schools. Tom Tryon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Lake County School Board made the agonizing but necessary decision to allow administrators to carry guns in schools. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff