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Florida schools roundup: Tax hikes, textbooks, charter schools and more

School tax hikes: Palm Beach County school leaders are considering giving charter schools a portion of the $150 million a year that would be generated if voters approve a property tax hike in November. Language that specifically excluded charter schools has been removed from the proposal, which the school board will consider today. The decision to cut charters in was made after legal action was threatened if they were excluded. Palm Beach Post. The Hillsborough County School Board agrees to ask voters to increase the sales tax to raise money for capital expenses. The request now goes to the state, which has to perform a financial audit. Superintendent Jeff Eakins also said he was looking into asking voters for a property tax hike, which could be used for teacher salaries and programs. Tampa Bay Times. Lake County commissioners approve a special school safety tax, which will be on the Aug. 28 ballot. Money generated would help pay for resource officers in all schools. Orlando Sentinel.

Science textbooks approved: The Collier County School Board approves the use of new science textbooks that were challenged by evolution and climate change skeptics. The vote was 3-2, with Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter voting against using the recommended textbooks. Four people had lodged complaints against 220 items in 18 textbooks, alleging that they treat evolution and climate change as fact rather than theory. The new books will cost the district $1.7 million and will be handed out to students in August. Naples Daily News.

Testing and a charter district: The Jefferson County School District, which was turned over to charter school operator Somerset Academy last year, showed significant improvement in the Florida Standards Assessment and math end-of-course exams this year, but remains near or at the bottom among districts in passing rates. redefinED. The St. Johns County School District again ranked at or near the top in FSA proficiency. St. Augustine Record. Santa Rosa County 8th-graders ranked tops in the state in math on the 2018 FSA results, and Escambia showed some improvement, though school officials say its language arts scores for elementary school students remain a concern. Pensacola News Journal. Citrus County students scored at or above the state average in all but the biology 1 exams in the statewide and end-of-course testing. Citrus County Chronicle. Leon County students had mixed results on the FSA and end-of-course exams. Tallahassee Democrat. Lee County students showed little improvement in their test scores. Fort Myers News-Press.

Charter schools: Charter schools must continue to innovate, keep growing especially in areas where there are not many schools, serve more students including those with special needs, and defend its existing schools, National Alliance of Public Charter Schools president Nina Rees says at the group’s annual conference. redefinED. The Palm Harbor Charter School in Flagler County is closing Oct. 31. The school district had said it would terminate the school’s contract over its financial problems, poor academic performance and other issues. Flagler Live. The Osceola County School Board approves a contract with Florida Cyber Charter Academy to provide online education, despite concerns about the company’s performance. Osceola News-Gazette.

School security: The Volusia County Council says it will provide $500,000 to help put sworn resource officers into county schools. Previously, the school district had assumed all the security costs. This deal creates a split of 70 percent paid by the school board, 30 percent by the county. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Leon County School Board approves a deal with the sheriff to provide resource officers at 25 schools. Tallahassee Democrat. The Sarasota County School Board approves spending more than $600,000 for equipment needed to start its own police department. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Several Lake County cities are backtracking on their early pledges to help the school district pay for resource officers at schools. Daily Commercial. Even though the Duval County School Board has approved a plan to hire safety assistants instead of sworn resource officers to guard elementary schools, members continue to quarrel over the decision. Florida Times-Union. Lee County officials continue to squabble with Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers Beach city officials over chipping in to help the school district pay for school resource officers. Fort Myers News-Press. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is one of 12 state education leaders from around the country asked to identify “promising practices to stem the far too frequent incidences of school violence,” according to the Council of Chief State School Officers. Education Week.

Mental health services: The Polk County School Board tentatively approves a $2.4 million plan to increase mental health assessments, diagnoses, interventions and treatments for students. The plan would boost the number of mental health professionals to about two dozen and create intensive behavior units at Floral Avenue, Lake Shipp and North Lakeland elementary schools. Lakeland Ledger.

Discipline program: Broward County School Board members voice their support for the controversial alternative discipline program Promise, but with some changes. The program allows alternative punishment for students who commit minor offenses. Among the changes proposed: Students would be removed from the program if they commit a fourth offense, students would not get a reset on the number of offenses every school year, program data would be shared with law enforcement, and all incidents would be documented and reported to the state. Sun-Sentinel.

Detained children: Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the children of immigrants who are separated from their parents should have access to educational services. More than 1,000 of those children are in a detention center in the Miami area. He made the argument in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security. Politico Florida.

Displaced students: More than 230 students displaced from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by hurricanes Maria and Irma graduated from central Florida high schools this spring, according to data from the state. Of the 237 Puerto Rican high school seniors who enrolled in schools in Orange, Osceola or Seminole counties, 102 graduated with Florida diplomas, 85 with Puerto Rico diplomas, and 23 with other diplomas or certificates. Of the 32 high school seniors who came from the U.S. Virgin Islands, 20 received Florida diplomas and two got certifications of completion. Florida Politics. The 74. More than 500 Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islands students have applied to attend central Florida universities and colleges, which are offering them in-state tuition. Orlando Sentinel.

Partnership approved: The Volusia County School Board approves a partnership with Florida Hospital to provide health services and education in exchange for marketing rights. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Financial oversight: Members of the Manatee Citizens Financial Advisory Committee vote to appeal to the school board to reinstate the committee’s financial oversight of the district. Last week, the school board voted to narrow the committee’s authority to focusing solely on the receipt and disbursement of money generated by the approval of a property tax increase. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School officer honored: Marion County Sheriff’s Cpl. Jimmy Long is named the 2018 school resource officer of the year by the Florida Association of School Resource Officers and Attorney General Pam Bondi. Long, the resource officer at Forest High School in Ocala, was honored for his quick response to a shooting at the school April 20. Ocala Star-Banner.

Today’s topic, pythons: Teachers in southwest Florida are getting a crash course on the invasive Burmese python from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida so they can pass the knowledge to their students in the fall. WINK.

Personnel moves: Sharon Waite, principal at Lockhart Elementary School the past three years, is named principal at east Tampa’s Potter Elementary School. Other principals appointed in Hillsborough County are David New at Rodgers Middle, Roseanne Rush at Doby Elementary and Sarah Garcia at Lanier Elementary. Gradebook.

School board elections: Bobby Agagnina announces he’s running for the District 4 seat on the Seminole County School. Amy Lockhart is leaving the seat to run for the county commission. Orlando Political Observer.

School improvements: The Broward County School Board tentatively approves a proposal to add 24 classrooms to Northeast High School in Oakland Park. The work could add another $6 million to the $31.4 millions already committed for renovations. Sun-Sentinel.

School conversion: The Polk County School Board gives tentative approval to closing Gibbons Street Elementary School and replacing it in August with a preschool center that would house Head Start and VPK programs. Lakeland Ledger.

Board member challenged: A former state child protection investigator and supervisor starts a petition that calls for Gov. Rick Scott to remove Marion County School Board member Nancy Stacy for her “personal attacks” on Superintendent Heidi Maier and her “bullying” of county residents who question her. Ocala Star-Banner.

Decision on monitor: The Broward County School District’s director of human resources made the decision to suspend, not fire, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coach and monitor accused of sexually harassing students in 2017, says Superintendent Robert Runcie. H.R. director Craig Nichols decided to override a committee’s recommendation to fire Andrew Medina. Medina is the monitor who saw accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz enter the campus on Feb. 14, but did nothing to stop him or lock down the school. Sun-Sentinel.

Educators disciplined: A Walton County teacher has been fired and an aide suspended over allegations of abuse against special needs students at Freeport High School. The teacher, Terrica Carlock, was fired for making “malicious and intentionally false” accusations against several Freeport High employees. The aide, Kelly Woodworth, was accused of flipping a student’s desk with the student still in it. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Ex-coach sued: A 17-year-old girl and her parents are suing former Chiles High School volunteer coach Gary Kalvin Meyer for his “offensive contact” with the girl. She says Meyer smacked her on the read end at a flag football practice. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: After the 2017 congressional baseball shooting, we instantly increased security to protect members of Congress. So why are we so slow when it comes to the safety of our students? U.S. Rep Lou Barletta, TCPalm. Implementation of Florida’s new school security mandates is a colossal challenge. But the performance so far exemplifies a failure by the Manatee County School Board majority and superintendent in Government 101. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Nicole Pekarek, a pianist who just graduated from State College of Florida with high school and AA degrees, is given a gold cup award from the National Federation of Music Clubs. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff