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Florida schools roundup: Security, school board elections, grades and more

School security: As the Palm Beach County School District’s police force welcomes a new chief, the previous two chiefs are still on the payroll. Frank Kitzerow was hired as the new chief last week, but the outgoing chief, Lawrence Leon, will remain in the department for at least another year and Jim Kelly, who preceded Leon, has been hired back as a consultant. Also to be sorted is how the district will provide armed officers in all schools. The expanded 160-member police force is at least 75 officers short of covering all schools, and the sheriff has refused to make deputies available on overtime. Palm Beach Post. The mother of one of the students killed in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is being reassigned to the job of director of school safety and security. April Schentrup, mother of Carmen, has been principal at Pembroke Pines Elementary School. Sun-Sentinel. Sheriff’s officials don’t believe the state mandate requiring an armed officer in all schools applies to summer school, but will provide some coverage. Citrus County Chronicle. The Monroe County School District is proposing to upgrade mental health services to students by hiring two fulltime social workers, expanding a contract with the Guidance Care Center to provide more mental health counselors, and reinstating a Medicaid specialist to seek reimbursements for services. Key West Citizen.

School board elections: School board races are set at districts around the state: Broward County, Miami-Dade, Palm BeachPalm Beach, Seminole, Orange, Lake, OsceolaPinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Brevard, Lee, Sarasota, ManateeManatee, LeonAlachua, Marion, Volusia, Flagler, St. JohnsMartin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Collier, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, OkaloosaMonroe, Citrus. Duval County School Board chairwoman Paula Wright will challenge incumbent Kim Daniels in the Democratic primary for the District 14 seat in the Florida House. Florida Times-Union.

School grades: Grades for the state’s K-12 schools could be released as early as this week, though Florida Department of Education officials will only say that grades will be released this summer, and no specific date has been set. Last year the grades were released June 28. The grades will determine if some persistently low-performing schools will be closed, turned into charter schools or turned over to an outside operator. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Civics requirement: About 80,000 recent Florida high school graduates attending college in the fall will have to demonstrate some knowledge of American history and democracy to earn a college diploma because of the state’s new “civics literacy” law. But the availability of courses and tests designed to meet that mandate may hinge on what colleges or universities students attend. Orlando Sentinel.

Taking credit: Sarasota County Superintendent Todd Bowden says the addition of 18 assistant principals is in part responsible for students’ improved Florida Standards Assessments and end-of-course test scores this year. Teachers were critical of Bowden’s statement, with union president Pat Gardner saying it was a “slap in the face to every teacher in Sarasota County” and Barry Durbin, another union official, calling it “a strange thing to do. If you’re going to give credit, you give it to those first who work with the students. Do I really need to tell the superintendent of schools that?” Bowden’s decision to add those administrators also has become a campaign issue, with some candidates criticizing the district’s “top-heavy” organizational structure. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Hiring at high-need schools: Improving the performance of students at 50 struggling Hillsborough County schools will start with finding the best possible teachers for those schools. “We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult,” says Minerva Spanner-Morrow, chief of diversity for the district. Administrators say hiring the best teachers is the first step in pushing better and more services to the schools with disadvantaged children. They’re following a new district policy to confront “the institutional racism that results in predictably lower academic achievement for students of color.” Tampa Bay Times.

School cancer cluster? At least 20 graduates of Satellite High School in Brevard County who have been diagnosed with cancer wonder if the proximity of the school to Patrick Air Force Base and the chemicals used there are at least part of the cause for their illnesses. They suspect fire-extinguishing foams may have leaked into the local water table. State and federal scientists are investigating whether there is a cancer cluster or whether the incidences of the disease are coincidental. Authorities say such studies are complex, time-consuming and often inconclusive. Florida Today.

Online education: Online learning is growing quickly in Alachua County. Alachua eSchool began in the 2012-2013 school year with 10 teachers and 120 students in grades 6-12. Last year those numbers grew to 40 teachers, 30 fulltime elementary students and more than 4,000 middle and high school students. Florida high school students are required to take at least one online course before graduation. Gainesville Sun.

Personalized learning: A new report suggests a lack of creativity and innovation on the part of school districts is a barrier to the implementation of personalized learning in schools. The report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education found that many teachers are embracing new approaches to engage their students, but that those teachers were often left on their own to define what personalized learning means and what problems it was intended to solve. That makes it harder to establish consistent schoolwide approaches. redefinED.

Career academies: Three new career academies will be open to Santa Rosa County students this fall. A hospitality and tourism academy will be established at Gulf Breeze High School, Milton High will have a business and entrepreneurship academy, and Jay High will be home to a building construction academy. Pensacola News Journal.

Personnel moves: Jesus Jara, a former deputy superintendent for the Orange County School District who was recently chosen as superintendent for the Clark County School District in Nevada, hires two administrators from his former district. Diane Gullett, an area superintendent in Orange County, will be the deputy superintendent in Nevada. Jennifer Cupid-McCoy, most recently a principal at Freedom High School in Orlando, will be Jara’s chief of staff. KVVU. Las Vegas Review-Journal.

School start times: The Okeechobee County School Board decides to delay a decision on changing school start times. Board members asked Superintendent Ken Kenworthy to get more feedback from principals in the district, and report back for the January meeting. Okeechobee News.

Land sale rejected: The Flagler County School Board will hold off on selling a 7.44-acre property in Palm Coast until the value goes up. The board bought the land in 2001 for $3.5 million, but the latest offer was for just $2.5 million. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live.

Busing dispute: The St. Johns County School District is canceling bus service from a neighborhood to the K-8 Liberty Pines Academy because the county has built a sidewalk the students can use. The neighborhood is about a mile from the school, and districts generally don’t provide transportation unless students live 2 miles or more from schools. Parents in the St. Johns Forest neighborhood say the walk is still dangerous. WJXT.

Power ranking proposal: The Florida High School Athletic Association is working on a proposal to do away with district designations for seven high school sports and introduce a power ranking system to set classification levels. If adopted at the September meeting, the plan would take effect in the 2019-2020 school year. Fort Myers News-Press.

Ex-teacher pleads guilty: A former Duval County teacher pleads guilty to transporting images depicting child sexual abuse over the Internet, and faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Jeremy Scott Clark, 44, was a math instructor at First Coast High School in Jacksonville when he was arrested in March. He was fired in June. WJXT. WOKV. Florida Times-Union.

Administrator’s book review: Manatee County school officials are reviewing a book written by Skip Wilhoit, the district’s safe schools, dropout prevention and student intervention specialist, whose responsibilities also include bullying prevention and character education. The Man Code was written and self-published in 2007, and contains observations on homosexuality, feminine men and women’s breasts. Superintendent Diana Green says the review will weigh Wilhoit’s past work in the district as well as the book’s contents. Bradenton Herald.

Intervening for student: Monroe County Superintendent Mark Porter and Key West High School principal Amber Acevedo ask a judge to sentence a June graduate to work release instead of prison for his part in a 2017 home invasion and assault. The request was denied, and Isaac Archer, who pleaded no contest to the felonies, will spend 364 days in jail. Archer was a football star whose mother works for the mayor. He was allowed to finish his senior year. Keynoter.

Opinions on schools: As Alachua County schools seek new ways to close an achievement gap, making sure that all students have quality facilities needs to be part of the effort. Students should be inspired to learn by their schools, not forced to dodge leaks to do their assignments. Gainesville Sun. The Marion County School District still has a reading problem among elementary students, but things are starting to improve. Marion County Superintendent Heidi Maier, Ocala Star-Banner. I believe district and charter school educators should join forces to raise a stronger voice for quality public education. Marsha Edwards, Florida Politics. The 1 mill tax has allowed Marion County schools to return to a full complement of instruction. And now, with the added cost of school security hammering every Florida district, the tax is needed more than ever. Ocala Star-Banner. What our schools need from the Marion County School Board right now is leadership and vision, not name-calling and vindictiveness. Brad Rogers, Ocala Star-Banner.

Student enrichment: Ten students from the Tampa Bay area compete in the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo in Dearborn, Mich. 83 Degrees. Bay News 9. The 80-member marching band from Somerset Academy in Pembroke Pines will march in the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C., on July 4. WSVN. Students apply STEM skills to golfing at a Florida Gulf Coast University camp. WINK.

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BY NextSteps staff