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Florida schools roundup: Task force findings, cop talks, term limits and more

Security task force: Almost four months after 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a Broward County school safety task force recommends 100 ways to improve security for schools. Among them: installing portable metal detectors at Stoneman Douglas this fall and considering them for all schools, putting coverings over windows in doors, keeping classroom doors locked at all times, increasing the height of all outdoor fences, requiring ID badges for all students and staff, and reviewing the Promise program, which was created in 2013 as a way to offer alternatives to arresting students. The committee members also joined local officials in calling on the Legislature to boost funding for school safety. Sun-Sentinel. Miami HeraldWSVN. Politico Florida. WLRN.

A cop reflects: Scot Peterson, a Stoneman Douglas resource officer who did not enter the building where confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz was killing 17 people on Feb. 14, is haunted by that day, at times justifying his decisions (“How can they keep saying I did nothing?”) and at times questioning them (“Why didn’t I know to go in?”). He has considered changing his name or moving out of state, but knows there’s no escaping the infamy. “It’s haunting,” Peterson says. “I’ve cut that day up a thousand ways with a million different what-if scenarios, but the bottom line is I was there to protect, and I lost 17.” Still, he believes there is little or nothing more he could have done. Washington Post. Parents of students killed at Stoneman Douglas express outrage at Peterson’s comments. “I’m tired of him trying to paint himself as the victim,” says one, Fred Guttenberg, the father of 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg. “He is not a victim. He created victims. He keeps referring to them as his kids. They are not your kids, Scot Peterson! You let them die!” Miami Herald.

School board term limits: Supporters of the constitutional amendment that would restrict school board members to two terms are starting a campaign to promote it. A political committee called 8 is Great has been formed, and is being fronted by Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds, Duval board member Scott Shine and Indian River board member Shawn Frost, who have all said they aren’t running for re-election. Amendment 8 would also require civics literacy in schools and allow the Legislature to create public schools that wouldn’t answer to local school boards. Sixty percent of voters would have to approve the measure for it to become part of the constitution. Gradebook. Florida Politics.

School security chief: Six finalists are chosen for the the job as police chief of the Palm Beach County School District, including the current chief. Lawrence Leon, who has been in a version of the job since 2012, is a finalist for the expanded job. Others are Jupiter Police Chief Frank J. Kitzerow Jr., Boynton Beach assistant chief Vanessa K. Snow, Riviera Beach acting assistant chief Leonard B. Mitchell, Metro Nashville School District police major Jason L. Overbay, and Northern Arizona University Police Chief Kelli J. Smith. The school board is expected to make its choice June 20. Palm Beach Post.

School security meeting: Three of five Sarasota County School Board members say they can’t find an agreeable date before June 19 to attend a public meeting about the district’s decision to create its own police department. But board chairwoman Bridget Ziegler says she’ll go ahead and meet June 12 with local law enforcement leaders, Superintendent Todd Bowden and the district’s head of security. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Students’ registration drive: Students from Stoneman Douglas High School are taking bus tours around the country this summer to encourage young people to register to vote. About two-dozen students split into two groups leave June 15 for 60 days. One group will make 27 stops in Florida, and the other will visit 50 cities in 20 states. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida.

Union memberships: About a dozen local teachers unions around the country are dissolving their associations with state and national unions in an effort to keep members who are expected to soon be given the freedom to opt out of memberships by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s decision in the Janus case is widely expected to end mandatory dues. Local unions hope teachers who feel disconnected from the politics of the national unions can be convinced to stay with the local unions to deal with issues specific to them. The 74.

Charter school grilled: Lake County School Board members express skepticism about a company that wanted to open a Montessori charter school in Lake County this fall. Questions were raised about Innovation Montessori Parkside Charter’s ability to support itself financially, and about its below state average math scores. Daily Commercial.

Teacher honored: Paul Fournier, a master sergeant and instructor in the Junior ROTC program at Bay High School in Panama City, is one of two teachers worldwide who are named Air Force JROTC instructors of the year. Panama City News Herald.

School board drama: Hillsborough County School Board member Lynn Gray charges in an email that a majority of the board – April Griffin, Susan Valdes, Cindy Stuart and Sally Harris – have resorted to personal attacks against the other three members as a way to win votes. “There is nothing I can do until hopefully new and trustworthy board members get elected,” she wrote. Gray later said she planned to apologize at today’s meeting, because the squabbling has taken attention from urgent district problems. Gradebook.

School board elections: Pinellas County School Board member Terry Krassner has filed papers to tun for re-election for her District 2 seat on the board. There are now 14 candidates for four seats on the August ballot. Gradebook.

Superintendent’s contract: The Lee County School Board today will consider a three-year contract for Superintendent Greg Adkins. The contract calls for a 13 percent pay raise – from $185,000 to $209,000 – but does not include a clause from an earlier draft that would have made it harder for the board to fire Adkins. Fort Myers News-Press.

Personnel moves: Craig Ham, deputy superintendent for operations of the Marion County School District, is retiring June 30. Ham, 72, had said he would retire later in the year, but he’s having back surgery and isn’t sure how long it will take him to recover. His position will not be filled, according to district spokesman Kevin Christian. Ocala Star-Banner.

Reading test scores: Hernando County 3rd-graders improved slightly this year in reading on the Florida Standards Assessments. Sixty-two percent scored at a Level 3 or higher, a boost by a percentage point over last year. Gradebook.

No charges in rape allegations: Miami-Dade County prosecutors will not bring charges against three students accused of raping a 14-year-old several times in bathrooms at Carol City High School late last year. “The victim’s inconsistent statements about what happened to her did affect the state’s ability to file charges against the suspects,” making it difficult to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors wrote in a report. Miami Herald.

Coach not retained: Eric Hill, a teacher and swim coach at Boca Raton High School, will not return to the school in the fall. Hill is under investigation for an alleged misdemeanor battery case. Hill, 41, had been at the school 15 years. Sun-Sentinel.

Teachers caught in act: Two Heights Elementary School teachers are caught having sex in a classroom in May, according to a Lee County school report. Justin Pinto, a first-year teacher still under probationary status, was fired. Samantha Wilhide, who has been a teacher four years, has been reassigned to the administrative offices until a disciplinary hearing is held. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: It seems only fair that the Florida Education Association decided the Legislature deserved to be covered with the same sauce it has for years been ladling on public schools – grades for its members’ performances. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics. I am proud that the Florida Education Association is standing up to legislators who do not take their commitment to public schools seriously. Brevard teachers union president Dan Bennett, Florida Today. The Lee County School District has cut costs on such things as energy management and refinancing bonds and raised revenue by selling naming rights and outdated equipment, putting itself in position to prove it is as financially responsible as possible as it asks voters to increase the sales tax to raise money for schools. Lee County School District CFO Greg Blurton, Naples Daily News. Catholic leaders should argue that schools participating in Florida’s tax credit scholarship program and other state scholarship programs be regulated by an accreditation scheme similar to that which has helped make the state’s Catholic schools so successful. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Florida is engaging in a double standard of epic proportions. Our traditional public schools are micromanaged by the Legislature to an absurd degree, while private schools take advantage of taxpayer largesse with virtually no accountability. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: A journalism class at Don Estridge Middle School in Boca Raton scores an exclusive interview with actor Paul Rudd, who plays Ant-Man in the movies. It helped that his nephew Kyle Rudd is in the class. Palm Beach Post. Students at the Learning Gate Community School in Lutz get frequent nature lessons right outside their doors, on the woodsy 30-acre site of the charter school. redefinED. The Manatee County School District’s summer meals program, called Summer BreakSpot, is providing free meals to any child under the age of 18. Bradenton Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff