Florida schools roundup: Rules for new scholarships, charters, taxes and more

New rules for scholarships: The Florida Board of Education approves rules for two new scholarship programs created by the Legislature. The Hope Scholarship gives students who are victims of bullying, intimidation, sexual offenses or violence the opportunity to ask for a transfer to another public school or to receive a scholarship to a private school. Students may apply in October. The scholarships for struggling readers in 3rd through 5th grades who don’t pass the state test will be open for applications next month. Both are administered by Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and also helps administer the state’s tax credit and Gardiner scholarship programs. redefinED. News Service of FloridaOrlando SentinelGradebook. Politico Florida.

Charter rejections reversed: The Florida Board of Education also overturns the Palm Beach County School Board’s rejection of two charter schools’ applications. Board members followed the recommendation of the Charter School Appeal Commission, which said the school board did not have good cause to reject the applications from the South Palm Beach Charter K-8 school and Renaissance Charter High School. Sun-Sentinel. redefinED. The board also approved, with conditions, turnaround plans for struggling schools in several Florida districts. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Times-Union.

Tax hikes for raises: The Miami-Dade County School Board will ask voters in November for an increase in property taxes to give teachers and other employees a pay raise, and to hire additional security personnel for schools. If approved, the tax would raise about $232 million a year for four years. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is proposing that 90 percent of the money raised be used for salary hikes, which could mean pay raises of up to 20 percent for some teachers. Miami Herald. WLRN. The Palm Beach County School Board unanimously decides to ask voters in November to approve higher property taxes. If approved, the measure would generate an additional $200 million a year for four years, which the district would use for higher teacher salaries, school security and mental health counseling, and to maintain its arts, music, physical education, career and technical education programs. The measure does not set aside a set percentage for charter schools. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel. Members of the Bay County Citizen’s Oversight Committee tour schools as they consider security upgrades and future half-cent sales tax projects. Panama City News Herald.

School security: The city of Deltona informs the Volusia County School District that it won’t help pay for armed guardians at the nine elementary schools in the city. Meanwhile, the school district is still looking to hire two more guardians. Forty-one guardians will be trained by the time school starts next month, and until the rest are ready law enforcement officers will staff three schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Alachua County School Board will pay about $2 million more for school resource officers than it did last year, after reaching agreement with the sheriff’s office on sharing costs. WUFT. WCJB.

Common start times: All Orange County high schools would start at 7:20 a.m. every day when schools resume next month, under a proposal the school board will consider July 31. All middle schools will start at 9:30 a.m., and most elementary schools at 8:20. Alternative schools and elementary schools required to offer an extra hour of instruction can have different schedules. District officials say aligning start times helps them better manage school bus schedules. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter school growth: Passage of constitutional Amendment 8 in November could lead to an explosive growth in charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools, some critics worry. The amendment would remove the power to approve charter schools from local school boards and put it in the hands of the state. Georgia is the only state that allows a statewide charter schools commission to review applications, but its growth in the number of charter schools has been modest – 3 or 4 a year. Georgia has only 80 charter schools, while Florida has 650-plus. Florida Phoenix.

Superintendent honored: Pinellas County School Superintendent Michael Grego is named the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education superintendent of the year. The number of industry certifications earned by Pinellas students has gone from 2,022 in 2011-2012 to 12,915 in 2017-2017. Tampa Bay Reporter.

Personnel moves: New principals are named at two Hillsborough County schools. Marisa Brody, former assistant principal of Cannella Elementary, is named principal of Dickenson Elementary; and Rebecca Thoms, former assistant principal of Bevis Elementary, is now principal of Bevis. Gradebook. Tracy Bowers, the principal at Wewahitchka Elementary School in Gulf County, is moving into administration to handle assessment and testing duties. He replaces Duane McFarland, who will take over at the adult school. Bowers will be replaced as principal by Billy Hoover. Port St. Joe Star.

Superintendent’s evaluation: The Sarasota County School Board’s evaluation of Superintendent Todd Bowden reflects the division of the board. Three members gave Bowden scores of 3, 4 or 5 in all nine categories, while two gave Bowden scores of 1, 2, “not acceptable” or “developing” in each of the categiories. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Early learning candidates: Four finalists for the role of CEO of the Early Coalition Center of Polk County are chosen. One is Marc Hutek, an assistant superintendent for the Polk County School District. Lakeland Ledger.

School board elections: Candidates for the District 2 seat on the Hillsborough County School Board discuss the district’s reading problems, use of long-term substitutes, the district’s finances and more. Gradebook. Pasco County School Board candidates talk about rezoning, teacher pay and more. Gradebook.

Water testing at school: Crews are drilling monitoring wells near two Brevard County schools to test groundwater for contaminants that could cause cancer. The school district is also testing water from those schools and 11 others for the presence of chemicals associated with fire extinguishing foams. The tests were ordered after an oncologist questioned an elevated number of cancer cases in alumni and staff at Satellite High School. The school is near Patrick Air Force Base, where the foam was frequently used. Florida Today.

Testing troubles: Some Franklin County 8th-graders who passed the state’s algebra 1 testing requirement through the PERT assessment will have to do it again. The school district misunderstood the date by which the state would no longer accept PERT results. “All students that passed the PERT and are affected by this new law were notified of the error and have been offered additional instructional support,” according to district officials. Apalachicola Times.

District grade appeal: The Franklin County School District is appealing its grade of “incomplete” from the state. The Florida Department of Education issued the grade because the Franklin County School PK-12 school did not test 95 percent of the students, as required. Franklin officials say a vendor neglected to turn in seven students’ scores, which would have pushed the district above the required percentage. WOYS.

Charter school closing: One of three Hillsborough County alternative charter high schools for students who are behind in credits and at-risk of dropping out is closing. The Accelerated Learning Solutions management group, which runs all three, says it is closing Town and Country Charter High School because of low enrollment. Gradebook.

School repairs: Hillsborough County’s Williams Middle Magnet School is getting a new air-conditioning system that’s expected to be completed before school starts next month. The cost was more than $7 million, and the district has another 40 or more schools that also need new A/C systems. WFLA.

Notable deaths: Carolyn Harris Nelson, a longtime guidance counselor at St. Petersburg High School, died recently from a rare neurological disease. She was 73. Tampa Bay Times.

Principal put on leave: A Leon County elementary school principal is put on administrative leave after he reported that he had a romantic relationship with a teacher at his school. David Solz has been the principal at Gilchrist Elementary School since 2009. The relationship is a violation of the district’s code of ethics, say school officials. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher reinstated: Krissy Gentry, a teacher at Port St. Joe Elementary School who was suspended in April after accusations ranging from use of a cell phone in the class to gross insubordination, is reinstated. Port St. Joe Star.

Opinions on schools: The League of Women Voters in Florida was right to challenge a seriously misleading constitutional amendment proposal in court. Amendment 8 is a stealth amendment to remove local control of charter schools, which would be a blatant and inexcusable legislative takeover of home rule. Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Zachary Hessler, a student at Gifford Middle School in Vero Beach, is one of 10 finalists who will compete in the America’s Top Young Scientist competition sponsored by Discovery Education and 3M. Hessler has developed a way to use light technology to reduce noise pollution. TCPalm. Traci Bratcher, a 1st-grade teacher at Pelican Marsh Elementary School in Naples, publishes a children’s book telling the true story of a baby eagle’s fight for survival. Naples Daily News. Kids Read, a summer program sponsored by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, is helping boost 82 Sarasota County 1st- and 2nd-graders to grade-level reading. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff