Florida schools roundup: Review ended, private schools, lead in water and more

Shootings review halted: Broward County school officials are suspending a retired FBI agent’s investigation into the actions of school employees during the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. The reason given is to avoid duplication with the investigation by the state-appointed safety commission. “We recognize that the staff is continuing to recover from this tragedy,” the district’s statement said. “To avoid asking them to participate in duplicate interviews and to streamline the process, the district has decided to suspend its internal review, and give priority to the (state commission’s) investigation.” Sun-Sentinel. WPLG.

Private school enrollment: Private school preK-12 enrollment is up in Florida for the seventh straight year, according to a report from the Florida Department of Education. The 370,116 students at 2,650 schools was an increase of 0.5 percent, which is the slowest rate of growth since the 2010-2011 school year. Florida Tax Credit Scholarships and McKay Scholarships for special-needs students account for 42.5 percent of private-school enrollment. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the state’s tax credit, Gardiner, Hope and reading scholarships. redefinED.

Water contamination: Cancer-causing chemicals have been found in groundwater in three wells tested in Satellite Beach. The low-level contamination is thought to stem from the use of fire-extinguishing foams from nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Wells near Satellite High School, Sea Park Elementary School and city hall were tested after concerns were raised about cancer clusters in alumni and staff from Satellite High. A community meeting will be held Sunday to discuss the results. Florida Today. Several members of the Hillsborough County School Board are unhappy that they weren’t notified earlier about the district’s testing of water in 50 schools over the past year. Lead was found at 21 of those schools. Deputy superintendent Chris Farkas apologized, saying, “We always want to get better, and one thing I don’t think we did very well was notify staff.” Gradebook.

District budgets: The Hillsborough County School Board tentatively approves a $3.012 billion budget that includes hundreds of job cuts, the elimination of courtesy busing, cutting back on lighting when schools are closed and more. Tampa Bay Times. Pasco County School Board members will discuss next week whether to share revenue from local property taxes for capital projects, even though it is not required to under the state law that exempts districts with high construction debt ratios. The question came up when Dayspring Academy, the county’s oldest charter school, asked for some of the funds for maintenance and security. Gradebook. Monroe County School Board members approve a budget of $108 million, which is $2.1 million more than last year’s. Key West Citizen.

Charter terminated: The Palm Beach County School Board votes unanimously to terminate the contract for the Eagle Arts Academy charter school, which has a declining enrollment and financial situation. The school once had 700 K-8 students, but that dwindled to 250 at the end of the last school year. Board members say they were appalled that the school quit paying teachers and rent even as it was receiving payments from the school district. Palm Beach Post.

School security: Three fulltime Bradenton Police Department officers and two part-timers will be assigned to guard city schools under an agreement between the Manatee County School District and the department. Bradenton Herald. The Palm Beach County School District swears in nine new police officers, and police chief Frank Kitzerow says every county school will have at least one armed guard when schools open Aug. 13. Sun-Sentinel. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna outlines the plan for security at all district schools. School resource officers from the sheriff’s department will be at all schools outside Tallahassee, while the other 17 elementary schools and the Gretchen Everhart School will be staffed by off-duty deputies and Tallahassee police officers. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. The Hillsborough County School District is adding front entrance buzzers at all schools this fall, officials say. WTSP. The Escambia County School District has spent $3 million on security measures such as metal detectors, building entries and new ways to communicate in emergencies. Pensacola News Journal. Here’s what new in school security for Lee County schools. WINK.

Surplus shuffle: Dozens of Duval County teachers still do not know where they’ll be teaching when schools resume. The problem is that teacher value-added measure scores from the state have yet to be delivered to the district. The scores are based on test performances by each teacher’s students. The district needs the scores to comply with state rules that limit the number of low-scoring teachers who can be assigned to struggling schools. Union officials have told teachers assigned to those turnaround schools to be prepared to change schools on as little as two days’ notice. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher pay issue settled: Fifty-six teachers at Santa Fe High School will be compensated for time they were required to work in the past year during their planning periods. Officials at the Alachua County school used the teachers for 30-minute tutoring sessions called the “power hour.” Union officials called the requirement a violation of their contract with the district, which has agreed to pay up to $96,000 to the affected teachers. Gainesville Sun.

School board elections: A candidate for the District 1 seat on the Clay County School Board touts her experience as a teacher, but records show she left the district in 2014 while being investigated for testing irregularities. Latanya Peterson was a 10th-grade English teacher at Sandalwood High School when she was accused of violating a testing agreement that states: “I understand that during testing I may not do anything that would cause the achievement of the students, teacher, or school to be inaccurately measured or reported.” Clay Today. A candidate for the Pasco County School Board says he gave up his teaching job to run. But district records show Kenny Mathis was on the verge of being fired for misuse of work time, unprofessional interactions with students, interference with a district investigation and lying to district officials before he resigned. Mathis says he was targeted by a principal who didn’t like him. Tampa Bay Times. Sarasota County School Board candidates voice their support for arts programs in the schools during a community forum. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: Michelle Wier is named principal at FSW Collegiate High School-Charlotte in Punta Gorda. She had been an assistant principal at Lemon Bay High School. Charlotte Sun.

Back-to-school dates: Here are the starting dates for schools in northwest Florida. WKRG.

Offer made for old school: A developer who plans to build a Marriott hotel in Leesburg makes an offer of $725,000 for the old Dabney Elementary School. School officials welcome the offer, and say the money from the sale would go into capital improvements or the land acquisition fund. Daily Commercial.

FHSAA classification changes: The Florida High School Athletic Association is considering sweeping changes in the way it classifies athletic programs in the state and crowns champions in seven team sports. Teams would be classified into six divisions based on how they performed in the two previous years. The new rules would apply for volleyball, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, softball and baseball. St. Augustine Record.

Pons investigation ends: The FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement end their investigation of former Leon County school superintendent Jackie Pons without bringing any charges. Pons was accused of steering school construction contracts to campaign donors in 2014, according to the FDLE. Pons claims the accusations were manufactured by his political enemies, including current Superintendent Rocky Hanna. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.

After-school problems: The Manatee County School District restarts an investigation into the role of a school principal in problems documented at the after-school program at Southeast High School, which was run by the Boys & Girls Club of Manatee. The director of the program, Wendell Faison, was fired earlier in the year for making sexually inappropriate remarks to a student. His wife, Southeast principal Rosa Faison, allegedly required all student-athletes to sign in for the program, but did not require them to stay. The county is threatening to withhold $34,000 unless the club can verify attendance. Bradenton Herald.

Players accused of rape: A former employee at Spruce Creek High School says that she was raped by at least one and as many as four members of the school’s football team in May. The players, who are 17 and 18, say the sex with the woman in her early 20s was consensual. She resigned June 5, citing personal reasons. New Smyrna Beach police are investigating. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School threat earns jail time: Duviel Gonzalez is sentenced to 6 months in jail for threatening to shoot up Marathon Middle High School just three days after the massacre in Parkland. Gonzalez, 20, is a graduate of the school. Keynoter.

Opinions on schools: To fully stop bullying, the culture of schools needs to change so it is no longer acceptable by students and teachers. Schools need resources to implement effective anti-bullying prevention programs. Hold bullies accountable, but do not criminalize youthful behavior and disagreements. Pre-arrest diversion programs are successful for first-time offenders. Graduated sanctions can be applied if the pattern continues. Roy Miller, Ocala Star-Banner.

Student enrichment: A GoFundMe campaign set up by a teacher has raised almost $90,000 to help a gay Jacksonville high school graduate attend Georgetown University. Jane Martin, a biology teacher at First Coast High, set up the campaign for Seth Owen, who was the class valedictorian, after his parents threw him out of the house for being gay. Florida Times-UnionMiami Herald. The American Institute of Architects Miami Chapter starts a program to encourage middle and high school students, primarily African-Americans, to consider a career in architecture. Miami Herald.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff