Florida schools roundup: No metal detectors, district blamed and more

No metal detectors: Plans to put metal detectors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when school resumes Aug. 15 have been put on hold. “As we continue our due diligence to implement the program — consulting with vendors and experts and reviewing turnkey solutions — many issues have been raised that require the District to pause and have a more thoughtful discussion on policy and procedural aspects of this pilot,” Superintendent Robert Runcie wrote in an email to parents. District officials are still trying to work through the details on the kind of equipment needed, how to staff the detectors, how to get 3,300 students through the metal detectors in a timely fashion and maintaining student privacy. Parents had heard rumors that the use of detectors was being suspended, and quickly mounted an email campaign to Runcie with the message: “Time is of the essence. Please do it now.” Seventeen people, including 14 students, were shot to death at the school on Feb. 14. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Associated Press.

School shooting developments: A consultant’s report concludes that the Broward County School District stripped accused Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz of the therapeutic services provided for special-needs students, then did not follow through when Cruz asked to return to the program. Because of those mistakes, the report says, Cruz had no counseling or special education services for the 14 months before the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. On Friday, a judge ordered the report released with redactions to protect Cruz’s privacy rights, but the blacked-out portion of the report became visible when copied and pasted into another computer document. Sun-Sentinel. WPLGNew York Times. Capt. Jan Jordan, the Broward sheriff’s district commander who was in charge of the office’s response to the Parkland shootings, has been replaced by Capt. Chris Mulligan. Jordan was transferred to the sheriff’s administration team in June. Parkland city officials had asked that she be replaced. Sun-Sentinel.

Amendment 8: The group suing to have constitutional Amendment 8 removed from the November ballot is asking a Leon county judge for a summary judgment, arguing that the wording in the proposal hides the true intent and mirrors language that the Florida Supreme Court has previously decided violates the law. If the judgment is not granted, the case will be heard Aug. 17. Gradebook. Members of the Duval County School Board will consider at Tuesday’s meeting whether to officially oppose constitutional Amendment 8, which would allow charter schools and other types of schools to be approved by an entity other than local school boards, limit terms for school board members and require civics education in public schools. Florida Times-Union.

School hit for back pay: The Belen Jesuit Preparatory School of Miami is ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay 461 summer camp employees $635,269 in back pay, and is hit with a $47,578 fine for violating child labor laws. School officials say they won’t fight the back pay order but will contest the fine. Labor officials say the school required camp counselors to undergo 16 hours of unpaid training, and worked almost 100 of the counselors more than 40 hours a week without paying them overtime. Miami Herald.

Drinking water safe: Tests show that the drinking water is safe in 13 schools on Brevard County’s barrier island, according to district officials. Traces of one chemical, perfluorobutanoic acid, was found in those samples. The highest level, 12 parts per trillion, was found at Satellite High School, which is well under the maximum containment level in states that have set those standards. School officials say the water there will be retested. Space Coast Daily. Florida Today. Brevard County officials meet with cancer survivors Sunday night to discuss findings from water tests near schools and in the community. Florida Today.

Bright Futures boost: A projected 46,000 Bright Futures medallion scholars will get a significant boost in aid when schools resume. A law passed by the Legislature bumps aid for those students to 75 percent of tuition and fees, up from 50 percent. And those students may now use the scholarships for summer classes. The top tier of students, known as academic scholars, get 100 percent of their tuition and fees covered. News Service of Florida.

Public records challenge: An advocacy group that filed a suit against Sarasota County School Board members for not complying with public records law is now saying it was coerced into filing the suit by a paralegal. The paralegal, Michael Barfield, claims that two of the three board members of Transparency for Florida authorized the suit. All three board members deny that, and are asking a court to dismiss it. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers fail test, fired: Nine teachers in Escambia County and seven in Santa Rosa County have been fired because they could not pass their Florida Teacher Certification Exams. The problem is a statewide one, with a reported 1,048 teachers being fired since Aug. 1 because they couldn’t pass the test. Pensacola News Journal.

Teachers needed: One week before schools in Marion County reopen, the district needs to fill more than 90 teaching positions. The district hires about 300 new teachers every year. Ocala Star-Banner.

Principal autonomy: Robin Brown, the principal at West Riviera Elementary School in Palm Beach since 2018, attributes the improvement in her school’s grade from D to B to the new state autonomy program that gives some principals more flexibility and greater authority over staffing, the curriculum and the budget. redefinED.

Turnaround plans: The St. Johns County School District is rated the best in the state, but still has schools that need help. Osceola Elementary School’s grade from the state dipped from a B to a D this year, and district officials are working on plans to provide extra help for the school and two others that also received lower grades. St. Augustine Record.

Charter school squabble: The Polk County School Board and the Lake Wales Charter Schools are at odds over Lake Wales High School’s request to add students. Board members note that the school’s waiting list includes 120 students who live in Lake Wales and should get first consideration. School officials say they gave students who live in Lake Wales preference for five weeks before accepting students who live outside the city. The board approved the school adding 120 students, and school officials pledged to accept as many new Lake Wales students as they can who show up this month but have not applied to the school. Lakeland Ledger.

Divide among teachers: Younger teachers are more open to school choice than older teachers, prefer 401K programs to traditional state pensions and are more concerned about school funding equity, according to a survey from Educators for Excellence. Florida Phoenix.

New school: Clay County’s first school to concentrate on focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math in its daily curriculum opens Aug. 14. Discovery Oaks Elementary School, which expects 750 students, also is the first school the district has built in eight years. Florida Times-Union.

Mascot choices narrowed: Five names are chosen from 118 submitted as mascot finalists for North River High School in Manatee County, which is scheduled to open in August 2019. Select middle school students will choose a mascot from the finalists of Bulls, Moccasins, Ospreys, Otters and Rattlers. Bradenton Herald.

Personnel moves: Carl McAloose, the former athletic director at Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College, is named athletic director at Fort Myers High School. Fort Myers News-Press.

App used for payments: Officials at the Boulware Springs Charter School in Gainesville are using an app that helps them reduce paperwork associated with organizing field trips, school-related activities and dealing with money. The app, called Script, was developed by the IT director at a multi-campus charter school in Pasco County. Gainesville Sun.

No apology from superintendent: Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna says he “did what I thought was right” in helping an FBI investigation into a corruption accusation against former superintendent Jackie Pons, even though the FBI declined to pursue charges. Pons is demanding a public apology from Hanna. Tallahassee Democrat.

School bus crash: A school bus crash in Broward County sends 18 people, 14 of them students, to the hospital with minor injuries. The bus was one of seven carrying hundreds of South Florida middle and high school students to a mission trip with West Pines Community Church. Miami Herald. Sun-Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: In good-news schools, teachers regularly send notes about positive gains or special abilities of students. As a result, parent involvement is strong. Students have positive views of school and believe that the teachers like them. Parents try to participate in school events, and teachers are happy because they receive respect. Robert Lange, Orlando Sentinel. The 3-year-old preschool class at the C. A. Weis Elementary Community Partnership School was on the verge of closure earlier this year due to lack of funding. And then Achieve Escambia stepped in. Holly Magee, Pensacola News Journal. As teachers, we need to be able to lock our classroom door. Jennifer Tomlinson, Fort Myers News-Press. The Sarasota County School Board should not deprive itself of the option to simply part ways with a superintendent who lacks the confidence of a majority of its elected members. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Improving student reading takes a community effort. Marion County Superintendent Heidi Maier, Ocala Star-Banner.

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BY NextSteps staff