Florida schools roundup: Storm aid for schools unspent, opening day and more

Storm funds unspent: Florida received $84.5 million from the federal government to assist in the recovery of schools affected by the 2017 hurricanes, but hasn’t spent any of it, according to Jason Botel, principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. The grants were made through the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations program to help Florida schools, colleges and universities recover from hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Puerto Rico, hammered by Hurricane Maria, received the most at $589 million, while Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and the U.S. Virgin Islands also were awarded aid for natural disasters. Politico.

First school day: Reports from schools around the state, as more than 40 districts begin their school year. Sun-Sentinel. Orlando SentinelPalm Beach PostFlorida Times-Union. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay TimesLakeland Ledger. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Ocala Star-Banner. Gainesville Sun. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Citrus County Chronicle. WFSU. WTXL. The Escambia County School District adopts a policy that prohibits parents from walking their children into their classrooms after tomorrow. Pensacola News Journal. Flashing school zone signals in front of the now-closed Eagle Arts Academy confused Palm Beach County drivers on Monday. County officials say it will take a couple of days to deactivate the signals. Palm Beach Post.

School security: Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings says he needs to add 65 deputies and 10 supervisors to provide at least one officers at all schools. “Although these new positions will be employed as soon as possible at an estimated cost of $11.2 million, it will still take several months or longer to be fully deployed,” Demings wrote in a letter to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Orlando SentinelWKMG. Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast says he will sign an adjusted version of a contract to help the school district pay for school resource officers, and the district says it will puts plans to create its own police force on hold. Citrus County Chronicle. Officials at Omni Middle School in Palm Beach County ask for identification from every adult trying to enter the school Monday, even if they had children with them. Palm Beach Post. New security procedures cause backups at some Leon County schools. Tallahassee Democrat. The state’s new director of school security tours Sebastian River High School in Indian River County to check security improvements. “I want to see what’s out there, and what we need to do as far as campus hardening,” said Damien Kelly. He also toured schools in Brevard and Volusia counties. TCPalm.

School water testing: Hillsborough County school officials say they will speed up the testing for lead in the water at schools. Originally, officials said the testing would stretch through 2022. Then they said they would get to the 40 oldest schools by December. Now they say they will collect samples from every school by December. The district began testing schools in 2017 but didn’t acknowledge the testing or results until the end of July. Tampa Bay Times.

State’s suit response: A lawsuit asking that proposed constitutional Amendment 8 be removed from the November ballot does not meet the “heavy” burden needed to interfere with the amendment process, according to a court motion filed by an attorney for the Florida secretary of state. Critics say the proposal has a misleading title and summary that tries to hide its main purpose, which is to take the power to approve charter schools away from local school boards. The proposal also would set term limits for school board members and require civics education in schools. Gradebook.

Contract agreement: The Lake County School District and its teachers union reach a contract agreement that raises pay by about 3 percent. Some teachers would get more and some less, based on performance and other factors. District officials say the agreement will cost about $5 million a year. A union ratification vote is Sept. 5. If it’s approved, it would go to the school board Sept. 10. Orlando Sentinel.

Mental health services: A grant of $1.1 million from the state for mental health services for students will mean the addition of seven school psychologists and eight social workers to the Collier County School District’s district’s mental health staff, bringing the total to 31 psychologists and 16 social workers. District officials say increased demand around the state is making it harder to find qualified applicants. Naples Daily News.

Ethics challenge rejected: The State Commission on Ethics says it finds no evidence to pursue a case against Hillsborough County School Board members Melissa Snively and Lynn Gray. A disability rights activist filed the complaint that alleged Snively and Gray violated the state’s Sunshine Law. Gradebook.

Superintendent discipline: Gov. Rick Scott says he’s still considering whether to reprimand Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson. Two grand juries have questioned Jackson’s ability to lead the district after a child-abuse scandal that prompted charges against four school employees. Crestview News Bulletin.

Superintendent’s evaluation: Volusia School Superintendent Tom Russell receives mixed grades from school board members on his annual evaluation. Generally, the consensus of the board was that Russell is making reasonable progress in every category in which he was evaluated. But one message was clear — school grades must improve. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Medical pot in schools: The Escambia County School District is one of the few in the state that will allow parents to administer prescribed medical marijuana to their children on school grounds. The parents will be allowed to use school nurse offices, but are not permitted to store the medicine on school property. Pensacola News Journal.

Charter schools: Two charter school applications already rejected by the Palm Beach County School Board will get another look this week, after a court denied the board’s appeal to be allowed to reject them. The board can approve the applications for Renaissance Charter High School of Palm Beach and South Palm Beach Charter School or file further appeals. Sun-Sentinel.

Education and technology: The Marion County School District is using “tardy kiosks” in classrooms, where late students must sign themselves in and receive a printed tardy pass. “As a result, district staff members are spending more time focusing on students and less time concerning themselves with inefficient attendance procedures,” Kristi Miller, a district applications specialist, wrote in Education DiveEdTech.

Board member’s clarification: Broward County School Board member Donna Korn says her recent comment calling the past year the Broward district’s best ever was taken out of context and was directed at the performance of the county’s school principals. “I was congratulating our leaders who work extremely hard to educate our children,” Korn said in the release, which was sent out by fellow board member Rosalind Osgood. “This was in no way a comment on the state of security within our schools or to overlook the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.” WLRN.

School board elections: A candidate for the District 4 seat on the Lee County School Board is arrested and accused of burglary with assault or battery. Police say Louis Navarra, 73, was asked to leave a party he was not invited to, then returned an hour later and tried to solicit votes. When ordered to leave, he shoved a partygoer. Navarra says he’s staying in the race. Fort Myers News-Press. A Leon County School District administrator running for a school board seat who was not endorsed by the teachers union fires off an email from his district account to the union to complain. Ricky Bell, director of student activities and athletics, says, “I guess I got my feelings hurt.” Union president Scott Mazur says he’s concerned about the use of school equipment for political purposes. a possible violation of district policy. Tallahassee Democrat.

Personnel moves: Robert J. Gagnon, who was considered for the principal’s job at St. Petersburg High School before questions about his background were raised, is appointed assistant director of school leadership for the Pinellas County School District. He will work to boost student performance at the district’s low-performing schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Schools annexed: The Stuart City Commission unanimously votes to annex three Martin County schools. The school district had requested the annexation, with the hopes that it could save money by having Stuart police officers patrolling schools instead of sheriff’s deputies. Now inside the city limits are Martin County High School, Jensen Beach High and Felix A. Williams Elementary. TCPalm.

Parent sues district: A Boca Raton mother is suing the Palm Beach County School District, alleging that her then 8-year-old son was abused by a substitute teacher at Waters Edge Elementary School in 2016. Jill Testa says the teacher asked her son to stop talking, and when he didn’t she shoved him into a door and covered his mouth and nose with her hand. WPTV.

Court upholds district: A federal appeals court upholds the Miami-Dade County School Board’s disciplinary action against two administrators who were trying to convert their public school into a charter school. News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: An innovative agreement between the Polk County School District and Polk State College shows promise on fighting the chronic teacher shortage. Lakeland Ledger. The resurgence of Catholic schools in Florida can be attributed to the state’s school choice scholarship programs and an appreciation of the academic rigor, character education and positive outcomes that solid research shows Catholic schools deliver. Thomas Halfaker, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: The Alachua County School District expands its free meals program to 14 more schools, and now all but four county schools will offer free meals to all students. WUFT.

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BY NextSteps staff