Florida schools roundup: ESSA, restraints, budget, tax hike and more

ESSA criticism: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ approval of Florida’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act is called a “disappointment” by advocates who wanted the state to test English language-learners in their native languages and to have those students’ results included into the state’s larger accountability system. More than 10 percent of the state’s K-12 students are considered English-learners, and in some parts of the state the percentage is as high as 25 percent. Education Week. Gradebook.

Use of restraints: The number of times restraints have been used on students with special needs by the Hernando County School District has soared from 19 in the 2014-2015 school year to 153 in 2017-2018, according to district records. Cathy Dofka, the head of the district’s Exceptional Student Education department, had planned to cut the use in half two years ago. She blames the lack of qualified special education teachers for the increase. According to the state, Hernando ranks in the middle of Florida’s districts in the use of restraints. Tampa Bay Times.

Education budget: Congress passes an appropriation bill that provides $71.5 billion to the U.S. Department of Education for the 2019 fiscal year. The bill increases funds for career and technical education by $95 million, for charter schools by $40 million, for special education grants by $87 million and academic achievement grants by $70 million, and raises the maximum Pell Grant award by $100, to $6,195 . T.H.E. Journal.

Tax hike vote Q&A: Questions and answers about the Palm Beach County School Board’s property tax hike referendum to pay for higher teacher salaries, school resource officers and improved mental health care at schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Advisory committee squabble: While the Manatee County School Board approved the charter for the Citizens’ Financial Advisory Committee, which is overseeing spending of the money generated by a voter-approved property tax hike in March, one board member remains unhappy. Dave Miner did not like the charter written by the committee, and offered his own. Then he accused the chairman of the committee, Robert Christopher, of questioning his intentions. Bradenton Herald.

Teachers honored: Teachers of the year are named for all 72 Volusia County schools. They’ll compete for the district’s 2020 teacher of the year award, which will be announced Jan. 18. The winner will then be considered for the Florida teacher of the year award. Nicole Grebosz, who teaches technology at Citrus Grove Elementary in DeLand, is the district’s 2019 teacher of the year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Personnel moves: Tracy Bonnett, the assistant principal at Shady Hills Elementary School in Pasco County, is named principal at Mary Giella Elementary School, effective Oct. 3. She takes over for George Papaemanuel, who is taking a job in the district office. Gradebook.

School board elections: Two teachers, David Grimm and Johanna López, are running for the District 2 seat on the Orange County School Board. The winner will replace Daryl Flynn, who has been on the board since 2006 but decided against running for re-election. Orlando Sentinel.

Teachers arrested: A charter school teacher in Hillsborough County is arrested after allegedly sending explicit text messages to a 14-year-old student last summer. Sheriff’s deputies have charged Scott Robert Wilson, 36, a teacher at the K-8 Learning Gate Community School in Lutz, with distributing obscene material to a minor. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. A Duval County teacher is arrested and accused of stealing prescription drugs from a coworker. Deputies say Kristin Albert Regier, 36, a teacher at Mandarin Middle School in Jacksonville, is charged with theft of controlled substances worth more than $300. WJAX. WJXT.

School threat: An envelope containing a threatening message and a powdery substance was delivered to Groveland Elementary School on Thursday. Preliminary tests indicated the substance was not a biological threat. Federal authorities are investigating. WKMG.

Train hits school bus: A train clips the back end of a Duval County school bus as it crosses railroad tracks in Jacksonville. No students were aboard the bus. One of the three adults on the bus suffered minor injuries. WJAX. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: If you have any religious convictions, you will understand why the Cambridge Christian School faithful continue to pursue a lawsuit against the state for denying the use of a stadium public address system to conduct a pregame prayer. And if you have any trust in the law, you will understand why they must lose. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. When a teacher took a stand against the public school’s grading policy that she thought was wrong, and it cost her her new teaching job, it was another version of someone picking up his or her marbles in the middle of a game and going home. The real victims were the 8th-graders she abandoned. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. With teachers across the state beginning to agitate for better pay, a study that puts Florida as one of the worst states for teachers amounts to a powerful argument that change is needed if our schools, our students and our state are to keep pace with the rest of the nation. TCPalm. American families have deep misgivings about the conduct of public schooling,especially the modern practice of standardized testing. We should aspire to a schooling system that is a good deal more than providing test-prep custodial care for the advantaged before they move on to more genuine educational experiences after school. Jay P. Greene.

Student enrichment: Rafe Cochran, an 8th-grader at Palm Beach Day Academy, uses a golf tournament to raise enough money for his nonprofit, Food for the Poor, to build two schools in Jamaica. Sun-Sentinel. Students from Indian Trails Middle School in Winter Springs got to ask questions of U.S. astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor as part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program. Orlando Sentinel. The Leesburg Elementary School library begins a drive to find 100 books reflecting the cultural diversity of students for each of its 46 classrooms. Daily Commercial. About 450 Lee County students apply principles of STEM education by studying golf. Naples Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff