Florida schools roundup: Jewish schools on alert, survivors speak out and more

Jewish schools on alert: Leaders of Jewish schools in Florida are on high alert after 11 people were shot to death Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue. The shootings are a reflection of the 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. “It is a wake-up call,” says Chaim Botwinick, principal at Hebrew Academy Community School in Margate. “We need to slowly step up our ability to start educating our society on the impact that racism has on our society.” The Legislature set aside $2 million for security at Jewish day schools earlier this year, and has been asked for another $2 million in the 2019 session that begins in March. redefinED. Chalkbeat.

Parkland survivors speak: Twenty-seven survivors of school shootings in the United States since 1946 show the scars the attacks left, and talk about their experiences. The cover photograph is of a shirtless Anthony Borges, showing his surgical scars while wearing a colostomy bag. The 15-year-old was shot five times Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. New York Magazine. Sun-Sentinel.

Help after hurricane: The Bay County School District is holding a job fair today to hire child-care workers to tend to the children of teachers and other school employees. Panama City News Herald. Pasco County School District is donating 20 used school buses to the Bay County School District, which was hard hit by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10. Gradebook. Independent Florida bookstores are partnering with the Department of Education and the Florida Education Foundation to raise money so schools damaged by Hurricane Michael can restock books in their libraries and classrooms. Capital Soup. Sunshine State News.

Returning to school: Students at Sneads High School in Jackson County return to school for the first time since Hurricane Michael struck, exchange their stories from the past three weeks and declare that they’re ready for some normalcy. Tallahassee Democrat.

Transgender guideline: Two Sarasota County School Board members and a parent want to add language to the recently released guidelines governing the treatment of transgender students to require parental consent for any student who wants a school to change his or her preferred gender pronoun or use a bathroom that does not correspond to their birth gender. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Educators honored: Bill McElroy, principal of the Professional Academies Magnet at Loften High School in Alachua County, is one nine educators honored with principal leadership awards from the nonpartisan research organization Florida TaxWatch. The others: Tracy Bowers, Wewahitchka Elementary, Gulf County; Kristina Alvarez, Alexander Elementary, Hillsborough; Rhonda Williams, Barbara Hawkins Elementary, Miami-Dade; Mike Fantaski, Addie R. Lewis Middle, Okaloosa; Karen French, Ferrell Middle Magnet, Hillsborough; Mason Clark, Golden Gate Middle, Collier; Paula Evans, Professional and Technical High, Osceola; and Victoriano Rodriguez, International Studies Charter, Miami-Dade. Gainesville Sun. Florida TaxWatch. Cory and Chantella Moore, sibling physical education teachers at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, are named the best P.E. teachers in the state by the Society of Health & Physical EducatorsWFTS.

Contract negotiations: Volusia County teachers and the school district resume contract negotiations today. It’s the 10th time they’ve met, with pay and the length of the elementary school day the key issues. Last week the school board approved a contract with support staff such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers that calls for a 3 percent raise and a $350 bonus. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Politics in schools: Pasco County School District officials are reminding high school principals that instructional time during the school day may not be used for political activity. “Although I appreciate our students involving themselves in the political process, their involvement needs to occur after school hours and/or on the weekend,” Superintendent Kurt Browning wrote in a memo to school leaders. Gradebook. The parent of a St. Augustine High School student is concerned about the politically charged wording of a question on a vocabulary test. The question reads: “Right when it appeared the nation was becoming increasingly tolerant of alternative lifestyles, immigration, and minorities, the vocal and angry right wing forced the nation to make a complete ________, embracing bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism.” District spokeswoman Christina Langston says, “The school’s administration was not aware of the content of the test specifically, and have addressed this internally.” WKMG.

Grant for school program: The Franklin County School District will receive a grant of $2,327,322 from Triumph Gulf Coast as part of the settlement from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The district will use the money to hire teachers and provide curriculum materials for a technical training center at Lively Technical Center, build a welding facility at the Franklin County School and build a computer lab at the Apalachicola Bay Charter School. WOYS.

Sports playoffs changes: The Florida High School Athletic Association approves a plan that reduces the number of classes in seven high school sports from nine to six, ends mandatory district play and introduces computer rankings from the private company MaxPreps to help choose playoff teams. The sports affected are boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball. The changes begin in the 2019-2020 school year. Florida Times-Union. Daily Commercial. Naples Daily News.

Concern about teacher: Parents of students at Middleburg Elementary School in Orange Park express concern about the transfer to the school of a teacher with a history of mental health issues. Three weeks ago, the teacher doused himself with gasoline and threatened to kill himself after a romantic breakup. Clay County School District officials say the teacher was cleared to work after a psychiatric evaluation. WJXT. Teacher credentials and their history in a classroom can be checked online through a Florida Department of Education database. WJXT.

Threats against schools: A 67-year-old Tallahassee man is arrested and accused of making bomb threats against three Leon County schools. Blake Hairston is charged with false report of planting a bomb or an explosive device. Tallahassee Democrat.

Students arrested: A 19-year-old student at Pembroke Pines High School is arrested and accused of threatening to shoot his enemies. “I’m going to go to the pawn shop, buy a sniper (rifle) and shoot my enemies from the recent past,” Jeremy Ossa said during class, according to police officers, Ossa says he was joking. WPLG. Sun-Sentinel. A 17-year-old junior at Palm Beach Central High School is jailed after his arrest for allegedly threatening to shoot students at Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee. Palm Beach Post.

School bus crash: A Polk County school bus with 43 students on board crashed into a car Monday near Lakeland. One student was treated at the scene for a head injury. WFLA.

Horses shocked at school: Four Miami-Dade police horses were shocked by exposed wires during a training exercise at Booker T. Washington High School. The horses are expected to recover. Utility officials are investigating. WTVJ.

Opinions on schools: Why do we put up with pay for teachers that is far less than the pay in Europe? Only those in the military are respected more than teachers, and yet the average pay for teachers has dropped in the last decade and teachers are earning less now, after inflation adjustments, than they did in 1990. Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Students at Fletcher High School in Jacksonville resurrect the school newspaper, the Northeaster, which had been dormant for years. Florida Times-Union. Veterans of the Vietnam war speak about supporting and defending the Constitution to 740 students in 37 classes at 13 St. Johns County schools. St. Augustine Record. Students at the Big Pine Academy Charter School in Big Pine Keys raise $1,387.08 through lemonade stands, bake sales and competitions among the school grades to help Cape Fear Center for Inquiry in Wilmington, N.C., recover from Hurricane Florence. WECT.

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BY NextSteps staff