Florida schools roundup: Schools closed, high ranking for Florida and more

Closing for storm: Schools in 28 of Florida’s 67 counties are shuttered today as Hurricane Michael moves closer to making landfall somewhere in the Panhandle. State officials say it could be the worst storm to ever hit that area of the state. Associated Press. Florida Department of Education. Panama City News HeraldPensacola News Journal. Tallahassee Democrat. Education WeekGainesville Sun. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-TribuneWFSU. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WLRN. WTSP.

High ranking for Florida schools: Florida is ranked third among the states in K-12 educational quality and No. 1 in educational efficiency, according to rankings by Reason magazine. The rankings are based on National Assessment of Educational Progress reading, math and science test scores. Reason’s rankings closely mirror those by Education Week, which recently ranked Florida fourth among U.S. states for K-12 achievement. “Overall, our results demonstrate that existing state education rankings aren’t to be trusted. When those scores are corrected, the conventional narrative is turned on its head,” say study authors Stan Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly. redefinED.

Mental health services: Providing the recommended number of mental health professionals for Broward County students and their families could cost $202 million, according to a district report presented to the school board. The recommendation industry ratios were provided by professional counseling and health organizations. “The recommended industry ratios are aspirational numbers,” says Superintendent Robert Runcie. “They are not even national averages.” But he and other school officials say they will make progress with the help of money approved by voters in August. Sun-Sentinel.

English language learners: Florida had the third-highest number of students who are English language learners between 2012 and 2014, according to a recent U.S. Department of Education report, but was not among those that met all the federal accountability targets. The report says Florida didn’t set target goals for students making progress in learning English, and that those students did not meet the federal objectives. Gradebook.

Computer sciences: Florida meets five of the nine policies that the Code.org Advocacy Coalition and the Computer Science Teachers Association say are critical in spreading instruction in computer science. The state has K-12 computer science standards, statewide computer science teacher certification, a statewide computer science supervisor, requires all high schools to offer the subject, and allows the subject to satisfy a core high school graduation requirement. But it doesn’t have a state plan for K-12 computer science instruction, provide state-level funding for professional learning of the subject, have state-approved preservice teacher preparation at colleges and universities, and doesn’t allow the subject to satisfy a core admission requirement for colleges or universities. Education Week.

Ongoing software problems: The troubled installation of a new business software system continues to plague the Manatee County School District. The school board is being asked to approve an additional $260,000 to complete the project, which is already $10 million over budget and a year behind schedule. The board will also consider the retirement requests from two people involved in the project: deputy superintendent Ron Ciranna and chief information technology officer Robert Malloy, who are both on leave while the district investigates what went wrong. Bradenton Herald.

Use of impact fees: Three Florida school districts have been criticized in state audits within the past year for the way they used impact fees. The Florida Auditor General’s reports on the Miami-Dade, Lake and Lee school districts say they erred in collecting impact fees in one year and using them to pay past debts. All three districts argued their use of the fees was proper, and they are supported by the Florida School Boards Association. “I can tell you that it is typical and normal for impact fees to be applied for debt service,” says Ruth Melton, director of advocacy services for the association. Fort Myers News-Press.

School security: Parents at an Orange County school for students who are disabled, have medical needs or behavior issues are protesting to district administrators about not having a fulltime resource officer at the school. A district spokeswoman says an officer from the in-house police department is assigned to the Magnolia School, but would not say how often that officer is on campus. “The kids at that school are so vulnerable,” says Chip Tolman, who has two children there. “I just don’t understand why an SRO officer has not been assigned to the school.” Orlando Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: The Volusia County School Board is one of the defendants in the lawsuit against the state teacher bonuses program, but school officials also would like to see an end to the Best and Brightest scholarships so it can give teachers raises. Negotiations on a contract are ongoing, with salary, length of the elementary school day and health insurance as the major issues. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Education and politics: More on the education platforms of Florida’s gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum. WMFE.

School board elections: Previewing the races for the District 1, 2 and 5 seats on the Brevard County School Board. Florida Today. Florida TodayFlorida Today.

Board member criticized: Marion County School Board member Nancy Stacy is under fire for Facebook comments defending convicted sex offender Bill Cosby. She wrote: “All U know what comes in my head is out my mouth! Tired of WHORES destroying men! Set Bill Cosby free, says ‘Mama Bear’ with sons!” Stacy later deleted the post and others and claimed they were designed to trick Internet trolls into identifying themselves online. Ocala Star-Banner.

New school: The $28.5 million renovation of Land O’Lakes High School is on schedule to be completed by next summer, Pasco County officials say, and plans are proceeding for similar projects at Zephyrhills High and Cypress Creek Middle-High in Wesley Chapel. Gradebook.

Power outage: Tuesday’s Manatee County School Board workshop and meeting was canceled when power to the offices was knocked out by a blown transformer. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Background check costs: The Polk County School District is postponing an increase in the rate that volunteers pay to get a background check performed. District officials are hoping to find a sponsor to cover the $70,000 a year cost of running checks on the 1,800 or so who volunteer in schools. If no sponsor can be found by January, the district will consider making volunteers will pay $40 for the check, up from the current $25. Lakeland Ledger.

School officer investigated: A school resource officer at Carwise Middle School in Palm Harbor retires during an investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office into sexual harassment allegations against him. Bernard D’Agostino, 52, is accused of touching a female employee without her permission, and making crude sexually suggestive remarks to her last month. Tampa Bay Times.

Substitute banned: The Seminole County School District bans a substitute teacher for his “nefarious” actions and comments to students. Paul Cooper, who is a candidate for the Seminole County Commission, is barred from entering any educational facility owned by the school board unless he has a child attending school. Orlando Sentinel.

Student arrested: A 15-year-old south Florida student believed to have mental disabilities is arrested for making threats against schools in Cocoa, Davie and North Miami Beach. WFTV. Florida Today.

Opinions on schools: As the topic of sexual assault becomes more prominent, it’s imperative that schools teach young men and women at earlier ages what it means to consent. They need to learn what it means to create safe and unsafe sexual environments. They also need to learn what the consequences are from those situations. Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Satellite High School in Brevard County is one of four national finalists for Tomorrow Tech magazine’s school of the year, which honors the best high school technician training program in the United States. The winner will be announced Oct. 29. Tomorrow’s Tech. Thirty-five Palm Beach County schools are among thousands nationally expected to participate in today’s International Walk to School Day. Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff