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Florida schools roundup: Sexual consent video, kindergarten issues and more

Sexual consent video: Seniors at the Pine View School in Sarasota County recently were shown what district officials call an “inappropriate” and “unsuitable” video on sexual consent without getting approval from the administration. The Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center has apologized, saying a counselor made the decision knowing it had not been approved. The group’s 15-plus-year relationship with the district has been suspended until the incident has been investigated. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Kindergarten readiness: Hillsborough County typically has the most elementary schools on the Florida list of 300 lowest-performers. So district officials are happy to learn that kindergarten readiness, as measured by I-Ready assessments, is up to 50 percent from 46 percent last year. “That’s a good jump, because we’ve been flat-lining or even dropping a little bit over the last three years,” says Superintendent Jeff Eakins. Kindergarten readiness is considered a crucial step in improving reading efficiency in elementary schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Kindergarten homework: Should kindergarten students have homework? And if they do, how much? Delilah Orti, whose daughter Mia was in kindergarten in the Miami-Dade County School District last year, said her daughter got a weekly homework packet with 25 worksheets with work on phonics, spelling, reading comprehension and social studies. “I felt that it was inappropriate for that age,” said Orti. “What she was getting for homework was more busywork.” Education experts agree. Guidelines call for just 10 minutes per night per grade level, starting in 1st grade. Education Week.

Tax revenues up: The 10-year penny increase in the sales tax to raise money for schools and municipal governments may end after nine years because more is being collected than expected. The tax, which began in January 2017, was expected to raise $2.7 billion over 10 years. A provision in the vote requires the tax to end once that much is collected. The school district has received $214 million through July, which is 12 percent more than projected from its half of the extra penny. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher honored: Lauren Pantoja of Chasco Middle School in Pasco County is named the state’s 2018-2019 secondary school literacy coach of the year by the Florida Literacy Association. Tampa Bay Times.

School closing opposed: Parents whose children go to Hudson Elementary School in Pasco County are gearing up to protest against the superintendent’s recommendation to close the school in 2021. Principal Dawn Scilex says she was shocked by the news. “There’s a lot of history in this school,” Scilex says. “It is important to this community. The community pours into us, and we pour back into the community. … There’s definitely going to be implications.” Gradebook.

School security: Southwest Florida schools have reported at least 20 instances of trespassing on campuses in 2018, according to school and law enforcement officials. WINK.

Services for students: The Hernando County School District’s Parent Academy, located on the campus of Fox Chapel Middle School in Spring Hill, offers free services for parents to learn about the school district and promote collaboration among families, schools and the community. Tampa Bay Times.

Schools of excellence: Crawfordville Elementary School and Wakulla High School were recently designated as Schools of Excellence by the Florida Department of Education. Schools earn the designation by exceeding 80 percent of the points required and by earning a school letter grade of A for at least two of the past three years. Wakulla News.

Board members sign off: Rodney Walker spent 32 years as a guidance counselor for the Okaloosa County School District and another 24 as a school board member. The 81-year-old is retiring this month after deciding not to run for re-election.  “I think it’s time for new ideas and fresh ideas,” he says. Northwest Florida Daily News. After 24 years on the Charlotte County School Board, Lee Swift chose to retire rather than run for re-election. The 70-year-old is the longest continually serving member in board history. Charlotte Sun.

School bus safety: After a series of incidents involving school buses across the country, Collier County deputies conduct an operation Monday and ticketed nine drivers for not stopping for a school bus with flashing red lights and an extended crossing arm. Naples Daily News.

Juuling concerns in schools: Flagler County school officials say they are seeing more students using juuls, which is an electronic nicotine delivery system. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared it an epidemic, and has started a prevention campaign aimed at students ages 12 through 17. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher arrested: A former Leon County teacher is arrested and accused of sending sexual messages to a student through social media. Casey O’Brien, 33, who taught for seven years at Chiles High School in Tallahassee, had been placed on administrative leave in August for sending “inappropriate messages” to a student. He faces charges of obscene communications and use of a computer to seduce a child. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: As the autism spectrum expands to include more diverse behaviors, it’s vital that students have as many education preferences as possible to find the best fit. States that lead in providing varied choices to families with autism aren’t just doing the righteous thing. They also are making themselves a more desirable place in which to live and invest. Scott Kent, redefinED. The Pinellas County School Board is losing decades of institutional knowledge while welcoming three newcomers who will bring new ideas and different perspectives. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff