Florida schools roundup: Superintendent of the year, H.B. 7069 lawsuit and more

Superintendent of year: Malcolm Thomas, leader of the Escambia County School District, is selected as Florida’s superintendent of the year by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “He’s a visionary, and above all there’s never any question in anybody’s mind where is heart is, and that is in the classroom,” says State Sen. Bill Montford, executive director of the association. Thomas was first elected superintendent in 2008, then re-elected twice. He’s retiring when his term expires in 2020, and the Escambia superintendent position will then become an appointed one. Pensacola News Journal. Gradebook.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: In a court filing, the state disputes the contention of 11 district school boards that a 2017 education bill is unconstitutional. The boards allege that H.B. 7069 illegally takes authority from local boards to approve charter schools, and exempts some charter schools, called “schools of hope,” from regulations public schools must follow. The law was upheld by a circuit judge last spring, which prompted appeals from boards in Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Orange, Pinellas, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia counties, and a separate appeal from the Collier County board. News Service of Florida.

Technical education: The Florida School Boards Association intends to expand its legislative priorities by adding a focus on career and technical education. The other four priorities are enhanced student safety, expanded mental health services, improved funding and greater support for teachers. Gradebook. Frank Brogan, once lieutenant governor of Florida and now an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education, gets a mixed reception during a speech to state superintendents and school board members. He challenged them to have the guts to change public education, but his audience questioned how they could do that when their resources keep getting chipped away by charter schools and vouchers. Gradebook.

After the storm: Bay County school officials say Tyndall Elementary School, closed since Hurricane Michael hit the area Oct. 10, will reopen Dec. 10. One building at the school was so damaged that it can’t be used again, but principal Kimberly Kirkman says lower school enrollment is expected to make that a nonissue. Panama City News Herald. The Bay County School District is planning a spirit day sometime in January, with special t-shirts saying “Bay District Schools #850Strong” being issued to every student. Panama City News Herald.

Sales tax oversight: Fifty-nine people have applied to be on the committee that monitors how the Lee County School District spends the money it will collect from a voter-approved sales tax increase. Fifteen members and two alternates will be chosen Dec. 11 by the school board and Superintendent Greg Adkins. The 10-year tax hike is expected to generate about $59 million a year, which will be used for school construction, renovation, maintenance, safety and technology. Fort Myers News-Press.

Grant for teacher training: The University of Florida College of Engineering receives a $5 million grant to develop a training program for future science, technology, engineering and math teachers in grades K-9 in 11 school districts. The districts are a mix of urban and rural counties and high- and low-achieving districts: Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Hardee, Hendry, Okeechobee, Glades, DeSoto, Highlands, St. Johns, Sarasota and Manatee counties. Gainesville Sun. University of Florida.

Notable deaths: Eugene A. Poole, a Marion County civil rights activist who helped push for school desegregation and served on the boards of the Florida Council on Vocational Education and the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, has died at the age of 81. Ocala Star-Banner. Chad Choate Sr., the principal at Manatee High School from 1975-1991, has died at the age of 87. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District considers attorney: Clay County School Board members are considering hiring former board attorney Bruce Bickner to replace David D’Agata, whose last day is Dec. 21. Bickner resigned the job in 2013 after being threatened with termination by former superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. Clay Today.

Private school sued: A former principal at Changing Lives Academy in Orlando is suing the private school, alleging it ignored an allegation of child abuse, then fired him for trying to dismiss the teacher and report the allegation to authorities. Orlando Sentinel.

Election complaint dismissed: A complaint alleging that Sarasota County School Board candidate Karen Rose violated state elections law has been dismissed as “legally insufficient” by the Florida Elections Commission. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Arrest in gun incident: A man who pointed a gun at a student in the parking lot at Hernando High School is arrested and charged with trespassing on school grounds, possessing a firearm on school grounds and aggravated assault. Robert Browsky, 67, told deputies he was angry because a student sped past him in a truck as he was walking his dog. Tampa Bay Times.

Ex-bookkeeper accused: Typhani Butler, former bookkeeper at Braden River High School in Manatee County, is accused of embezzling more than $27,000 from the school between August 2014 and February 2018. Bradenton Herald.

School threats: A 9th-grader has been taken out of Citrus High School for the rest of the week or longer after leaving a threatening note on campus, according to school officials. No arrests have been made, and the sheriff’s office is investigating. Citrus County Chronicle.

School bus hit by car: Nine students from the Learning & Literacy Academy in Winter Haven are treated and released after their school bus was hit by a car. The students, between the ages of 8 and 15m were sent to the hospital as a precaution. The driver of the car was cited for careless driving. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: I’m a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Although almost 10 months have passed since the Feb. 14 shooting, we are still broken, and we are still trying to heal. Katherine Posada, Sun-Sentinel. Solutions to parental disengagement in their children’s education have to be a top priority for the new Alachua County School Board. James F. Lawrence, Gainesville Sun. It’s time for high school counselors, teachers and parents to start thinking about courses – including math and science – their students will take next fall. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Six Osceola County schools are among the 643 statewide selected as Schools of Excellence by the Florida Department of Education. The designation gives principals greater autonomy and exempts schools from some state regulations. Osceola News Gazette. Thirty-one students from Alachua County schools are chosen for all-state ensembles in bands, choruses and orchestras. WCJB. Bhaktivedanta Academy, a Montessori school in Alachua County, receives a $2,900 grant from the Toshiba America Foundation that it will use to buy life-size anatomy and physiology models for its science classroom. Gainesville Sun. Fifteen Lake County music teachers will receive $5,000 grants from the national music education nonprofit Little Kids Rock and Niagara Bottling’s charity initiative Niagara Cares. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff