Florida schools roundup: School choice, teacher pay, school report and more

More choice, accountability: At its first meeting, Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ education transition team urges more school choice for Florida students, more information about those choices for parents, expanded personalized learning options and increased accountability for schools. “We’re moving from school choice to informed, high quality school choice,” says Kim McDougal, former chief of staff and education adviser to Gov. Rick Scott. “The closer we can get to individualizing education for each child, the more success we will see,” says Marva Johnson, chair of the Florida Board of Education and co-chair of the transition committee. The group meets again Dec. 19 and 28. Gradebook.

Teacher performance pay: A bill is introduced in the Legislature that would end state restrictions on the way public school teachers get paid. Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, wants districts to be able to decide if they want to use the performance pay plans, instead of forcing them to, and to end a prohibition on using advanced degrees as a criteria when making salary schedules. “The way you pay teachers should be done at the local level,” says Plasencia, who calls the current model “flawed” and “rigid.” Gradebook.

Panel amends report: Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission agree Thursday to ratchet up their criticism in their report of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office’s response during the Parkland school shooting Feb. 14. School deputy Scott Peterson has been the target of most of the criticism since the massacre, but the report also has harsh words for the actions of several others. Sheriff Scott Israel says he won’t resign. Sun Sentinel. As Broward school and law enforcement officials review the report by the panel, which includes support for arming teachers and other school staff, some parents express concern about how guns will be safely stored in schools. Miami Herald. Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, says he’s open to adopting the proposal to arm teachers with concealed weapons. Associated Press. Broward law enforcement agencies may soon have access to live surveillance videos in schools. WLRN.

Costs of repairing schools: Repairing just three Bay County schools damaged by Hurricane Michael in October is expected to cost more than $35 million, according to a contractor’s report for school officials. The cost to repair Merritt Brown Middle School is estimated at $19 million. Bay High School’s costs will be about $9 million, and Rutherford High School’s about $7 million. Panama City News Herald.

Contract negotiations: Teacher evaluations is a sticking point in negotiations between the Pasco County School District and its teachers union. The sides will meet again before deciding whether to declare an impasse. Meanwhile, the union for noninstructional workers rejects a 2 percent pay raise offer, and asks for 2.5 percent. Gradebook.

Ethics complaint dismissed: The Florida Commission on Ethics dismisses a complaint against Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend made by a school counselor. Laquita Johnson-Looney, counselor at Southwest Elementary School, accused Townsend of corruption after he criticized her and her husband, Tenoroc High School principal Jason Looney, of ethics charges. Lakeland Ledger.

Educators honored: Jeannine Meis, a world history teacher at Leon High School in Tallahassee, is named the Leon County School District’s teacher of the year. Tallahassee Democrat. Sarasota Military Academy Prep civics teacher Todd Brown wins the innovation award from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, and several other teachers were cited for their teaching approaches. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teaching observations: Holly Mickler, Pasco County’s teacher of the year, talks about ignoring all the talk around education to focus on teaching students. Gradebook.

School bus cutbacks: Polk County school officials want to end the busing of students who live within 2 miles of their schools. More than 1,500 students would be affected, and the change would save the district about $130,000 a year. Lakeland Ledger. St. Johns County parents prepare for a Florida Department of Administrative hearing to fight district changes to busing and bus routes. WJAX.

Code of conduct changes: The Charlotte County School Board will consider changes in the student code of conduct that would make spoken or written threats a zero tolerance offense, just as bringing weapons to schools is. Charlotte Sun.

Early education: Software problems are causing problems for some child-care and preschool centers across the state. Glitches in new software installed at the Florida Office of Early Education have operators of those centers questioning if they’re receiving the right amount of money. Some have had to dip into personal savings or take loans to keep their businesses going. A spokeswoman for the agency acknowledges the computer problems, and says it’s working to get things straightened out. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Threats to schools: Bomb threats are called into and emailed to schools and other places in Florida and around the nation. After investigating, authorities call it a “nationwide hoax.” Associated PressTampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tallahassee Democrat. Northwest Florida Daily News. Two Flagler County students are arrested and accused of making plans for a school shooting. The students, 13 and 14, were overheard discussing the plans on a school bus. WJXT.

School hate crime: Two Flagler County students could face hate crime and misdemeanor assault charges after allegedly threatening a black teacher at Flagler Palm Coast High School. Flagler Live.

Pellet gun seized: Officials at Conniston Middle School in West Palm Beach confiscate a pellet gun from a student’s backpack. The student faces disciplinary action. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Imagining a principal’s letter to parents about arming teachers in schools. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Protecting students in schools and access to social media are not mutually exclusive. Kaylee McNitt, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: The Hillsborough County Commission approves a $100,000 grant for the Florida Orchestra and University Area Community Development Corporation to provide after-school music lessons to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Tampa Bay Times. Vivian Gonzalez, a music teacher at the Miami Arts Studio 6 – 12 at Zelda Glazer, receives a $4,000 grant from the Give A Note Foundation for her work to attract students to music education. Miami Herald. Preschool students at the Global Learning Academy are surprised with free bikes, courtesy of the Pensacola SubWest Rotary Club. Pensacola News Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff