Florida schools roundup: Schools of Hope, Corcoran reaction, security and more

Schools of Hope: The Florida Department of Education is looking for a financial partner to provide loans to build charter schools near persistently struggling, traditional public schools. The partner would oversee the $100 million “Schools of Hope” loan program that was passed by the Legislature in 2017. The DOE expects to provide two loans a year to charter schools to build in areas where traditional public schools have received grades of D or F from the state for three consecutive years. Politico Florida.

Corcoran reaction: Reaction to the report that former House Speaker Richard Corcoran could be named the education commission by Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis draws strong reactions for and against the appointment. Former Senate president Don Gaetz says Corcoran, a fellow Republican and a staunch supporter of school choice, would become “the most disruptive education reformer in our state’s history.” Fedrick Ingram, the president of the state’s biggest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, says “Richard Corcoran may be the worst possible candidate to lead Florida’s Department of Education.” Gradebook. Orlando Sentinel.

Graduation security: Security may be upgraded for 2019 high school graduations at the South Florida Fairgrounds in Palm Beach County, district officials say. Providing metal detectors and searching bag would add $100,000 to the $300,000 graduation budget. All but five high schools hold their ceremonies at the fairgrounds, and they are also working on upgrading security. Palm Beach Post.

School security plans: Damien Kelly, director of the state’s newly formed Office of Safe Schools, says he’s been working with school districts on prevention, intervention and emergency preparedness planning. “The bulk of my time so far has been dealing with law enforcement to develop plans in the event of an active shooter on one of our campuses,” he says. WKMG.

Early education: The Association of Early Learning Coalitions is lobbying the Legislature to change the test that is used to measure whether preschool students are ready for kindergarten. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Legislative agenda: Hernando County school officials are asking their legislative delegation for $2.3 million to replace old computers for students, help in finding a way to allow busing of students who live within 2 miles of their schools and changes or the end to certification exams for teachers. Gradebook.

Charter schools: Today, Hillsborough County School Board members will consider applications from two Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM) charter schools. The elementary and combined high school-middle schools would each house about 300 students, and are asking for five-year contracts. Gradebook.

Board legal counsel: The Pasco County School Board will vote today on a one-year renewal of the contract it has for legal representation. The McClain Alfonso law firm would receive $5,533 a month to cover meetings and other general services, plus $200 an hour for additional work by board-certified attorneys. Gradebook.

Report on administrator: The former principal at Crystal River Middle School was suspended and then reassigned to a teaching position after a district investigation concluded that he had an inappropriate relationship with a special education specialist at the school. Charles Brooks was assistant principal at the school at the time of the relationship. He’s now a special education teacher at Citrus Springs Middle School. Citrus County Chronicle.

Guns and schools: The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office waited a day to arrest a 67-year-old man who pointed a gun at a student in the Hernando High School parking lot on Nov. 27 because their stories conflicted and deputies wanted to consult the state attorney and get a warrant. Tampa Bay Times. A 20-year-old woman is arrested for allegedly taking a gun onto the Eustis High School campus in Lake County and threatening to shoot a student. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Student arrested: An 18-year-old Florida Virtual School student is arrested for making a social media threat against her former school, Gibbs High in St. Petersburg. Patch.

Arrests in school vandalism: Three teenagers are arrested and accused of spray-painting racist and obscene messages at Leto High School in Tampa. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Dispute over comment: Parents of students at the Valley Ridge Academy middle school in St. Johns County say the district is not taking seriously a boy’s threat to rape a 10-year-old girl after a dispute over a seat on the school bus. District officials say they view the comment as inappropriate, not a threat. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: The dispute between Pinellas County teachers and the school district is a battle over classroom autonomy. It’s an important issue because there are more and more teacher vacancies, and no stampede of applicants to fill them. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, thinks having no experience with schools makes her a great choice for having authority over them as chair of the Florida House Education Committee. Yes, ignorance is a unique qualification. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Lake County principals with armed guardians assigned to their schools “have nothing but positive things to share” about the way it’s working so far. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Arming teachers is a well-intentioned but ill-conceived idea. Phil Shailer, Sun-Sentinel.

Student enrichment: The SpaceX rocket launched from California on Monday is carrying a satellite from math and science students at the Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens. The satellite has a living bacteria in it, and the experiment is to see if the bacteria can survive in space. WPBF. The Seminole County School District is sending 38 pallets of school supplies, clothes, shoes and backpacks for students at Calhoun County schools that were damaged by Hurricane Michael. Spectrum News 13.

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BY NextSteps staff