Florida schools roundup: Board term limits, charter schools suing, sheriff and more

Board term limits: Proposals that would limit terms for local school boards to eight years are introduced in the Legislature. State Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey in the Hills, introduced the resolutions (S.R. 274 and H.R. 229) that, if approved, would go on the 2020 ballot as a constitutional amendment. The Constitution Revision Commission attempted to put term limits on the ballot in November, but the proposal was bundled with two other items and was struck off by the Florida Supreme Court. The 60-day legislative session begins March 5. News Service of FloridaGradebook.

Charter schools sue: Two Palm Beach County charter schools are suing the school district for a share of the revenue from a property tax increase approved by voters in November. The school board decided before the election that none of the money would go to charter schools, a decision that Palm Beach Maritime Academy and the Academy for Positive Learning contend violates state law. “Put simply, the money is required to follow the children, regardless of whether they attend public charter schools,” according to the lawsuit. Palm Beach Post.

School shooting aftermath: Gov. Ron DeSantis is reportedly going to suspend Broward Sheriff Scott Israel today for his agency’s actions in the Feb. 14 shootings that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Expected to replace Israel is former Coral Springs Police Sgt. Gregory Tony, who now runs a security firm. He was recommended by Andrew Pollack, father of one of the victims and a recent appointee to the Florida Board of Education. Sun SentinelPolitico Florida. Miami Herald. The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to decide if the Stoneman Douglas shooting was more than a single event. The answer may determine how much families of those killed and the survivors may receive in compensation from the school district’s insurance. Sun Sentinel.

Education funding: Members of the House PreK-12 Appropriations committee say any budget crafted for education must include funding for school choice. Meanwhile, members of the House Higher Education Appropriations committee say everything in the higher education budget is “up for grabs.” Gradebook. WFSU. Funding for education and security in K-12 schools are the main two issues for the Republican-dominated Legislature. But considering the volatility of the state’s finances and escalating costs for security, resolving the issues won’t be simple. Gradebook. More than half the $1 billion the state will spend this year on higher education financial aid is merit-based, according to a report. Most of that money goes for Bright Futures scholarships. News Service of Florida.

Dual enrollment: The Sarasota and Manatee school districts are working with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee on an agreement to allow students to take dual enrollment courses on their own campuses. State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota ended its dual enrollment program with the districts about three months ago. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Educators honored: Five finalists are chosen for the Marion County School District teacher of the year award. They are: Jessica Mae Carter, 3rd-grade gifted math and science teacher at Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary; Emily J. Cook, an algebra and credit recovery teacher at Forest High; Hollie Cunningham, a medical skills health science teacher at West Port High; Amy Owensby, a special education teacher at Hillcrest School; and Brian Stephenson, a social studies teacher in Belleview High’s Cambridge program. The winner will be announced Jan. 25. The rookie teacher of the year is Shady Hill Elementary School art teacher Karla Cavalier. Ocala Star-Banner. For the first time, teachers at the Apalachicola Bay Charter School will be considered for selection as the Franklin County School District’s teacher of the year. Apalachicola Times.

School calendar: The Brevard County School District is considering changes to its 2019-2020 school year calendar after parents and teachers complain about the timing of the winter break. Monday, Dec. 23, is scheduled to be the final day of classes before the break. Parents and teachers say there will be mass absences if classes are held Dec. 23, and suggest ending the semester Friday, Dec. 20. Florida Today.

Transportation troubles: The state’s sudden closure of a key bridge linking Destin to the Niceville area is forcing the Okaloosa County School District to come up with a plan for transportation to and from schools. Officials say they have a contingency plan, but aren’t announcing the details because they’re still tweaking it. The Mid-Bay Bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay was closed Tuesday for emergency repairs to corroded cables. The Florida Department of Transportation has no timetable for it to reopen. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR.

Board, public meet: The Polk County School Board holds its first roundtable discussion, where members of the community may sit and talk with board members about any topic. Five of the seven board members were present at this week’s meeting, with the district’s plan to improve communication, the work atmosphere and mental-health help for students the primary topic. Lakeland Ledger.

Superintendent race: Ray Sansom, a former Okaloosa County commissioner and state representative, announces that he’s running to be superintendent of the school district in 2020. Since stepping down from the Legislature in 2010, Sansom has worked for a company that runs schools for at-risk students. Current Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson has not said if she’s running for re-election. Northwest Florida Daily News.

High school playoffs: The Florida High School Athletic Association’s football advisory committee votes to switch from its current method of selecting playoff teams to one determined by a ratings percentage index. The committee’s recommendation, which would go into effect next fall, must be approved by the athletic directors committee and the FHSAA board of directors. Orlando Sentinel.

Ex-coach pleads guilty: The former swim coach at Boca Ciega High School pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge of simple battery. Eric Hill had been accused by a swimmer of inappropriately touching her. Hill was ordered to do 30 hours of community service and pay $675 in court fees, but will spend no time in jail. Palm Beach Post.

Student arrests and threats: A former Boynton Beach High School student is arrested and accused of carrying a gun on campus last month. Police say the 18-year-old student left the school and now attends Quantum High School, an alternative school. Palm Beach Post. An 18-year-old student at Riviera Beach Preparatory and Achievement Academy is arrested after school officials find a loaded handgun in his backpack. Palm Beach Post. A 15-year-old Manatee High School student is arrested after making threatening statements and shooting noises, according to deputies. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tallahassee police officers are investigating reports that two 5th-graders at Roberts Elementary School students were working on a plan to harm another student. Tallahassee Democrat.

School bus incidents: Seven Okaloosa County students are hospitalized after two school buses collide as they left Crestview High School. Northwest Florida Daily News. One Miami-Dade County special-needs student is injured when his school bus from Miami Central Senior High School was hit by an object, possibly a pellet, in the northwest part of the county. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho calls it an “attack.” WPLG. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: Our concern with the bill to require schools to offer students religious courses is not so much with what the bill says, as with what it doesn’t. The emphasis is on the Jewish and Christian scriptures. There’s no mention of Islam or any of the other faiths that are present in America and far more numerous worldwide. There’s nothing to encourage comparative religion as the course of study. Sun Sentinel. Spending more money on school security is a more reasonable option to keep our schools safe, rather than arming teachers. Florida Times-Union. The Legislature should follow the state school panel’s recommendation to allow willing teachers to undergo the screening and training so they can carry guns in schools. Lakeland Ledger. The National Assessment of Educational Progress test results show that Florida schools just keep improving, which is evidence that families having the opportunity to choose the best school for their child is hardly “destroying public education,” as some critics of choice keep saying. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: A Collier County 4th-grader raises $13,000 for charity from sales of her Christmas album. Kylie Gust, 10, who attends the Community School in Naples, is donating proceeds from A Kylie Christmas to the Humane Society of the United States, Wounded Warrior Project and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Naples Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff