Florida schools roundup: Education bills, court effect, security, state rank and more

Education bills: Proposed bills on education issues are starting to stack up for the Legislature, with more than 40 already filed for the legislative session that begins its 60-day session March 5. Among the latest filed are bills that would allow districts to adopt their own academic standards as long as they’re more “rigorous” than what the state requires, restrict elections for tax measures to general elections, require the state to provide textbooks for students who are home-schooled or attend private schools and take dual-enrollment courses, and end the reassignment of teachers based solely on their state value-added measure evaluation scores. Gradebook. Florida Politics. Another bill would allow fulltime students in high schools, colleges and other schools under the age of 21 to be excused from jury duty. News Service of Florida.

Court and education: Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, says Gov. Ron DeSantis’ conservative makeover of the Supreme Court could embolden the Legislature to make sweeping education reforms that have been rejected by previous courts. “You’ll probably see some more bold steps in education and revisiting some of the ideas that Gov. Bush brought to the table back in the day,” he told a Sarasota business audience Tuesday. He mentioned voucher programs such as education savings accounts as one idea that could be considered. ESAs provide each student a set amount of money that can be used to attend any school. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Chance for success rank: Florida ranks 34th in the nation in a chance-for-success index with a grade of C-plus, according to the Education Week Research Center’s annual Quality Counts report. The index is developed by ranking states on early foundations (Florida ranks 40th with a B-minus), school years (21st with a C-plus) and adult outcomes (39th with a C). Education Week.

School security: Broward County School Board members will consider asking Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie to provide a detailed timeline of what steps are being taken to make schools safer, and when those steps will be completed. Board member Nora Rupert says she decided to push for the timeline after families of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting complained that the administration is slow to make changes and that timetables keep moving. Sun Sentinel. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office will have access to live feeds from surveillance cameras at schools under a deal approved by the school board. The access will be granted only under certain emergency circumstances. Sun Sentinel. A Broward judge orders the state commission that investigated the Parkland shooting to give accused shooter Nikolas Cruz’s attorneys details of all the interviews it conducted. Sun Sentinel. Gov. Ron DeSantis says he wants to allocate at least $2 million a year for security at Jewish day schools. WPEC. WPLG. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post.

Contract negotiations: Hernando County school officials and the teachers union reach a contract agreement that calls for a 3.5 percent pay raise retroactive to August. The deal has to be approved by members of the union and the school board. Tampa Bay Times.

Educators honored: Jennie Cyran, a math teacher at Horizons Elementary School, is named the Polk County School District’s teacher of the year. School-related employee of the year is Cynthia Wimberley, the cafeteria manager at Sandhill Elementary. Lakeland Ledger. Six finalists are chosen for the Brevard County School District teacher of the year award. They are: Angela Barrons, a Title I reading teacher at Challenger 7 Elementary; Carrie Friday, a media specialist at Southwest Middle; Kimberly Heming, a counselor at Meadowlane Intermediate; Shannon Kraeling, an arts teacher at Eau Gallie High; Megan McGivney, a chorus and orchestra teacher at Madison Middle; and Melissa Vincent, a special-needs teacher at Ralph Williams Elementary. The winner will be announced Jan. 23. Florida Today. Three finalists are named for the Lake County School District teacher of the year award. They are: Daniel Dilocker, a technology education teacher at East Ridge Middle; Michael Tarquine, a theater and choir teacher at Windy Hill Middle; and Kamille Chapman, an 8th-grade math teacher at Mount Dora Middle. The winner will be announced Feb. 16. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel.

Preparing for growth: The Pasco County School Board is considering hiring a land-use attorney to help it deal with an expected enrollment surge from a planned 11,000-plus home development in the Land O’Lakes area. School officials are wary of the developer’s plan to count on charter schools to help handle the thousands of extra students expected to live in the new housing. Gradebook.

District wish list: Brevard County School Board members are asking their legislative delegation to increase per-student funding, and to provide more money for school resource officers and expanded vocational training. Florida Today.

Personnel moves: Robert Kleesattel, the assistant principal of Smith Middle School in Tampa, is chosen to replace retiring principal JoAnn Johnson. The Hillsborough County School Board also approved the transfers of three principals: Barbara Fillhart, from Mann Middle to Monroe Middle; Dante Jones, from Burnett Middle to Mann Middle; and Valerie Newton, from Greco Middle to Burnett Middle. Gradebook.

Transgender policy: Dozens of parents urge the Pasco County School Board to restrict students’ bathroom and locker room use to the gender they were born with instead of the one they identify with. But board members say they won’t change the case-by-case way the district deals with transgender students. WTSP.

Districts get funding: Franklin, Gulf and Walton county school districts will get money  for technical education and certification programs from the Triumph Gulf Coast’s Board, which oversees expenditures from the money received in the settlement over damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. WMBB.

District sued by student: A Miami-Dade County student who says she was raped and sexually harassed at Carol City High School is suing the school board and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho for negligence. No charges were brought against the three boys involved because, the district said, the then-14-year-old girl’s statements were inconsistent and inconclusive. All four received 10-day suspensions for their actions. Miami Herald.

Teacher, driver arrested: A Broward County teacher who was fired in December is arrested and accused of molesting a student in September. Patrick O’Dea, 64, was a theology teacher at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High School until his dismissal after 34 years with the archdiocese. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. A St. Lucie County school bus driver is arrested after he’s accused of inappropriately touching an elementary school student. Deputies say Ignazio Charles Cerami, 72, is charged with lewd and lascivious behavior. TCPalm.

Arrests at school game: A woman who allegedly threatened the crowd with a knife at an Atlantic High School girls basketball game last week is arrested. Janet Charles, 36, turned herself in Monday to Palm County school police. After the game a 25-year-old woman was arrested for threatening people with a gun in the school parking lot. Palm Beach Post. Those arrests and recent violence at and around some West Palm Beach schools prompts the district to move a boys basketball game from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 3:30. Palm Beach Post.

Student arrested: An 18-year-old Deltona High School student is arrested after falsely telling a teacher he had a gun in his backpack. Deputies say he is charged with making a false report of a bomb/explosion on public property. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher reprimanded: A Sarasota County teacher is reprimanded for making critical remarks about President Trump during a class last fall. Stephanie LaRose, a language arts teacher at the Sarasota Academy of the Arts middle school, called Trump an “orange carrot” and said he “sniffs” during his speeches because he’s taking drugs. She has apologized. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: The current Florida school funding formula punishes low-income counties simply because they are poor, and even strips away property tax dollars paid by those counties’ residents to redistribute to wealthier areas. It’s a reverse Robin-Hood scheme, and one the Legislature should put an end to. Daytona Beach News-Journal. From the beginning, America has been a richly diverse country, weaving together the similarities and differences of many different cultures into a beautiful fabric. Our desire for variety in education reflects that. Andrew Campanella, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: The parish youth choir from St. Ann Catholic School in West Palm Beach sings for Pope Francis in Vatican City during a recent pilgrimage to Italy. redefinED.
“Buddy Benches” are being placed at Palm Beach County elementary schools to support students who are bullied or need a friend. Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff