Florida schools roundup: Scott’s BOE choices retracted, another audit and more

Appointments retracted: Gov. Ron DeSantis has rescinded the appointments of Andrew Pollack and Thomas Grady to the Florida Board of Education. Pollack, whose daughter Meadow and 16 others died in last February’s shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, and Grady had been appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott in the final days of his term. Pollack says he thinks DeSantis will reappoint him. DeSantis also canceled 44 other late Scott appointments. WLRN. Sun SentinelGradebook. Fort Myers News-Press.

Audit requested: An audit of the Manatee County School District’s home-school records shows improved accounting of students who withdrew from traditional schools, but no follow-up to see if those students were actually being home-schooled. Another audit to answer that question is being planned. The state Department of Education has accused interim Superintendent Cynthia Saunders of inflating graduation rates by having district employees code students who were dropping out to pursue a GED degree as “withdrawn to home education.” Saunders could be sanctioned by the DOE. Bradenton Herald. Manatee County School Board members say they were not informed by Saunders or by former superintendent Diana Greene that Saunders was under investigation by the state. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Hiring dispute: A new Broward County School Board member is told by district administrators that she can’t hire her choice as a personal secretary, even though that choice has an MBA and a doctorate degree, because she has no secretarial experience. Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed in the Parkland school shooting, wants to hire Nathalie Lynch-Walsh as her personal secretary. Lynch-Walsh has been an outspoken critic of Superintendent Robert Runcie. State law requires superintendent and board approval of school board members’ secretaries. Sun Sentinel.

Teacher shortage: The national teacher shortage is having an impact on Palm Beach County elementary schools. When the school year began in August, the district had 242 open teaching jobs, and nearly 100 of them were in elementary schools. About 2,200 teaching jobs in the state are still open, according to Florida’s largest teachers union, which is about 700 more than were open at this time last year. Palm Beach Post. School districts in Volusia County, St. Johns County and northwest Florida are also feeling the teaching shortage pinch in teacher recruitment and retention. Daytona Beach News-Journal. St. Augustine Record. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Educators honored: Ian Jackson, who helps disadvantaged students at T. Dewitt Taylor Middle-High School prepare for college, is chosen as the Volusia County School District’s teacher of the year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Danny Erb, a math teacher at Pedro Menendez High School, is named the St. Johns County School District teacher of the year. St. Augustine Record. Danielle Doherty-Koch, who teaches marine and biomedical sciences at Crystal River High School, is named the Citrus County School District’s teacher of the year. Heather Renfroe, a paraprofessional at Lecanto Primary School, is named support employee of the year. Citrus County Chronicle. Thirty Lee County teachers are chosen as finalists for Golden Apple awards. Six winners will be named May 3. Fort Myers News-Press.

District turnaround: After more than a year of scandal, investigations, convictions and the suspension of former Okaloosa County school superintendent Mary Beth Jackson, new Superintendent Marcus Chambers says things will be handled “in the right way” in the district in the future. Chambers will serve out the final two years of Jackson’s term and has said he will run for the seat in 2020. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Schools turning around: Eight years ago, Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville was the lowest F-rated high school in the state. Then the Duval County School District introduced a curriculum centered on technology and career options at the school. Today, Andrew Jackson High School of Advanced Technology has a 94.4 percent graduation rate and was just shy of receiving an A grade from the state last year. Florida Times-Union. Griffin Elementary School in Lakeland and Lake Marion Creek Middle School in Poinciana are under new management in a last-ditch effort by the Polk County District to  bring their state grade to a C or better. Educational Directions was hired to make improvements. New staff has come in, and officials say attitudes are changing and early testing results have been promising. Lakeland Ledger.

Learning progress: Community leaders in Sarasota and Manatee have launched six experiments in schools to improve early literacy as they try to reduce the odds of students dropping out. The programs include grade-level reading, summer learning, handling at-risk students with care, boosting mental health resources in elementary and middle schools, hiring graduation technicians and tying student attendance to acceptance of their families into public housing. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A new school opens in Pinellas County to help students with learning disabilities. The Center for Literacy Innovation is open in Palm Harbor to 80 students in grades 1-4. WTSP.

Virtual school suit: Frank Kruppenbacher, former attorney for the Florida Virtual School, says in court filings that the school improperly released some of his personal records to a newspaper but withheld others that would corroborate his accusations against the school. He also denies he threatened the school with legal action if they released the records to a newspaper that requested them. Orlando Sentinel.

School choice support: A national poll shows that 67 percent of Americans now support school choice, up from 63 percent last year. The poll of 1,220 likely voters voters in November 2020 shows support for choice across demographics, with 73 percent of Hispanics approving, 68 percent of white and 67 percent of blacks. Eighty percent of Republicans, 56 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents back choice, according to the poll. redefinED.

New board, new concerns: Three new members were elected in November to the Lee County School Board, and there’s already squabbling over the performance of Superintendent Greg Adkins. Adkins just got a raise and a three-year contract last July. Fort Myers News-Press.

School meals: Children of federal workers now unemployed because of the government shutdown may be eligible to get free meals in Hillsborough County schools. Gradebook.

Dual enrollment: Sarasota County school Superintendent Todd Bowden says the district is close to an agreement with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee on making dual-enrollment classes available on high school campuses. The State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota ended its dual enrollment courses with the district over that point. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: Bradley Scarbrough, an principal of Buffalo Creek Middle School in Palmetto, is promoted to principal. Bradenton Herald.

Spelling bee winner: Armand Kuykendall, a 10-year-old 5th-grader at Middleton-Burney Elementary School in Palatka, wins the Putnam County School District’s spelling bee. He now represents the district in the 75th Annual First Coast Regional Spelling Bee in February. WJXT.

Lawsuit threatened: The family of a 14-year-old Miami Norland Senior High School student issues a notice of intent to sue the Miami-Dade School District over the boy’s alleged beating by a school security guard. The guard, 26-year-old Torien Austin, was arrested on charges of child abuse and battery. WSVN. WPLG.

Discipline for teachers: Four Brevard County teachers face firing or disciplinary action for violating school policies. One of the teachers recommended to be fired, Kurt Kaufman, was arrested and charged with battery for grabbing a tardy student and pushing him into a hallway at Central Middle School in October. Brevard Times.

Employee arrested: A nutrition worker for the Leon County School District is arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious behavior and a sexual offense against a child. Police say Chancy Jordan, 36, who worked at Sabal Palm Elementary School, gave a 15-year-old girl rides from her school, touched her inappropriately and talked her into committing a sex act at least once. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s new education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, will not be afraid to butt heads with systems or institutions if they are perceived to be at odds with efforts to promote high quality options for students. Sara Clements, Tampa Bay Times. When you hire a lifelong politician whose wife founded a charter school, and you make him king of education in Florida, all but the dimmest of political watchers get the point: Charters are the No. 1 priority. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Politicians are considering expanding the school armed guardian program to allow any teacher to be armed in their classroom. This is a dangerous and short-sighted idea. Fred Guttenberg, Tallahassee Democrat. Students don’t deserve a teacher packing a weapon who may or may not know how to react when faced with an active shooter situation. What they deserve is trained law enforcement personnel in their schools and more funding from state leaders to help keep them there. Tom Hayden, Fort Myers News-Press. The Lee County School Board is acting responsibly to consider applying for a grant that would, among other things, ask for more money to put fences around schools and buy better locks on classroom doors and high-tech equipment. Brent Batten, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Keri Loyed Rowland, a 1995 graduate of Bay High School, raises $37,000 to benefit arts programs in Bay County schools. Panama City News Herald. Charlotte Stuart-Tilley, an 8th-grade Tallahassee student, lobbies at the Florida Capitol and organizes a school strike to raise awareness about climate change. WTXL. WFSU. Kannon Goodman, a 15-year-old freshman and euphonium player at Fort Walton Beach High School, is named first chair in the All-State band. Northwest Florida Daily News. The Educational Foundation of Lake County receives a grant to help prepare students for alternative tests so they can graduate from high school. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff