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Florida schools roundup: Assessments not shared, choice, pricey speech and more

Threat assessments: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teachers say they noted alleged school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s aggressive behavior more than a year before 17 people were shot to death at the school a year ago. And Cruz himself told school officials that shooting guns helped relieve his stress. But none of those observations were forwarded to police or to mental health workers who were evaluating him for possible hospitalization. Sun Sentinel.

School choice poll:survey shows that Florida parents support the state’s steps toward expanding school choice. Seventy-eight percent of those responding to a poll by the pro-choice Foundation for Excellence in Education say they favor “giving parents the opportunity to choose where they send their child to school rather than assigning children to schools based on zip code.” The poll also shows strong support for education savings accounts for parents to use at a school of their choice, voluntary prekindergarten vouchers, and tax credit scholarships for low-income children and Gardiner scholarships for children with disabilities. Gradebook. Florida Politics.

Plans to expand choice: Senate Republicans’ plans for an education bill track closely with Gov. Ron DeSantis’, but there are differences that will have to be worked out when the legislative session starts March 5 . News Service of Florida. Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, says the Legislature is seeing a more collaborative approach to education and other issues from DeSantis than it did from former Gov. Rick Scott. Politico Florida. Miami Herald. A point of contention in the debate over state scholarships for private schools is that those schools can skip the extensive testing required of public school students. Florida Phoenix.

Pricey speech: Palm Beach County School District officials are defending $10,000 spent on a motivational speaker for a half-day presentation to about 200 employees at Palm Beach Lakes High School last summer. Principal David Alphonso says hiring speaker Eric Thomas was cheaper than sending teachers to out-of-state training sessions. Thomas isn’t done, though. The school board has approved $50,000 more for him to hold 13 visits with students through June, including seven “reflective sessions” on campus and six meetings with students and parents to “target barriers to career/workforce readiness.” Palm Beach Post.

Educators honored: Kristin Murphy, who teaches world history and pre-law at Nova Middle School, is named the Broward County School District’s teacher of the year. WSVN. Becky Peltonen, an agriculture teacher at the Deane Bozeman School, is named the Bay County School District’s teacher of the year. Beth Lucas, an autism paraprofessional at Merritt Brown Middle School, is chosen as the top support employee. Panama City News Herald. South Walton High School assistant principal James Ross is chosen at the Walton County School District’s assistant principal of the year. It’s the first time the award has been given. Northwest Florida Daily News. Angel Field, of South Sumter Middle School, is named the Sumter County School District’s school-related employee of the year. Daily Commercial.

Civics education: Two St. Petersburg legislators file bills to promote civics education for high school students through a half-credit class and by having them work on a nonpartisan community project. The bill would encourage schools to offer such a course by giving them credit toward their grade from the state. The identical bills (H.B. 1037 and S.B. 1316) were filed by Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond and Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes. Gradebook.

Repairing schools: Money from a new Hillsborough County School District sales tax surcharge is expected to start arriving in March, but the replacement of faulty air-conditioning systems at schools won’t begin until June because the buildings have to be empty. A/C replacements or repairs are scheduled this summer at 12 elementary schools, three middle schools and six high schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Contract negotiations: The Sarasota County School Board’s approval of a four-year contract extension for Superintendent Todd Bowden will play a part in delaying contract negotiations between the teachers union and the district, says union executive director Barry Dubin. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School security: A recent evacuation and lockdown at High Springs Community School after reports of nearby gunfire are prompting charges in the school’s emergency plan. Some students jumped over a school fence and hid in strangers’ houses, which concerned many parents. School officials will establish specific homes or businesses where students will gather after evacuating. WUFT.

Cameras on school buses: State Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, files a bill that would allow school districts to place cameras on school buses to would catch drivers who illegally pass the buses. Offenders would be be identified by their license plates and be mailed a citation. WFLA.

Turnaround schools: Two struggling Manatee County elementary schools are expected to improve their grades from the state to C’s and avoid sanctions imposed by the state, and a third that is in the first year of its turnaround program is also expected to earn a C, according to district officials. But a fourth school, Oneco Elementary, is in danger of getting a D and slipping back into the state program that it just left a year ago. Bradenton Herald.

Charter school: A proposed charter school will have to produce a “realistic” diversity plan and correct other deficiencies to get its application recommended for school board approval by Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene. She and some school board members are unhappy with the projected diversity of students at the Seaside Charter North Campus. The company has two other charter schools in Duval. Florida Times-Union.

Dual enrollment ends: Financial considerations are cited as Bethune-Cookman University officials say they will no longer participate in a dual-enrollment program for Volusia County high school students. Daytona State College and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University remain in the program with the school district. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

District headquarters: The Martin County School Board will consider a proposal to buy a former newspaper property as a new home for its administrative office. The vote on the $7.5 million purchase of the Stuart News/TCPalm property is expected March 26 and, if approved, the move would be made before the 2019-2020 school year begins. The newspaper and its operations would relocate to a smaller building. TCPalm.

Personnel moves: Arlene Manville has been promoted from interim principal to principal at Park Trails Elementary School in Parkland. Manville was made the interim principal in August. Parkland Talk.

Notable deaths: Margaret K. Lewis, a teacher who fought for the rights of special education students to get public educations, has died in Panama City at the age of 100. In 1980, the Bay County School District honored her by renaming Oak Grove Elementary as the Margaret K. Lewis School. Panama City News Herald.

School buses purchase: Marion County School Board members tentatively approve a plan to spend $26.5 million over the next 10 years to buy 205 new school buses. The district would order 160 buses now and add five a year in each of the next nine years. The formal vote is next month. If it’s approved, the first 160 buses should begin to arrive in January. Ocala Star-Banner.

Principal reprimanded: Baker School principal Mike Martello has been reprimanded by Okaloosa County school officials for his handling of an investigation against a teacher who was accused of improper sexual discussions with students and playing vulgar music on a car radio on a field trip. But an internal investigation cleared Martello of intentionally failing to follow district protocol or covering up the teacher’s actions. Northwest Florida Daily News.

School threats: A 13-year-old runaway from Volusia County is arrested after allegedly making a telephone threat to James A. Long Elementary School in Palatka. WTLV. Two students at the Bolles School in Jacksonville are arrested and accused of making a threat against the school. The boys, 15 and 17, were charged with felony conspiracy to make, possess or discharge a destructive device. Florida Times-Union. A 12-year-old middle school student is arrested and accused of taking a pellet gun onto the campus of Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. Miami Herald.

Student beaten, robbed: A 15-year-old Pasco County student is beaten and robbed as he walked home from Gulf High School last week. The attack was caught on home surveillance videos. The victim suffered a broken jaw and lost three teeth in the beating. WTVT.

Opinions on schools: Love you have to coerce is not love at all, something too many Americans still cannot get through their heads — including, apparently, a certain teacher in Lakeland. Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald. Florida students need more science and math courses, not fewer as a proposed bill would allow. Brandon Haught, Tallahassee Democrat.

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BY NextSteps staff

One Comment

I would like to hear about changes to DROP for Pre-K staff and DROP deferral for PK/Best and Brightest also.

Nell Bush/Children and Families Specialist
Jackson County Schools

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