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Florida schools roundup: Board speaks, Parkland stories, school security and more

Board speaks out: Members of the Broward County School Board have said little about the Parkland shootings in the past year, letting Broward school officials and lawyers take the lead in deciding the public response and, by and large, supporting their efforts. Now the nine board members have finally agreed to talk about the controversies, the pace of the reforms to secure schools and Superintendent Robert Runcie’s performance. Only two are calling for Runcie’s dismissal. Sun Sentinel. The board is considering hiring a security chief whose background was investigating Google workers who divulged company secrets. The district has routinely withheld information about the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and even launched an investigation into who leaked the academic records of the accused shooter. Sun Sentinel.

Parkland stories: Here are some of the events planned to commemorate the anniversary. WTVJ. Remembering the 17 victims of Parkland. Sun Sentinel. Survivors of the shootings and their families launch a petition drive to ban the sale of assault weapons. Sun Sentinel. Two mothers of Parkland victims captured in an iconic photo after the shooting now find themselves on opposite sides of the gun control issue. Associated Press. Lori Alhadeff, mother of a victim and now a Broward County School Board member, says she feels her daughter “that Alyssa is still coming home.” Associated Press. A survivor says her life remains filled with fear and panic. WLRN.

School security questions: How the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School nearly a year ago has changed policing in Florida. WJCT. Florida Today. A new report pushes back on the proposal to arm teachers. Politico Florida. Associated Press. New research suggests that hardening schools against attacks may not be as helpful as many think. Education Next. Florida Politics. Are active-shooter drills and school lockdowns traumatizing students? Associated Press.

Security in schools: A Bradenton charter school that was accused of breaking the state law requiring an armed guard on every school campus has hired another guard. After the complaint was made to the state, the Rowlett public charter school hired a guard and now has two to cover its two campuses. Bradenton Herald. Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis acknowledges that the decision to form a district police force was driven by costs. “Ultimately, costs cannot be ignored when the school board considers the use of taxpayer dollars and other state revenue.” Davis wrote in a Facebook post. WTLV. Hillsborough County school officials show state representatives the security upgrades they’ve made, and plead for money to do more in both security and mental health services. WFLA. Here’s how the armed school guardian program is working in Volusia County. WKMG.

Mental health services: Central Florida school districts are receiving millions of dollars from the state to improve mental health services got students as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. Here’s how they’re spending the money. WKMG. Most of the money from the state for mental health services has been spent as intended, but some Florida districts have been using part of the money on such things as computers, travel, gas and copy paper. WFTS.

Superintendent’s contract: Manatee County School Board members could decide today whether to offer a long-term contract to make interim superintendent Cynthia Saunders the new superintendent. The offer was postponed for two months after the Florida Department of Education issued a report that accused Saunders of manipulating data to improve graduation rates between 2013 and 2015. Specifically, the DOE claims Saunders had employees reclassify students who were likely to drop out or not graduate as withdrawing to be home-schooled. Saunders has asked the DOE for a formal hearing to discuss a possible settlement. Bradenton HeraldSarasota Herald-Tribune. WUSF.

Contract agreement: Palm Beach County teachers and the school district reach a contract agreement that calls for average raises of 3 percent. Teacher rated highly effective would get 3.5 percent, and teachers rated effective would get 2.75 percent. The deal will cost the district about $23 million. Palm Beach Post.

Bonuses awarded in error: The Clay County School District mistakenly awarded $31,000 in bonuses to 22 pre-K teachers who don’t meet the law’s definition of a classroom teacher, according to a report from the Florida Auditor General’s Office. Only K-12 teachers are eligible for Best and Brightest scholarships. District officials say teachers will not be asked to return the money. WTLV. WJAX.

Teacher recruitment: The Hillsborough County School District is about to unveil a teacher recruitment plan that includes higher pay for teachers at struggling schools, hiring teachers earlier in the year so schools are fully staffed when they open in August, and developing closer relationships with applicants. Gradebook.

Common Core fallout: The elimination of the Common Core State Standards in Florida will be a huge undertaking. Is it for the benefit of the students, or a political move for adults? Florida Phoenix. Volusia County school officials worry that the departure of the Common Core standards will make obsolete the course materials, lesson plans and online resources the district created in 2014 when the state adopted the Florida Standards and replaced the FCAT assessments with the Florida Standards Assessment tests to measure student achievement. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

‘Bad actors’ crackdown? Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have vowed to crack down on charter schools run by “bad actors,” but have not yet declared how they would deal with private schools that receive state scholarships. TCPalm. The Barnabas Christian Academy, a private school in Port St. Lucie that is under investigation by the state, is merging with Saint Lucie Christian. TCPalm.

Community schools: Officials from the 17 community schools in Florida meet with members of the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee to show how the concept of a school providing education, health care, counseling and even food services to the students and the surrounding neighborhoods is working. And they asked for more money to expand the model. WFSU.

Principal reinstated: A Pasco County principal accused of stealing $900 from a student will not be charged and has been reinstated by the district. The state attorney said there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute John Abernathy, 50, who had been principal of Connerton Elementary School at the time of the accusation. Abernathy was reassigned to the assistant principal’s post at the Pasco eSchool, based at Crews Lake Middle in Shady Hills. Gradebook.

Pleas to parents: Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning issues a YouTube video asking parents for help in warning students against bullying and Internet threats. Gradebook. Florida High School Athletic Association officials join their peers around the country in asking parents to stop harassing referees at high school sporting events. “Fans are getting worse and worse, every year,” says Calvin Wright, the commissioner for basketball referees of the Mid-Coast Officials Association in Brevard County. “It’s progressively gotten so bad.” Florida Today.

Bus monitor arrested: A Duval County school bus monitor is arrested and accused of kicking and hitting a special-needs student. The incident was captured on video. Rosa Kennerly, 66, admits “tapping” the 14-year-old with cerebral palsy and says she’s is sorry it happened. WJAX. WJXT.

Students arrested: Two Miami-Dade students, 13 and 12 years old, are arrested and accused of threatening to shoot a teacher to death. The suspects are students at Southwood Middle School in Palmetto Bay. The target is a 36-year-old teacher who received the threat directly to her Instagram account. WPLG. Miami Herald. An 18-year-old student at Leon County’s Second Chance Academy is arrested after allegedly striking an assistant school principal. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: A year after the shootings at Parkland, lessons are still being learned. Senate President Bill Galvano, Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings’ claim that there was a school shooting somewhere in the United States almost every week is partially accurate but leaves out important details about the database he cited. We rate this statement Half True. PolitiFact Florida. School budgets are always tight, but the Volusia County School District should take advantage of the opportunity created by the extra half-hour of elementary school time, and consider whether a change in school start times would maximize student learning at a relatively low cost. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Seminole and Brevard counties remain the state leaders in preparing their students for majoring in STEM subjects in college. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Even though the Florida Constitution prohibits it, even though the voters reaffirmed that prohibition in 2012, even though the religious schools have zero accountability and even though we have no idea where the money comes from, the tax-credit/voucher scheme continues to finance religious education in Florida. Bill Korson, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Career education classes at Tallahassee’s Godby High School give students an opportunity to learn welding and nursing skills. Tallahassee Democrat. Students from Milton High School in Okaloosa County get their poetry published in the third edition of the Blackwater Literary Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff