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Minorities and disability labels, arming teachers, superintendent fired and more

Disability labels: A new study points to a connection between school segregation and special education in Florida schools. The study, conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggests that in schools with mostly minority students, 13 percent of black children were classified as having a disability that lands them in special education classes. In schools that are mostly white, nearly 22 percent of black students are labeled as disabled. The findings match another new study of Wisconsin schools. Chalkbeat. Education Week. States are having trouble complying with an Obama-era rule on how to calculate whether districts are improperly identifying students from minority groups as disabled. A year ago the Trump administration advised states to hold off on applying the rule, but then said this month the rule would be implemented immediately. Politico Florida.

Security in schools: The Okaloosa County School Board votes to take part in the state’s school guardian program, which allows teachers and other school personnel to be armed in schools. Any decision about which teachers or school employees will be armed will be made by Superintendent Marcus Chambers and Sheriff Larry Ashley. The sheriff’s office will also get access to live video feeds from schools. Northwest Florida Daily News. Pinellas County School Board members now say they’re willing to reconsider their position against arming teachers or other employees in schools after hearing Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s three-hour appeal Tuesday night. Gualtieri chaired the state commission that looked into the Parkland school shootings and became an advocate for arming teachers or other school employees, arguing that doing so provided both an early response to a school shooter and a deterrent. Tampa Bay Times. A new app to report threats against schools, suspicious activity or wrongdoing has already generated 550 tips to the Broward County School District and Broward law enforcement agencies. Most of the tips have come from students, parents and teachers. Sun Sentinel.

Superintendent fired: In a 3-2 vote, the Volusia County School Board has fired Superintendent Tom Russell. His final day is June 30, and he’ll receive a severance package of between $250,000 and $270,000. Board members have complained about Russell’s communication skills and academic performance at elementary schools. They’ll talk at their June 6 workshop meeting about how to replace Russell, who has been superintendent four years. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

National spelling bee: Twenty-one of the 25 Florida students who qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md., advanced through the opening rounds of competition on Tuesday. Round 3 concludes today, and the finals are Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 8:30-10:30 p.m. Scripps National Spelling Bee. Orlando Sentinel. WFLA.

Anti-Semitism bill: The Florida Cabinet meets today in Jerusalem, and Gov. Ron DeSantis says he will sign a bill that bans anti-Semitic speech and actions in K-12 schools and universities. The meeting will be broadcast live by the Florida Channel to address concerns that it would be in violation of the state’s Sunshine law. A lawsuit filed by the First Amendment Foundation and four major news organizations to stop the meeting was dismissed by a Leon County judge. Florida Society of News Editors. Florida Politics.

Superintendent’s hearing: Attorneys for the state argued at a hearing Tuesday that Mary Beth Jackson should have been suspended by Gov. DeSantis as Okaloosa County superintendent for covering up child abuse accusations against two teachers. The hearing, before Senate special master Dudley Goodlette, is expected to conclude today. Goodlette will then make a recommendation in a few weeks to senators whether to remove or retain Jackson. Northwest Florida Daily News. News Service of Florida. WEAR.

Charter schools: Charter schools are often held up as an example of what education can become when it veers away from one-size-fits-all education practices commonly associated with traditional public schools. But some Duval County School Board members who are concerned about the expansion of charters contend that high-performing charter schools tend to be ones that draw students from high-performing traditional high schools. Florida Times-Union.

Certification backlog: The Florida Department of Education announces it has cleared the backlog of teacher certification applications. The DOE has never provided a cause for the backup, but the problems seem to have started after the DOE installed a a new educator certification system in November 2017. In January, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran also referenced “a leadership deficit in the Bureau of Educator Certification.” Florida Phoenix. WPTV.

More on reading results: The Florida Department of Education has released the full list of Florida Standards Assessments reading test scores for schools. Statewide, 58 percent of 3rd-graders scored at a Level 3 or higher, which is considered at or above grade level and 1 percentage point higher than in 2018, but 20 percent score at Level 1 and face retention. Florida Department of Education. WUSF. TCPalm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Ocala Star-Banner. Panama City News Herald. WJHG. WJAX.

District survey results: A survey of Hillsborough County teachers finds that they are unhappy about large classes, interruptions during teaching, misbehaving children and unsupportive principals. A separate survey of students, parents and support employees concludes that 30 percent of high school and middle school students have been racially harassed or discriminated against at school, that only about half of bullying concerns are addressed, and that fewer than 50 percent of students treat their peers with respect. Gradebook.

Transgender student policy: Pasco County schools officials won’t make changes to their policy for transgender students after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Pennsylvania school district’s authority to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity. That matches the Pasco board’s policy, which has come under fire from community activists. Gradebook.

High interest in new school: Destin High School isn’t scheduled to open until August 2020, but interest is high enough that enrollment may exceed expectations, according to Heidi LoCicero, who is in charge of student recruitment for the Okaloosa County charter school. “I know there’s a definite interest in the community to have their own school and to not have to travel outside of their community to attend school,” said Charlie Marello, the principal at Niceville High, which stands to lose students to the new school. Destin High will open with just 9th and 10th grades, then expand a grade in each of the subsequent two years. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Superintendent’s contract: A prominent Sarasota County business group’s complaint about the school Superintendent Todd Bowden’s contract was dismissed by the Office of Inspector General, which decided the group’s “concerns do not fall within our authority.” The Argus Foundation said the school board’s decision to give Bowden a four-year contract in February that guarantees annual raises was “shrouded in secrecy” and amounted to a golden parachute that rewards Bowden regardless of how the district’s students do. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District’s taxable value: The estimated value of taxable property in Pasco County is $32.61 billion, according to the appraiser, an increase of almost $2.5 billion from last year. About $1.1 billion of the boost is new construction, which offers benefits to districts that increases in existing property values do not. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: James Vernon, the assistant principal at Deep Creek Elementary School, is promoted to the principal’s job. He replaces Adrienne McElroy, who is becoming the Charlotte County School District’s director of human resources. She replaces Patrick Keegan, who is becoming an assistant superintendent for human resources and employee relations. Charlotte Sun.

Missing test administrator: Police in Miami Gardens say a body found floating in a city canal is believed to be Kameela Russell, 41, a test administrator at Miami Norland Senior High School who disappeared two weeks ago. The death is being treated as a homicide. Miami Herald.

Ex-teacher sentenced: A former Collier County teacher has been sentenced to eight years in prison and 10 years of probation for sending a nude photo of himself to an underage girl. Brock Smith, 31, was a teacher at Naples High School. He also faces a Sept. 3 trial on charges of engaging in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years old. Naples Daily News.

School vandalized: Vandals cause more than $50,000 in damage to the Showers of Blessings Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale on Monday. School and bus windows were shattered, graffiti was posted on walls, toilets were broken and classrooms were damaged. Sun Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Bernie Sanders is missing the point on education reform, but it’s not really his fault. Those who support education choice don’t have a singular, strong, compelling voice. We’re the ones hiding meekly in the corner. In our absence the opposing arguments thrive. Catherine Durkin Robinson, redefinED. There’s no telling how many kids have been inspired to become engineers or accountants or scientists because John Pedicone, an engineer, decided to start the Orange County School District Math Bee in 2011. It is safe to say that Pedicone could teach us all an important equation: that one person can make a huge difference in a lot of lives. David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Valedictorians, salutatorians and other top students are honored at graduations in Pasco County schools. Tampa Bay Times. PrintingCenterUSA donates 500 yearbooks to Jinks Middle School, which suffered structural damage and a decline in enrollment during Hurricane Michael. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff