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Player dies during drills, order overturned, tax hikes, security, charters and more

Player dies at practice: A Hillsborough County high school football player collapsed and died Tuesday during the team’s conditioning drills on the school’s field. Hezekiah Walters, a 14-year-old freshman-to-be at Middleton High School in Tampa, collapsed within 40 minutes after the drills began. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but later was pronounced dead. District officials say the workout included sprints, weightlifting and water breaks. All summer workouts and other school activities have been halted until the district can review the safety procedures at all schools. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WUSF. WFTS. WTVT. Bay News 9. CNN.

Order draws heat: Marion County Superintendent Heidi Maier’s decision to ban marching band practices between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. as a precaution against heat-related illnesses to students has been overturned by the school board. The board said band directors can use their best judgment. One board member, Nancy Stacy, called Maier’s decision “complete nonsensical hogwash and overbearing.” Maier says she is “puzzled” by the board’s action, adding, “We are just trying to keep our students safe. They can practice inside during those times.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Tax hikes for schools: The push for a special referendum to boost the sales tax a half-cent for replacing and repairing Duval County schools picked up some support at a Jacksonville City Council meeting. But most council members still question the board’s request for a special election Nov. 5, saying it will cost too much and turnout will be low. The council’s Finance Committee and Rules Committee meets Tuesday to consider the district’s request. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WTLV. The Hernando County School Board directs the district staff to start preparing language for a November 2020 referendum asking voters to raise property taxes to help fund the county’s schools. A 1-mill increase in taxes would bring the district about $10 million a year for the four years it would be in effect. Tampa Bay Times. The Clay County School Board is considering asking voters to approve a half-cent boost in the sales tax to raise money for school improvements. Officials say the 41 county schools need about $300 million for repairs. Clay Today.

Security in schools: The Monroe County School Board approves a proposal to spend $235,000 for antennas so emergency radios will work properly inside newly built Plantation Key School and Gerald Adams Elementary School. The school district will also provide law enforcement with real-time access to security camera footage in schools and official copies of the district’s updated school safety and security plan. Key West Citizen.

Charter gets ultimatum: Hillsdale College has told the Mason Classical Academy that if two of its board members and the principal do not resign by June 30, the college will sever ties with the Naples charter school. Hillsdale, a conservative private college in Michigan, supports the academy through its Barney Charter School Initiative. The ultimatum came after the release of a report from the Collier County School Board attorney, who spent a year looking into accusations of mismanagement at Mason. Naples Daily News.

Contract negotiations: The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers union agree that the $38,200 starting salary for teachers is not good enough, and pledge to find a way to make it more competitive as they open negotiations on a new contract. Also up for discussion are the $4,000 raises for teachers every three years that are now in the contract. Marie Whelan, the district’s head of human resources, said the district doesn’t want teachers to have to wait until mid-career to make a livable salary. “We would rather have them be the lifers for us, and our great teachers, from the beginning,” Whelan said. Gradebook.

Lead in school water: State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, has started a private campaign to raise $250,000 to buy and install water filters at the 136 Hillsborough public schools built before 1986 that contain lead pipes. Her bill to pay for filters in all Florida schools with lead pipes failed in this year’s Legislature. Florida Politics.

Student wanted for oversight: The city of Hollywood is looking for a high school student to appoint to a board that’s overseeing the spending of $165 million in bond money approved in March for a variety of community projects. So far, no one has shown any interest, so the city is starting a social media campaign to find someone. Sun Sentinel.

Early dismissal changes: The Duval County School District is cutting the number of early dismissal days next fall in half, from two every month to one. On those days, students will be dismissed two hours early. Florida Times-Union.

Student fees rising: The Pasco County School District is raising the fees it charges for  students to park, take classes online, have a locker in physical education classes and taking art, music and physical education courses in the schools. Gradebook.

Student dress code: The Bay County School District is relaxing its student dress code for the next school year, with more flexibility and fewer restrictions. “Colors will be very flexible,” said Kara Mulkusky, director of student services. “We’re encouraging schools to still follow through with their school colors to show pride and camaraderie but we understand that many parents may not be able to go out and purchase the appropriate colors.” Panama City News Herald.

New programs: Four Manatee County schools will introduce new programs in the fall. A group of 36 Daughtrey Elementary kindergarten students will be given lessons in Spanish for a half-day and in English the other half. Blackburn Elementary will become a Cambridge school, Manatee Elementary a performing arts and community partnership school, and Palm View Elementary is transitioning into a K-8 school. Bradenton Herald.

District asks for grants: The Gulf County School District is asking Triumph Gulf Coast Inc. for grants to expand two career education programs at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School. Triumph, which was formed to distribute most of the state’s share from the settlement with BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, meets next week to consider the requests of $250,000 for the school’s welding program and $125,000 for the agricultural science program. Port St. Joe Star.

District survey results: Nearly 9 of 10 Citrus County school employees, parents and students think the district is doing a good job on school safety, according to the district’s annual survey. Conditions of school facilities got the lowest marks, with 67 percent of employees and 53 percent of students saying they were satisfactory. Just 39 percent of teachers, support staff and administrators and 6 percent of families took the survey, and board members will consider changes to increase participation next year. Citrus County Chronicle.

Personnel moves: Two of the four assistant principal transfers made by outgoing Indian River County Superintendent Mark Rendell have been overturned by interim superintendent Susan Moxley. Bill Wilson will remain at Sebastian River High School and  Eddie Robinson will stay on at Vero Beach High School. TCPalm. Robert Stingone is named the principal at Eisenhower Middle School in Hillsborough County, and three other principals have been moved to the role of “administrator on special assignment.” Gradebook.

School board elections: Gianfranco Puppio-Perez announces his candidacy for the District 5 seat on the Miami-Dade County School Board. Current board member Susie Castillo says she’s not running for re-election. Florida Politics.

School offers spots: A Hebrew charter high school in Hollywood offers to take in students from a Greensboro, N.C., Hebrew school that closed without notice this week. Ben Gamla Preparatory Academy says students from the American Hebrew Academy (AHA) are welcome to what principal Gayle Iacono calls the only Hebrew English charter high school in the United States. Financial problems caused the closure of AHA, which was described as the only Jewish college preparatory boarding school in the country. WGHP.

School nurse suspended: A Walton County school nurse has been suspended after seven students said some of their medications were missing. Walton County Superintendent Russell Hughes would not identify the employee, but Sheriff Mike Adkinson confirmed it was a school nurse at the Paxton School, a K-12 school in Laurel Hill. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: State policymakers should focus their efforts on increasing the bang for the education buck regardless of spending level. If increasing spending had a large positive impact on student achievement in the American K-12 system, our African American and Hispanic students would not be posting scores closer to the average scores of students in Chile and Mexico. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. The Sarasota County School District cannot tolerate the repeated actions of chief operating officer Jeff Maultsby, who’s accused of harassing his administrative assistant. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Collier County School Board and Sheriff’s Office should quit squabbling over who pays for youth relations deputies in schools: They both get their funding from taxpayers. Naples Daily News. Participating in the 2020 census is important because it helps determine the distribution of federal funds to governments, including schools. Lee County School Board member Betsy Vaughn, Fort Myers News-Press.

Student enrichment: Bay County students in need of a free meal, mental health service or a summer activity can call 850-767-4357 to get information from off-duty teachers. The program is funded through a $1.1 million allocation from FEMA to help the recovery from Hurricane Michael. Panama City News Herald. There are now almost 200 students involved in the Hernando County School District’s Future Farmers of America program, and about 15 will present their agricultural research at state and possibly national competitions. Tampa Bay Times. Students from Gainesville High School offer Mayor Lauren Poe suggestions on ways to close the income gap between residents on the east and west sides of town. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff