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Teaching civics, heart tests, schools criticized, software mess and more

Teaching civics: The push by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to improve civics education in the state’s K-12 schools is forcing educators to question whether it’s the job of schools to teach students about the foundation of government or how to be good citizens. Until that gets settled, educators are trying to teach students everything. Experts say the state’s system for teaching civics, which requires a standardized test and instruction from elementary school through high school, is already among the strongest in the nation. ″(Florida) set up a system that developmentally builds civics competency in elementary and middle where there was a dearth of civics to begin with, then builds up to high school where students are usually required to take an American government course,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “That still is pretty innovative.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Heart-testing plans: Brevard County school officials are preparing a policy that will require all student-athletes to have heart-screening tests before being allowed to compete. The district hopes to have the policy in place in time to screen all student-athletes in grades 7-12 by the winter sports season. An opt-out will be included for parents who don’t want their children screened. Florida Today.

Schools knocked in survey: Three-quarters of Fort Lauderdale residents surveyed say the city’s middle and high schools are average or worse, and 61 percent put elementary schools in the same category. The rating for the city as a “place to educate children” finished in last place in the annual survey, just below the rating for the city as “a place to raise children.” Preventing students from being bullied and providing them high-quality teachers were residents’ two biggest goals for schools. Sun Sentinel.

Software problems: Two former Manatee County school officials say the ex-superintendent withheld information about problems the district was having with its new business software system to improve the chances of voters approving a property tax increase. Former superintendent Diana Greene, now in Duval County, called the accusations incorrect, though a former and a current school board member say the charges don’t surprise them because Greene kept tight control over information. The software rollout was about a year late and cost $27 million instead of the $10 million originally projected. Bradenton Herald.

Vaping prevention: The Palm Beach County School District is planning a campaign against vaping when schools resume in August. Among the steps being considered: a push to inform and warn students about the dangers of vaping, changes in the student code to specifically penalize vaping, and a lobbying effort to get the state to code offenses separate from smoking or selling drugs so the district can better track the problem. Vaping-related felony charges for youths jumped from 8 in 2017 to 115 in 2018, and 46 were filed in the first quarter of this year, according to the state attorney. Palm Beach Post.

Security in schools: All school districts in northwest Florida, except Santa Rosa County’s, will participate in the state’s school guardian program that gives districts the option to arm teachers and other employees. Not all the districts plan to arm teachers. Northwest Florida Daily News. Security has been increased at high school football games with rifles, metal detectors and school resource officers, and at other after-school events in northwest Florida districts. Northwest Florida Daily News. A charter school principal in Fort Walton Beach talks about the security measures her school taken taken. Northwest Florida Daily News. The Lake County School District, sheriff and two local organizations collaborate to put signs on sheriff’s vehicles that promote the SpeakOut hotline to report bullying, threatening behavior or suicidal ideas among students. Daily Commercial.

Contract negotiations: Teachers in St. Lucie County will receive supplements ranging from $1,000 to $7,800 a year for the next four years if the school board approves the contract between the district and the union. The raises are available through the 2022-2023 school year because voters approved a property tax increase in April. The school board votes on the deal this week. TCPalm.

Cost-sharing requested: Collier County wants the school district to begin paying half the costs of putting youth relations deputies in every school. The county has picked up the full cost of the program for the past 40 years, which was $6.7 million last year. The district has yet to respond, though a spokesman has written in an email that “It is concerning the county appears to be backing down on its long-term partnership and commitment, particularly after the Parkland tragedy.” Naples Daily News.

Repairs at schools begin: New roofs and air-conditioning systems are being installed at several Alachua County schools, financed by a half-cent school facilities tax approved by voters last year. The tax is expected to generate about $22 million a year for the next 12 years. Gainesville Sun.

Charter expansion: Pasco County charter school operators John and Suzanne Legg announce plans to build a 200-student precollegiate high school in 2020, an elementary school for about 300 children in 2021, new middle school buildings at Dayspring Academy  to replace portables and to add outdoor fields for the preschool. The Leggs say the plans will expand educational opportunities in the western side of the county. Gradebook.

Still no site for school: Almost two months after the group pushing for a charter high school in Destin announced it had three potential locations, no site has been secured. When the school was approved by the school board, the Destin High School Inc. advisory board said a lease would be negotiated in May. It expects to open the school to about 275 9th- and 10th-graders in the fall of 2020. Northwest Florida Daily News.

District dress code: Osceola County School Board members will consider making the district’s student dress code more consistent across schools. Among the changes under review: Students could wear polo or collared shirts and khaki or denim pants or skirts, hoodies and hats would be banned, shirts wouldn’t have to be tucked in and belts would no longer be required. Osceola News-Gazette.

Defunct school defaults: A judge has ruled that a now-closed private Christian school in Port St. Lucie is in default for nearly $2 million in unpaid rent. The Barnabas Christian Academy, formerly known as Nation Christian Academy, closed its doors in April after being evicted by its landlord. TCPalm.

Educators honored: Tamara Hopkins, principal of Sweetwater Elementary School in Port Orange, is named the Volusia County School District’s 2019 elementary principal of the year, and Carolyn Carbonell, principal of Deltona High, is chosen as the secondary principal of the year by the school district and the Futures Foundation. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Personnel moves: Former Florida Education Association president Joanne McCall is named executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. McCall lost re-election last year as president of the state’s largest teachers union, and had been teaching at Godby High School in Tallahassee. Gradebook. Flagler Palm Coast High School principal Bob Wallace announces his retirement just 10 months after he began the job. Flagler Live. Amy Anderson has been appointed principal of the Richbourg School for special-needs students in Okaloosa County. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Superintendent search: Escambia County school officials announce an 18-month timeline to appoint a replacement for Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. Voters decided last fall to begin appointing superintendents instead of electing them, and Thomas announced he would retire in November 2020. Pensacola News-Journal.

District’s school bus changes: Lee County school officials have begun mapping out school bus routes for next fall, and say once the new routes are set they will be frozen for the first three weeks of school. The district is also looking for drivers to cover the 750 or so routes, and has boosted wages from $14.29 an hour last year to about $16 this year. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: Since when do we criminally charge sworn law-enforcement officers for failing to do their jobs? Scot Peterson failed that day in Parkland, but filing criminal charges against him sets a troubling precedent and raises equally troubling questions about the security of our school campuses. Palm Beach Post. It is clear that the Scot Peterson case is unusual and should be considered with great care. A police officer must be prepared to die — and one who is guarding students at a school must be prepared to act. Therefore, the best solution is to allow a jury of Peterson’s peers to decide whether he should go to prison for his lack of response. Florida Times-Union. Scot Peterson has already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. I can’t imagine a worse sentence than the one he has already given himself: Looking in the mirror every day and seeing someone who might have saved a child’s life, but chose not to try. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The arrest of Scot Peterson on charges of child neglect and culpable negligence last week because of what he didn’t do is misguided, misses the point and may be legally indefensible. Sue Carlton, Tampa Bay Times. When the state asked Florida residents whether the state should redo its educational standards once again, they said no. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said: We’re going to take that as a yes. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. A progressive plan to replace offensive mascot names in Hillsborough County schools is on pause, and school officials are missing a teachable moment. Sue Carlton, Tampa Bay Times. There is a crisis in Duval County with crumbling schools. But will we react with a sense of urgency? Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union. A financial literacy course should be required in all Florida high schools. Tampa Bay Times. There are lots of ways to improve school performance. Academic rigor is one way, but that is so boring since it involves stuff like reading, comprehension and intellectual curiosity. Or you can simply cook the books. Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Here are the valedictorians and salutatorians at Miami-Dade and Broward schools. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Four Polk County students are among the 3,500 across the United States to earn National Merit scholarships. The scholarships are awarded on the basis of their PSAT scores, academic record, extracurricular activities, awards and leadership positions. Lakeland Ledger. Nassau County students will receive free meals this summer through the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Summer BreakSpot program. Locations can be found here. Nassau County Record. Proceeds from the sales of charms with the slogan “850 Strong” are helping with the recovery of Bay County schools from Hurricane Michael. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff