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Teacher bonus formulas, school security, lobbying Congress, tax vote and more

New teacher bonus formulas: The Florida Department of Education has released a two-page explanation detailing how schools and their principals and teachers can qualify for the newly reworked bonuses for educators. To be eligible, teachers must be rated highly effective or effective and have worked at least two consecutive years at schools that improved their accountability points totals by an average of 3 percentage points over the past three years. Bonuses are set at $1,000 for eligible effective educators and $2,500 for highly effective ones. Qualified principals can receive $5,000. Gradebook.

Security in schools: Orlando’s proposed $1.4 billion budget calls for eight new resource officers so that all 52 schools in the city would have an assigned officer. Orlando Sentinel. The Palm Beach County School District plans to set aside $4 million to help the county’s 52 charter schools hire fulltime armed security this fall. But most of the cost will still fall on the charters. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has also agreed to provide training for school guardians. Palm Beach Post. The Hillsborough County School District is buying a $7.6 million, hand-held emergency alert system that will enable its 27,000 employees to report problems or call for help anywhere on campuses. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. The Florida Department of Education says it will begin tracking how many districts are allowing teachers to be armed under the school guardian program. News Service of Florida. Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson is requesting $1 million in his 2020 budget to buy patrol cars, guns, radios and other equipment for eight new school resource officers. Pensacola News Journal. Gulf Coast Academy, a charter school in Spring Hill, is the first Hernando County school to have school guardians instead of resource officers. Tampa Bay Times. The statewide grand jury report critical of school districts that are not compliant with required security measures at schools suggests that those districts are simply reluctant to arm teachers, as the state panel investigating the 2018 Parkland school shooting recommended. Florida Phoenix.

Lobbying for school safety: Parents whose children died in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are planning to travel to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby members of Congress to adopt measures that could make schools safer. Some of them will testify Thursday before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. They want senators to consider limiting access to schools, allowing authorities to exchange information about students and passing laws that would allow law enforcement to seize a person’s firearms if a judge decides that person presents a danger to others or himself. Politico Florida.

Sales tax hike fights: The Duval County School Board votes to hire independent counsel to advise it in its fight with the Jacksonville City Council over putting a sales tax increase for replacing and repairing schools on the ballot. Board member Lori Hershey and the city’s general counsel, Jason Gabriel, meet today to discuss the request. Gabriel says no independent counsel may be hired without the approval of his office. The city’s attorney has said that only the city council can decide whether a referendum on a half-cent sales tax increase for schools will be held, and when. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Clay County School Board and County Commission members continue to squabble about their legal fight over a sales tax increase for schools. WJXT.

District takes over charter: The Manatee County School Board votes to terminate a charter school’s contract and assume control of the school, saying its financial struggles and leadership problems prompted the move. Lincoln Memorial Academy has fallen into debt and its leader, Eddie Hundley, had his educator’s license revoked by the state for five years after giving job recommendations for a teacher who was under investigation for sexual misconduct. Last week, Florida Education Commission Richard Corcoran urged the board to remove Hundley, who resigned as the school’s CEO this week. Lincoln’s governing board can appeal the decision. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

‘Placebo’ test apology? The president of the Volusia County teachers union is asking the school board to apologize to the teachers who alerted the district about Mainland High School officials’ decision to give 336 students a placebo Advanced Placement exam. After the complaint was investigated, the school’s principal and chief academic officer were reprimanded. Superintendent Tim Egnor and school board members have criticized the decision to give the fake tests, but union president Elizabeth Albert says an apology is due because the incident has damaged the trust students and parents have in their teachers. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

New reading program: The Hillsborough County School District is considering starting a pilot program to test a new reading curriculum and materials at nine schools with grades and test scores that are among the lowest in the district. The pilot proposal will be presented to school board members at a future meeting. While those plans proceed, the results of a $500,000 districtwide audit looking for ways to improve reading are expected in late August. Gradebook.

Superintendent searches: The Hillsborough County School Board will hire a search firm to find candidates for the superintendent’s job that Jeff Eakins is leaving in June 2020. That company, Ray and Associates Inc., is also under contract to help the Marion County School Board find a replacement for Superintendent Heidi Maier. Marion County voters agreed to have superintendents appointed by the school board instead of being elected. Gradebook. An attempt to have the Okaloosa School Board discuss a change to appointed superintendents from elected ones failed at Tuesday’s meeting. Northwest Florida Daily News.

District budget: The Sarasota County School Board tentatively approves an $873 million budget that includes $131 million for capital expenses. Two of the five board members voted against the budget, saying it draws too much from the district’s reserve funds. Twenty-one percent of the budget would come from reserves. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Santa Rosa County school Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick is cautioning that next year’s district budget will be “very tight.” He said a drop in the millage rate and increases in spending on school safety, special education and other issues required by the state Department of Education leave little wiggle room in the budget. School officials were hoping to find a new source of revenue through the imposition of an impact fee on new construction, but were turned down by county commissioners. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Outside operator: Local educator Jayne Ellspermann says her company is willing to step in as the outside operator of the struggling Evergreen Elementary School. That company, Jayne Ellspermann LLC, is already running Oakcrest Elementary, and was asked by school officials if it could handle another. The state ordered the district to replace Educational Directions as the operator at Evergreen after the school received a grade of D from the state, the seventh straight year it’s gotten a D or F. Ocala Star-Banner.

Health care at schools: PanCare, a health care services nonprofit, will dispense medication and provide telehealth services and first aid for students in the Bay County School District this fall. The services, which will cost the district $505,000, are part of an agreement among PanCare, the school district and the Florida Department of Health in Bay County. Panama City News Herald.

Math and science pitch: Polk County School Board members are walked through math and science experiments by two college physics professors who are pushing the board to add higher level classes in the subjects. Only about 10 percent of Polk County’s seniors are taking physics and about 8 percent are in calculus classes. Lakeland Ledger.

New school site: The St. Johns County School Board has agreed to pay just over $7 million for a 68.7-acre property in St. Augustine, where it intends to build a high school. School officials hope to open the school for the 2021-2022 school year. Superintendent Tim Forson said the school will ease overcrowding at Bartram Trail and Nease high schools. WJXT. St. Augustine Record.

District selling property: The Lake County School Board has agreed to sell 27 acres that used to be the Leesburg High School agriculture farm in Fruitland Park to a developer. The price will be between $4.5 million and $4.9 million, depending on the appraisal. The land was declared surplus in 2007 by the board. Daily Commercial.

Scooters and schools: Leon County School Board members are asking district officials to consider creating a policy banning electric scooters from schools. “As with any new technology, we will look into whether an action needs to be taken in regards to the scooters,” said district spokesman Chris Petley. Tallahassee Democrat.

School board elections: Marion County School Board member Beth McCall says she will run for re-election to a second term representing District 2. She’s the only candidate so far. Ocala Star-Banner.

Back to school: Schools open Aug. 14 in Broward County and end June 2, with winter break from Dec. 20-Jan. 7. In Miami-Dade, students return to schools Aug. 19 and finish June 3, with the holiday break going from Dec. 23 to Jan. 6. Miami Herald. The Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale is collecting school supplies to fill 1,000 backpacks for students with special needs. Sun Sentinel. Students can get free backpacks, supplies, haircuts and uniforms at a back-to-school fair in Boynton Beach Aug. 3. Sun Sentinel. Free school immunization shots are now available in Volusia, Flagler and Lake counties. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Daily Commercial.

Fires at schools: Fires at two Tampa Bay area schools will not affect the resumption of classes, according to school officials. Last weekend a fire caused by lightning destroyed the 7th-grade building at McLane Middle School in Hillsborough County. Those students will attend classes in other buildings when the school opens Aug. 12. Tuesday, a fire started when insulation caught fire damaged a roof being renovated at St. Petersburg High School in Pinellas County. Students return to the school Aug. 14. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. WTSP.

Teacher arrested: A Broward County high school science teacher has been arrested and accused of having sexual relations with an underage student. Deputies say Venorrice Wells, 31, a science teacher at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, is charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor, 16 or 17 years old, and being an authority figure soliciting/engaging in sexual conduct with a student. Wells has been reassigned to a job that includes no contact with students until the district’s investigation is completed. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Hugging teacher suspended: A Broward County teacher who was accused by female students of giving unwanted, “full-frontal” hugs has been suspended for 10 days by the Broward County School Board. Karleef Kebreau, a math teacher at Miramar High, was being recommended for a one-day suspension by Superintendent Robert Runcie, but the board said it wasn’t enough and told Runcie to reconsider. Sun Sentinel.

Suit over school dropped: A Sarasota County church has dropped a discrimination lawsuit against the county commissioners who denied its request for a zoning exception so it could accept more students at its school. The dismissal was a result of a settlement between commissioners and Englewood Church of the Nazarene that reversed the denial. Charlotte Sun.

School burglarized: Nine young men wearing masks are arrested and accused of breaking into Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines. Police arrested them shortly after the break-in was reported and charged them with burglary, trespassing on school grounds and resisting arrest without violence. Sun Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Shouldn’t someone be checking to see if Florida’s school districts are following the law about Holocaust education in K-12 schools? Diane Rado, Florida Phoenix. Is teaching writing as important as teaching reading? Sun Sentinel. State academic mandates can be harmful with students with special needs. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: The Edison Senior High School football team has new equipment to use, thanks to a donation by the Miami Dolphins. Edison’s equipment was destroyed in a fire last month at the school fieldhouse. Miami Herald. A special summer course is teaching time management and study habits to Newberry High School students preparing to enroll for the first time in Advanced Placement classes. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff