Schools prepare for storm, fight over sales tax hike goes on, liability case and more

Preparing for the storm: School officials around the state are closely monitoring the path of Hurricane Dorian, which could hit somewhere along the east coast of Florida over the three-day holiday weekend. Some districts have canceled or rescheduled events. Tallahassee Democrat. WKMG. WJXT. Florida Today. WPLG. TCPalm. Daytona Beach News-Journal. St. Augustine Record. Flagler Live. Miami Herald. Associated Press. Lakeland Ledger. Ocala Star-Banner. TCPalm. WKMG. WPTV.

Sales tax hike fight: Duval County School Board members have decided to hire outside counsel to help them get a half-cent sales tax hike referendum on a ballot later this year or in 2020. The board’s request to put the measure, which is meant to help pay to replace and repair aging schools, before voters was rejected Tuesday by the Jacksonville City Council. The city’s general counsel, Jason Gabriel, said the board doesn’t have the legal authority to hire an outside counsel under the City Charter and Ordinance Code, and ordered members to cease and desist. That view is shared by the school board’s own legal adviser, Karen Chastain, but the board voted 6-1 to do so anyway. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics. WJXT. WJAX. Clay County School Board members agree to wait until November 2020 to place a half-cent sales tax increase request on the ballot. Clay Today.

A question of liability: The Florida Supreme Court hears arguments about the Broward County School Board’s liability limits to families of those killed in the 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The board is arguing that the massacre of 17 people and wounding of 17 others was a single event, and that its legal liability should be a total of $300,000, which by state law is the cap on multiple claims from the same occurrence. Families of the victims contend each shooting is a separate event, and each of the 33 claimants should be entitled to up to $200,000 each. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Miami Herald.

Security in schools: The Palm Beach County School Board has terminated its contract with Invictus Security Services to train guards for charter schools, and will sue the company to get back the $78,000 it’s already paid. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw says the company botched the training and passed guards who didn’t meet psychological and firearms qualifications. Deputies are retraining the guards this week. Invictus president Patrick Miller blamed the school district for not providing “formal guidance on the scope of work” it needed. WPEC. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV.

Hearing over charter: Payroll records for the Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school were lost when a thumb drive malfunctioned, the school’s former bookkeeper testified Wednesday at a state hearing that will determine if the Manatee County School District acted properly in removing school principal and CEO Eddie Hundley, terminating the school’s charter and seizing it. DeAnna King told the administrative judge that employee pay stubs were stored on the thumb drive and not backed up, and that the device failed on the same day auditors arrived to collect documents. Hundley also testified, and said the school wasn’t treated like other charters by the district. The financially troubled Palmetto school is challenging the school district’s termination of its charter. The hearing concludes today. The judge is expected to take several weeks to make a decision. Bradenton HeraldWTVT.

Holocaust education: U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican representing the 16th District in Sarasota and Manatee counties, is cosponsoring a bill that would set aside money for grants to teach U.S. students about the Holocaust and set up workshops to help teachers incorporate it into their classes. Florida Politics.

Employees get apology: Marion County School Board members have apologized to the five teachers and seven paraprofessionals who were removed from Evergreen Elementary School by district employees at the request of the outside company that now operates it. The employees say their ID badges and classroom keys were confiscated and they were escorted off campus in front of students, parents and colleagues. “What happened to you guys on that day, that afternoon, was wrong,” board chair Kelly King told the 12. “It is a total disregard for this profession. … Our employees were treated like criminals that day.” Ocala Star-Banner.

School enrollment: Student enrollment in Palm Beach County public schools is up by more than 2,300, to 196,860, according to the district’s 11-day count. The most overcrowded schools at each level all gained students. Calusa Elementary is now at 127 percent of capacity, Eagles Landing Middle at 121 percent and Forest Hill High at 135 percent. The 52 charter schools also reported an addition of 917 students. Palm Beach Post. The Walton County School District has added 393 students to boost enrollment to a record 10,053. DeFuniak Springs Herald.

Development and schools: Hillsborough County School Board members, commissioners and city council members from Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City have pledged to talk about coordinating development planning to take into consideration how school safety and infrastructure would be affected. Gradebook. WFTS.

New school construction: Construction on a K-8 school in Navarre is expected to begin next month, according to Santa Rosa County School District officials. The cost is projected to be $38 million and a fall 2020 opening is anticipated. It will be the first school built by the district in 10 years. Pensacola News Journal.

Tests and graduation: States that have end-of-course exams, such as Florida, are seeing improvements in graduation rates, according to a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The 74.

Cutting off YouTubers: Pasco County school officials are working on policies that would deter parents and visitors from making videos at schools without the permission of the people in the videos. The discussion was prompted by complaints from students and parents about being filmed by a family that makes money by sharing their videos with the 1.1 million subscribers to their YouTube channel. Gradebook.

Battling bats: Some students and guidance counselors have been moved off the second floor of the Belleview High School administration building because of a bat infestation. Marion County School District officials are consulting University of Florida scientists for advice on how to remove the bats, which are protected under state law. Ocala Star-Banner.

Taking on fake school threats: There have been as many as 30 fake threats to Hillsborough County schools since classes resumed in August, and school and law enforcement officials are issuing a message to students to think before they post and report any threat they hear about. “It’s not a joke, and there are serious consequences,” said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. “We have so much important business to do every day, and we can’t be taking our resources for this.” Gradebook. Bay News 9. WFTS. WTVT.

Weapons in schools: A 16-year-old Polk County student is arrested and accused of bringing a gun to Ridge Community High School in Haines City. Lakeland Ledger. A Manatee County students is suspended for 10 days for bringing a small knife to Braden River High School. No criminal charges were filed because the knife’s blade was less than 4 inches long. Bradenton Herald. Two DeLand High School students are arrested and accused of using a fake gun to rob a classmate. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: To end the teacher shortage, voters need to insist that our representatives and our governor treat teachers as professionals and stop their attack on public schools and their obsession with privatizing it. Paula Dockery, Sun Sentinel. Everybody wants students from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences to have the opportunity to succeed in college majors like engineering and the physical sciences. But whose responsibility is it to make it so? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: A Collier County student starts a charity to provide bicycle helmets to students. Cooper Tunkle, an 8th-grader at Gulfview Middle School, has handed out 30 so far. Naples Daily News. The number of Monroe County students receiving career training certifications jumped from 443 in the 2017-2018 school year to 771 last year. Key West Citizen.

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BY NextSteps staff