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Districts getting subpoenas, most schools resume classes, superintendents and more

Districts subpoenaed: A statewide grand jury has been issuing subpoenas to Florida school districts in connection with its investigation of district spending on school security. The grand jury was convened by Gov. Ron DeSantis on the one-year anniversary of the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. Attorney General Ashley Moody and school officials would not comment. State Sen. Bill Montford, who is the CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, said he has heard about the subpoenas from several superintendents. “Some school districts throughout the state — and it’s not isolated in one part of the state — have received subpoenas for information,” said Montford. Tallahassee Democrat.

Schools closed: School districts in Brevard, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties remain closed today because of the effects of Hurricane Dorian. Each district is scheduled to reopen Friday. All other districts in the state that had closed for the storm resumed classes Wednesday or today. Florida Department of Education. Florida Times-Union. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. Florida Today. WOKV. WSVN. Orlando Sentinel. Orlando Weekly. WESH. Highlands News-Sun. Ocala Star-Banner. Daily Commercial. WCJB. WMFE. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Winds, potential damages and shelter availability are among the factors that decide if schools stay open or close. WLRN. Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie says the district has a “moral responsibility” to help the survivors of Dorian from the Bahamas. WLRN.

Student survey on safety: More than 90 percent of 16,000 U.S. high school sophomores, juniors and seniors say they feel safe or at least somewhat safe at school, according to a report from ACT Inc., the company that gives the standardized college entrance exam. But fewer than half the students surveyed said their schools offered appropriate mental health services for students who need them. Florida Phoenix.

Superintendent’s dissent: The superintendent of the Wakulla County School District, Bobby Pearce, is criticizing an unnamed state education official over the issue of accountability for charter schools. Pearce did not name the official, but the specifics of his comments point to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Shortly after the Broward County School Board terminated the contract of a charter school because it didn’t have an armed guard, Corcoran recommended in a letter that the board instead take an intermediate step. Pearce suggested the Legislature needs to insist that all schools be held to the same standards. WFSU.

Superintendent’s payday: Mary Beth Jackson, the Okaloosa County school superintendent who was suspended and then reinstated by Gov. Ron DeSantis, has collected $200,721.12 in a lump-sum retirement benefit and is receiving a monthly pension of $5,582.36, according to state officials. Florida Phoenix.

Cost of security: Securing the three-story building on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where most of the victims of the 2018 shooting died could cost more than a million dollars a year. Three deputies, mostly working overtime, are assigned to patrol the building at least until after the trial of accused shooter Nikolas Cruz. Sun Sentinel.

Teacher shortage: Bay County school officials say they are facing an “extreme” teacher shortage that has led to crowded classrooms and less help for struggling students. “We posted 30 vacancies just this week but we had even more last week,” said Shirley Baker, executive director of human resources for the district. “Many of the vacancies are closing with no applicants. We’ve got many classrooms with students in them but no teacher.” District officials blame the nationwide shortage that was exacerbated by the effects from Hurricane Michael. Panama City News Herald.

Committees meeting: Florida House and Senate education committees and subcommittees are scheduled for meetings the week of Sept. 16 in Tallahassee. News Service of Florida.

Contract negotiations: Almost three months after the Pasco County School District made an offer to boost teacher pay about 12 percent over two years in exchange for fewer teachers leading more classes, no talks have been held or scheduled. Superintendent Kurt Browning said teachers union leaders won’t sit down for negotiations, while those officials say they haven’t been invited to by the district. Gradebook.

New school preview: Lee County school officials give parents a preview of the new high school being built just west of Lehigh Acres. Among the features are academies in veterinary science, medical science, construction technology with a focus on carpentry, and cybersecurity. It’s expected to open in the fall of 2021. Lehigh Acres Citizen. The district is soliciting suggestions through Sept. 15 to name the new school, which is now being called East Zone High School MMM. WBBH.

Vocational school: Should the Hernando County School Board ask its legislation delegation for money to help build a vocational school? Board member Jimmy Lodato thinks so, but he’s getting little support from his colleagues, who question whether the district could afford to operate it even if the money was available. Tampa Bay Times.

Test deadline extended: The Florida Department of Education has extended the Bright Futures application deadline to Dec. 31 for several Escambia County students whose ACT tests were lost. Those students will now have three optional dates to retake the test, and won’t have to pay to do so after ACT Inc. waived the fee.

School TV changes: Changes are planned for the Broward County School District’s TV station, the Broward Education Communications Network. The money-losing station may start selling airtime or some of the distance-learning programing it produces, or even start a newscast about the schools, district officials said. Sun Sentinel.

School bus rescue: With smoke pouring out of a Leon County school bus, the driver led her special-needs students off the bus, even carrying some of them to safety. No one was hurt after the engine trouble, and the driver quickly got into a substitute bus to complete her rounds. Tallahassee Democrat.

Fighting at school: Pasco County School District officials say they are imposing more severe punishment for students caught fighting after two incidents Wednesday at Fival High School. First-time offenders could be suspended for 10 days or even expelled. WFTS.

School bus attack: Charges are being considered against two Citrus County students who wrapped a shoelace around another student’s neck and tightened it. The victim wasn’t badly hurt during the attack on a school bus to Inverness Middle School. The attackers were disciplined by the district, and the deputies at the state attorney are reviewing the case for possible charges. Citrus County Chronicle.

Opinions on schools: Giving space to LGBTQ+ students to feel welcomed and included, share their experiences, and be affirmed has the power to reshape their lives. Nicole Mosblech, Orlando Sentinel. Despite their high percentage of low-income students, Florida’s public schools are ranked fourth in the United States in K-12 achievement. Again. Ron Matus, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Tampa Plant High School senior Aarushi Pratap is chosen as one of nine U.S. artists to design the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games logo. She was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. Tampa Bay Times. Three Alachua County middle-schoolers place in the top 300 nationally in the Broadcom MASTERS science and engineering competition. Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff