Possible reprieve for Israel, vaping up, choice growth, test changes and more

Reinstatement recommended: A Florida Senate special master is recommending that Scott Israel be reinstated as sheriff of Broward County. Israel was suspended in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis for his and his department’s failures during the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. “Sheriff Israel and the BSO are not blameless for the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas,” wrote special master Dudley Goodlette. “That said, the evidence offered has not demonstrated that Sheriff Israel should be removed from office based on this incident.” His recommendation now goes to the Senate, which will vote next month in a special session to remove or reinstate Israel. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Associated Press. Politico Florida.

Student vaping increases: Almost 28 percent of Florida middle and high school students used electronic vaping pens in 2018, according to a report from the state Department of Health. That’s more than 4 percentage points higher than in 2017, and is the first yearly increase since 2015. Florida legislators say curbing students’ use of e-cigarettes is a priority in the legislative session that begins Jan. 14. Politico Florida. WFSU.

School choice growth: School choice is continuing to grow in the United States, according to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Education. In 1999, about 14 percent of U.S. students attended charter schools, magnet schools or used open enrollment to attend a school other than the one they were assigned to. By 2016 it was 19 percent. In that same time frame, the students attending their assigned neighborhood public schools dipped from 74 percent to 69 percent. The report also showed no measurable gap between charter schools and traditional schools on national test scores. redefinED. Education Week.

Testing changes considered: The Clay County School Board is considering a proposal to drop the Florida Standards Assessments tests in favor of using the SAT and ACT tests. Superintendent Addison Davis told the board that Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is getting ready to make the switch statewide. “I think he and his team are, in a couple of years, ready to waive all of the assessments in high schools and use the SAT and ACT.” Clay Today. AIR Assessment, which created the FSA tests and has administered them to state students since 2015, has been sold to the online education company Cambium Learning. AIR representatives say there will be no changes in the way the tests are handled. Gradebook.

Status of school girls: One in 10 Florida middle school and high school students have been raped, and 63 percent of girls say they have been bullied in school, according to a “Status of Girls Well-Being in Florida” study released this week by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center. The report also concludes that girls of color, or those who live in rural areas or are gay or bisexual, have a higher chance of being sexually assaulted, bullied and getting bad grades in school. But the report also disclosed that most girls are doing well in school, with 81 percent earning A and B grades, and that 89 percent saying they enjoy school. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. WJHG. WJXT. Florida Phoenix. Capitol News Service.

Security in schools: Even though every Palm Beach County school now has an armed guard there are still security challenges, the district’s police chief told the school board this week. In his safety report to the board, Chief Frank Kitzerow said some charter schools are especially difficult to secure because they’re in shopping centers. Some charters want to take part in the state’s armed guardian program, but that training has yet to be organized by the sheriff’s office. Sun Sentinel. The federal government releases a security guide for U.S. school districts to prepare school emergency plans with first responders. Politico Florida. Citrus County officials say they’re pleased with their new school guardians, but have concerns about the ongoing costs of the program. Citrus County Chronicle.

FDLE’s FVS query: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is reviewing a complaint against Frank Kruppenbacher, the former attorney for the Florida Virtual School who resigned last year after an investigation into his behavior and spending. Those reports led the state Department of Education to take over the operation of FVS, disband the board of trustees, appoint a new president and ask for audit, which is due next week. Orlando Sentinel.

Board, superintendent spar: The fight between Marion County school Superintendent Heidi Maier and the school board is escalating. The board has hired a law firm to investigate two complaints against Maier that allege she’s created a hostile work environment, but Maier’s attorney is arguing that that only the state has the power to investigate an elected superintendent. Maier’s term ends in November 2020, when the county will switch over to an appointed superintendent. Ocala Star-Banner.

FEMA money for Bay: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is reimbursing the Bay County School Board $4 million for costs the school district incurred when Hurricane Michael smashed through the area last October. Panama City News Herald.

School enrollment: The Duval County School District has 130,140 students at the 20-day count, which is 352 more than last year. That increase, plus the closing of some schools, has closed the gap between enrollment and capacity to just over 5,000 students. The district also reported that enrollment in charter schools is up about 800 students, to 14,470. The next head count is in October. Florida Times-Union.

District makeup days: Orange County students will make up one of the two school days they lost when Hurricane Dorian threatened the state. District officials want students to be in class Oct. 17 and off the following day. Both had been designated student holidays. The teachers union will have to approve the proposal. Orlando Sentinel. Indian River County students will lose two of their Thanksgiving week vacation days because of Hurricane Dorian. The school board voted to make up two of the three days lost on Nov. 25 and 26. TCPalm. The Marion County School Board has tentatively approved a plan for students to make up time lost to Dorian. Classes would be held Oct. 15, which was scheduled as a teacher work day, the scheduled half-day Dec. 11 would become a full day, and Dec. 20, which had been the first day of winter break, will now be a half-day of school. Ocala Star-Banner.

School calendar: The Palm Beach School Board has tweaked the 2020-2021 school calendar so students will be out of school Aug. 18, 2020, for the primary election. The calendar had shown Aug. 25 as the day off for the primary, but that changed when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill moving the election from Aug. 25. Palm Beach Post.

No more free flu shots: The company hired five years ago to provide free flu shots to all students at Palm Beach County schools is ending the program. Healthy Schools LLC, a Jacksonville company, said increasing costs and declining parent interest prompted its decision. Students will now have to go to a doctor, a walk-in clinic or the health department to get a shot. Palm Beach Post.

What’s next for charter? A state administrative judge is expected to rule by Monday whether the Manatee County School Board was justified in seizing control of the Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school in July. If the judge rules in the district’s favor, Lincoln would revert to a traditional public school, though district officials have said they want the school to continue as a charter. That means they’d need someone to quickly step forward with a charter application. If the judge rules against the district, Lincoln’s charter would be reinstated. Bradenton Herald.

Contract negotiations: About 70 Brevard County teachers protested the lack of progress in contract negotiations at this week’s school board meeting. Talks broke off last week, but are scheduled to resume Monday. Florida Today.

Legislative agenda: Monroe County School Board members are lobbying their legislative delegation for more flexibility in making decisions and more money to maintain programs. “We seek flexibility and the authority to use the money we do have — especially locally-generated money,” said Superintendent Mark Porter. Key West Citizen.

Personnel moves: Brent McBrien has left his job as principal at Martinez Middle School in Hillsborough County. No reason was given for his departure. Area superintendent Marcus Murillo sent a message to parents saying, in part: “This action is not related to the safety of our students. Because this is ongoing we cannot share more details.” Gradebook. When Cypress Creek Middle School splits from Cypress Creek High School next fall, Tim Light will be the principal. Light has been the assistant principal of the combined middle-high school since 2017. Gradebook.

Superintendent search: The three-day extension of an online survey to gauge what Hillsborough County residents want in a new superintendent brought in almost 1,300 extra responses, bringing the final total to 3,251. The school board will discuss the results at its meeting next Wednesday. Gradebook.

Notable deaths: Barbara Lewis, the woman behind the front desk for the past 30 years at Citrus High School, has died at the age of 75. “She was fun, kind, goofy and compassionate, and as ‘Mama Lewis’ she was the only mother figure some kids ever had,” said her son, Mark Hancock. “She took her time to know them and to learn about their lives.” Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher had had enough: A former Spanish teacher at an Orange County public school explains why she has left the profession after 16 years: “The nonsense was outweighing the reward more and more every year,” said Rachel Bardes. Yahoo.

Classroom battle: A Sarasota County parent is squaring off with the school district over a teacher’s decoration of her classroom. Tomy Tusia, a history teacher at Booker High, has a “Black Lives Matter” flag, a gay pride flag, a poster explaining gender expression and more in her room. Kevin Mock, whose son is in Tusia’s class, says no doesn’t care about her sexuality but says he does not “want teachers brainwashing my son with their propaganda.” Tusia has since taken down the displays Mock questions, and Mock’s son will br removed from her class. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Suspension recommended: Okaloosa County school officials are recommending that Niceville High School baseball coach Rod Taylor be suspended for a day and required to take anger management classes after a confrontation with a parent of one of his players in the principal’s office. An argument about the coach’s one-game suspension of the player escalated quickly, and principal Charlie Marello had to physically separate the men and call the school resource officer for help. Northwest Florida Daily News.

More details on arrests: The Orange County school resource officer who was fired for arresting two misbehaving 6-year-old students wrote in his report that an assistant principal at Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy told him she wanted to press charges against one of the students for kicking and punching school employees. An attorney for the district, who said earlier that the arrests were made against the wishes of the principal, had no comment on Dennis Turner’s arrest report. Orlando Sentinel. A battery charge against a 7-year-old Escambia County student has been dropped. The Ferry Pass Elementary School student was arrested after throwing chairs in his classroom and hitting a behavioral coach. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

School threats: A 13-year-old student at Galaxy Middle School in Deltona is arrested and accused of threatening to attack the school with a gun. School officials did not report the threat, though. Deputies only learned about it when a parent filed a complaint. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: School resource officers are supposed protect our kids from evil, not create new rap sheets for children who make childish decisions. Orlando Sentinel. Florida has made elementary math achievement a priority. But math achievement at the middle and high school levels is not a priority, and it’s reflected in the SAT math test scores. It’s really as simple as that. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: The shipping company DHL is donating 178 laptops to students at the Mater Academy of International Studies, a charter school in Miami. WPLG. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will award up to $500 to 40 schools that start high school fishing clubs or teams. Lakeland Ledger. Madeline Feiock, a 17-year-old senior at Leon High School in Tallahassee, launches a district-wide voter registration drive. Tallahassee Democrat.

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BY NextSteps staff