Runcie’s review, concerns about special education, storm struggles and more

Superintendent’s review: Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie gets his worst review ever from a school board divided over his handling of the Feb. 14, 2018, shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Four of the members graded Runcie between mediocre and awful, and three gave him high marks. Overall, Runcie received a grade of 2.8 on a 4.0 scale. Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was murdered in the school attack, gave Runcie the worst score, 1.4, which is considered unsatisfactory. Runcie gave himself a grade of 3.65, and board members Laurie Rich Levinson and Ann Murray each gave him 3.5. Sun Sentinel.

Special education concerns: The Polk County School District has no system in place to make sure the individualized education plans for students with special needs are being followed, according to a review of the district’s practices. The results of the review mirror complaints from parents and reports from the state for the past dozen years, and even self-evaluations by the district. In 2017, a district assessment of adherence to “best practices for inclusive education” showed it meeting or only partially meeting just 10 out of 30 goals. Lakeland Ledger. Twelve times in the past five years, parents have complained to the Florida Department of Education’s Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services about the Polk County School District’s policies toward special needs students. Ten times, the district was found to be violating state or federal requirements. Lakeland Ledger.

After the storm: Almost a year after Hurricane Michael roared through the Florida Panhandle, several school districts and their students are still struggling to recover. The need for mental health services has skyrocketed, and districts have increasingly used the Baker Act to commit students. Thousands of students are homeless, and student enrollment is down nearly 3,500 in Bay, Jackson, Calhoun and Gulf counties. “It is still very sad, and we do feel like this is the forgotten hurricane,” says state Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City. News Service of Florida.

School board term limits: A bill that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot limiting the term limits for school board members has been filed for the 2020 legislative session. Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, is proposing eight-year term limits. A similar bill did not make it through last year’s session. If the Senate and House approve it, it would be placed on the November 2020 ballot. News Service of Florida.

Legislative committees week: Legislators are in Tallahassee this week for committee meetings to help shape the legislative session that starts Jan. 14. School and gun safety, mental health services for students and others, hurricane recovery and the budget are expected to be the major issues for the Legislature. Tallahassee Democrat. GateHouse.

Security in schools: Police in Miami-Dade and Broward counties now have access to surveillance cameras in schools, and the Florida Department of Education has created a new database to collect information about students in order to identify potential threats. Those actions and more are sparking a debate between those who think the steps are just the beginning, and those who think they intrude on student privacy. WLRN. Thirty-nine Okaloosa County schools will get a new security system that can instantly push a notification to a school campus through phones, computers, tablets and loudspeakers. The system, known as the Mass Notification System, will cost $1.623 million, was approved by the county commission. Installation could take up to nine months. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Measles in schools: At least 1,241 U.S. residents in 31 states, many of them school-aged children, have contracted measles this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s the highest number of reported cases in nearly a generation. Officials say nearly 200,000 kindergarten students had not been vaccinated in 2017. Florida’s 6 percent unvaccinated rate is slightly higher than the national average of 5.9 percent. GateHouse Media.

Vaping in schools: Lee County school officials say they are testing new technology that can detect students who are vaping and alert officials for intervention. “We’re reviewing these kind of monitoring devices to see if they have any feasibility in our schools,” said Rob Spicker, assistant director of media relations and public information for the district. WSVN.

Contract negotiations: Negotiations between the Brevard County School District and its teachers union will be held tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday. Both sides said they wanted to collaborate to come to a quick agreement on teacher pay and working conditions. Space Coast Daily.

Makeup days: St. Lucie County students will attend school Jan. 6 and Feb. 7 to make up the days lost when Hurricane Dorian threatened the state. Those days had been scheduled as teacher workdays. TCPalm. Volusia County interim Superintendent Tim Egnor says just five middle schools will have to make up some of the three days missed because of Dorian. All other schools will have enough hours of instruction to avoid the extra days. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Administrators moved out: An assistant principal in Broward County retired this week after being accused of hitting a student with a walkie-talkie and then trying to interfere with the subsequent investigation. Tara Pasteur, 65, worked at Pine Ridge Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, an alternative school for students with behavioral and academic problems. She was suspended for five days after a district investigation and retired rather than appeal the suspension to a state judge. Sun Sentinel. At the insistence of the Florida Department of Education, Karla Hutchinson has been removed as principal of the struggling Lake Forest Elementary School in Alachua County. Under Hutchinson, the school snapped a five-year streak of getting a grade of F from the state with a C in the 2016-2017 school year. But the school’s grades dropped to D in the next two years. Hutchinson will become a supervisor of exceptional student services programs, and assistant principal Marjory Francois will be Lake Forest’s interim leader. Gainesville Sun.

New schools: Manatee County has opened three new schools this year, including a K-3 charter that emphasizes learning by doing, or experiential learning. The Parrish Charter Academy is operated by Forza Education Management, which plans to eventually expand it to a K-8 school. Two traditional public schools, Barbara A. Harvey Elementary and Parrish Community High, also opened this year. Bradenton Herald. The old Forest Park Elementary School in Jacksonville has been sold to Vestcor Family Foundation as a site for a charter school, Jacksonville Classical Academy. The school is likely to open in August 2021. Resident Community News.

Education podcasts: Florida Education Association president Fedrick Ingram and Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill talk about their shared goal of bringing equity to public education in Florida. WFSU. Ben Wilcox, research director at Integrity Florida, and WLRN reporter Jessica Bakeman talk about the pluses and minuses of charter schools in the state. WUSF.

9/11 lesson questioned: Leon County school officials are reviewing a visual lesson about the 9/11 attack on the United States that declared, “On 9/11 Muslims celebrated news the WTC (World Trade Center) collapsed.” The parents of a 12-year-old Muslim student who attends Deerlake Middle School objected, prompting the review. Thania Clevenger, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the presentation “inflammatory” and asked school officials to remove it “because of the biased nature.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Reclassifying classes: Just before the school year started, Volusia County School District officials ended the longstanding Mainland High School practice of automatically enrolling every student in honors classes in the core subjects of math, language arts, social studies and science. Superintendent Tim Egnor said some educators think putting students in higher-level courses pulls up their performance. But most believe students must build up their knowledge before advancing to more difficult courses. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher evaluations: The Santa Rosa County School District is paying $125,000 for an electronic teacher evaluation system from the University of West Florida Haas Center. University of West Florida.

Resource officer honored: Donna Aiossa-McNally, a school resource officer at the Buckingham Exceptional Student Center, has been named Lee County’s officer of the year. She’s been a deputy with the sheriff’s office for 12 years. Fort Myers News-Press.

Student struck, killed: A 16-year-old Hernando High School student, Trevor Bowen, was struck and killed by a van as he was walking along a road near a school bus stop on Friday morning. Troopers are investigating the actions of the 64-year-old driver. Spectrum Bay News 9. Tampa Bay Times.

Guns at schools: The father of a St. Petersburg elementary school student was arrested last week and accused of having a gun on campus. Police say a school custodian saw Joshua Lorenzo, 37, with a gun under his shirt at Perkins Elementary School. Tampa Bay Times.

School employees acquitted: Two Sarasota County school employees were recently  acquitted of charges that they criminally battered students. The case against Oak Park School aide Katie Cournoyer-Calderon for allegedly putting a disabled student in a trash bin was dismissed by a judge, and a jury found school bus driver Rita Chlebowski not guilty of battery for shoving a Cranberry Elementary School student on the back of the head. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School employees in trouble: A Clay County school janitor has been arrested and accused of hiding a cellphone in a girls locker room to film them dressing and undressing. Jason Brian Goff, 42, is the janitor at Clay High School. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT. A security monitor at Riverview High School in Sarasota has been fired after being involved in a fight with a student last week. A district investigation found misconduct by Kenneth Howard, who had been hired Aug. 12. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: One in four Florida high school students use e-cigarettes. Why are they doing it, and why aren’t we stopping them? Tampa Bay Times. Teaching all Florida public school students about the Nazis’ program of extermination of European Jewry is not some sop to a particular ethnicity or voting bloc. Rather, it is to protect our democracy’s values that we must ensure that students acquire “an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping.” Palm Beach Post. Talented and caring teachers are leading the turnaround at Metcalfe and Rawlings elementary schools, which just a year ago ranked among the worst-performing schools in the state. James F. Lawrence, Gainesville Sun. The business of former Lincoln Memorial Academy CEO Eddie Hundley stood to make $1.4 million from the charter school before he was removed and the school seized by the Manatee County School District. Chris Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The commission that investigated the Parkland school shooting can’t scapegoat its way to school security solutions. State Sen. Perry Thurston Jr., Florida Politics. Blaine amendments are relics of bigotry contrary to both our national ideals and our Constitution, and the U.S. Supreme Court will soon have an opportunity to right those wrongs. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: One hundred and thirty-two seniors in Tampa Bay area high schools, and eight from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, are among the 16,000 U.S. students named as semifinalists for the 2020 National Merit Scholarship. Gradebook. Pensacola News Journal. The Walt Disney World Resort has made a $20,000 donation to the East Ridge High School marching band after some of the school’s equipment was destroyed in a fire last week. Daily Commercial. SECO Energy donates $3,500 to the Educational Foundation of Lake County, which will use the money to help students prepare for the ACT test. Daily Commercial.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff