Student records access, ransomware attack, budgets, LGBTQ plan and more

Audit raps records access: An analysis of audits in the past two years by the Florida Auditor General suggests that two-thirds of the state’s school districts, colleges and universities are giving unnecessary access to students’ Social Security numbers. The audits of 50 K-12 school districts, 25 colleges and 10 universities revealed that at least a third of education employees who had access to that data didn’t need it for their jobs. “School districts should maintain records to justify whether such employees need occasional or continuous access to that information and only provide the necessary access,” said Deputy Auditor General Gregory Centers. WUFT. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press.

School district hacked: The Wakulla County School District’s computers have been shut down by hackers, disabling email communications. District officials called the attack ransomware, though they wouldn’t say what the hackers want in return for giving the district a code so files can be accessed. State and federal law enforcement officials are investigating. Tallahassee Democrat.

District budgets: The Orange County School Board approves a budget of more than $2 billion, but left unsettled is how much the district will pay teachers. They rejected the district’s latest offer of raises from 3.4 to 4.2 percent and a $500 bonus. Spectrum News 13. Pinellas County School Board members approve a $1.6 billion budget, an increase of about $27.3 million even though the tax rate was lowered by 2 percent. Gradebook. The Charlotte County School Board gives final approval to its $326 million budget, which is an increase of $24.2 million over last year’s. Charlotte Sun. A budget of $255 million is approved by Citrus County School Board members. Citrus County Chronicle.

LGBTQ plan revised: Pasco County school officials are discarding the district’s controversial 71-page “best practices” guide for dealing with LGBTQ students, calling it “cumbersome.” Instead, the district is issuing a one-page reference sheet that officials say will keep most of the guide’s rules in place. Conservative groups, which disliked the guide because it allowed students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity and didn’t require school staff to notify parents about their children’s gender identity, say they will continue to protest the district’s rules. Gradebook.

Security in schools: The Broward County School District has made significant progress in securing schools and protecting students, the director of security tells the school board. Brian Katz said schools are locked down with fencing and limited visitor entry, safe places have been identified in thousands of classrooms, video surveillance is expanding, the district’s radio system has been upgraded, more security staff is being hired and trained, and students now wear ID badges. Katz said training remains a priority, and both Katz and board members say they must do a better job of letting the public know what’s being done for safety. Sun Sentinel.

School enrollment: There are 220,899 students in Hillsborough County schools at the 20-day count, which is an increase of about 2,200 over last year. More than 28,100 attend charter schools, boosting its percentage of total enrollment to 12.7 percent. That’s about double the percentage from five years ago. Gradebook.

New community school: Sabal Palm Elementary becomes the first community partnership school in Tallahassee. Community schools offer education, food, health care, counseling, tutoring, internships and more to students and their families and the neighborhood. The partners, the Florida A&M College of Education, Florida State University PrimaryHealth, and the Children’s Home Society of Florida, each have committed to the project with the Leon County School District for 25 years. Tallahassee Democrat.

Achievement questions: The Hillsborough County School District is in the second year of its Achievement Schools project to improve performance at 50 schools that have long struggled. District officials say they see signs that the initiative is starting to work, but grades and test scores don’t reflect it yet, and school board members are getting impatient to see progress. Board member Steve Cona says, “I’m fully invested in this plan for one more year,” but other options should be considered if the results aren’t there. “Everything has to be on the table,” he says. Gradebook.

School days: The Hillsborough County School District is canceling four scheduled early-release days to make up the classtime lost when Hurricane Dorian threatened the state. Sept. 16, 23, 30 and Oct. 7 will now be full class days. WTVT. Gradebook. The Hillsborough County School Board also approved the 2020-2021 school calendar. The first day is Aug. 10 and the last day May 21. Students will get Thanksgiving week off, and the holiday break is Dec. 21 through Jan. 1. WFLA.

Share tables for schools: A retired teacher and a minister are urging the Polk County School District to start “share tables” in school cafeterias. A share table is where students leave food from their lunches that they won’t eat so it’s available for students who need it. “Much food is wasted — unopened milk thrown away, fruits and vegetables untouched, thrown away — that some children desperately need,” Melissa Stump, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church, recently told school board members. “The food scarcity and the food insecurity is heartbreaking in our county,” said the former teacher, Kay Kasser. Lakeland Ledger.

Construction academy: The construction program at South Lake High School in Groveland is making a comeback under a 2001 graduate from the school. Jared Fullerton was involved in the program, then graduated from the University of Florida and began a construction career. His decision to make a career change coincided with the school’s need, and the program reboot has attracted four seniors, 28 juniors and 100 sophomores and freshmen. Daily Commercial.

School expansion: Tyndall Elementary School in Bay County will expand by one grade a year for the next three years to become a K-8 school. The Bay County School Board approved the move, which was decided after the announcement that Tyndall Air Force Base will be fully rebuilt after damage caused by Hurricane Michael last year. Board members also want to change the name of the school to Tyndall Academy. WJHG.

Software-grades link: Florida school districts are crediting educational software and computer-enhanced learning for improvements in student performance and school grades. Educators in such disparate counties as Miami-Dade, Sarasota, Hendry and Escambia all attribute gains to software solutions that create a “data culture.” Florida Politics.

Public comments are back: Hillsborough County School Board members vote to restore the public comment portion of their meetings to the broadcast and webcast of the proceedings. The board decided in January to stop broadcasting the comments portion of meetings so that members of the community could bring up matters that concerned them without going public, a move that some activists called censorship. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: David Brown is leaving the principal’s office at Strawberry Crest High School to lead a new, unnamed high school in southeast Hillsborough County that is scheduled to open next August. Gradebook. Debra Estes is named director of ESOL, Migrant and Dual Language Programs for the Manatee County School District, and Shirin Gibson is the new executive director of Curriculum and Professional Learning. Sarasota magazine.

Committee assignments: Ranking Democrats for House committees and subcommittees have been named by Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes. Education-related assignments: Rep. Bruce Antone, Orlando, Education Committee; Rep. Patricia Williams, Fort Lauderdale, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee; Rep. Susan Valdes, Tampa, PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee; Rep. Ramon Alexander, Tallahassee, Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee; and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Winter Park, Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee. Florida Politics.

Trainers at all high schools: All 17 of Duval County’s public high schools now have a fulltime, certified athletic trainer. The Project 17 initiative started in 2015, with the goal of having a trainer at each high school by 2020. It was funded by the school district, the Jaguars Foundation and the NFL, the city of Jacksonville, Jacksonville University, Brooks Rehabilitation, Memorial Hospital and Florida Blue. The school district will gradually absorb the costs. Florida Times-Union.

Guns and schools: A student has been suspended from Lakewood Ranch High School in Manatee County after making gun-related comments on his Snapchat account. Deputies say the student was not charged because his comments were not a crime, but the district said he will be reassigned. “Any threat against a school or student, or any threat against the district is taken extremely seriously,” said district spokesman Mike Barber. Bradenton Herald.

Opinions on schools: National rankings show that Florida’s approach to education is working. Lakeland Ledger. The prospects for Florida’s schools look sunny in the latest report. Lane Wright, the Capitolist. Distance learning expands educational opportunities for every Florida student. Bob Boyd, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Freddie Figgers, the owner of the Figgers Communication telecommunications company, donates 20 computers to the Sarasota Military Academy charter school. Patch.

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BY NextSteps staff