Top court to get H.B. 7069 lawsuit, charter termination upheld, bonuses and more

School law appeal: The nine school boards that lost an appeals court challenge to the constitutionality of a state education law passed in 2017 say they will now take the case to the Florida Supreme Court. Boards from Alachua, Bay, Broward, Hamilton, Lee, Orange, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia counties say the law, known as H.B. 7069, improperly transfers the authorization of charter schools from local board members to the state for so-called Schools of Hope to move into areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools, and directed additional funds to charter schools. News Service of Florida.

Charter termination upheld: A Florida administrative law judge has ruled that the Manatee County School Board was justified in July when it terminated the contract of the Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school. Judge Robert Cohen ruled that Lincoln showed “gross financial mismanagement,” including failing to pay salaries, payroll taxes and food and utility bills. “Given LMA’s inability to protect student health, safety, and welfare the School Board had substantial bases to immediately terminate the contract,” Cohen wrote. He also said the school’s former principal and CEO, Eddie Hundley, offered no credible rebuttal to accusations that he enriched himself to the detriment of his students. WWSB. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTSP. News Service of Florida.

Teacher bonuses: The Legislature’s change in the way educators qualify for bonuses from the state is leaving teachers in some of the highest-performing schools in Florida ineligible for any of the money. Most of the $285 million in the Best and Brightest Scholarship Program goes to highly rated teachers at schools that have seen gains in achievement. So teachers from some already high-performing schools like State College of Florida’s Collegiate School in Manatee County and Pine View in Sarasota, both in the top 10 in the state for student test scores, aren’t eligible. Gov. Ron DeSantis has criticized the bonus plan, and says he’s working on an alternative that would include higher teacher pay. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Medical marijuana: Nine of 10 west-central Florida school districts are in violation of state law requiring districts to have a written policy to allow students with prescriptions to use medical marijuana on campuses. Only Hernando County is in compliance. Pinellas and Manatee don’t have policies but make accommodations for those students. Citrus and Highlands are working on policies, and Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco, Sarasota and Hardee have no policies and have not approved the use of marijuana on campus by students. WTSP.

Contract negotiations: The St. Johns County School District and its teachers union reach a contract agreement that calls for raises of up to $3,400. Associate teachers will get a base pay bump from $26,600 to $30,000, and teachers new to the district will get an extra $1,000. Teachers who are rated highly effective will get raises of $2,051, those rated effective will get $1,520 and tenured teachers will receive $1,519. The raises will cost the district $4.8 million. St. Augustine Record.

Teacher shortage: A month after four Pasco County teachers were removed from Hudson Elementary School because the state determined their value-added model (VAM) scores weren’t high enough, only one of the positions has been filled. And that’s despite the district offering $10,000 bonuses to attract applicants with high VAM scores. Until the positions are filled, the classes are being taught by substitutes. Gradebook.

Impact fee use okayed: The Lee County School District did not violate any state rules in using money collected from impact fees to pay debt from old school projects. An auditor questioned the district’s use of almost $13.6 million for old construction debts, saying the transfers did not appear to be for authorized purposes. The district challenged that finding, and the Florida Department of Education agreed, saying the money was spent on“debt service associated with schools that, at the time of construction, were constructed to accommodate student enrollment growth.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Superintendent vs. board: Marion County Superintendent Heidi Maier, embroiled in a battle with the school board, has instructed her administrative staff to stop talking to board members and board attorney Paul Gibbs. Instead, a memo sent last week said those staff members should direct all queries from the board or Gibbs to Maier’s attorney, Henry Ferro. The board recently hired an Orlando law firm to investigate allegations that Maier has created a hostile work environment. Maier countered with a charge that the board violated the state’s open-meetings law, but a prosecutor determined there was no evidence to support such a charge. Ocala Star-Banner.

Superintendent appointment: The head of an Okaloosa County organization pushing for a switch to appointing superintendents is critical of school board members who seem reluctant to put the measure before voters. But Patrick Ryan, the spokesman for Yes For Okaloosa Schools, still thinks a board majority will approve putting the question on the ballot in November 2020. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Superintendent search: Thirty-six people from 16 states have applied to become the next superintendent of the Volusia County School District. Among them are Bill Debrugge, former Flagler County superintendent; Christopher Colwell, a former Volusia County assistant superintendent; Leticia Roman, Volusia’s current director of federal grants and programs; Brian Binggeli, former Brevard superintendent; and Peter Licata, a regional superintendent for the Palm Beach County school district. The school board is expected to pick finalists by the end of October and conduct interviews the first week in November. The new superintendent will replace interim Tim Egnor, who took over when Tom Russell was fired in May. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Palm Beach Post.

Early education program: The Leon County School District has launched an initiative to improve kindergarten readiness for preschool students. The first step, said Superintendent Rocky Hanna, is to establish relationships with the 160-plus preschool providers in the county. After that, the district will try to streamline early learning techniques, offer training and share materials with those preschools. WCTV.

District’s self-assessment: Highlands County school officials say they are making progress on several of the goals the school board approved in April, but have fallen short on others. Most notably, the district is struggling to meet its expectations on science proficiency, middle school acceleration and the recruiting and retaining of “high-quality” staff. Charlotte Sun.

School improvements: Citrus County school officials take a tour to see infrastructure improvements being made at Citrus Springs Elementary School, Crystal River Primary School and the Lecanto Educational Complex. Citrus County Chronicle.

Education podcasts: Miami-Dade County School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho talks about vaping among students and other education issues. WFOR.

Administrator resigns: Dana Vignale, head of the Miami Country Day School’s upper school since July, has resigned after being placed on administrative leave for allegedly making racist remarks to students. Vignale had been at the school 20 years. Miami Herald.

Coach suspended: A Bay County high school football coach is suspended for keeping a volunteer coach with a criminal background even after his principal told him he couldn’t. Mosley High School head coach Jeremy Brown also faces other disciplinary action. WMBB.

Attacks on teachers: Twice this school year, Okaloosa County teachers have asked law enforcement officials to arrest special needs students who have physically attacked them. In both cases, law enforcement officials have declined to pursue charges. Northwest Florida Daily News.

School threats: A misheard word from a caller led to a Jackson County school being evacuated last week. A caller told an employee of Marianna High School that a student had a bong in a bookbag. The employee heard “bomb,” prompting the evacuation. WTXL. A former student at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami-Dade County won’t be charged for allegedly threatening violence against three schools in a video posted on the social media app Tik Tok. Miami Herald. WFOR.

Arrests policy changed: Orlando police officers will now have to get permission from a deputy chief to arrest anyone under the age of 12. The change was prompted by criticism of the department after an officer arrested two 6-year-old students at Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy on Sept. 19. Orlando Sentinel.

Students fall from float: Two Baker County High School students were hospitalized after falling off a float during a homecoming parade. The float, which was being pulled by a pickup truck, got caught in some tree branches as it made a turn, and the students fell off. They were taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries. WJAX. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: It’s stunning to consider how often false reports about bombs, explosives or firearms, or bringing weapons to school are made. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Adding more security inside of schools shouldn’t put more kids in the school-to-prison pipeline for every childish or wrong decision they make. Shannon Green, Orlando Sentinel. The removal of Karla Hutchinson being removed as principal of Lake Forest Elementary School underscores the need for a tune-up, at the least, of a public education system that relies too heavily on high-stakes testing. James F. Lawrence, Gainesville Sun. New data from Stanford University on academic gains by Florida students does not look good, but the long-term trends are still up. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Guardian Catholic School is a shining example of the diocese’s investment in a Jacksonville neighborhood not normally associated with state-of-the-art private schools. Florida Times-Union. If we handle kids by exerting power and control, we’re likely to see the same use of force and pugnacity reflected right back at us. What if instead, we consciously chose to grant them the same respect, understanding, kindness and compassion we all crave? Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. We need a cultural movement that emphasizes, across all socioeconomic strata, the value of education — not only in conventional forms of learning but in the unleashing of creativity — to help combat the teacher shortage. Tom Tryon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala has received an $800,000 gift to upgrade its track facilities. An all-weather rubberized surface will be installed thanks to the donation from Judy Dunlap. Ocala Star-Banner. The Lee County School District donates 600 pounds of unused but still good food to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of southwest Florida. Fort Myers News-Press. Sophia Torres, a Hernando High School senior, is elected by students as their representative to the Hernando County School Board for the 2019-2020 school year. Tampa Bay Times. The Foundation for Leon County Schools awards $120,000 to schools, including almost $30,000 to Pineview Elementary School to help students learn to build robots and create music. Tallahassee Democrat. More than 20 students from Port Charlotte High School took part in the International Coastal Cleanup last week. Charlotte Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff