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Virtual school leaders, active-shooter drills, homeless students, health issues and more

Virtual school leadership: The Florida Virtual School, which was taken over by the state earlier this year, has hired four executives who have little education experience but deep ties to state Republican leaders and legislators, according to the school’s hiring documents. All four were hired outside the outside the online public school’s traditional interviewing process, according to the documents. Orlando Sentinel.

Active shooter drills: Some Florida lawmakers are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of active-shooter drills on young students. “Some of the kids are scared to death,” state Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said at a Senate Education Committee this week. Some legislators want schools to consider ways to reduce the number of mandatory drills, and are waiting for recommendations from law enforcement officials. Florida Phoenix. The gun safety advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise, started after the 2012 elementary school shooting in Connecticut, releases a controversial public service announcement that begins like a back-to-school ad but then turns grim with the sound of gunfire and a look of horror on a student’s face. WKMG.

Student homelessness: In the past 10 years, the number of Florida students has tripled to about 96,000 during the 2017-2018 school year, according to a report by Miami Homes for All and the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida. Nearly 3,000 were unsheltered, 8,200 were in shelters, more than 11,000 were living in motels or hotels and almost 73,600 were reported to be doubling up. WUSF.

Civics education: Florida is one of the states that is emphasizing standardized testing to measure students’ civics knowledge. But some experts say such an approach is not necessarily a good measure of competency. “The test attempts to get at those things indirectly, and it doesn’t always do it well,” said Stephen Masyada, the director of the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship at the University of Central Florida, which provides teacher training for the civics course. Education Week.

Student-athlete health: The director of the Florida High School Athletics Association asked legislators for guidance in dealing with student-athlete health issues such as heatstroke, cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries and more during a House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee hearing. George Tomyn had few specific answers to legislators’ questions, deferring to them by saying, “The Legislature’s the lead, we follow.” Florida Politics.

District budgets: Pasco County School Board members approve a $1.39 billion budget that includes 3 percent raises for employees and $341 million for capital projects. Total spending is up 10.4 percent. Gradebook. Flagler County School Board members approve a $196 million budget, an increase of about $6.3 million. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The Oakland Town Commission tentatively approves a $5.3 million budget for the Oakland Avenue Charter School. West Orange Times.

Sales tax proceeds: Using money from the Manatee County voter-approved 1-mill increase in school property taxes for classroom improvements as well as higher teacher pay in legal, the school board’s attorney tells the Citizens Financial Oversight Committee. Committee members had questioned the propriety of a proposal to spend $2.2 million for lab improvements at several schools. “It is my view that so long as appropriate accounting principles are followed and the funds are spent as described in the authorizing resolutions, the additional millage may be used for the purchase of capital equipment,” board attorney James Dye wrote to the committee. Bradenton Herald.

Superintendent’s evaluation: Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy gets an overall rating of “highly effective” in his first evaluation from the school board since he began the job 18 months ago. “As a first-year (and first-time) superintendent of one of the largest school systems in the nation, I believe the superintendent has done an impressive job of growing quickly into effectively handling his highly charged and high profile position,” wrote board chair Frank Barbieri. The rating makes Fennoy eligible for a raise of up to $11,000. Palm Beach Post.

Contract negotiations: The Pasco County teachers union has already informally rejected the school district’s contract offer, but the district has formally presented it anyway. The district is offering teachers pay raises of up to 12 percent over two years in return for reducing the number of teachers in middle and high schools and having those remaining teach an extra class every day. Superintendent Kurt Browning says he needs a decision by Christmas. Gradebook. Brevard County school Superintendent Mark Mullins is urging the teachers union to return to contract negotiations with the district. Union officials walked out of Tuesday’s talks, saying the district was negotiating in “bad faith.” Space Coast Daily. Florida Today.

Teacher shortage: One month into the school year, the Alachua County School District is still looking to hire 16 teachers, and most of the openings are at schools that have struggled academically. “I wish I could tell you why we’ve had fewer and fewer,” said Nannette Dell, principal at Talbot Elementary. “But it just seems like over my career – it’s been my 10th year as a principal – that there are fewer applicants.” WUFT.

School makeup day: St. Johns County students will attend classes Oct. 14, which had been scheduled as a day off, to make up the time lost when Hurricane Dorian threatened Florida. WJXT.

Pre-meeting prayers: Flagler County School Board members tentatively decide not to make a decision whether to have pre-meeting prayers — at least not yet. Board attorney Kristy Gavin said she’ll research the issue and report back. Board chair Janet McDonald surprised board members at August’s meeting by inviting a minister to give an invocation. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Clothing line ripped: The father of a student who was shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 is criticizing a company that is creating hooded sweatshirts with detailing of bullet holes and the names of mass shooting locations. “Under what scenario could someone thing this was a good idea?” Fred Guttenberg asked about Bstroy’s “Samsara” collection. Sun Sentinel.

School dress code: A Clay High School student said he was told by a teacher to change the shirt he wore to school recently that promotes abstinence. Pierce Bridges said he was told the shirt’s message, “Virginity Rocks,” was inappropriate. WJXT.

Personnel moves: Adrienne Campbell will be the principal at Tallahassee Classical School when the charter school opens in August 2020. Campbell is a former teacher and program specialist in the Florida Department of Education and a cofounder of the school. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. Stuart Hirstein is named the head of the St. Edward’s School in Vero Beach. Hirstein had been the head the University School in of Jackson, Tenn. TCPalm. MaryEllen Elia, superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District from 2005 to 2015 and the education commissioner for the state of New York from 2015 to 2019, has been named a consultant at the International Center for Leadership in Education in New York. Gradebook.

School construction: Ground is broken for the new $11.8 million Heights Early Learning and Education Center, which will be home to the Harlem Heights Community Charter School and the GLAD Kids Early Learning Center in Fort Myers. The building is expected to be open within a year. Fort Myers News-Press. Construction has begun on the new $6.8 million arts and athletics building at the Pine School in Hobe Sound. TCPalm. St. Johns County school officials are having a difficult time finding an appropriate site for a new school in the Nocatee area. Two of three donated sites in the area don’t have roads leading to them, and the third is smaller than the district would like for a projected K-8 academy. St. Augustine Record. The Gulf County School District is looking for a construction partner to repair the schools that were damaged by Hurricane Michael last year. Port St. Joe Star.

Refs refusing to work: High school football referees with the Miami-Dade County Officials Association say they won’t work tonight’s scheduled games, or any others, until their pay dispute with the Greater Miami Athletic Conference is worked out. Miami Herald.

Officer saves choking boy: A Hernando County school resource officer came to the rescue of a choking boy during breakfast this week at Eastside Elementary School. Officer Christopher Downey was flagged down by a pre-K teacher who said a 4-year-old boy was choking. Downey gave the boy five abdominal thrusts, clearing the food obstruction, and the boy was able to return to class. WFLA.

Teacher under investigation: The physical education teacher supervising the Polk County school locker room where a student was attacked has been put on paid administrative leave while the assault is being investigated. District officials say they’re investigating whether Blake Academy policies were followed, “including whether there was a lack of proper student supervision during [the] incident,” according to spokesman Jason Geary. Spectrum Bay News 9. Lakeland Ledger.

Students arrested: Two Osceola County students are arrested and accused of plotting a shooting at Horizon Middle School near Kissimmee. Deputies say the students talked about sneaking a gun and a knife into school, and had even compiled a list of students who would not be attacked. They told deputies they were joking. Orlando Sentinel. Ten students are arrested after fights this week at Lennard High School in Hillsborough County. WTVT.

Opinions on schools: Children, especially those from low-income schools, benefit from consistency. But that’s in short supply because of the state’s inconsistent accountability standards, funding and leadership. Gainesville Sun. Mental health services should be part of every discussion about safety in schools. Fern Aefsky, Sun Sentinel.

Student enrichment: K-12 teachers in Duval County are eligible for professional development or classroom initiatives through a new fellowship offered by the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. The Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship offers up to $6,500 per teacher or $10,000 per teacher team. Florida Times-Union.

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BY NextSteps staff