School board sues over opioids, district police force, armed teachers and more

Board sues opioid-makers: The Miami-Dade County School Board has filed a federal lawsuit against companies that make and distribute opioids. District officials call the opioid crisis “the worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history,” and say they’ve been forced to provide nursing and health services, train staff to treat overdoses, take money from other programs to deal with the effects of addiction, and spend extra money for security and disability insurance for school workers. The board is asking for compensation for its “substantial losses” in funds and diminished property values in areas hit hard by the scourge, according to the lawsuit. Politico Florida.

District police force: Hernando County school officials are asking the school board to approve a proposal to start a district police force. The district could hire more officers and provide greater attention to school security for the same amount of money it spends to hire sheriff’s deputies, they argue. “This is not lessening the level of service that we have in the slightest,” said Superintendent John Stratton. Sheriff Al Nienhuis said he was “completely surprised” by the proposal, but said his department would “work and support the administration in whatever direction the school board decides.” If approved by the board, the change would be made in August 2020 and Hernando would become the 19th state school district to have its own police force. Tampa Bay Times.

Armed teachers: Teachers in as many as 11 Florida school districts could have been armed when they opened their class doors Tuesday, the first day that teachers were legally permitted to carry concealed weapons in schools. It’s unknown how many might have had guns because the state doesn’t track that information. Arming teachers is part of the school guardian program that was approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Thirty-nine counties participate, but only 11 have announced that they expected to allow teachers to carry guns in class. CBS This Morning. New York Times. CNN. WFTS. WINK.

Arresting children: More than 30,000 children 10 and under were arrested between 2013 and 2018, according to the FBI. And it you extend the age span to 12, it’s another  266,000 arrested. “This is ridiculous. If we are going to treat children like this, we better think very clearly what the ramifications are, especially if we are so inclined to stop the violence,” said Lisa Thurau, founder and executive director of Strategies for Youth, a Cambridge, Mass., nonprofit that officers how to handle young children. ABC News. Orlando’s police chief said the officer who arrested two 6-year-old students at a school was suspended immediately after his supervisor learned of the arrests. But Dennis Turner returned to Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy the next morning and worked more than four hours before he was pulled off the job, according to records. Orlando Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: The Brevard County School District and its teachers union reach a contract agreement that calls for raises of about 4 percent on average, with some veteran teachers receiving up to 6.6 percent more. Teachers rated highly effective will get raises of $2,000, and teachers with effective ratings will get $1,500. Veteran teachers will get another $1,200 a year after they’ve been with the district 11 years. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. Two Sarasota County School Board members are accusing a colleague of leaking the district’s negotiating strategy to the teachers union during increasingly contentious contract talks. Eric Robinson denies the accusation made by Jane Goodwin and Caroline Zucker. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent’s evaluation: Lake County school Superintendent Diane Kornegay has received an overall grade of 4.61 out of 5 on her evaluation from the school board. Three board members graded her at 5.0, which is considered exceeding expectations, and two others gave her 4.6 and 4.4. In the two-plus years Kornegay has led the district, the graduation rate and number of A-rated schools have increased. She’ll receive bonuses for meeting job and student-oriented performance ratings. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Electing superintendents: The Jacksonville City Council’s Rules Committee approves a resolution opposing a state legislator’s push to have Duval County elect its school superintendent. The resolution now goes to the full council for consideration. The bill, filed by state Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville, would put a referendum on the November 2020 ballot that asks voters to approve a change from an appointed school superintendent to an elected one. Florida Times-Union.

Superintendent search: Flagler County School Board members want to speed up the process of finding a replacement for school Superintendent James Tager, who is retiring June 30, 2020. The original timeline called for his successor to be hired by April 21. But now board members wants to move that up by almost a month because they’re concerned about starting a new superintendent so late in the school year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

After-school programs: A lack of cash has forced the Gadsden County School District to temporarily suspend an after-school program at 10 schools. About 600 students are affected. Superintendent Roger Milton says the district has a cash-flow problem because it’s spent about $4 million on the recovery from Hurricane Michael damages, but has received only $400,000 in reimbursements. WFSU. A new after-school program at Janie’s Garden, a mixed-income housing community in North Sarasota, is named in honor of Mary and Earl Watts, who were among the county’s first black school administrators. The program will emphasize homework completion, but also help students with reading proficiency and character-building. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Advanced Placement credits: Volusia County School Board members will consider a new policy that requires students taking Advanced Placement courses to take the official exams in order to get the full weighting for their grade point averages. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Substitutes shortage: Pasco County school officials are having trouble finding substitute teachers and are considering boosting the pay, which starts at a daily rate of $65. “The current daily fill rate is hovering around 76 percent district-wide, and we know that schools are accustomed to this rate being much higher,” district human resources director Kim Newberry wrote in a recent memo. Gradebook.

Crowdfunding limits: Pasco County school officials are proposing a policy change that would require teachers to get approval before asking for financial support through online sites such as Crowdfunding or Donors Choose. The policy change would also clarify that  donations or equipment bought through such requests are the property of the district, and not the teachers that ask for them. Gradebook.

Education standards: Florida Department of Education officials will start a series of meetings around the state next week to get input from residents on what the state’s new K-12 academic standards should be. The department’s revised recommendations are due to Gov. Ron DeSantis by Jan. 1. News Service of Florida.

School board elections: Pinellas County teacher Stephanie Meyer says she is running for the District 1 seat on the school board that is held by Joanne Lentino. Victor Connelly is also a candidate for the seat. Florida Politics.

Heart screenings approved: The Brevard County School Board approves a policy requiring all student-athletes to undergo an electrocardiogram test before competing in school sports. Almost 4,000 athletes have already take the test voluntarily, and six students have had potentially life-saving surgery after abnormalities were detected. Space Coast Daily.

Back pay for overtime: A school management company that works with 15 charter schools in Florida violated federal laws on overtime, and has paid $45,378 in back pay to 59 workers. Accelerated Learning Solutions mostly works with dropouts and at-risk students. Miami Herald.

District, sheriff sued: Parents of a 10-year-old autistic student are suing the Osceola County School District and the sheriff’s office after the boy was put in handcuffs, placed in the back of a police car, Baker Acted and taken to a mental health facility. The boy had run from Narcoossee Elementary School administrators in 2016. WKMG.

Teachers suspended by state: Two Broward County teachers who were accused of being violent with students have had their teaching licenses suspended by the state. Samuel Parrondo, 44, who taught special needs students at Olsen Middle School in Dania Beach, was fired by the district Sept. 4 for a fight with a student in 2016. The state suspended his license for a year. Terry Darmody, 65, a pre-K teacher at Tradewinds Elementary in Coconut Creek, retired in 2017 after being accused of abusing a 4-year-old with autism. The state suspended her license for three years. Sun Sentinel.

School intruder arrested: A drunken man with a knife was able to walk onto Spruce Creek High School’s campus and get into a classroom Friday. No one was injured, and the man, 51-year-old Derek Marlowe, told police he was testing school security. Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood said the incident was preventable and alarming. “He could’ve had a gun. He could’ve had a grenade. He could’ve had anything. After all we’ve gone through … all the training, the guardians, technology, it just goes to show it’s only as good as the people you put in place to follow it.” School officials will investigate and begin retraining employees. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WPTV. Orlando Sentinel.

Students arrested: Two Miami-Dade County students, 13 and 14, have been arrested and accused of making social media threats against Howard D. McMillan Middle School in West Kendall. WPLG. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: A judge’s ruling made it crystal clear that the Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school was grossly mismanaged and why its contract was terminated. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. If Florida really wants the best and brightest to enter teaching and stay in the profession, lawmakers need to improve pay as well as the treatment of teachers. Gainesville Sun. The Lee County School District is putting a renewed emphasis on the safety and mental health of its students. Lee County School Board member Mary Fischer, Fort Myers News-Press. A Catholic university professor is offering a remarkably dispassionate plea: Don’t reject Blaine amendments because they were born of Catholic bigotry; ban them because they discriminate against all religion. Jon East, redefinED.

Student enrichment: A video of a a homecoming proposal between two central Florida students with Down syndrome has gone viral. The video of David Cowan asking his longtime girlfriend Saris Marie Garcia to the Seminole High School prom has been viewed 4 million times online. Orlando Sentinel. Yahoo. Miami-Dade County students are partnering with NASA and the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden on experiments to see what foods can grow in space. WLRN. Johnathon Bosse, the choral director at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo, wins a year of free meals after his students nominated him for the Sun Basket Treat Your Teacher Award. WFTS. The STEM program at Edgewater Public School in Volusia County has students toggling between manual labor and using technology to understand the concepts they’re learning. Daytona Beach News-Journal. East Ridge High School’s marching band took to the field Friday in Lake County for the first time since a fire last month damaged much of their equipment. Daily Commercial. A group of students from Nature Coast Technical High School in Hernando County are shooting and editing a movie over 56 hours in New York City for the All American High School Film Festival, which begins Oct. 9. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff