School security changes, MSD victim’s father appointed to board, new superintendent and more

Security in schools: Members of the Senate Education Committee have approved a bill that would implement many of the school safety recommendations made by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission and a statewide grand jury. S.B. 7040 would improve training requirements for all armed school guards, align school and court alternative discipline programs, and require school districts to report their mental health plans to the state. Stripped from the bill were the tougher penalties for school districts that don’t comply with state requirements, including criminal charges against or the removal of superintendents, administrators or school board members or the withholding of state funds. The bill also would add three members to the safety panel. The new slots would have to be filled by superintendents, principals and teachers. News Service of Florida. USA Today Network. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. WLRN. Politico Florida. A bill that would require all schools to have panic alarms was approved by a House education subcommittee. It has to be approved by two more committees before getting a vote on the House floor. WTXL.

Board of Education appointment: Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed the father of another Parkland school shooting victim to the Florida Board of Education. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was one of 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, has been a member of the school public safety commission that investigated the shooting and issued recommendations to improve security in schools. Petty replaces Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was another Parkland victim. Pollack recently moved to Oregon. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. Associated Press. WLRN.

New superintendent named: Clay County school Superintendent Addison Davis will become the next superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District. School board members unanimously chose Davis over two other finalists to succeed Jeff Eakins, who is retiring no later than June 30. Davis got the nod despite a last-minute plea from the League of Women Voters to investigate his ties to the for-profit charter management company Charter Schools USA. Davis assured the board he was “not obligated to any corporate entity.” He vowed to be the “accelerator” the district needs. “When you talk about the next step, Addison Davis isn’t a hypothetical,” he proclaimed. Davis now begins contract negotiations with the district. His pay is expected to be about $300,000 a year. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS. WUSF. Davis was running for re-election this year in Clay County. His exit leaves two candidates in the race: former superintendent Charlie Van Zant and Keystone Heights High School math teacher Melanie Walls. WJXTWJAXClay Today. Escambia County residents overwhelmingly want their next school superintendent to have classroom experience, according to a community survey. Pensacola News Journal.

School choice bills advance: Several bills that expand school choice have won the approval of the Senate Education Committee. S.B. 1220 would broaden eligibility for state scholarships by aligning the income guidelines between the Family Empowerment and Florida Tax Credit scholarships. S.B. 1420 would require school districts to allow charter schools to open the next school year after their applications are approved, and S.B. 1246 would allow private school and home-schooled students to take dual-enrollment classes for free. redefinED. Hundreds of parents, students and educators rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday to lobby legislators for money to expand the Gardiner Scholarship program that now helps 13,000 students with special needs. Gov. DeSantis spoke to the crowd and promised to try to clear the waiting list of about 3,500. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the Gardiner, Family Empowerment, Florida Tax Credit and other state scholarships. Florida Politics. redefinED. News Service of Florida.

Board term limits and more: The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee has approved a bill to put a constitutional amendment before voters that calls for school board term limits of two consecutive four-year terms. House Joint Resolution 157 must pass through two more committees and then receive 60 percent approval in both the House and Senate to get on the November ballot. “This is a bill to give the voters the opportunity, if they wish, to vote to enact term limits,” said one of its sponsors, Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills. Gradebook. Florida Politics. Duval County school officials are closely tracking three bills that could have a big impact on the district. WJXT.

Flag lags in national survey: Florida is behind the national average in educational opportunities and performance, according to an index published annually by the Education Week Research Center. Florida ranked 40th in early education with a B-minus, 20th with a C-plus in student performance, and 39th with a C-minus in postsecondary educational attainment and workforce indicators. Overall, Florida ranked 34th with a C-plus grade in the Chance-for-Success Index. This is the first of three categories states are rated in by the publication, and overall grades are issued in September. Education Week.

Board supports superintendent: Polk County School Board members accepted an apology from Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd over the way she handled an email from the state that said teachers who missed school to attend an education rally could be fired for striking. Byrd forwarded the email to other school officials, who then forwarded it to teachers, touching off a backlash. Board members accepted the apology and expressed their support for Byrd. “Ms. Byrd, we love you, hang in there,” said board chair Lori Cunningham. “We all love you. We all make mistakes.” Lakeland Ledger.

New schools worry residents: Now that the Santa Rosa County School District has announced its plans to build four schools, residents in the areas where the schools will be located are expressing their concerns. They say the new schools will create dangers for children and have a negative impact on the environment and traffic. “People say they want schools but ’please don’t put them near me,’ ” said board chair Buddy Hinote. Pensacola News Journal.

School addition: Twenty-six classrooms will be built to ease the overcrowding at Jupiter High School. The addition of the modular classrooms will handle about 600 students, cost $6.6 million and should be ready by August 2021. Jupiter High has 3,261 students, which is about 540 than it was designed to hold. Modular classrooms are flat-roofed units that can be strung together for make a standalone building. Unlike portable classrooms, the modular units meet state standards to be counted as permanent structures. Palm Beach Post.

Hurricane generators: Eight Lee County schools that are used as shelters during emergencies such as hurricanes are getting backup generators, thanks to a $4.8 million grant from the federal government and money from the county. The county had asked for enough money for 16 generators, leaving Dunbar High School and the new Gateway High School without the emergency equipment. Fort Myers News-Press.

Teacher recruitment: The Hernando County School Board has approved the purchase of a software program that streamlines the application process and, school officials hope, helps them compete with neighboring districts for teachers. The district has an average of 39 teaching openings at any given time. The software, which will cost $37,560 in the first year and $28,860 a year after that, allows applicants to complete the process online and will prompt them if they’ve missed a question. Board chair Susan Duval said the current system “is fraught with obstacles, timelines, inefficiencies at every corner, and it’s not the fault of any person. This is long overdue in my opinion.” Tampa Bay Times.

Graduation requirements tightened: Sarasota County School Board members have agreed to bump up the graduation requirements at the Pine View School. In order to graduate, students at the magnet school will now have to take at least eight rigorous courses and earn 17 of their 26 credits on campus instead of online or through dual-enrollment classes. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Graduation rates: The high school graduation rate jumped two percentage points in 2019 in Citrus County, according to Florida Department of Education data and school officials. The district’s graduation rate was 86 percent, almost a percentage point below the state average. Citrus County Chronicle.

School-related elections: The chair of the Volusia County School Board has decided she will run for re-election to her District 2 seat. Ida Wright said last summer she wouldn’t run again, but changed her mind after some teachers and members of the community urged her to run. Others in the race are Marcey Kinney and Anita Burnette. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School officials reprimanded: Four officials at Spruce Creek High School in Volusia County have received letters of reprimand after a drunken homeless man entered the school and sat down in a classroom last September. School surveillance cameras showed the man entering the school, but he wasn’t taken into custody for another 20 minutes. Deputies who reviewed the incident said it could have been a “catastrophic situation.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student hit at bus stop: A 12-year-old Umatilla boy was seriously injured when he was hit and dragged by a car while he was waiting for his school bus Tuesday morning. Troopers say Preston Sandoval was standing on the grass shoulder of the road when he was hit by a 19-year-old driver, who fled the scene but was arrested later. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial. WKMG.

Employees and the law: An assistant superintendent for the Miami-Dade County School District has been arrested and accused of catching and keeping 21 undersized fish he caught in the Florida Keys. District officials said Steffond Cone, 51, is an assistant superintendent in charge of schools operations, and they “do not expect this non-school related incident to impact his employment.” Miami Herald.

Students and the law: A 13-year-old Volusia County student has been arrested and accused of posting social media threats against Heritage Middle School in Deltona. The boy told deputies he was joking. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Palm Beach County School District police are investigating a series of anti-Semitic incidents at Boca Raton High School, including using tape to create a swastika on a classroom wall. Sun Sentinel. A 17-year-old student at Pine Ridge High School in Deltona was arrested and accused of having drugs and a machete, knife, ax and hatchet in his car at the school. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: In choosing Addison Davis as superintendent, the Hillsborough County School Board showed the importance it places on having a good communicator who embraces an inclusive decision-making process. Tampa Bay Times. The next Escambia County school superintendent must be a courageous problem-solver with a history of success. Justin Beck, Pensacola News Journal. If you truly want a better educational future for your children, please contact your legislators and demand that educators be appointed to the Florida State Board of Education. Mella Baxter, Orlando Sentinel. Florida should improve its nursing schools, not add more of them. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: A “Physics Bus” will be making the rounds at all 37 Seminole County elementary schools with hands-on learning projects to get students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Each bus has eight stations with “Physics in a Box” tool sets containing 100 experiments. Orlando Sentinel. Barron Collier High School senior Rebecca Pacter, a flutist, has overcome serious vision issues and has been named one of 600 U.S. students to be invited to play in the High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall next month. Naples Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff