Bright Futures help, school proposals include irregular attendance, schools on racism and more

Bright Futures break: Florida high school seniors who have missed out on opportunities to meet the eligibility requirements for partial or full Bright Futures scholarships because of the coronavirus pandemic are getting some help from the state. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an executive order late Wednesday suspending the volunteer hours required to qualify for the scholarships, and extending the deadline to retake SAT or ACT tests to improve their scores from June 30 to July 31. The ACT has tests set June 13 and July 18, though no SAT tests are scheduled until August. DOE officials are lobbying the College Board and ACT officials to give students more chances to sit for a test. Tampa Bay Times. WFTV. WKMG. WFTS.

Reopening K-12 schools: The Broward and Palm Beach school districts are both proposing reopening plans that include an option of having students attend schools twice a week and learning remotely on other days. Broward’s options are: Remote learning only; half of students attending half-days four days a week or half of students attending two full days a week, with the fifth day devoted for cleaning; keeping high school students home learning remotely and using their schools for younger students so social distancing guidelines can be met; or limiting enrollment and keeping remote learning for those not going to schools. In Palm Beach County, the options are having student in schools fulltime, learning remotely only, or a combination. Students would wear masks. District officials said they also intend to cut spending on school supplies and eliminate dozens of jobs. Sun Sentinel. WFOR. Palm Beach Post. Lee County’s options were also released, and include in-person or remote learning, or both, as well as alternating school days. WINK. South Florida school superintendents talk about school reopening plans and the future of schooling. WLRN. Reopening the nation’s schools will be expensive and will be very difficult without federal aid, educators testified Wednesday before the U.S. Senate’s education committee. NPR. Florida Phoenix. Chalkbeat.

Reopening universities: Most dorm rooms will be single occupancy, students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors, testing for the coronavirus will be on an as-needed basis and the final weeks of the first semester, including exams, will be online in the tentative reopening plan for the University of Central Florida. In-person classes will be limited, and students will be told by July 1 what those classes will be. UCF will review the plan with the Board of Governors on June 23. Decisions on whether football will be played and how will made in collaboration with the NCAA and American Athletic Conference officials. Orlando Sentinel. WESH. WKMG. Face masks are the latest must-have accessory for college. Politico Florida.

Racial issues and schools: Manatee County Superintendent Cynthia Saunders wanted to release a statement to the public from the district about racial injustice, and took several proposals to the school board for consideration. The ensuing discussion turned into an argument as board members could not agree on what to say or how to say it. They couldn’t agree on whether to focus the statement on just black Americans, whether to outlaw the teaching of chokeholds at the Florida Law Enforcement Academy at Manatee Technical College, whether to offer in-school voter registration for students and more. The board’s only black member, James Golden, said he had no interest in statements, and that the district ought to take swift and meaningful action. Hours later, Saunders issued a statement to the public: “The values of equality, equitable justice and inherent respect for each and every individual are not only primary priorities of the School District of Manatee County, but an integral part of the educational mission to which we have been called.” Bradenton Herald. Brevard County School Board members said they generally support a number of NAACP resolutions intended to increase educational equity for blacks and other minorities. Florida Today.

Reviewing curriculum: A proposal at a Miami-Dade County School Board committee meeting to have Superintendent Alberto Carvalho take several steps to confront racism in the district was notable mostly for the reaction of one board member. Marta Pérez said she couldn’t support enhancing the district’s anti-racism curriculum and appointing a student task force to examine racial injustice because the district has been a “stellar example of inclusion” and has quickly righted its wrongs. Instead, she said, the district should be focused on fixing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on student learning. The other board members and Carvalho disagreed with Perez and supported the proposal made by Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, whose family was made homeless in 1947 so an all-white school could be built in the neighborhood. WLRN. Miami Herald.

Schools and police: As more U.S. school districts are ending their contracts with law enforcement agencies to provide security for schools, or considering it, the next logical question is what’s next? More than half of all public schools have sworn officers in schools at least weekly, and in Florida, state law requires at least one officer in every school. Some districts are switching to a security staff instead of sworn officers, while others are considering replacing officers with people trained in conflict resolution. Chalkbeat. Education Dive. NPR. Recent events have pushed Florida athletic directors and coaches into talking at length with players about racial issues, protests and the police, and how to conduct themselves. Tallahassee Democrat.

Budget problems: Faced with a budget deficit of $16 million-plus and a reduced capital budget, Volusia County School Board members are reconsidering their decision to merge two elementary schools to build a $44 million K-8 school. For that cost they could build two elementary schools, one of which could replace the aging Turie T. Small Elementary. Board member Linda Cuthbert pointed out that her support for the K-8 school hinged on having the money for it, which no longer appears to be the case. “In these difficult, uncertain times, I just can’t see spending $44 million for a school when Turie T. needs so much help,” she said. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School for autistic closes: The coronavirus pandemic has claimed another private school in Florida. The Paragon School in Orlando, which educated children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome, is the second private school in Florida to close its doors in the face of declining enrollment and fundraising. “We are a school community that has been uniquely impacted by the pandemic, which has had a major effect on our enrollment and fundraising capabilities,” reads a note posted on the K-12 school’s website. “We are now faced with the reality of being unable to create a workable budget with adequate staffing that will allow us to operate for the full 2020-2021 school year.” More than 100 students with special needs used Gardiner Scholarships to attend Paragon. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer those scholarships. redefinED.

Tracking aid for the bullied: The Florida Department of Education is developing a rule that would require schools to keep track of how many parents are being given information about the Hope Scholarship for bullied students. By law, schools are required to tell parents about the scholarships within 15 days of a reported incident. But a study showed many parents are only learning about the program, which gives the student money to attend a private school or for transportation to another public school, from other sources. In 2018-2019, 239 students received money under the program. That grew to 409 this past year. Step Up For students helps administer the scholarship. Politico Florida.

Kindergartners and math: A new study suggests that the academic skills of kindergarten students have declined since 2014, especially in math. “It is likely that the timing of the Great Recession had some impact on children’s early home environments for some cohorts more than others,” the researchers wrote in an article published in the journal Educational Researcher. They also pointed out that an increase in students whose parents don’t speak English and the implementation of Common Core standards could be factors. One positive note from the study: The gap between minorities and white students continued to decline. Education Dive.

District reimbursed: The Broward County School District will share a $9.8 million federal grant with Children’s Services Council of Broward County and the United Way of Broward County as reimbursement for the aid they provided students after the 2018 Parkland school shootings. The money will also be used to pay for continuing services to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, staff and their families. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel.

Superintendent’s evaluation: The Manatee County School Board has given Superintendent Cynthia Saunders a rating of “highly effective,” making her eligible for a bonus of up to 10 percent of her annual base salary of $200,900. “She’s met with adversity and challenges and overcome them,” said board member Scott Hopes. “I think she’s done a fantastic job.” Four board members rated Saunders as highly effective, and one gave her an effective rating. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: Mark Vianello, a 27-year veteran of the Marion County School District who has been the executive director of vocational programs since 2018, has been named deputy superintendent by incoming school chief Diane Gullett. He’ll replace Jonathan Grantham and be paid $110,384. On Tuesday, the school board approved a $210,000 salary for Gullett. Ocala Star-Banner. Clay County Superintendent David Broskie has announced 15 appointments to district administrative and principal positions. Clay Today. A protest is planned to support the reinstatement of a Pasco County high school principal. David LaRoche is the principal of Hudson High and a candidate for superintendent. The superintendent he’s challenging in the election, Kurt Browning, recently demoted him to an assistant principal’s job at Mitchell High. Tampa Bay Times.

School board elections: Amy Rogers, a longtime volunteer in a variety of youth programs, has announced her candidacy for the District 4 seat on the Gulf County School Board. Other candidates are Thomas Buttram, Deborah Crosby, Marvin Davis and Charles Gathers. Port St. Joe Star.

Looking for a school site: Backers of the Destin High charter school delayed their opening for a year from 2020 to 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, and now they’re searching for a new location for the school. The school had a deal to buy the Destin United Methodist and remodel it, but that is now off and school officials are looking for a new home. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Counselor fired: Four years after a Broward County high school guidance counselor was arrested on Medicaid fraud charges, the school district has fired him. Micah Harrell, 50, was working at Piper High School in Sunrise and had been with the district since 2004. He was arrested in 2016, but the district’s police department didn’t find out about it until 2018, though the district’s general counsel maintains the district was notified only this spring. Another lawyer told the school board that the Department of Education had withheld Harrell’s criminal information from the district. DOE officials said they were investigating. Sun Sentinel.

Teacher disciplined: A Bay County teacher has been disciplined over comments she made on Facebook about nationwide protests and riots. Nicole Waller, who works at Tyndall Elementary, wrote “Bet they won’t burn down the food stamp office,” in response to the rioting. She will undergo sensitivity training, district officials said. Panama City News Herald. WCTV. WMBB. WJHG.

Opinions on schools: Florida is asking school districts to do the near-impossible next year: carry on as normally as possible amid the pandemic. If school districts don’t get enough money, Florida will be asking them to do the impossible. Sun Sentinel. Tampa Bay school leaders must articulate specific plans to cut the achievement gap between white and minority students. Tampa Bay Times. A growing number of colleges have dropped the ACT and SAT tests in admissions decisions, and the time is right for University of Florida to take the same step. Gainesville Sun. As school resource officers seek to build positive relationships with students, they should also recognize that the high-fives they give them at the school door aren’t emblematic of the treatment those children and teens may receive once they leave the school premises. F. Chris Curran, Aaron Kupchik and Benjamin W. Fisher, The Conversation. Getting rid of resource officers in schools must go hand in hand with a discussion about more guidance counselors and mental health supports for students. Andrew Rotherham, The 74.

Student enrichment: A migrant camp in rural Miami-Dade County has been turned into an outdoor classroom for the summer by four district employees. Miami Herald. Two Flagler County schools were among the top finishers at the Future Problem Solvers International Competition. Matanzas High School’s team was crowned grand champion, and a Rymfire Elementary team was among the first-place winners. Flagler Live.

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BY NextSteps staff