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Pasco sheriff using student data to identify possible criminals, a partisan nonpartisan election and more

Sheriff using student data: The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has been secretly using select data from the school district and the state Department of Children and Families to compile a list of students it believes could “fall into a life of crime.” Sheriff Chris Nocco’s office culls school records for students who get poor grades, miss a lot of school or are disciplined, and the DCF data to find kids who have been abused or witnessed abuse in their homes. The list contains the names of 420 children. Civil rights and children’s advocates said the practice could violate students’ rights. Superintendent Kurt Browning said he didn’t know the sheriff was using district data to compile a list, but said he did not find it concerning. Nocco declined to comment. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that coronavirus vaccines could be available at select Florida hospitals within a month but getting the shots will not be mandatory, an election for the vice chair job on the Hillsborough County School Board turns into a partisan battle, contract talks in two districts break down over proposed raises for veteran teachers, Miami Beach will become the first city in Florida to offer scholarships to some preschool students, and a 1,500-pound statue of a rattlesnake has been installed on the Florida A&M University campus. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Next August, Miami Beach will become the first city in Florida to offer scholarships to children in the city to supplement the state-funded voluntary pre-kindergarten program. Three hours of learning a day are offered in the state program, but the $250,000 pilot project will extend that by 2.5 hours a day for as many as 92 students. The program is a partnership between the city and Teach Florida, a statewide education choice advocacy group for Jewish schools, and is open to any child in the city regardless of their religion or family income. redefinED. Carol City Middle School has been without clean water for most of this week after a nearby pipe was damaged. WPLG.

Hillsborough: Even supposedly nonpartisan school boards are getting more partisan these days. Democrats have lodged a complaint about the election of a Republican, Stacy Hahn, to the board vice chair role over Karen Perez, a Democrat, calling it a violation of the Sunshine Law because paper ballots were used. Board attorney Jim Porter said the paper ballots are signed and available as public records, so there was no violation. For the record, board chair Lynn Gray, a Democrat, nominated Hahn. “My first concern is that the public support us,” Gray explained. “We need to have a broad appeal.” Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: More than 1,400 high school athletes, coaches and trainers in winter sports were recently tested for the coronavirus, and six of the tests came back positive, according to district officials. No further details were provided. WKMG.

Brevard: Thieves stole at least $7,500 worth of Cocoa High School football equipment last weekend, said coach Ryan Schneider. The undefeated team plays in the state semifinals today, and will use equipment loaned from Space Coast High School. Florida Today.

Volusia: A day after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said schools would be allowed to continue offering their remote learning programs in the second semester, Volusia officials said they would extend the use of Volusia Live. It’s a platform that lets remote learners livestream courses with their classmates on the standard school schedule. The second semester starts Jan. 26. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Nine more coronavirus cases have been reported at eight schools by district officials, sending 106 others into quarantine. That brings the total number of cases to 259 since schools opened Aug. 17, with 2,713 quarantines. Bradenton Herald.

Marion: The school board is considering its options for the future of Evergreen Elementary School, which will have to be closed or turned over to a charter school company if it doesn’t get at least a C from the state next summer. School officials are worried that the time of in-person schooling lost because of the coronavirus could threaten progress they had seen last spring. Now the school board is being asked to consider several options: No change, creating a choice program for the school to lure students, closing it and turning it into district administrative offices, or closing it and creating a district-run alternative school. The board asked Superintendent Diane Gullett to get community input about those options, as well as for merging Evergreen and nearby Oakcrest. Ocala Star-Banner.

Clay: Contract talks between the school district and the teachers union have broken down over a disagreement on proposed raises for veteran teachers. Union president Vicki Kidwell said the district wants to improve the minimum pay for the district by $6,000, but give only about $600 to longtime teachers who are already above the minimum. “That’s the sticking point,” Kidwell said. “We felt that that was unfair given that the profession is in such crisis right now, and that our teachers, who are veterans, at least some of them are the only one employed in their house right now because their spouses have lost jobs, and they needed to be at least given a comparable salary.” The dispute is likely headed to mediation. WJXT.

Indian River: Contract negotiations between the district and the teachers union have stalled over a disagreement on how money from the state would be distributed to starting and veteran teachers. Last spring, the Legislature passed a bill allocating $500 million to districts to try to get starting teacher pay up to $47,500, and $100 million for raises to veteran teachers. The district’s share is about $3.1 million, and it proposes boosting the minimum teacher pay to the $47,500 goal, up from about $41,000, and offering veteran teachers a raise of about $1,600. The union wants to take money from the property tax initiative approved in August to give veteran teachers a similar raise. District officials are reluctant to make that commitment because of the financial uncertainty created by the pandemic. TCPalm.

Monroe: District finance director Beverly Anders told school board members this week that new financial controls have been put in place to cut down on the possibility of fraud, and that purchasing cards are getting greater use since they provide cash back. Board members were also sworn in at the meeting, and John Dick was elected board chair. Key West Citizen.

DeSoto: Four confirmed coronavirus cases this week have sent 280 students at Nocatee Elementary School into quarantine. Two of the positive tests were of students, and two of employees. WBBH.

Jefferson: Third-grade teacher Indy Mack has been named the Jefferson-Somerset School District elementary teacher of the year. Science teacher Stefanie Prevatt is the middle/high school teacher of the year, and paraprofessional Teresa Madison-Precia is the district employee of the year. ECB Publishing.

Colleges and universities: A 42-foot long, 1,500-pound bronze rattlesnake statue has been installed at the Florida A&M University’s Center for Access and Student Success Building. It was designed and created by Brad Cooley of Bronze by Cooley in Lamont, Fla., and cost about $112,000. WTXL. Orlando Sentinel. WFSU.

More on the coronavirus: As coronavirus cases surge and more school districts are considering closing, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration has reiterated its support for keeping schools open. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield concurred, saying schools are “one of the safest places (students) can be in.” Politico. Anxiety is meeting legality as teachers try to more sharply define their employee rights during a coronavirus pandemic. Education Week.

Biden and education: Potential candidates to become the next U.S. secretary of education reportedly include union leaders Randi Weingarten, president of the nationwide American Federation of Teachers, and Lily Eskelsen García, who recently resigned as president of the National Education Association, as well as a handful of school superintendents. Florida Phoenix. The current secretary, Betsy DeVos, will leave behind a mixed legacy. Here are some of the things she’s done in her tenure, and how likely those actions will remain in place under the next secretary. NPR. President-elect Joe Biden’s plans to give teachers raises and send more money to low-income schools could be sidetracked by the pandemic. McClatchey.

Tracking transfers: Increasing violence in schools is likely the primary reason that elementary students transfer, according to a study in American Educational Research Journal. The study also showed that students from the most violent neighborhoods are the least likely to transfer, while higher-income students are the most likely to leave. Education Dive.

Opinions on schools: When the Legislature begins to cut the budget it should spare the EASE vouchers, which provide access and choice to students in Florida, are far less expensive than subsidies for students in public universities and to borrow a phrase, are “powerful engines of opportunity.” Bob Boyd, Gainesville Sun.

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BY NextSteps staff