Baker Act and students: More than 4,800 Florida were removed from their schools under the Baker Act during the 2021-2022 school year, according to a report released Wednesday to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. It’s the first time the schools-specific data has been collected under a 2021 law that details how schools must handle use of the Baker Act for students. Under the act, law enforcement officers, judges, doctors or mental health professionals can order an involuntary mental health exam for students deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, or who exhibit the signs of mental illness. The data are being used to prepare mental health plans and determine where resources should be allocated, said Jacob Oliva, K-12 chancellor for the Florida Department of Education. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida.
Around the state: Five Orlando middle schools are getting “safety coaches” to help stem the spread of violence in schools, Sarasota’s school board adds two days of school to make up time lost to storms, Lee County parents are frustrated by the inactivity at an elementary school that was damaged by Hurricane Ian, Citrus school officials said they’re closing the K-5 virtual school due to declining enrollment, the Pinellas County School Board approves a contract agreement that gives teachers raises averaging 4.25 percent and sets the starting teacher salary at $50,568, and Volusia school board members agree to more than double the school impact fees on new single-family homes. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: A national organization with an after-school program designed to instruct girls on healthy living, academic enrichment and life skills now has a Miami chapter. Girls Inc. conducts programs for 180 girls in six Title I schools or programs, and has plans to expand to all 317 Title I schools in the district. “Making sure girls grow up socially, academically and emotionally strong is our business,” said attorney Virginia Akar, the founder and executive director of the Miami chapter. Miami Herald.
Orange: Five Orlando middle schools are getting “safety coaches” in January as city officials try to stem the spread of violence among young people. The program started at Carver Middle last December after a 13-year-old fired shots outside the school. Looking for solutions, City Commissioner Bakari F. Burns proposed a safety coach trained in de-escalation and in recognizing mental health issues in students. The results were promising enough that the city recently approved spending $600,000 to expand the program to four more middle schools: Ace, College Park, Memorial and Roberto Clemente. Each school will identify 35 high-risk students for safety coaches to get to know and mentor. WKMG.
Polk: The school district has settled a gender discrimination complaint filed in 2021 by an Equal Employment Opportunity officer. Carol Wynn-Green, a former EEOC officer with the district, filed the complaint when she discovered a male coworker with less tenure was being paid more than she was and had an opportunity for promotion that she did not. “When it comes down to men and women, if we’re doing the same type of work, we should be paid the same type of wages,” she said. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Spectrum News 9. The school district has started a food pantry at the West Area Adult School that’s open to everyone this Friday and then every other Friday until the food is gone. Lakeland Now.
Pinellas: A contract agreement that provides 4.25 percent raises, on average, to teachers and increases starting teacher pay to $50,568 has been approved by school board members. Union members overwhelmingly approved the agreement last week. The new contract also covers the increase in health-care premiums, gives teachers 15 hours paid hours at the teacher’s rate for additional planning or grading work, and offers supplements for teachers with advanced degrees and bonuses for teachers with 10 or more years of experience with the district. WMNF.
Lee: Parents of students at Fort Myers Beach Elementary School are voicing their frustration that nothing has been done at the school since it was damaged by Hurricane Ian. “Forty-nine days later, there needs to be, you know, what’s the next step to get them back on campus here,” said Erin Field, who has two children enrolled at the school. District officials said all options are being considered, but no decisions have been made. WFTX. WBBH.
Volusia: School board members this week voted to more than double school impact fees on newly built single-family homes, and increase the fees by almost 27 percent on multifamily units. Impact fees for either type of dwelling have been just under $3,000 since 2013, but will jump to $7,022.70 for homes and to $3,728.95 for multifamily units. The new fees, which are imposed to help schools build or expand schools to keep up with enrollment growth, are scheduled to go into effect in 90 days. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
St. Johns: An administrator at Tocoi Creek High School has resigned and the school’s dean could be fired for alleged sexual misconduct on school grounds. Assistant principal Erin Lynn and Jerry Skipper, the dean and football coach, were accused of “inappropriate actions on or about Aug. 28, 2022” for “interactions with another colleague that involved flirtatious and sexual misconduct in and out of the workplace.” Both were placed on administrative leave Nov. 4. WJAX.
Sarasota: School board members have approved the addition of two school days to make up instructional time lost during the recent hurricanes. Jan. 9 and March 20, two Mondays that had been scheduled as professional days for teachers and staff, have been converted to full days for students. Also approved was a proposal to secure $135 million in financing for a new K-8 school and renovations at Gocio Elementary School. The meeting was the last for the liberal majority of the board. Longtime members Shirley Brown and Jane Goodwin are being replaced by two conservatives, Tim Enos and Robyn Marinelli, shifting the majority from 3-2 liberal to 4-1 conservative. WUSF. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Alachua: Three members of the school board bid farewell at this week’s meeting. Mildred Russell lost her election, while , Gunnar Paulson and chair Robert Hyatt both chose not to run for re-election. They will be replaced next week by Diyonne McGraw, Sarah Rockwell and Kay Abbitt, who will join Tina Certain and Leanetta McNealy to make up the first-ever all-female board. Mainstreet Daily News.
Flagler: A 12-year-old student at Indian Trails Middle School was arrested Wednesday after allegedly making a social media threat to carry out a mass shooting at the school. Deputies said the girl posted the threat Tuesday on the Snapchat platform. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WKMG. WFTV. WESH.
Citrus: Declining enrollment has led to the school district’s decision to close the Citrus eSchool K-5 when the semester ends Dec. 22. Principal Deborah Dumas said many parents are sending their children back into classrooms. She and other school officials expect those students who want to remain in remote learning will enroll in the Florida Virtual School. The Citrus eSchool 6-12 is unaffected by the decision. Citrus County Chronicle.
Sumter: A South Sumter High School teacher has been arrested and accused of inappropriately touching and contacting a student. Deputies said Jason Sager, 48, is charged with battery and transmission of harmful material to a minor, and believe there could be more victims. Sager has been placed on administrative leave by the school district. WKMG. WFTV. WESH. WFLA.
Colleges and universities: The University of South Florida will restart its nationwide search for a provost after deciding that none of the four finalists was the right fit. One of the finalists, interim provost Eric Eisenberg, was asked to withdraw and accept a new position as senior vice president of university-community partnerships, which he did. Tampa Bay Times. Home-school graduates will now be eligible for two years of free tuition under Indian River State College’s program for 2023 Treasure Coast public school graduates pursuing an associate’s degree. TCPalm.
Homeless students: U.S. school districts have undercounted the number of homeless students, leaving about 300,000 of them not receiving the services they need and are entitled to, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity. “It’s a largely invisible population,” said Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection. “The national conversation on homelessness is focused on single adults who are very visible in large urban areas. It is not focused on children, youth and families. It is not focused on education.” Chalkbeat.
Religious school enrollment: More than 173,000 students in Florida attend private religious schools using one of the state’s education choice scholarships, representing nearly 70 percent of all students receiving scholarships. Catholics make up the largest religious group with 34,912 students at 204 schools, followed by Baptists with 25,371 students at 173 schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the state scholarship programs. reimaginED.
Around the nation: U.S. students who had been struggling before the pandemic are rebounding at a slower rate than their classmates, sharply increasing the achievement gap, according to a report from testing group NWEA. The 74. Chalkbeat. Dozens of U.S. school districts are the beneficiaries of $150 million in donations recently announced by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. Chalkbeat.
Opinions on schools: Turmoil on the Broward County School Board is not “reform.” Dumping a superintendent on your way out does not bring “stability.” It brings more uncertainty. Even before it begins, the newly elected board faces a crisis of the Gov. Ron DeSantis board’s making. Sun-Sentinel.