Schools step up safety measures, the search for new university presidents, voucher updates and more

Around the state:  Districts statewide are addressing school safety measures, an update on school vouchers, how college and career centers are helping Pinellas students and the hunt for new presidents at two universities. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: Students at seven schools in this county will soon walk through a new weapons-detection system as they enter campuses each day as the district tests a device that school leaders hope will make schools safer. The pilot project will begin on Monday at Wekiva High in west Orange and then move to six other high schools in the next few months. The system, called Opengate, aims to quickly screen large numbers of people without requiring that they remove backpacks or purses. Orlando Sentinel. Aol. WKMG.

Pinellas: A college and career center is located in each high school in this county. The goal is to help students prepare for life after graduation. The district has now expanded the program to all 17 traditional public schools in the county, with numbers indicating the model is making a difference. Tampa Bay Times.

Polk: School officials here announced a step on Wednesday toward filling a local need for free, voluntary, Pre-K opportunities to district families. In a news release, the district said a tuition-free, full-day preschool called Bezos Academy will be setting up in a section of Oscar J. Pope Elementary in Lakeland. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA.

Brevard: The topic of arming school staff has returned to the Brevard School Board. Florida Today.

Volusia: Facing concerns about student safety, the Volusia County School Board voted this week to staff seven additional schools with resource deputies from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. The seven deputies are in addition to the seven already requested and agreed to by the district on June 27. According to a district-sponsored slideshow, school resource deputies will serve as part of the district’s threat management team. “Safety and security is of the highest priority for everyone in the VCS community,” said Danielle Johnson, the district’s director of community information. “We are trying to ensure all secondary schools have school resource officers since the remaining middle schools and all high schools do.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. WESH.

Citrus: Peer counseling at Citrus High School allows students to help others. Student Kenzy Phelps shares that answering phone calls in the front office helped her “become more social” and “more comfortable” talking to people she doesn’t know. Taking on the role of a peer counselor also allows students to develop leadership skills, they learn to help solve problems and make decisions independently while helping their teachers. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: School Board member Cheryl Massaro has decided to run again after only intending to serve a lone term. Flagler Live.

Voucher update: After weeks of complaints from parents about delayed payments, Florida lawmakers looked into how implementation of the state’s voucher expansion is going and what can be done to improve the model. New guidelines for using voucher funds are due to be completed by the end of December. Since Florida has become the largest provider of public vouchers for private schooling in the country, lawmakers now expect organizations administering this money on the state’s behalf to clarify what parents can spend it on.  Meanwhile, state officials are looking into bringing more scholarship funding organizations to the state. Vouchers are typically worth about $7,700. For students with special needs who are eligible for a “unique abilities scholarship,” that figure can run up to $10,000, according to Step Up for Students, the state’s primary scholarship funding organization. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix.  Tampa Bay Times.

Colleges and universities: Florida Polytechnic University’s board of trustees has officially launched a search for the school’s second president after approving a search committee’s criteria for the job. Randy Avent, the school’s first president, will step down after almost a decade. The search committee will begin vetting candidates and provide the board of trustees with “an unranked list of more than two finalists to review,” a news release said. Tampa Bay Times. Lakeland Ledger. Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic University will have to redo its search for a president nearly a year after the start of its first attempt, officials decided Thursday. The decision by the Board of Governors came a week after the university system’s inspector general concluded the first search process violated the state’s open-government law and recommended a redo. “I think it’s the right thing to do based on the set of facts that we have heard,” Board of Governors Chairman Brian Lamb said at a board meeting Thursday. But faculty members and administrators have said for months that the stalled search process is harming FAU. The Palm Beach Post. South Florida Sun-Sentinel. WPBF.

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BY Camille Knox