Florida schools roundup: Coding, bonuses, testing, LGBT policy and more

florida-roundup-logoComputer coding: A bill allowing Florida students to take computer coding to satisfy foreign language requirements has been weakened in the Florida Senate, which will vote on the measure today. The bill now says public schools may offer coding classes in place of foreign languages, but do not have to. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida.

Teacher bonuses: Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, says the Senate is working on a package of its own priorities for teacher bonuses. Any differences in the bill with the House version will have to be negotiated. Politico Florida.

Alternative testing: A bill that would allow the use of alternatives to the Florida Standards Assessments, such as the ACT or SAT, is still awaiting a Senate committee hearing. And there is no companion bill in the House. Sunshine State News.

LGBT policy killed: The Brevard County School Board declines to adopt a proposed non-discrimination and equal employment policy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the schools. Florida Today.

Software contract problems: The Florida Auditor General’s Office has found problems with a contract for software development that was part of a complaint against former Polk County Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy. The problems: How the vendor was chosen, how the contract was negotiated and some of the contract language. Lakeland Ledger. Meanwhile, the man who lodged the complaint against LeRoy was having issues of his own. Lakeland Ledger.

Expulsion policy: The Manatee County School Board approves a policy that will keep a record of why a student is expelled, but the student’s identity will be kept private. Bradenton Herald.

Sexting warning: Sexting among students at Lake Placid Middle School is out of control, school and law enforcement officials tell parents at a community meeting. Tampa Tribune.

School grades discussion: Orange County school officials will hold public meetings to explain school grades, which were released earlier this month. Orlando Sentinel.

Discipline gap: A plan to reduce suspensions is working in the Hillsborough County School District. In the first half of the school year, 21,724 school days were lost to suspension. In the first half of the last school year, the number was 33,359. But black students are still being suspended at a much higher rate than whites, and some teachers complain that they don’t feel supported. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Tribune.

Desegregation complaint: The Indian River County School District doesn’t have enough minority teachers or a good success plan for minority students, the NAACP branch contends. The group met with school officials Tuesday. The NAACP says the district is not complying with a 1967 federal desegregation order. TCPalm.

SpringBoard criticized: Hillsborough County School Board members criticize SpringBoard, a College Board program that provides curricula, assessments and instruction guidance for students in grades 6-12. Gradebook.

School chief resigns: Anthony Williams, police chief of the Broward County School District, resigns. He gave no reason, but an overhaul of the department was recently ordered to improve police and personnel investigations. Sun-Sentinel.

Superintendent search: The St. Johns County School Board discusses a timeline for replacing Superintendent Joseph Joyner, who’s retiring at the end of January 2017. The district wants to have the new superintendent in place by Jan. 1 to allow for a 30-day transition. St. Augustine Record.

New school plans: Plans for a new Pierson Elementary School include furniture that’s easy to move and space for technology and small group sessions. Planners want to get away from the traditional desk-facing-a-chalkboard setup, they tell the Volusia County School Board. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

New stadium: The new Tommy Oliver Stadium should be ready for Bay High School’s 2017 graduation, the district’s facilities director tells the Bay County School Board. Panama City News Herald.

Contract negotiations: The Polk County teachers union will meet with district officials today to try to resolve their differences. The union took its concerns to interim superintendent Jacqueline Byrd, who pledged to work on a solution. Lakeland Ledger.

Employee discipline: Two Lee County school officials are fired and another is suspended. A custodian was fired for selling drugs, and a building supervisor for taking materials and selling them. A school bus driver was suspended for not telling the district he has entered a guilty plea in October for taking $69,686.60 from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Fort Myers News-Press.

Guns at school: Two Umatilla High School students are arrested for having a gun at the Lake County school. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Opinions on schools: Skimping on school funding is the best way to ruin Florida’s economy. Martha Musgrove, Sun-Sentinel. Local school board members are in a much better position to manage local school construction costs than state lawmakers are. Orlando Sentinel. Driving Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti out of town is not an acceptable option. Ron Littlepage, Florida Times-Union. Homeschooling and unschooling are alternatives to traditional classroom work. Laurie Futterman, Miami Herald. Phyllis Penney, a longtime Douglas Anderson School of the Arts dance teacher, is retiring. It’s Jacksonville’s loss. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Royal Palm Elementary students and volunteers plant a 3,000-square-foot garden. The fruits and vegetables they grow will be used in lunches at the Miami-Dade school and given to students to take home. WSVN. Smith Middle School resource officer Charity Arthur starts a food bank to help feed needy students. Tampa Tribune. Seniors from Pembroke Pines Charter High School compete in a spelling bee with senior citizens. An 18-year-old outlasted two senior citizens to win. Sun-Sentinel. A photography program leads to opportunities for  students at Boca Raton High School. Palm Beach Post.