Florida schools roundup: Construction spending, tests, commissioner and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool construction spending: The Florida Association of District School Superintendents fires off a letter to legislators to refute the allegations that school officials have misspent millions in construction dollars. The association claims some legislators are misrepresenting the data in order to shift construction money to charter schools. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel.

School testing: The U.S. Department of Education is offering states suggestions on how to cut back on the time students spend on standardized testing. Associated Press. Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day falls on April 18, but that’s a Florida Standards Assessment testing day. So Palm Beach County is moving its observation to March 18. Palm Beach Post.

Education commissioner: A bill that would ask voters to make the education commissioner position an elected one and give it Cabinet status is probably dead, according to its House sponsor, Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach. The bill was approved by the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Tuesday, but no hearings are scheduled in the House. TCPalmGradebook.

Recess bills: Self-described “recess moms” of Florida are lobbying state senators to take action on a bill that would require 20 minutes of recess a day in elementary schools. The bill is moving through the House, but has yet to get a Senate hearing. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

District lawsuit: A U.S. District Court judge will decide if the Broward County School District violated the rights to an education for four autistic children. The families sued the district in federal court, alleging it violated federal law by refusing to consider providing the “gold standard” of therapy for the children. They also say the district automatically places autistic children in specialized schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Bathroom protest: More than 150 people attend the Sarasota County School Board meeting to protest the policy of one school to accommodate transgender students. Pine View School now allows transgender students to use the bathroom that best matches their gender identity. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher evaluations: Even with new tests that many thought were flawed, 98 percent of Florida teachers were evaluated as effective or highly effective during the 2014-2015 school year, according to a Florida Department of Education report. Politico Florida.

Charter schools: The Florida Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee approves a bill that would make it easier for charter schools to launch but also give them clearer accountability guidelines. Tampa Tribune.

School changes: The Duval County School Board approves Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s plan to rezone boundaries and change programs at six struggling schools. Florida Times-Union.

Contract negotiations: Hundreds of teachers and other employees protest at the Seminole County School Board meeting, asking for higher payand taking issue with the district’s decision to declare negotiations with the four unions at an impasse. Orlando Sentinel. Volusia County school officials declare an impasse in their negotiations with teachers on a new contract. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Hernando County teachers agree on a contract with the school district for a 2 percent raise this year and a promise for a larger one next year. Tampa Bay Times.

Security concerns: A series of unsettling events – an arson during school, a 14-year-old bringing a gun to school, social media threats against schools, and more – have Leon County parents and students worried about safety. Tallahassee Democrat.

School closing: Alachua County School Superintendent Owen Roberts’ decision to close Waldo Elementary School was questioned by parents at the time, but five months later most agree the move was a good one. Gainesville Sun.

Bus routes request: The Manatee County School District is asking the state to allow it to offer bus services within 2 miles of six elementary schools. Officials say the areas are too dangerous to allow students to walk. Bradenton Herald.

School bus incident: Six of nine West Florida High School students who participated in hazing on a school bus went unpunished, according to a formal hearing officer’s report of the incident. The hazing involved pulling the pants down on a student. Pensacola News Journal.

Free bus rides: High school and middle school students in Hillsborough County can get free bus rides on Hillsborough Area Regional Transit buses from March 1 to June 10. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher survey: A survey completed by almost 50 percent of Alachua County teachers shows low morale and a high level of frustration, with nearly two-thirds considering leaving the profession. The survey was conducted by the teachers’ union. Gainesville Sun.

Teacher honored: Sarah Dobes, an English teacher at East Lake Middle School Academy of Engineering, is named Pinellas County’s teacher of the year. Tampa Bay Times. Kyle Jaecks, a fifth-grade teacher at Citrus Ridge Elementary School, is named Citrus County’s teacher of the year. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher arrested: Sherry Barney, a Ponce de Leon Elementary School special education teacher, is arrested on a child abuse charge for allegedly using physical force on a 5-year-old special needs student. Panama City News Herald.

Coach on leave: Scott Gowan, a physical education teacher and cross-country coach at Chiles High School, is placed on paid administrative leave after a student lodges an unspecified complaint against him. Gowan was previously investigated for harassing and intimidating a female athlete, but was cleared as long as he met certain conditions. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: Florida school districts should be permitted to use the more reliable SAT or ACT instead of the glitchy Florida Standards Assessments. Orlando Sentinel. The Florida Education Association’s Joanne McCall talks about the things that are causing stress for the state’s teachers. WLRN. Florida has magnet schools of all sorts. Is it time to consider a sports magnet school? Jac Wilder VerSteeg, Sun-Sentinel. Free agency for high school athletes? Thomas St. Myer, Pensacola News Journal. The Florida Citizens’ Alliance is pressing lawmakers to start moving on Senate Bill 1018, which would require textbook publishers to guarantee their products. Brent Batten, Naples Daily News. It does not seem likely the Legislature will do anything to improve K-12 math and science education. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Salsa, spice mixes and sauces made by Immokalee High School students are now being sold at 18 Publix stores in Collier County. Naples Daily News. Hobbs Middle School in Milton wins first place in the statewide Celebrate Literacy Week. Santa Rosa Press Gazette.