Florida schools roundup: Grades, Fresen, a one-room school and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool grades: After months of delays, the Department of Education releases Florida school grades for 2014-2015. The grades are similar to the projections issued in December, and will become the baseline for comparison to future grades. Twenty-two of the state’s 67 districts received A grades. None received an F, and only two received a D. A grades were given to 1,169 of the state’s 3,219 schools. B grades were given to 642 schools, while 859 got a C, 365 got a D and 184 got an F. The next round of Florida Standards Assessments testing is just two weeks away. Department of Education. Tampa Bay Times. Sunshine State News. WFSU. Miami HeraldTampa Tribune. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Florida Times-Union. Pensacola News Journal. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. TCPalm. Bradenton Herald. Naples Daily News. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Gainesville Sun. Ocala Star Banner. Tallahassee Democrat. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. Panama City News Herald. Daily Commercial. Lakeland Ledger. St. Augustine Record.

Fresen and charters: Florida Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, has been pushing hard in the Legislature to limit public school capital spending and to force districts to share that money with charter schools. But he’s also an executive for Civica, an architecture firm that builds charter schools. Civica has built many schools for Academica, charter school management company in Florida that employs Fresen’s brother-in-law and sister as executives. Fresen sees no conflicts. “Nothing in this bill has anything to do with anything that I do for a living,” he says. Miami Herald.

Charter investigation: A Wellington charter school paid $48,000 to a company owned by the school’s chairman for a loan that was never made. Eagle Arts Academy’s payments to Gregory James Blount even continued after the Palm Beach School Board began investigating. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent resigns: Polk County School Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy resigns and leaves with a $230,000 severance package. LeRoy has been a target for school board members since an investigation into complaints lodged against her by an associate superintendent. Board members say if she hadn’t resigned, she would have been fired. Lakeland Ledger.

One-room school: The last one-room school in Florida is likely to close at the end of the school year. The principal of Duette Elementary is retiring and won’t ask the Manatee County School District to renew the school’s contract. It has just 11 students this year. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher backgrounds: Florida gets a C in checking teacher backgrounds and sharing teacher disciplinary actions, according to a USA Today Network investigation. Each state was surveyed about its practices and then Gannett journalists audited what the states say they want to do in teacher background checks against what they do. USA TodayPensacola News Journal.

Math standards upgrade: The Florida Department of Education is considering making changes to the state’s math testing standards. In some cases the department will stress learning broad concepts instead of specifics. Gradebook.

Opt-out movement: Opt Out Leon County is a growing movement by some parents to protest the state’s accountability system by not letting their children take the Florida Standards Assessments tests. Tallahassee Democrat.

Dropout prevention: Pinellas County schools are intervening with struggling freshmen to keep them on track to graduate on time. The results are promising. In the first semester, the number of freshmen with a grade point average of less than 2.0 dropped 7 percent. Tampa Bay Times.

Priority schools: Seven Hillsborough County schools have been identified as “priority schools.” The schools, which all serve students in low-income neighborhoods, will receive will undergo a systematic approach that seeks to identify and eliminate barriers to learning, attract top teachers and offer attractive programs intended to make the schools more desirable. Tampa Bay Times.

Community school: The Children’s Home Society of Florida wants to partner with the Hillsborough County School District to make Mort Elementary a community school. Community schools generally offer such things as wellness services, medical care, before- and after-school programs and a food pantry. Tampa Bay Times.

Hiring review: Hillsborough School Superintendent Jeff Eakins is reviewing the skills he wants when hiring new administrators for the school district. Eleven of the 13 now in place have the same background, as educators or principals in the district. Tampa Tribune.

False addresses: Broward County school officials are cracking down on people who use false addresses for school registration. Sun-Sentinel.

Top principal: Principal Rhonda Hunt fought her 2014 transfer from Lost Lake Elementary to the struggling Eustis Heights Elementary. But the Lake County School Board insisted, and Hunt turned Eustis from an F school to a C one in her second year. She has been named the state’s top principal. Orlando Sentinel.

Board association: Only two of the five Volusia County School Board members are attending conferences and workshops offered by the Florida School Boards Association. The board pays $21,766 a year to be a member of the group. Some of the board members believe the group is too political. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sales tax revenues: Revenues from the extra half-cent Bay County sales tax were up 7 percent in 2015, to a total of $19 million for school projects. Panama City News Herald.

Pastor’s role questioned: The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants Vero Beach High School to remove a pastor acting as school chaplain for the football team. The foundation says Pastor Joe Moore preaches to the football players, has game day prayer breakfasts at a local church and has access to the school’s other teams. Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Ex-teacher banned: Florida’s Education Practices Commission permanently revokes the teaching license of a former Seminole County math teacher. Jeanne Michaud was fired for showing students a wood carving of a penis and testicles, using obscene language and encouraging students to hit each other with an umbrella. Orlando Sentinel.

Union chief’s plea: The former Broward Teachers Union president pleads guilty to federal mail fraud charges. Pat Santeramo was convicted in January of multiple state corruption charges. He is ordered to pay $93,800 in restitution to the union. Sun-Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Your Legislature has sold what remains of its dark soul to the growing industry of for-profit education. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. The U.S. Department of Education should continue its investigation of racial bias in Hillsborough County schools. Tampa Bay Times. The open school enrollment bill promotes chaos in the name of choice, and should be rejected. Orlando Sentinel. Approval of charter schools should remain in the hands of local school boards. Palm Beach Post. The Palm Beach County School District gets an A grade, but it’s still failing a substantial number of minority students. Rick Christie, Palm Beach Post. The arrests of two workers in the Brevard County fleet maintenance department for stealing equipment is just another example of the Florida “corruption tax.” Matt Reed, Florida Today. The departure of Polk School Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy was necessary. Lakeland Ledger. Science and religion should not be mixed in public schools. Brandon Haught, Daytona Beach News-Journal. The case of would-be teacher Jalem Robinson makes a strong argument for the decriminalization of marijuana possession. Sue Carlton, Tampa Bay Times. Fuzzy math underpins the move to limit capital spending by school districts. St. Augustine Record. A property on the Imperial Parkway in Bonita Springs is the best location for a new Lee County high school. Fort Myers News-Press.

Student enrichment: Shantell Gonzalez, 16, a junior at Alonzo Tracy Mourning Senior High School, is a rare female commanding officer at the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Miami Herald. Boynton Beach Community High School opens a butterfly garden that will be used to teach a pre-K class about nature. Sun-Sentinel. Tampa’s Jesuit High School receives an anonymous $1.1 million gift. Tampa Bay Times. Oakland Park Elementary School and Westpine Middle School students taste-test 35 new items the Broward County School District is considering offering next year. Sun-Sentinel. About 150 students show off their projects involving science, technology, engineering and math at the STEMtastic Day of Discovery in Fort Myers. Fort Myers News-Press.