Florida schools roundup: Principal power, a reading plan, charters and more

florida-roundup-logoPrincipal power: Principals in seven Florida counties would get more authority and money to turn around underperforming schools under a bill passed by a House committee on Thursday. Broward, Duval, Jefferson, Madison, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Seminole counties could apply for $100,000 under the program and $10,000 for each participating principal. Politico Florida.

Reading program: University of Florida researchers are asking the state for money to start an intensive reading program for underachieving students. The program teaches students decoding, a process that includes seeing words, breaking them into individual sounds and then articulating the sounds. A test in October at two failing St. Petersburg elementary schools showed significant improvement by students, according to a reportPolitico Florida.

Charter school funding: Charter schools should get state money for construction and building maintenance because they don’t qualify for local money, according to House Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Corcoran. The House budget would give charter schools $90 million and public schools $50 million, The Senate bill has no such money for charters. Politico Florida.

Recess mom Q&A: Angela Browning, a paralegal with three children in Orange County schools, helped start a movement by moms to have recess restored to elementary schools. In this Q&A, she discusses why she got involved and why it’s important. Education Week.

Cell phone seizure: School officials can confiscate and search students’ phones without notifying the parent if they have a reasonable suspicion that the student possesses prohibited or illegally possessed items, according to an opinion from the Bay County assistant state attorney. The West Florida High School principal used that power when investigating a hazing incident on a school bus. Pensacola News Journal.

School funding: Just a year after getting a half-cent sales tax hike for schools approved by voters, the Hernando County School Board is discussing a referendum for another tax increase. Tampa Bay Times.

Chicken pox cases: The number of children with chicken pox at Plumb Elementary in Clearwater has risen from eight to 14 since the initial report late last month, according to the Florida Health Department. Gradebook.

Special needs charter: University of Central Florida teachers-in-training get practical experience at UCP Bailes, a charter school that serves children with a variety of disabilities. The students serve as teaching assistants. United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida has seven Central Florida campuses. Central Florida Future.

Board meeting speakers: People who want to speak at Orange County School Board meetings will get their chance. The board will offer a five-week trial allowing 30 minutes of speaking before the board meeting. Each speaker is limited to five minutes. Orlando Sentinel.

Board member backs up: Volusia School Board member John Hill, who called picketing teachers “a hateful group of individuals who make this county look bad” at a board meeting Monday, issues an apology of sorts. “The board is focused on allowing teachers to be decision-makers, reduce their burden on testing, and make them feel more valued,” he said Thursday. “I respect teachers, and we as a board are working to do what’s best for our county.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Teacher honored: Lori Pirzer, band director for 15 years at Oak View Middle School in Newberry, is named Alachua County’s Teacher of the Year. Gainesville Sun.

Security at fair: Security will be heightened for Student Day at the Florida State Fair, with more deputies, security cameras and metal detectors than in previous years. Tampa Bay Times.

Notable deaths: Angela Slater, 53, a longtime softball coach at Riverview High School whose teams won more than 500 games and two state championships, dies of cancer. Tampa Tribune.

Ex-teacher arrested: Robert Celeste, 50, a former teacher and coach in Pinellas County schools, was arrested and charged with sexual activity with a minor after authorities said a 16-year-old student gave birth to his child last year. Tampa Tribune.

Coach fired: Chiles High School fires its cross country and track coach, Scott Gowan, after a second complaint was filed against him. A year ago he was accused of intimidating and harassing a female runner. This time he’s accused of hitting a student during a weightlifting class. Tallahassee Democrat.

Bus driver beats charge: A sex crimes charge against a former Palm Beach County school bus driver is dropped. No reason is given, but the bus driver denied the charge and said the 15-year-old girl made up a story. Sun-Sentinel.

Bullying incident: A recent incident in which a Leon High School student from Nepal was bullied has become a lesson for school officials on recognizing bullying and taking appropriate action. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: There is no shortage of failures on display from the ugly sexual incident at Zephyrhills High School that cost a popular football coach his job. Tom Jackson, Tampa Tribune. A proposal to split up county school districts would increase administrative costs and create inequalities between school districts. The Legislature should pass on this idea. TCPalm. Computer coding is important, but allowing it to fulfill foreign language requirements is wrong-headed. Tallahassee Democrat. School grades are just a piece of the whole education picture. Jeff Eakins, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: Every week, students in the peer counseling class at Mowat Middle School in Lynn Haven pack bags filled with donated food for students who otherwise might not have enough to eat over the weekend. Panama City News Herald. Eight Pasco County middle schools offer a course on basic research, which includes such training as proper search methods and how to judge reliability of sources. Tampa Bay Times. Jonelkis Bracho, a senior at Winter Park High, is one of 55 U.S. students with a perfect score on the Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture exam. Orlando Sentinel. Nine Palm Beach county high and middle schools teams will pitch their ideas next month to a panel of judges, just like the TV show Shark Tank. The winners will share $100,000 put up by the four judges. Palm Beach Post.