Florida schools roundup: Sweeping education bills, help for deaf and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation bills: The Florida Senate Budget Committee passes two broadly drawn Senate education bills. SB 524 deals with teacher bonuses, charter facilities financing, competency-based pilot programs and giving principals greater authority to make changes at struggling schools. SB 1166 would allow open enrollment for any student to attend any school with an opening, allow athletes to transfer and play immediately, and more closely define charter school accountability. An attempt to add an amendment requiring recess every day in elementary schools was withdrawn. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. WFSU.

Help for deaf: A Senate committee passes a bill that would help mainstream children who are deaf or hard of hearing into regular education. The bill would increase state funds for school programs that use hearing devices to aid spoken communication. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

District, police split: The Pasco County School District and the Zephyrhills Police Department are ending their contract for resource officers at two schools. The relationship deteriorated when Zephyrhills High School fired football coach Reggie Roberts, who is a police sergeant. Pasco County deputies will take over the contract. Tampa TribuneGradebook.

Success story: Lake Wales High School has doubled students’ college acceptance rate in five years, cut chronic absenteeism and has the highest graduation rate in Polk County. Much of the credit goes to Principal Donna Dunson, who has instituted new rules since starting at the school in 2010. Among them: An 8:30 a.m. start time, extending lunches from 23 minutes to an hour, requiring teachers to let students retake tests, and more. Lakeland Ledger.

Reserves shrinking: A state audit finds that the Hernando County School District’s financial reserves are below the recommended 3 percent. The district is looking into ways to boost the level from its current 2.2 percent. Tampa Bay Times.

Suspended, honored: A teacher who was suspended by the Pasco County School District is named by the Florida Department of Education as one of 240 “distinguished educators” among the county’s nearly 5,000 teachers. Michael Maynard, an English teacher at Pasco High School, was suspended for making inappropriate comments to students. Gradebook.

Failing schools: Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor is asking the state to take over “separate and unequal” schools in south Tallahassee. The school district and the Department of Education say Proctor’s comments are misleading, and that there are many success stories at those schools. Tallahassee Democrat.

Events at Everglades: Eleven days before she resigned, the principal at Everglades Elementary in West Palm Beach complained about the way the district handled a harassment complaint at the school. Amie Souder says three employees at the school participated with the former principal, Tara Dellegrotti-Ocampo, in the harassment of the school treasurer, and should have been disciplined. Dellegrotti-Ocampo was reprimanded. Palm Beach Post.

Political squabble: The relationship between the Miami-Dade county government and school district continues to deteriorate. The district says Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was “uninvited” to a press conference announcing arrests in the shooting death of a 6-year-old. Police officials deny that. Carvalho and Mayor Carlos Gimenez have sparred recently over several issues. Miami Herald.

McDonald’s protest: Hillsborough school officials say MacFarlane Park Elementary School erred in hosting an anti-McDonald’s protest by students on school property. The protest was part of a class project requiring students to take on an international issue. But the non-profit Corporate Accountability International and nurses from Tampa General Hospital, who want the restaurant out of the hospital, did most of the talking. No one will be disciplined. Tampa Tribune.

Free bus rides: Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox is pushing to give high school students free city bus rides. Maddox says doing so would help students without transportation to take advantage of later school start times, extracurricular activities or dual-enrollment classes on college campuses. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher of year perk: Okaloosa County’s teacher of the year gets a surprise – use of a BMW 528i for a year. Charlotte Wadsworth, English and yearbook teacher at Baker School, says “I’m excited especially since I drive a truck.” Northwest Florida Daily News.

Job approach: The state’s top principal, Rhonda Hunt, talks about her points of emphasis in her job at Eustis Heights Elementary. Daily Commercial.

One-room school: Members of the Duette community want to turn the last one-room schoolhouse in Florida into a community center. To do so, the Duette Community Association has to convince the Manatee County School District to give it the Duette Elementary property. Bradenton Herald.

Teachers and the law: A physical education teacher who was fired for inappropriate conduct with students is arrested. Dionne Younce, 28, is accused of unlawful sexual activity with minors. She taught at Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach. Florida Times-Union. St. Augustine Record. A former Fernandina Beach High School teacher is sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexual battery of a student and possession of photographs/sexual performance by a child. Daniel Wright taught TV production and digital design at Fernandina Beach High. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: The AP exams report had some bad news for Florida. State students were only average in math and science, and black students do much worse. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. School officials should try a little harder to keep sugar-coated propaganda from being distributed in Martin County classrooms. Gil Smart, TCPalm. New information makes the Imperial Parkway property the best site for a high school in Bonita Springs. Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: Parent Academy liaisons are working with Hernando County students to prepare for the Florida Standards Assessments tests. Tampa Bay Times. Florida high school and middle school students are participating this week in the Astronaut Challenge at Kennedy Space Center. Florida Today. Artists and brothers Steven and William Ladd will show about 1,000 Miami-Dade students how to turn trash into art at Scrollathon. Miami Herald. Raymond James Financial is asking other businesses in Pinellas County to participate in a “Lunch Pals” mentoring program at 29 schools. Tampa Bay Times. Viera High seniors Vance McLeod and Garth Savage win the “Be Entrepreneurial” Business Plan Challenge, a Shark Tank-like competition. They invented Jam Circle, a music streaming system similar to Pandora, except that it relies more on social media. Florida Today. Students get a glimpse of where food comes from at the Ag Ventures activities during the Southeastern Youth Fair in Ocala. Ocala Star Banner.