Florida schools roundup: Desegregation, choice, bonuses, grades and more

florida-roundup-logoDesegregation case: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund says the Pinellas County School District is not complying with the 1964 court order governing the district’s anti-discrimination efforts. So the plaintiffs in Bradley vs. Pinellas County School Board are asking a federal court to intervene to force the district to give more help to struggling black students. Another plaintiff, in the case of Crowley vs. the Pinellas County School Board, made a similar decision in April. Tampa Bay Times.

School choice debate: School choice has turned traditional civil rights allies into opponents in Florida. On one side are ministers who say the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program gives students a chance at a better education. On the other side are the Florida NAACP and teachers unions who call the program unconstitutional because it takes money from public schools. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, administers the program. Miami Times.

Teacher bonuses: Amendments continue to be added to the teacher bonuses section of one of the two big education bills in the Senate. So the vote, which was expected Wednesday, is being put off while senators sort through the proposed changes. Miami Herald.

District grades: How can a school district get an A grade when it has so many C schools? That, and other questions about the state’s grading formula, are explained. Tallahassee Democrat.

Palm Beach goals: Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa’s new strategic plan has four main goals. The most ambitious is having 75 percent of third-graders reading at grade level within five years. Other goals are raising the graduation rate to 90 percent and improving high-school and post-graduate readiness. Palm Beach Post.

Sales tax hike: The Palm Beach County School votes to join the county in placing a 1-cent sales tax hike on the November ballot, if the county agrees by April 15. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel.

Aviation charter school: A developer is planning to build an aviation training charter school in the Kendall area of Miami-Dade. The K-12 school could hold up to 3,000 students. South Florida Business Journal.

Charter problems: The Pinellas County School District is giving Windsor Preparatory Academy until March 11 to submit a plan to correct its problems. If it can’t, it could lose its contract. The charter school has been plagued with financial issues, including payments of more than $300,000 in unsubstantiated consulting fees and a $75,000 federal grant it had to return because it couldn’t show how the money was spent. WFLA.

Public relations: The Hillsborough County School Board agrees to pay $30,000 to a public relations firm to develop a strategic communication plan for the district. Gradebook.

Investigation bill: A Tallahassee law firm is billing the Polk County School District $40,800 for its investigation of complaints against former Superintendent Kathryn LeRoy. Lakeland Ledger.

Employees honored: Kari Stanley, a fifth-grade teacher at Miller Elementary School, is named Manatee County’s teacher of the year. Secretary Cheryl Smith, also of Miller Elementary, is named support employee of the year. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Notable deaths: A Hernando County teacher dies a week after an accident at a rodeo. Lara Dewees, 27, a barrel racer and social studies teacher with the Hernando eSchool, fell when her horse threw her just after she competed in an event at a rodeo in Mississippi. Tampa Bay TimesWFLA.

Ex-teacher convicted: A former Andrew Jackson High School teacher is convicted of murdering his 4-year-old daughter in January 2015. John Ross Norfleet, 32, was “disciplining” his daughter Jada with a 1-inch by 2-inch piece of wood. He is sentenced to life in prison. Florida Times-Union.

Boy falls in canal: An 8-year-old boy who left Riverside Elementary School, climbed over a 4-foot fence and then fell into a canal is in critical condition. Orlando Sentinel.

(Toy) guns at school: A report of a Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School student with a gun on a school bus launches a police investigation. The gun turned out to be a plastic toy that a student smashed and threw away. He says he was trying to help the friend who gave it to him stay out of trouble. Tampa Tribune.

School vandalism: Two masked men go on a spray-painting rampage at Lehigh Senior High School. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: The teacher bonuses program makes too many teachers feel undervalued and hurts morale. It shouldn’t be slipped into the education budget without being vetted to see if it even benefits students. Gainesville Sun. The floating start times for Leon County high school students seem like a costly and unsustainable model. The district should just adopt a uniform start time. Tallahassee Democrat. Here’s a tribute to coaches, those teachers/mentors who go above and beyond the school day. Terri Friedlander, Tallahassee Democrat. Putting more money into schools doesn’t have to mean hiking property taxes. Sen. Don Gaetz, Panama City News Herald.

Student enrichment: Manatee County high school students interested in vocational courses are getting more intensive instruction by taking dual enrollment classes at Manatee Technical College. Yourobserver.com. Spring Hill Elementary students learn about life in Africa during art class. Tampa Bay Times. A 10-year-old girl with a heart defect is drawing international attention for her request to the American Girl doll company. Lamaya Sakales, a fourth-grader at Oakstead Elementary School, started a petition drive to ask the company to produce a girl with a scar, just like the one she has from her three heart surgeries. Tampa Bay Times. The Sidney Lanier Center basketball team finished just 2-7 in its first season in Alachua County’s middle school league, but no one is disappointed. Sidney Lanier is a  pre-K through 12 school for students with physical or cognitive disabilities. For many of the players, it was their first competition of any kind outside the Special Olympics. Gainesville Sun. The power of mentoring has been on display at Rosenwald High School. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff