Florida schools roundup: Florida Prepaid, school spending and more

florida-roundup-logoFlorida Prepaid: The Florida Prepaid College Board removes the minimum contribution level for a Florida 529 Savings Plan. Starting in May, a 529 account can be opened at any amount, and with no application fees. Gradebook.

Spending cuts: The Hillsborough County School District is limiting all discretionary spending in the central administration office and requiring schools to get waivers from area superintendents to make purchases. The freeze is prompted by higher than expected enrollment and school starting earlier next year. The district will also soon begin negotiations with its unions. Tampa Bay Times. The St. Johns County School Board discusses the challenges with state funding for the fast-growing district. St. Augustine Record.

More testing: The Duval County School Board is considering adding more testing for high school and middle school students. The district wants to include the ACT and PSAT national exams to give students more opportunities for scholarships. The district would pay for the tests. Florida Times-Union.

Payment errors: Teachers tee off at Manatee County School District officials and their union at a meeting to discuss how 174 teachers were mistakenly overpaid. A district error led to experienced teachers new to the district making more money than teachers already working in the district with the same type of degrees and experience. Those 174 teachers’ pay will be adjusted accordingly, and for some it will mean a pay cut of almost $3,000. “On so many levels, I’m trying not to feel betrayed,” said Deb Peterson, a teacher at Tara Elementary. “That’s enough for me to consider looking to find another place to work.” Bradenton Herald.

Girls football: Girls who participate in the Jupiter High School Powder Puff tackle football game reject the school district’s suggestion to instead play flag football or kickball, and say they will look for an alternate site. The district prohibited the game, citing concerns about injuries. Palm Beach Post.

School calendar: The Pasco County School District is revising its 2016-2017 calendar due to the scheduling of Florida Standards Assessments testing. The district had announced a spring break of March 18-27, 2017. But March 27 has been set as the first day for third-grade language arts testing, so the district will have to adjust. Gradebook.

School choice: St. Johns County School Superintendent Joseph Joyner says he’s cautiously optimistic that the new state law on open enrollment will not have a significant impact on the district. Ponte Vedra Recorder.

Wellness clinic: The Leon County School Board approves a $2,500 study of the proposed wellness clinic at Rickards High School. The clinic was supposed to open next month, but has been delayed. Officials hope to open it this summer. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.

Virtual school layoffs: Florida Connections Academy LLC, a K-12 virtual school, is laying off 80 employees at its Orlando office. Orlando Business Journal.

Online schooling: The Alachua eSchool makes a pitch for elementary students. The school, which is part of the county school district, has 130 fulltime students. Gainesville Sun.

Employee honored: Abel Garcia, an English Language Learners paraprofessional at Reddick-Collier Elementary School in Marion County, is named Florida’s 2016 school-related employee of the year. Ocala Star Banner. Florida Department of Education.

Community forum: Lee County Superintendent Greg Adkins and other administrators field questions on the district’s standards, student assignments, hiring, Chromebooks and more at a community forum. Fort Myers News-Press.

Bus driver shortage: The Alachua County School District has challenges to hire and retain an adequate number of school bus drivers. Gainesville Sun.

Principal injured: South Dade High School Principal Javier Perez is hit at a park by a runaway SUV while coaching his son’s baseball team. Perez is in critical but stable condition at a hospital. Miami Herald.

Board member recovering: Angie Boynton, a Marion County School Board member, is recovering from a stroke she had six weeks ago. Boynton says she can think clearly and has full comprehension, but words sometimes do not come out of her mouth properly. Ocala Star Banner.

Chicken recalled: Fully cooked chicken products that were sold to Florida schools are being recalled because they may be contaminated with plastic, wood, rubber, metal and other foreign matter, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Patch.

 Pension question: The state is investigating whether former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo should be able to keep his $3,559.72 a month pension. Santeramo was convicted of mail fraud, money laundering, organized fraud and campaign contribution violations. State retirement plan participants can lose their pensions when convicted of certain crimes, including breaching public trust, during their employment. Sun-Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The problems in the Broward County School District’s police department is reminiscent of the reputation the district is still struggling to shed when it comes to mishandling, mismanaging and misspending public money. Daniel Vasquez, Sun-Sentinel. The Manatee County School Board and district administrators have to sell the sales tax increase to voters, and the break they would give developers if the measure passes may be tough to explain. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In a county with so much talent, we must insist that our school district enact its commitment to the success of every student. Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, Gainesville Sun. The new law allowing athletes to transfer and be immediately eligible to play is changing high school sports from a “we” thing to a “me” thing. St. Augustine Record.

Student enrichment: Coral Reef Senior High School junior Anna Patricios produces a show, The Rainbow Connection, to raise money and awareness for homeless LGBT students in the Miami area. Miami Herald. Four Collier County schools become Blue Zones-approved. Blue Zones is a wellness initiative that encourages healthy and happy lifestyles. The schools are Lake Park Elementary, Seagate Elementary, Gulfview Middle and Naples High. Naples Daily News. Special-needs students at Lake Hills School in Howey-in-the-Hills celebrate at the “On the Red Carpet” prom. Orlando Sentinel. First-graders at Manatee Elementary School in Rockledge share nutrition tips as part of the Every Kid Healthy Week national initiative. Florida Today. Thirty-five Collier County students graduate from the Take Stock in Children mentoring program, which prepares children from low-income households for college. Naples Daily News. The River Ridge High School student section, known as the Purple Posse, wins the 2016 Florida High School Athletic Association Sunshine State Spirit Award as the “most spirited student cheering section” in Florida high schools. Tampa Bay Times.

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BY NextSteps staff