Florida schools roundup: Overhaul skepticism, construction rules and more

florida-roundup-logoPlan questioned: Leaders in St. Petersburg’s black community expressed skepticism that the plan to overhaul five high-poverty elementary schools will work, and are upset that the plan was developed without their input. Members of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students say they’ve heard promises from school officials before, but little has changed. The plan calls for hiring a minority achievement officer, creating special centers for students suspended out of school, and establishing a “transformation zone” with intense support for Pinellas’ failing elementary schools. The proposal also would pay teachers in those schools up to $25,000 more a year, create a longer school day and allow more control at the school level over the curriculum and schedule. Tampa Bay Times.

Construction rules: The massive education bill passed by the Legislature contains potential relief on construction costs for school districts. School facilities now must be built using a more stringent set of standards called the State Requirements for Educational Facilities (SREF). House bill 7029 would loosen four specific SREF rules, as long as districts get public support, show the cost savings and ensure student safety. Politico Florida.

Promise Zone: The Escambia County School District is partnering with other community organizations to seek a Promise Zone designation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a Pensacola neighborhood. Sixty-four urban areas have applied for the designation, but only five will be chosen. Promise Zone receives priority access to federal investments on initiatives on poverty, education, crime and health-care. Pensacola News Journal. Rick’s Blog.

School changes: The Duval County School Board approves new academic programs at four schools. Andrew Jackson High and R.L. Brown Elementary will become magnet schools. John Love Elementary will become a preschool to second-grade school, and Longbranch Elementary will be for grades 3-5. The board also voted to suspend or fire two teachers, two teacher’s aides and a security guard. Florida Times-Union.

Cost of security: Miami-Dade school officials want to add 7,000 school security cameras to the 12,000 they already have. The cost would be $10 million spread over five years. Miami Herald.

Sales tax hikes: The Palm Beach County School Board decides to join with the County Commission to ask voters for a 1-cent increase in the sales tax. The district would receive 48 percent of the money raised by the tax, or an estimated $1.3 billion over 10 years. The board continues to discuss a clause to the agreement that will allow it to back out later. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel. The Manatee County School Board will reconsider its decision to link the collection of impact fees and an extension of the half-cent sales tax. Bradenton Herald.

Opting out: The Opt-Out Manatee movement now has 720 parents and others involved, and is one of 40 such organizations in Florida. Members increasingly are having their children opt out of taking the Florida Standards Assessments tests. Your Observer.

Athletic transfers: Forbes takes a look at the Florida bill that would allow high school athletes to transfer and be immediately eligible to play sports. Forbes.


Superintendent’s deal: Diana Greene’s first year as Manatee school superintendent has been so successful that at least one school board member wants to lock her up with a multiyear contract. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Biliterate grads: Two state legislators want school districts to recognize students graduating with competency in multiple languages by placing an extra seal on their diploma. WFSU.

Hoverboard ban: The Miami-Dade County School Board will consider banning hoverboards from school properties. Miami Herald.

Charter school site: The Polk County Planning Commission approves plans to build a Montessori school for 180 students in a residential area south of Lakeland despite protests from residents worried about traffic congestion. The proposal now goes to the county commission. Lakeland Ledger.

Facebook posts: A Facebook post threatening violence at Escambia County’s Tate High School prompts extra security and a significant number of absences. Pensacola News Journal. A Lee County School Board member’s Facebook post calling for a boycott of Chobani yogurt draws criticism. An item on Jeanne Dozier’s page says the Muslim owner of the yogurt company is “going to drown the United States in Muslims and is importing them to Idaho 300 at a time to work at his factory.” Dozier says the post was shared because she supports the idea that American jobs be saved for American workers. Fort Myers News-Press.

Traffic problems: Parents at several Manatee schools try to avoid car lines by parking in adjacent streets, causing traffic problems that school officials are trying to fix. Bradenton Herald.

Preschool director arrested: Cassandra Anne Romanik, the director of Countryside Preschool in Crystal River, is arrested for possession of methamphetamine. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: Should the Indian River County School Board ban Confederate flags on campus? There are better solutions. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. The Citrus County School District strikes the right balance in its approach to teaching algebra. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: Pinellas Park High School students participate in responding to a mock attack by ISIS. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa’s Riverhills Elementary Magnet is named one the nation’s six top magnet schools by the Magnet Schools of America. Tampa Tribune. Spring Hill’s Suncoast Elementary School fourth-graders are using a special program to solve math word problems. Tampa Bay Times. Students at Meyer Academy in Palm Beach Gardens hear stories from Holocaust survivors. Palm Beach Post. Students at Congress Middle School in Boynton Beach plant trees at a park to celebrate Arbor Day. Palm Beach Post. Gulf Breeze High School’s “Quentin Cooper Liver Life 5K” is honored by the Florida Department of Education. Pensacola News-Journal. Student filmmakers are the headliners at the 11th Annual Film Rush Manatee! Seventy-three films were submitted. Bradenton Herald. Starke Elementary School, Volusia County’s only F school, celebrates learning gains. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Each St. Johns County student received at least one award at State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida. St. Augustine Record.

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BY NextSteps staff