Florida schools roundup: Graduation rates, pre-K spending and more

florida-roundup-logoLow graduation rates: Thirty percent of Florida’s high schools were considered to be “low-graduation rate high schools” in 2014, according to a report by America’s Promise Alliance and other advocacy groups. Only Alaska and New Mexico were worse. Politico Florida.

Pre-K spending: Florida ranks just 39th in spending on pre-kindergarten, according to the annual State of Preschool Yearbook from the National Institute for Early Education Research. The state spends $2,304 per child. The national average is $4,489. The state’s enrollment fell by 3 percent, or 3,744, from 2013-14 to 2014-15. Florida Times-Union.

IG urged for district: Broward County School Board member Laurie Rich Levinson wants the district to hire an inspector general to investigate fraud, waste and mismanagement in the district. An outside auditor made that recommendation five years ago after a grand jury report found widespread corruption and misuse of money. The idea was not supported then, but recent financial problems in the district led Levinson to suggest it was time. Sun-Sentinel.

Superintendent under fire: The St. Petersburg NAACP is calling for the resignation of Pinellas County School Superintendent Mike Grego, alleging that he has not taken responsibility for the problems at five predominantly black, failing elementary schools in St. Petersburg or come up with a plan to improve them. Grego says he has no plans to resign. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter debt forgiven: Newpoint Education Partners is forgiving the nearly $1 million debt it says it is owed by Windsor Prep Academy, according to a lawyer for the school. Newpoint was indicted last week by an Escambia County grand jury on grand theft and money laundering charges. The Pinellas County School Board will vote next week on a proposal to terminate the contracts with Windsor Prep and two other Newpoint charter schools in the county. WFLA.

Math scores fall: Math scores fell slightly for the nation’s high school seniors on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, and reading scores were flat, according to a Nation’s Report Card report. Associated Press.

Recess concerns: Added time for recess gets preliminary approval from the Miami-Dade County School Board. But some teachers worry that the time added for recess and breaks will cut into the time allotted for bilingual education and the arts. Miami Herald.

Religion and schools: The Freedom from Religion Foundation says the Duval County School Board is violating the law with a prayer or invocation at the start of the board’s monthly nighttime meetings. Florida Times-Union.

Accountability input: The Florida Department of Education plans to set up an online forum to collect comments on how to improve the state’s educational accountability system. States are required to update accountability rules and laws to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Gradebook.

Unexcused absences: Pasco County teachers soon may be given more leeway in dealing with unexcused absences. The district is proposing that the mandatory penalty for unexcused absences – a ban on participating in extracurricular activities – be changed to optional. Gradebook.

Gap year: More students are taking a year off after graduating high school before starting college, and experts say it can be a good move if it’s properly structured as a learning experience. Florida Today.

Free dental care: A partnership among the Leon County School District, the Florida Department of Health in Leon County and the United Way of the Big Bend is bringing free dental care to hundreds of district schoolchildren. WUSF.

Grant finalist: The Pinellas Education Foundation is one of five finalists for a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The foundation was cited for its Future Plans program, which is a online tool that assesses users’ interests and abilities and connects them to educational tracks and in-demand career choices. Gradebook.

School impact fees: Orange County commissioners agree to increase school impact fees by 35 percent. The first phase begins Oct. 1, when the fee goes up $1,130. On Jan. 1, another $1,129 will be tacked on. Orlando Sentinel.

Superintendent search: The St. Johns County School Board will begin its search for a new superintendent next week. The job has a proposed salary range of $165,000 to $195,000. Superintendent Joe Joyner is retiring in January. St. Augustine Record.

Sales tax considered: The Citrus County School Board is considering asking voters to approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax to improve the district’s financial condition. The proposal could go on the August or November ballot. Citrus County Chronicle.

School closing: Brighton Preparatory School in St. Petersburg is closing after 31 years. Cofounder Faith Smith is retiring, and said she couldn’t find anyone suitable to take over. The school has 20 students. Tampa Bay Times.

Board member retiring: Doretha Edgecomb, who taught in Hillsborough County through desegregation and has been a school board member for the past 12 years, is retiring. Edgecomb, 72, is the only black member of the board. She says it’s time for a change. Tampa Bay Times.

Principal replaced: A new principal has been named for Leesburg High School, which has been the scene of several fights over the past few weeks and has struggled academically. Heather Gelb, principal at Sawgrass Bay Elementary School in Clermont, replaces Patrick Galatowitsch. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel.

Truck hits buses: A Seminole High School student was hospitalized when a truck clipped five buses that were leaving the Sanford school. Orlando Sentinel.

Discipline reversed: A Duval County School Board committee clears a computer data entry clerk who was reprimanded for allegedly making inappropriate comments about guns and demons at work. The committee called the investigation flawed and incomplete. Florida Times-Union.

Do-gooders victimized: At least three Bay High School students were the victims of a car burglar during a charity volleyball game. The students were raising money for a rival high school’s volleyball coach, whose husband died and left large medical bills. Panama City News Herald.

Opinions on schools: Alvin White’s life was filled with educational accomplishments, and he served as a mentor to generations. Tonyaa Weathersbee, Florida Times-Union. The Collier County School Board chose wisely in extending the Blue Zones initiative. Naples Daily News. Leon County leads the way with its response to a same-sex couple winning the prom king and queen titles at Leon High School. Tallahassee Democrat. The law that requires the same grades for any two schools located on the same property is inane. Citrus County Chronicle. School choice opponents are relentless in their pursuit of inequality. Lloyd Brown, Florida Politics.

Student enrichment: Nine Palm Beach County students are in Arizona to compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Palm Beach Post. Three Hillsborough County students’ experiment, which tested the rates of cotton seed germination in low gravity, returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon capsule Wednesday after a month in space. The experiment will be returned to the students in a few days, and they’ll compare the seed growth to seeds that grew on Earth. Tampa Bay Times. Students at Lake Nona High School got a firsthand look at what drunk driving would be like when they pilot go-karts rigged with delayed steering and brakes reactions. Orlando Sentinel.