Florida schools roundup: Charter indicted, top teacher finalist and more

florida-roundup-logoCharter company indicted: Newpoint Education Partners and three other companies are indicted for grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white collar crime by an Escambia County grand jury. Newpoint managed charter schools for 21st Century Academy of Pensacola. The indictment alleges that Newpoint and its vendors fraudulently billed the academy hundreds of thousands of dollars for supplies, equipment and services and laundered the proceeds through multiple bank accounts. In 2015, the school board revoked the charters of two Newpoint-run schools in Escambia for tampering with grades and misusing public funds. Newpoint also has had financial problems with four of the five schools it manages in Pinellas County. Pensacola News Journal. Tampa Bay Times.

Top teacher finalist: Donald Blake, a technical education specialist at Marchman Technical College in Pasco County, is one of five finalists for Florida Teacher of the Year. The winner will be announced in July. Tampa Bay Times.

School lunch laws: A proposed change in the federal school lunch program could cut off free meals for thousands of Florida students. The law now says any school with 40 percent of its students eligible for free or reduced-prices lunches can also offer free breakfasts and lunches to all students. The change, which is now before the U.S. House, would raise that threshold to 60 percent. Florida Politics. WJCT.

Impact of new laws: A summary of the impact of the state’s new education bills on school districts has been issued by the Florida School Boards Association. Florida School Boards Association.

Crime in schools: Violent crimes and bullying are down in the nation’s schools, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Justice Department. “Bullying is down, crime is down, but it’s not enough,” says Peggy G. Carr, acting NCES commissioner. About 3 percent of students 12 to 18 years old said they were victims of crimes at school in 2014, and about 1.3 million students were suspended for at least one school day for violence, weapons possession or alcohol violations. Associated Press. Education Week.

Lawsuit on hold: A judge has told the two sides in a lawsuit over the education of black children in Pinellas County to make one more attempt at formal mediation before the state intervenes. The school district has asked the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students to prepare a list of specific questions about black students’ academic performance. Tampa Bay Times.

Girls football: The Jupiter Town Council is stepping into the kerfuffle over the annual Powder Puff girls tackle football game between Jupiter High School juniors and seniors. The Palm Beach School District had canceled the game, citing safety concerns. Now the town will assume the liability, and the game is scheduled May 14 on the high school football field. Palm Beach Post.

Dress permitted: Vanguard High senior Josh Ramko is given permission to wear a dress to the prom after the ACLU warned the Marion County School District that prohibiting it would be unlawful. Ramko says he is gay and “gender fluid,” which means some days he dresses as a man, some days as a woman. Ocala Star Banner.

Sales tax increase: The Palm Beach County Commission agrees to the school board’s request for another meeting to discuss the sales tax hike on the November ballot. Earlier in the week the commission unilaterally cut cultural and economic developments from the tax initiative. That angered the school board, which requested another meeting. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel.

Food removed: The Alachua County School District removes frozen fruits and vegetables from its cafeterias after its vendor, CRF Frozen Foods, issued a recall because of potential Listeria contamination. Gainesville Sun.

School health ratings: Almost 40 schools in south Florida have received an “unsatisfactory” rating on a Department of Health Food Service Inspection since the beginning of this year. WPLG.

Charters accredited: Four Cape Coral charter schools and the school system that oversees them have been accredited by AdvancED. The Cape Coral Municipal Charter School system includes Christa McAuliffe Elementary School and Oasis elementary, middle and high schools. Fort Myers News-Press.

New school: Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons says he will resubmit a plan to the Department of Education to build a new Rickards High School. The DOE turned down an earlier request, saying a new school wasn’t needed. WFSU.

eSchool graduation: Pasco eSchool will hold its first standalone graduation ceremony in June. The school opened in the 2009-2010 school year, and previously honored graduates during Mitchell High School’s ceremony. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher shortage: The Manatee County School District holds a job fair to try to fill about 125 openings for teachers. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Late principal honored: Parents of Bonita Springs Elementary School students are honoring their late principal by raising $4,000 for a sculpture at the school. Dave Short, 72, died in January, just a few months after retiring. The sculpture will depict a man sitting on a bench reading to a child. Naples Daily News.

Extortion trial: Clarence Shahid Freeman goes in trial May 20 on extortion and bribery charges. Freeman allegedly used a phony letter accusing then-Palm Beach County School Superintendent Wayne Gent of sexual harassment in an effort to get $895,000 from the district in 2013. Palm Beach Post.

Bullet hits school: A gunshot hits a window at Jefferson Davis Middle School in Jacksonville. There are reports of minor injuries from shattering glass. Sheriff’s deputies say the bullet was a stray from an aggravated assault that took place about 750 feet from the school. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher arrested: Zachary Ray Schaubhut, a teacher at Fletcher High School in Jacksonville, is arrested and accused of having unlawful sex with a minor at the school. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher removed: A St. Lucie County teacher is removed from the classroom while allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a student are investigated. School officials would not name the teacher or the school. TCPalm.

Student stabbed: A 15-year-old boy stabs a classmate, 14, with a steak knife at Wharton High School in Tampa. The attacker was arrested and the victim is in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Tampa Bay Times.

Stalking charge: A former administrator at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville is arrested and charged with stalking a teacher. Matthew Joseph Kearney III, 55, was the head of the high school. The teacher had filed an temporary injunction against Kearney, her former boyfriend. Florida Times-Union.

Worker arrested: Lydia Faye Bradley. the cafeteria manager at Riverside Elementary School in Crestview, is arrested and accused of stealing about $30,000 from student funds over a two-year period. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Students arrested: Eight students between the ages of 12 and 14 are arrested and accused of vandalizing and burglarizing Auburndale High School. The students do not attend the school Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: The inflammatory rhetoric of the presidential campaign is having a negative impact on schoolchildren. James B. Crooks, Florida Times-Union. A drop in schools’ ratings from U.S. News & World Report should not become fodder for negativity at a Collier County School Board meeting or in the campaign for two board seats in the fall election. Naples Daily News. Teachers deserve respect, regardless of their students’ test scores. Lenita J. Joe, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Cathleen Mestre, a senior at Lake Highland Preparatory School, wins first place in the environmental science poster category at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium competition. Her project uses a mathematical model to predict sea turtle hatching days. Orlando Sentinel. Students at DeBary Elementary School wear pink t-shirts with the message “Compassion in Action” to support second-grade teacher Marian Ritter and Mary LaPlante, wife of coach Bob LaPlante. Both women are fighting cancer. Daytona Beach News-Journal.