Florida schools roundup: Contact limits, hiring incentives, opting out and more

florida-roundup-logoFootball contact: The Florida High School Athletic Association is adopting guidelines to limit contact in high school football practices to 30 minutes a day during the season, and just 80 minutes a week, in an attempt to reduce the risk of injuries. During the preseason, contact would be limited to 40 minutes a day. The new rules begin Aug. 1. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Times-Union. Florida High School Football. USA Today.

Teacher bonuses: The Florida Department of Education is touting the state’s Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program as a recruiting tool for districts. The teacher bonus plan pays up to $10,000 to new teachers who had high SAT or ACT scores. Last year 5,332 teachers qualified, and each received $8,256. Orlando Sentinel.

Opting out: Some parents who are opting their children out of the state’s standardized testing are citing 1920s-era Supreme Court decisions, known as Meyer and Pierce, as legal authority. School districts that are demanding the tests have been relying on a 2005 appeals court decision, Fields vs. Palmdale School DistrictGradebook.

School absences: Suspensions are down nearly 20 percent in U.S. schools, but about 10 percent of students miss at least three full weeks of school, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education. The report also suggests that sharp disparities remain between the ways black and white students are disciplined in schools and what types of advanced coursework are offered to black and Latino high school students. Associated Press. Education Week.

Babies and test scores: Children who spend an additional week in the womb have a slightly greater chance to be gifted or achieve higher standardized test scores, according to research from the University of Florida. But children staying in the womb 41 weeks instead of the typical 40 also have a slightly higher chance to be born with physical disabilities. University of Florida.

Charter’s rebound: After years of losing money, the Pembroke Pines charter school system is finally in the black. The city-run system consisting of four elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school has struggled financially while succeeding academically. The state has consistently given it an A grade. Sun-Sentinel.

Teacher survey: A national survey indicates more than 80 percent of teachers think too much of students’ time is spent prepping for and taking standardized tests. According to the Center on Education Policy survey, though, teachers do not advocate eliminating testing. Palm Beach Post.

Educator honored: Melanie Hammer, assistant principal at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, is named by the Arts School Network as the country’s top emerging leader in arts education. Florida Times-Union.

AMIKids out: The Pasco County School District is cutting ties with AMIKids, and will provide special education services itself. AMIKids is a local alternative school with a history of financial problems. Gradebook.

Fresen’s future: State Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, a charter school advocate who is leaving the House due to term limits, is considering running for the Miami-Dade County School Board. Miami Herald.

Notable deaths: Jason Whitworth, a former physical education teacher and cross-country coach at West Shore Junior-Senior High School in Melbourne, has died at age 45. Whitworth had amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Florida Today.

Process change: The arrest of Spessard Holland Elementary School Principal Ricky Sheppard on federal child pornography charges leads to a change in how the Brevard County School District will process disciplinary actions. Sheppard was reprimanded 17 years ago, when he was a teacher, for inappropriate behavior with a 6-year-old child. But the reprimand was never seen by the superintendent who approved his promotion to principal. Florida Today.

Summer trip canceled: The Manatee County School District cancels a summer trip for students from Buffalo Creek Middle School to the Florida Outdoor Adventures camp due to the use of firearms at the camp. After parents objected to the cancellation, the district said it is holding further discussions about it. Bradenton Herald.

Contract negotiations: An increase in insurance premiums could cost more than the proposed raises raises for some veteran Volusia County teachers, union officials say. The Volusia County School District and the teachers union are at an impasse in contract negotiations. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Lake County school service employees will vote on a contract proposal Thursday. Daily Commercial.

Principal on leave: Teague Middle School Principal Leon McCants is placed paid leave after his arrest last weekend on a driving under the influence charge in Winter Springs. Tests showed McCants’ blood alcohol level at .183 and .170. The legal limit for drivers is .08. McCants is also under investigation for alleged misuse of a school-issued credit card. Orlando Sentinel.

School bus crashes: A school bus driver from Davie’s Fox Trail Elementary School hits a car while trying to make a left turn. Two students and the other driver were taken to a hospital for treatment. Sun-Sentinel. Three students are taken to a hospital after a school bus is involved in an accident in Indian River County. TCPalm.

Opinions on schools: The expulsion of a Brevard County School Board candidate from a board meeting, and his subsequent arrest, is not a free speech issue. Dean Paterakis was arrested for disrupting a public meeting. Dan Bennett, Florida Today. School-based and district-wide administrators should regularly examine both the standards and outcomes for substitute teachers. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Preventing transgender students from using the bathroom of their gender identity does nothing to promote privacy or safety. It only strips them of their dignity. David W. Poole, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: The Santa Rosa School District receives recognition as a Florida Healthy district for its work on the physical, mental and social health of students and staff. Pensacola News Journal. Students from Booker Elementary School in Sarasota send 8,000 bottles of water to students in Flint, Mich., whose water is contaminated with lead and other chemicals. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. International Baccalaureate students at Gainesville’s Eastside High School express their ideas about issues through postcards that are sent to government agencies. Gainesville Sun.