Florida schools roundup: Financial problems, teacher pay and more

florida-roundup-logoDistricts cutting back: The Lee County School District’s budget for next year calls for the elimination of about 55 jobs. Superintendent Greg Adkins says higher enrollment and stagnant funding, among other things, are forcing the district to tighten spending. Fort Myers News-Press. Hillsborough County School Board members begin consideration of a consultant’s report that recommends the district shed more than 1,700 jobs. The report concluded that the district has about 1,000 teachers more than comparably sized school systems. Tampa Bay Times. Polk County School Board members are told that added costs and stagnant revenue will force the district to cut spending in some areas. Lakeland Ledger. The Bay County School District’s preliminary budget forecasts a deficit of $5.6 million. Superintendent Bill Husfelt says the district will cut spending or tap its reserves to cover the difference. Panama City News Herald.

Teacher pay: Florida lags behind other states in pay for early childhood teachers, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education. The state’s child care and preschool teachers earn median salaries of $19,820 and $24,240, respectively, and many live below the poverty line. Politico Florida. AMIKids lost its contract with the Pasco County School District to teach 120 students with behavioral issues, and now its teachers are learning that they won’t be paid the rest of the money they earned. Most teachers will lose almost $4,000, even though AMIKids received all its money from the district and other sources. “The money should be there,” says teacher Christa Howell. “What are they doing with the additional funds?” Tampa Bay Times.

Bathroom rights: Several pastors warn the Hillsborough County School Board that if it allows students to choose which bathrooms to use and adds “gender expression” to a list of student protections, there will be repercussions at the polls. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter contracts: The former Newpoint Pinellas High gets a one-year extension of its charter from the Pinellas County School Board. The school will change its name to Pinellas Westcoast Academy High School, as it separates itself from its former operator, Newpoint Education Partners. Newpoint was indicted in Escambia County in May for grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white collar crime. Gradebook. The First Coast Technical College board of directors vote to end the school’s charter and turn the school over to the St. Johns County School District. The school has had financial and management problems. St. Augustine Record.

Charter capital spending: The Florida Board of Education meets next week to discuss the new laws regarding capital funds for charter schools. Those schools would get access to funds after two years instead of three, and the schools that serve low-income or disabled students would get greater consideration. But schools could lose funds with two consecutive D grades. Gradebook.

Football playoffs: A change in the way teams qualify for the state high school football playoffs gets support from the Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors and will move forward. The change would shift the criteria for playoff qualification for smaller schools from district standings to points accumulation based on the difficulty of a team’s schedule. Larger schools would keep districts and reward the champions with a playoff spot, then fill out the field with teams that gather the most points. Florida Times-UnionTampa Bay Times. Sun-SentinelFlorida High School Football.

Transfer rules: The new school transfer rules, which go into effect in the fall of 2017, continue to get a mixed reaction. Roger Dearing, executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, says the new law is an improvement over past attempts, and he supports it. Others have their doubts. Lakeland Ledger.

Free speech debate: Brevard County School Board chairman Andy Ziegler defends his decision to end public comment from board candidate Dean Paterakis at a May meeting. Paterakis was shut down when he uttered the phrase “erect penis,” and later physically removed from the board room and arrested. The board also approved the establishment of health clinics for fulltime employees and their families. The clinics will provide basic services and generic prescriptions. Florida Today.

Sales tax hike: The Manatee County School Board votes to ask the county commission to put a half-cent sales tax extension on the November ballot. The tax is expected to bring in more than $30 million a year for the district. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Testing issues: Florida teachers believe required state testing does a good job for college-bound students, but has little value for those who don’t plan to continue their education, according to a survey from the John Hopkins Institute for Education. Politico Florida. Three Marion County School Board members are unhappy with the Florida Standards Assessments performance by the district’s students, and say curriculum changes are needed. Ocala Star Banner.

Settlement approved: The Manatee County School Board approves a $400,000 settlement with former administrator Bob Gagnon and his wife Melissa. Gagnon was fired after a child abuse scandal, and criminally charged for failure to report the abuse. He was acquitted, and sued the district for defamation. Bradenton Herald.

Superintendent’s contract: In a 3-2 vote, the Collier County School Board approves a contract extension for Superintendent Kamela Patton. Patton’s contract now runs through June 30, 2020. Naples Daily News.

Contract approved: The Lake County School Board approves a contract with the district’s 2,000 noninstructional employees. The district and the union had been at an impasse for almost a year over seniority for transportation workers. Daily Commercial.

Charter leadership: Kirk Gavin is replacing Patricia Hodge as the interim superintendent of the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School. The charter school has struggled on state tests. Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher training: Teachers of science, technology, engineering and math will learn about research-based instructional strategies at a two-week summit in Quincy. Florida State University.

Opinions on schools: The latest test scores at the struggling south St. Petersburg elementary schools provide some modest encouragement that focusing significant human and financial capital pays off in improved student achievement. Tampa Bay Times. Ten high school students’ advocacy for the homeless should be an inspiration to us all. Bradenton Herald.

Student enrichment: Holmes County High School and Vernon High School are the first schools in the state to begin the Green Dot program. The program uses peer and cultural influences to reduce violence. Washington County News. Accuform Signs has been transforming the look at Eastside Elementary School in Hernando County. Tampa Bay Times. The Indian River Virtual School will allow county students to take virtual classes and also have access to teachers during their office hours. TCPalm.