Florida schools roundup: Lawsuit appeal, gifted plan, charters and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation lawsuit: The groups suing the state over the quality of public education are asking an appeals court to send the case directly to the Florida Supreme Court for an immediate review. Citizens for Strong Schools claims the lengthy appeals process is harming students. The state, and groups that support the state’s position, say there’s no reason to subvert the normal appeals process. The suit was dismissed in May by a circuit court judge. Politico Florida.

Gifted plan stalls: A plan to add gifted programs at eight Duval County middle schools meets with skepticism by the school board. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the programs are needed to curtail dwindling enrollment. School board members question why there’s a lack of programs for inner-city schools. Florida Times-Union.

Charter school searched: The FBI searches the Okaloosa Academy Charter School, and seizes several boxes of materials. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. The Fort Walton Beach school, which serves at-risk students in grades 4-12, is run by the Rader Group of Miramar Beach. Its representatives also declined comment. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Cops in schools: Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons tells the school board he wants to hire police officers for almost every county school. He says the escalating violence in the country prompted his recommendation. There are deputies assigned to all middle, high and certain alternative schools, but many elementary schools share deputies. Hiring an additional eight officers would cost the district at least $350,000 each year. In other action, the school board approved the merger of Woodville middle and elementary into a single K-8 Woodville School. Tallahassee Democrat.

Grade appeals: The Manatee County School District is appealing the “incomplete” grades given by the state to Bayshore and Manatee high schools. Neither school reached the required 95 percent participation rate of students taking the Florida Standards Assessment exams to qualify for a grade, according to state officials. District officials say those percentages were miscalculated. Bradenton Herald. The Bay County School District also intends to appeal grades issued to several schools. Superintendent Bill Husfelt did not specify which schools. WMBB.

Outside help: The Pasco County School District has plans to hire several consultants to help turn around Hudson Elementary School, which received its second straight F grade from the state. Chief among them is TNTP, which was founded by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Gradebook.

Longer days: The school day will last an extra hour a day for 79 elementary schools in south Florida, 40 in Hillsborough County, 20 in Palm Beach County, 6 in St. Lucie County, 2 in Okeechobee and Indian River counties, and 1 in Martin County. All posted poor reading scores on the Florida Standards Assessments test. Sun-SentinelTampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. WPTV.

Testing concerns: The Marion County School Board is asking Superintendent George Tomyn for more facts and fewer plans about what the district is doing to improve student test scores. Ocala Star Banner.

School balancing: The Hillsborough County School Board is discussing ways to rebalance school enrollment. The district has about a dozen schools with projected enrollment at 100 percent or higher than school capacity, and more than 20 with enrollment at 65 percent or less than school capacity. Gradebook.

Teacher retention: The nonrenewal of newer teachers has become a sticking point between the Pasco County School District and its teachers union. Newer teachers work on a year-by-year basis for their first five years. The union wants to add language to its contract guaranteeing renewal for teachers with “effective” or higher evaluations. Gradebook.

Officer investigated: A Miami-Dade County school officer is being investigated after he “liked” a derogatory Facebook comment about a black man recently shot to death by police officers in Louisiana. The post, by a former Miami-Dade school officer, says the man was “a piece of garbage the world is better off without!” Current Miami-Dade school officer Armando Calzadilla clicked his approval on the post. WPLG.

Extortionist sentenced: Community activist Clarence “Shahid” Freeman is sentenced to three years in prison for trying to extort $1 million from the Palm Beach County School District. Freeman claimed to have a letter that implicated wrongdoing by then-Superintendent Wayne Gent. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel.

School vandalized: At least eight classrooms at the Deane Bozeman School in Sand Hills are vandalized. The culprits smashed computers, punched holes and splattered paint on walls and sprayed fire extinguishers. Panama City News Herald.

Opinions on schools: Grade gains at several of Pinellas County’s lowest-performing schools were modest. But for the first time in many years, the children at these schools are being given a chance to succeed and to know their lives matter. Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times. The Duval County public school system is so big that any snapshot invariably is distorted. The only fair way to assess a district this large is to look at trends. And the trends overall are looking positive. Florida Times-Union. Planning and effort are needed for students to make high school count. Gauri Persaud, Highlands Today.

Student enrichment: Almost 1,900 at-risk Lee County students are taking part in Fifth Quarter, an optional summer school program intended to combat learning loss. Fort Myers News-Press.