Florida schools roundup: Turnaround plans, teacher shortages, taxes and more

florida-roundup-logoTurnaround plans: Fourteen Florida districts submitted plans to the State Board of Education to improve 47 schools. Plans from three districts – Alachua, Bay and Jefferson – were deferred for a month until they can be revised, while the others are approved. Politico FloridaBay News 9. Plans to improve five struggling Pinellas County schools are approved. Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Melrose and High Point elementary schools and Azalea Middle School are getting higher performing teachers and new principals with greater authority to remove teachers. Gradebook. After some initial skepticism, the board approved the Manatee County School District’s turnaround plans for Harllee Middle School and Rogers Garden Elementary School. The board was concerned about support for Rogers students, since many of them are moving to different schools because of rezoning. Bradenton Herald. Also approved by the board are turnaround plans for a Pasco County school and six Hillsborough schools. Gradebook.

Teacher shortage: With two weeks to go before classes start in Orange County schools, the district is still looking for about 300 teachers to fill openings. District officials blame retirements and student growth, and the Department of Education says the shortage is being felt around the state. WFTV.

Sales tax hike: The Palm Beach County School District plans to build four new schools, rebuild seven others and remodel many more with the $1.3 billion it would receive over 10 years if voters approve an increase of a penny on the county’s sales tax. Many schools over 10 years old would get new roofs, air conditioners and technology, and many will also get new fencing, furniture, bleachers and safety upgrades. If the measure isn’t passed, “our entire plan unravels,” says Chief Operating Officer Mike Burke. Sun-Sentinel. The district’s proposal is, so far, contained on a few pages of a document with little detail. By contrast, the county commission issued a 30-page breakdown of every project it proposed with its share of the money four months ago, with details and justification for each. Palm Beach Post.

Contract agreement: The Volusia County School District and its teachers union reach agreement on a contract after two years of squabbling. The two-year deal for teachers, clerical workers, paraprofessionals and secretaries includes raises, bonuses, and less of an increase in health-care costs for employees than the district originally proposed. The union will drop the unfair labor charges it filed against the district. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Isolated students: A study by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund says that most of Jacksonville’s poor, black children feel overwhelmingly isolated in segregated and economically disadvantaged schools. The district has been increasing the number of magnet programs in inner-city schools in an effort to drawn in more white, affluent students. But having more choices has not ended the problem, according to the study. Florida Times-Union.

Arts instruction: USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Center for the Partnership for Arts-Integrated Teaching is designated as Florida’s official resource for teachers to integrate arts into their curriculum. The center will push instruction to teachers public schools, charter and private schools throughout the state. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School spending: The Alachua County School Board will vote today on a $347.9 million budget that includes a 5 percent drop in the millage rate. It was also announced that Citizens for Strong Schools will lead a campaign to renew the One Mill for Schools to help finance arts and magnet programs and guidance counselors. One Mill will expire in June if voters don’t approve it in November. Gainesville Sun. The Monroe County School Board will spend $32 million for a new Gerald Adams Elementary School on Stock Island. The school will be built to house 635 students. Keynoter.

Longer days: Eleven low-performing Pasco County schools will add an hour of reading instruction for fourth- and fifth-graders. The district is looking for ways to extend that added reading time to third-graders, but has to find the money. Gradebook. Three Lake County elementary schools were also among the 312 lowest-performing in the state, and will have an extra hour for reading. Daily Commercial.

Teacher honored: Lake County teacher of the year Andrea Vineyard wins the Magic of Teaching award from Macy’s. Vineyard, who teaches special needs students at Tavares High School, won the award for going “beyond the basic job description to continue positive growth in her students.” Daily Commercial.

Notable deaths: Tiffanie Hughes, a 33-year-old first grade teacher at Woodland Elementary School in Zephyrhills, dies when another car crosses the center line on State Route 54 in Wesley Chapel and collides with her SUV. Tampa Bay Times.

School board elections: Candidates for the Manatee County School Board speak out against state testing at a forum. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. Problems with Common Core standards dominate the discussion at a Collier County forum for school board candidates. Naples Daily News.

Substitute’s plea: A former substitute teacher is put on probation and fined $400 after pleading no contest to disrupting an educational institution. Holly Joel, 53, was accused of being drunk when she was substituting in a second-grade class at Bentley Elementary School in Sanford on March 8. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Perhaps we shouldn’t be asking if for-profit charter school companies are all friends or all foes; instead, we should ask, what do the successful for-profits have to teach us about improving K-12 education? Ian Lindquist, U.S. News & World Report. Before complaining about school grades for Polk County schools, first consider some factors that likely influenced the outcome. Lakeland Ledger. The biggest winner in the deal struck between the school district and its union is the community, which gets a multi-year respite from the annual acrimony that has plagued recent contract negotiations. Now the district can concentrate on its core mission of educating students. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: Great Heights Academy, a Kendall school for students with special needs, gets a makeover courtesy of the workers of Interval International. a Miami-based vacation services company. Miami Herald.