Florida schools roundup: Budgets, new programs, virtual school ads and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool budgeting: The Pinellas County School Board approves a preliminary budget of $1.5 billion that includes a slightly lower tax millage rate. But higher property values will raise tax revenues by more than $4 million. Tampa Bay Times. The Lee County School Board approves a $1.4 billion budget. It set a lower tax millage rate, which are more than offset by higher property values. The district expects 92,000 students. Fort Myers News-Press. The Polk County School Board approves a $1.2 billion budget that keeps the reserve fund at 5 percent. Lakeland Ledger. The Manatee County School Board approves a $608 million tentative budget. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Collier County School Board tentatively approves a $972 million budget, an increase of $85 million from last year. Naples Daily News. The Leon County School Board approves a $498 million budget, which school officials are calling tight. Tallahassee Democrat.

New school programs: Fourteen Duval County schools are getting new programs for the upcoming school year, the district announces. The goal, says Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, is to give neighborhood children a reason for choosing their local schools instead of going to private schools. Florida Times-Union.

Virtual school ads: Florida Virtual School nearly doubles its advertising budget in an effort to bring in more students. The system is adding $1 million to its advertising budget for TV and radio spots and billboards. About 5,600 students are now enrolled. Orlando Sentinel.

Strong sales tax: St. Johns County School Superintendent Joe Joyner says the extra half-cent sales tax is on track to bring in $17 million this year – almost $4 million more than originally forecast. The tax helps the district with construction, technology upgrades and security improvements. St. Augustine Record.

Debt decision: The Lake County School Board is considering taking on $50 million in debt to speed up school construction. The decision would add $7.5 million a year in interest payments to the current $30 million the district pays every year. Daily Commercial.

Testing conflicts: The Anti-Defamation League says the state’s math and language arts testing in April overlaps with Passover, and is asking for consideration for affected students. Districts typically work around such conflicts. The specific testing schedules are expected to be released next week. Gradebook.

New cafeterias: Broward County School Board members are interested in adding cafeteria renovations to the $2.6 billion, five-year capital budget. About 30 schools would be considered. Sun-Sentinel.

Diversity report: Hillsborough County is making some progress in diversifying, it concludes in a required report to the Florida Department of Education. While minority participation in advanced courses is flat, the district has launched a plan designed to improve those numbers. Black employees in the administration and staff are representative of the student population. Hispanic representation remains low, but recent hirings show sharp increases. Gradebook.

School pickup app: The Pasco County School District is testing a phone app, Pik My Kid, to try to improve dropoff and pickup of children at the district’s schools. The experiment is being tried at Wiregrass Elementary School, and will spread to other schools if it’s effective. Gradebook.

Personnel changes: The Lee County School Board approves almost 30 administrative personnel changes. Fort Myers News-Press.

Local preference: The Bay County School Board tightens requirements for companies that hope to do business with the district under its “local preference” policy. Panama City News Herald.

Football practice rules: High school football coaches in northwest Florida don’t expect new rules to significantly affect them. One prohibits live contact before a team’s sixth practice. Another limits contact to 40 minutes a day, and doesn’t allow teams to have more than three straight practices with contact. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Wrestling coach released: Springstead High School’s wrestling coach is being dropped after a wrestler’s parent complained that the coach had an inappropriate relationship with his wife. Michael LaRocca had been the part-time coach for 10 years, and is now running for a seat on the Hernando County Commission. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher fired: Juan Berrios, a first-grade teacher at Palmetto Elementary School in Poinciana who was arrested earlier this month on child pornography charges, is fired by the Polk County School Board. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: A teacher in Miami is suing the school district after she wasn’t hired as a Spanish teacher just because she doesn’t speak Spanish. I know. It’s an outrage. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Elementary magnet programs like gifted and talented should be constructed as centers within neighborhood elementary schools distributed within the Duval County system to provide that opportunity in a more neighborhood school environment. Dennis Egan, Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: About 100 Miami-Dade middle-schoolers are learning dancing and feeling empowered after a four-week class at AileyCamp Miami. Miami Herald. Fifty-one students from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami spend 10 days helping to build a 135-foot bridge for a village in the Dominican Republic. Miami Herald. After receiving two new prosthetic legs, Raeshaun Potts sets a goal of marching with the Bartow High School band at halftime of football games this fall. Lakeland Ledger.