Florida schools roundup: Retention lawsuit, Zika, transfers and more

florida-roundup-logoRetention lawsuit: A group of parents has filed suit against the Florida Department of Education and seven school districts over the retention of third-graders who score poorly on the Florida Standards Assessments reading tests or opt out of taking the test. Sarasota attorney Andrea Mogensen filed the suit in Leon County on behalf of 14 parents. She argues that more factors should be considered if a student doesn’t do well on the test, and that students who are doing well should not need a test score at all. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida.

Zika and schools: When classes begin Aug. 22 in Miami-Dade County schools, Florida Department of Health officials will be stationed at each of the six schools closest to the area just north of downtown Miami where Zika cases have been reported. The officials will check for standing water, answer questions and supply insect repellent. Miami Herald. Leon County school officials are taking preventative measures to fight the Zika virus. WFSU.

Mass transfers: About one-third of the 900 students at Daytona Beach’s Campbell Middle School decide to transfer. They were given that option through the Department of Education’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which allows students to transfer from underperforming schools. Campbell has received D grades from the state for the past four years. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Day 1: Scenes from the first day at school for a majority of Florida districts. Pensacola News JournalBeth Kassab, Orlando Sentinel. Florida Today. Fort Myers News-Press. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Ocala Star Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. St. Augustine Record. Daily Commercial. Citrus County Chronicle. Highlands Today.

Planning time fight: Palm Beach County teachers are criticizing the school district after discovering they’ll lose an hour of planning time each week for required staff meetings. Union officials say it’s a violation of their contract. But district officials defend the meetings, saying collaboration among teachers boosts student achievement. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent accused: A school board meeting scheduled Wednesday to discuss accusations against Clay County School Superintendent Charlie Van Sant Jr. was canceled. Instead, board chairwoman Johnna McKinnon is asking the district’s human resources director to investigate allegations of fraud and unethical behavior lodged by another school official against Van Sant. Florida Times-Union.

Choice applications: Miami-Dade County School District students have until Aug. 22, the day school starts, to enroll in choice and magnet programs. It’s part of a continuous enrollment policy, which school board member Lubby Navarro says has “created transparency in our public school system … and it actually increased the number of students applying.” Miami Herald.

Teacher shortages: School superintendents in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties say a dwindling pool of teacher candidates is forcing them to widen their search to fill openings. Pensacola News Journal. With just a week before school opens, the Alachua County School District still needs 51 teachers. Gainesville Sun.

More counselors sought: Leon County School Board Chairwoman DeeDee Rasmussen would like to see licensed counselors available for more schools to help at-risk students with issues that inhibit learning. She says it can be done by using existing programs from health-care providers and children’s advocacy programs. Tallahassee Democrat.

Secretarial cutbacks: The Hillsborough County School District is shrinking its secretarial pool as part of a consultant’s restructuring plan to save money. Gradebook.

Bus stop problems: Palm Beach County School District officials are trying to avoid a repeat of last year’s bus problems. But the website parents have been urged to check for bus stop locations and times crashed for about 12 hours Wednesday. Palm Beach Post.

School safety: For the first time, every elementary school in Seminole County will have a resource officer. WKMG.

Immigrants’ lawsuit: Three more families have been added to the federal lawsuit accusing the Collier County School District of blocking immigrant teens from attending high school. Naples Daily News.

Charter school proposed: A developer is proposing to build a K-8 Greek immersion charter school in Estero. Athenian Academy Inc. is asking the county for a 4.5-acre parcel of the 55-acre Estero Community Park for the school. Naples Daily News.

School elections: Candidates for the Manatee County School Board discuss impact fees, charter schools and more at a candidate forum. Bradenton Herald. Monroe County School Superintendent Mark Porter should be fired, says school board member Ed Davidson. Davidson, who is running for re-election, says Porter tried to cover up a mistake by a principal and is violating his contract by openly job-hunting. Keynoter.

Notable deaths: Former state Rep. Walt Young, a Democrat from Broward County, has died at age 94. Young spent two decades in the Legislature, and became known as “Mr. Education” for his interest, expertise and clout. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher/Olympian: Emil Milev, a physical education teacher at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Tampa, is competing in his sixth Olympics in the 25-meter rapid fire pistol competition. At 48, he’s the oldest shooter on the U.S. Olympic team. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: The Manatee County School District has survived a turbulent transition last year by focusing on a simple philosophy instituted by Superintendent Diana Greene. Calmness and civility rank high in that philosophy – two temperaments that were in short supply before Greene’s tenure began last year. Bradenton Herald. In Palm Beach County and across Florida, a way-too-small fraction of students will get more than an introductory education about the greatest economic resource, and opportunity, in the Sunshine State: our aquatic environments. Antonio Fins, Palm Beach Post. Officials in Tallahassee are so convinced that standardized tests are the answer to all educational woes that they have become more devoted to the tests than to students. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. The most significant threat to our students is communicable disease. Get your children immunized. Dennis Mayeaux, Pensacola News Journal. If there is one policy lever in Florida that could drive more students to take courses in chemistry, physics and upper level math in high school, it’s the Bright Futures Scholarships. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Thousands of school supplies are distributed annually to children of military families through Operation Homefront. Panama City News Herald.