Florida schools roundup: Retention lawsuit, testing penalty and more

florida-roundup-logoFeds reject request: A state judge schedules a hearing today on the lawsuit against the Florida Department of Education’s policy on retaining third-graders who do poorly on the state testing or opt out. The state asked a federal judge to take over the case, but the request was refused Friday. Fourteen parents are suing the state and six school districts, arguing 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. Gradebook. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. WFSU. Orlando Sentinel. Parents in Manatee County who think their child should be retained are told by school officials that there is no formal appeals process for that. Bradenton Herald.

Testing penalty: The company that administers the Florida Standards Assessments testing is refunding $4.8 million to the state for the problems with the testing in 2015. The American Institutes for Research has a $220-million, six-year contract with the state to run the annual language arts and math exams, which help determine school grades. Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Day 1: Schools open today in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Miami HeraldWSVN. Superintendent Lori White begins her final year when Sarasota County schools open today. White is retiring in February. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher conduct: Administrators at St. Andrews School in Boca Raton are criticized in a report for doing nothing while a teacher had late-night meetings with students and even sleepovers. The report, commissioned by the Episcopal school, was released to parents. School officials have pledged to overhaul their policies. The teacher has not been charged with a crime, but is no longer employed by the school. Palm Beach Post. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press.

Charges altered: A former Clay County principal has dropped an allegation that Superintendent Charlie Van Sant Jr. plagiarized her work. But Susan Sailor continues to charge that he ignored warnings that some principals were manipulating student data in order to improve graduation rates. Van Sant has denied the charges. Florida Times-Union.

District loses suit: The Highlands County School District is ordered to pay $1.5 million each to two students who were sexually abused by a school employee in an after-school care program. Another suit involving three students is set for trial in January. Highlands Today.

Tailored learning: Data show mixed results from an experiment in personalized learning at 13 Lake County schools. Kathy Halbig, who coordinates the program, says there isn’t enough data to draw any conclusions after just a year. She says she sees encouraging signs. Daily Commercial.

Contract discussions: The Pasco County teachers union says Superintendent Kurt Browning’s direct e-mails and YouTube video directed to teachers about pay and benefits subverts the contract negotiating process. Browning’s message has been apologetic in tone, saying the district doesn’t have the resources to do more pay and benefits. Contract negotiations resume this week. Gradebook.

School enrollment: About 1,300 more students are enrolled in Polk County schools this year than at this time last year, officials say. Lakeland Ledger.

Homework wars: Schools are back, and so are the nightly parent-child homework battles. Miami Herald.

Grant application: The Polk County School Board will consider whether to apply for a $1 million Carl D. Perkins grant from the Florida Department of Education. The grant would provide three teacher resource specialist trainers, two student success coaches and a technical support position for the district’s middle- and high-school career academies. Lakeland Ledger.

School property: The Boys and Girls Club decides not to buy the old Dabney Elementary School site in Leesburg, and the Lake County School District’s plans to sell the other half of the property have also fallen through. So the district now has vacant land to sell and must absorb the $320,000 it cost to demolish the school. Daily Commercial. The Monroe County School Board is considering giving up its stake in the old Glynn Archer School to give the Boys and Girls Club a permanent location in Key West. Keynoter.

Superintendent job: Ron Ciranna, the Pinellas County school district’s director of risk management and insurance, has applied to be superintendent in Sarasota County. Ciranna was head of human resources for more than five years before being transferred to his current, lower-paying role in May. Gradebook.

School elections: School board races in Miami-Dade County are starting to get personal. Miami Herald. Safety and school achievements are the top issues in the Bay County school superintendent race. Panama City News Herald.

Title 1 schools: There’s more to know about Title 1 schools than a simple school grade, say St. Johns County school officials. St. Augustine Record.

School threats: The man accused of making social media threats against several high schools in the Orlando area last week is arrested. Jesus Kong, 23, was detained Sunday while trying to cross the border into Canada, according to law enforcement officials. Orlando Sentinel. Threats to schools are increasing nationwide. Associated Press.

School fight: Four are arrested after a fight on the West Boca Raton High School campus. The four, who were not students, came onto the campus and began a fight with a student. No one was seriously injured. Palm Beach Post.

Sex at school: Two students at Varsity Lakes Middle School in Lehigh Acres are caught having sex in a bathroom during school hours. Both students have been disciplined, but no criminal charges were filed. Fort Myers News-Press.

Phone problem: Phones for the Seminole County School District were not working Friday afternoon. Officials said it’s possibly a fiber in the network was cut. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: If students opting out of the Florida Standards Assessments testing is the biggest hurdle for St. Johns County schools, that’s a sign that the school system is running pretty smoothly. St. Augustine Record. The Pinellas School District still has miles to go toward improving the education of minority students. Hiring minority teachers is a key piece of that. Tampa Bay Times. Annual back-to-school sales tax holidays may be popular, but they don’t provide any economic benefit. Christopher Koopman, Pensacola News Journal. As a St. Johns County public school teacher, I would like to offer my sincere gratitude for the 26 cents per hour raise I was so graciously given by the school board. Elizabeth A. Boyett, St. Augustine Record. Lake County’s new school superintendent should be an outsider with the capability to lead an educational renaissance. Mark A. Thompson, Orlando Sentinel. Here are five iPad apps every student should consider downloading. Rob C. Witzel, Gainesville Sun. Parents should consider getting their school-age children the flu vaccine. Northwest Florida Daily News. The pre-K ReadingPals program provides a fantastic return on investment in our children’s future. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: The Lee County School District is using money from the settlement related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to provide innovation grants to improve discipline in schools. Fort Myers News-Press. High school students with disabilities from 14 states and Ecuador get a glimpse of college life during a three-week Summer for Success program at Beacon College in Leesburg. Orlando Sentinel. Louise R. Johnson Middle School sixth-grader Amari Crockett feels the weight of obligation. She’s attending the school named after her great-grandmother, who was the first black woman to be appointed to the Manatee County School Board. Bradenton Herald. Teachers spend their own money, and rely on donations, to make classrooms a comfortable and colorful destination. Northwest Florida Daily News.