Florida schools roundup: Retention, certification, district spending and more

florida-roundup-logoRetention policies: The Orange County School District is considering having teachers build portfolios for all third-graders throughout the school year. Doing so would address a Leon County judge’s concern that districts provide options for promotions to students who do poorly on state tests or opt out of them. The move comes even as the district appeals Judge Karen Gievers’ decision that the state and six districts wrongly based promotion solely on state testing. Orlando Sentinel. The Pasco County School Board plans to adjust its student retention policy for third-graders to follow a judge’s recent ruling even as it, too, appeals the decision. Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning’s memos says: “If teachers have evidence that a student who has refused to take the third grade (test) should be promoted based on IRLA (independent reading level assessment) evidence documented through SchoolPace and other independent performance samples, then the student should not be required to take an alternate assessment or attend reading camp.” Gradebook.

Help for children: The Miami-Dade County School District is joining with other agencies in using data to identify children most at-risk of getting involved with violence. The coalition, named Together for Children, has identified 2,000 students who will get extra attention and guidance. The students are identified using six benchmarks: poor school attendance, behavioral issues, low test scores in math and reading, and math and reading skills that are below grade level. Miami Herald.

Teacher certification: Two influential south Florida legislators are advocating changes in the criteria for teacher certification. House representatives Manny Diaz of Hialeah and Michael Bileca of Miami, both Republicans, say altering the requirements could lead to more teachers with expertise in specific fields. Both say these types of teachers need more guidance with planning lessons and managing classrooms than with educational theory. redefinED.

District spending: The Hillsborough County School Board approves a $2.78 billion budget. Board members do have questions about the details, and Superintendent Jeff Eakins says he will provide answers later. When Eakins became superintendent, the district faced a $100 million shortfall. The budget would keep the district’s reserves at $146 million. Tampa Bay Times. The Manatee County School Board unanimously approves a $692 million budget. Bradenton Herald. Major construction projects push the Indian River County School District budget to $51.9 million, an increase of more than $13 million from last year. TCPalm. The Marion County School Board approves a $522 million budget that includes about $150 million for building repairs and debt. The district plans to boost salaries by 3.6 percent. Ocala Star Banner. The Bay County School Board approves a $357.6 million budget, a $30 million increase over last year. Panama City News Herald.

Turnaround help: The Polk County School Board approves $1 million to hire an academic management company to help the district turn around five struggling middle schools. The hiring of Rhode Island-based Educational Directions was part of the turnaround plan the district presented to the state. The state approved plans for three of the schools, but wants more staff changes at the other two. Lakeland Ledger.

Makeup days: School officials in Pasco and Hernando counties say they’re trying to avoid using makeup days to cover class time lost when Hurricane Hermine hit north Florida last week. Hernando officials are lobbying the state for a waiver, and Pasco officials think they have enough time with students already built into the schedule to compensate for the two days lost to the storm. Gradebook.

Superintendent evaluation: Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says he probably deserves a B on his evaluation for improving two-thirds of the district’s lowest-performing schools last year. School board members will formally evaluate the superintendent Thursday. Florida Times-Union.

Superintendent search: The Sarasota County School Board will focus on eight finalists to replace retiring Superintendent Lori White. The eight were culled from a field of 49 by an advisory committee last week. The board is expected to make a final decision Oct. 18. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The St. Johns County School Board narrows the field of superintendent candidates to four. A final decision is expected Oct. 11. Current Superintendent Joe Joyner is retiring at the end of January. St. Augustine Record.

Rezoning comments: Parents react negatively to proposed rezonings at several Pasco County schools at Tuesday’s school board meeting. The board is considering the zoning changes to alleviate overcrowding at some schools, and is asking parents for patience as the district considers its options. Tampa Bay Times.

Tutoring jeopardized: A well-regarded Parramore tutoring program for disadvantaged children is facing closure because of financial difficulties. The nonprofit Hi-Tech Tutoring Center has been in business since 1991, thanks largely to grants that are disappearing. Orlando Sentinel.

New principals: Just a week after the principal at Hernando County’s Moton Elementary abruptly quit, the district appoints a veteran administrator to run the struggling school. Marvin Gordon, 62, is the interim principal. Jamie Young resigned last week, citing a lack of resources. Tampa Bay Times. The new principal at the Vanguard School in Lake Wales climbed the ladder at the school. Marya Marcum-Jones, 42, started as a member of the dormitories staff at the boarding school, then taught before becoming an administrator. Lakeland Ledger.

Notable deaths: Robert Wall, an assistant principal at Campbell Middle School, died Tuesday in his home. The cause of death is undetermined. Wall, 46, had been with the district for 27 years. This was his first year as an assistant principal. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on education: Eleven-year-old Bo Paske knows this: He has a friend in FSU’s Travis Rudolph. Martin Fennelly, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Flagler Palm Coast High School students are using games to educate each other about the consequences of risky behavior. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Erin Brack, a science instructional specialist for the Bay County School District, has done field work in Australia, Borneo and Mexico to augment her classroom lessons Panama City News Herald. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards opens applications for Florida students in grades 5-12 to be selected as the state’s top youth volunteers. Yahoo. Tyler Hicks, a senior at First Academy in Leesburg, raised $3,500 for the school yearbook and about $2,000 for the prom last year, and is now working on a repeat performance. Orlando Sentinel. Pre-schoolers at Brevard County’s Merritt Island High School meet their student-teachers. The school is one of five in the county offering the program that has prospective teachers working with the students. Florida Today.