Florida schools roundup: Retention, critical audit, spending and more

florida-roundup-logoRetention stay remains: The judge who ruled the state has to give third-graders options to advance to fourth grade without state test scores is refusing to vacate the stay on the verdict during the appeal. Judge Karen Gievers, who ruled against the retention policies of the state and six districts, says there is little chance of “irreparable harm” if the stay is not granted and the appeals process is allowed to continue. Gradebook.

District criticized: The Florida auditor general is criticizing the Leon County School District for its lax enrollment and transportation record-keeping, and for placing teachers into classrooms without the proper certification. These are the most critical of the 71 findings by the auditor. Because the district overcounted its enrollment by 46 students, it will have to repay the state $185,506. Tallahassee Democrat. Meanwhile, a federal investigation into the district’s construction spending is ongoing, according to the Florida auditor general. The investigation began in late 2013 or early 2014. Tallahassee Democrat.

School spending: The Orange County and Seminole County school boards approve their budgets. Orange’s is slightly more than $2 billion, and includes raises of about 3 percent for all employees. Seminole’s budget is $562 million. Orlando Sentinel. Here’s a breakdown of some of the ways the Lee County School District plans to spend its $1.4 billion budget. Fort Myers News-Press. The Collier County School Board approves a $976.5 million budget that includes pay raises for all teachers. Naples Daily News. The Volusia County School Board approves an $852 million budget, a hike of $70 million over last year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Superintendent chided: Duval School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti’s academic progress goals for the district’s students are too modest, school board members decided Tuesday in rejecting his plan. Vitti defends his targets as realistic, but will rework the numbers and resubmit them to the board. Florida Times-Union.

Missing instruments: Members of the Broward County School Board blast district officials for their delay in providing musical instruments for schools’ band and music classes. The district had agreed to set aside $18.6 million from its capital budget for instruments for 193 schools. But no equipment has been delivered to any of the 52 schools scheduled to get them this school year. Sun-Sentinel.

Sales tax campaign: The committee overseeing the drive to pass a half-cent sales tax hike for Polk County schools is planning a campaign to inform voters of the the ways the tax will help schools. The committee lost its bid to have a special election, and doesn’t want the measure on the 2016 general election ballot. So the vote will likely be in 2018. Lakeland Ledger.

Personnel cutbacks: Hillsborough County school officials begin paring back staff, and they’re starting with clerical workers. About 50 jobs have been eliminated as the district follows the advice of the Gibson Consulting Group, which recommends more resources go into the classroom. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter research: Two studies into the impact of future earnings on charter school graduates are contradictory. A study in May showed that Florida charter students earn significantly higher salaries than noncharter students. But a second survey released last month showed the opposite in Texas. The studies did agree that charter school graduates are more likely to stay in college. Education Week.

Makeup days: Students in Lake County will stay in school later on Wednesdays through Nov. 2 to make up time lost when Hurricane Hermine hit Florida earlier this month. Orlando Sentinel.

District rezoning: Some parents worry that rapid growth in St. Johns County will force frequent rezonings to balance school enrollment. School officials were sympathetic at a town meeting Tuesday, but said the growth is beyond the district’s control. St. Augustine Record.

Moldy issue: The chairman of the charter school Plato Academy Largo continues to deny there is mold in the school, despite a report confirming the existence of mold written by a consultant hired by the school, Meanwhile, some parents are pulling their children out of the school. Gradebook. WFLA.

Anthem protest: No one has protested during the national anthem in southwest Florida schools, but the districts are preparing their reaction if and when a student chooses not to stand. WZVN.

Lacrosse considered: The Manatee County School District is considering adding boys and girls lacrosse to the list of sports it offers. Bradenton Herald.

Complaint dismissed: An administrative complaint against former Manatee High athletic director and football coach Joe Kinnan is dismissed. The state was asking for disciplinary action against Kinnan for his role in Manatee High School baseball improprieties in 2012-2013. Kinnan retired in 2015, and has filed suit against the school board, then-Superintendent Rick Mills and Troy Pumphrey, who conducted the investigation into the incident. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Appeal feared: Florida parents and pastors worry that the teachers unions and the NAACP will appeal a ruling upholding the constitutionality of tax credit scholarships. The 74.

School bus accident: One man is seriously injured and three students were treated at a hospital and released after a Polk County school bus hit a pickup truck in Lakeland. The bus driver was cited for failing to yield the right of way. Lakeland Ledger.

Ex-teacher arrested: A former teacher at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview is arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious conduct. Michael Respress Geist, 31, a science teacher, allegedly urged a teenage girl to take explicit photos of herself and gave her a cake baked with marijuana near the end of the last school year. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

School threat: A 15-year-old boy is arrested and accused of threatening to “shoot up” Dr. Phillips High School and Westridge Middle School on Monday. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Regardless of what happens in Nevada and Florida courts, lawmakers must take steps to protect school choice in the years ahead – or better yet, expand it so even more children have an opportunity to thrive. Adam Jones and Skylar Zander, Daily Caller.