Florida schools roundup: Hiring freeze, contract agreements, ratings and more

florida-roundup-logoHiring freeze: The Hillsborough County School District is freezing teacher hiring as part of its austerity measures. The current 140 vacancies will be filled by educators who have been working outside of a classroom. The district is trying to save $130 million this year, in a budget of $2.8 billion. The Gibson Consulting Group is being paid $818,000 to help the district find ways to cut spending. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Contract agreements: The Palm Beach County teachers union and district officials agree on a contract that calls for an average raise of 3 percent for teachers. The starting teacher salary is bumped to $41,000, and the top of the pay scale goes up by about $1,700 to $78,645. Palm Beach Post. Manatee County school officials announce tentative contract agreements with the teachers’ and service employees’ unions. The agreements call for raises and no increases in health insurance costs for employees. Bradenton Herald.

Improvement ratings: The Florida Department of Education releases its school improvement ratings for alternative and special education centers. Gradebook.

Audit committee: If voters approve a sales tax increase for Manatee County schools, the district will give an audit committee an important role in tracking how the projected $30 million a year is spent. The audit committee will be made up of mostly retired certified public accountants who are volunteers. The school board says it will also consider sharing some of the proceeds with charter schools. Bradenton Herald.

Back to school: Public school students in Volusia and Flagler counties return to school today after being off four days due to Hurricane Matthew. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

District Chromebooks: The Bay County School Board approves spending $1.8 million to put a Chromebook in the hands of every middle school student, teacher and administrator by January. Panama City News Herald.

Charter applications: Two charter school companies withdraw their applications to open in Polk County after the school district’s charter review committee recommended they be denied. A third, which the committee also recommended for denial, is asking for an extension on a decision until Oct. 18 so it can answer questions raised by the committee. Lakeland Ledger.

District’s wish list: The Collier County School Board approves a list of 10 proposed policies for its platform to present to the legislative delegation. Naples Daily News.

Principal honored: Kim Register, principal at Vernon Middle School in Chipley, is one of nine state principals to receive a Florida TaxWatch Principal Leadership Award. Holmes County Times Advertiser.

School named: The new high school in west Orange County will be named Windermere High School, the school board has decided. It will open in the 2017-2018 school year with about 2,800 students. Orlando Sentinel.

School property: The now-closed Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School in Bradenton is being put up for sale. It was closed as part of a plan to rebalance school enrollment, and because the building was deteriorating. Two charter schools have expressed an interest in moving into the school. Bradenton Herald.

School board attorney: Brevard County School Superintendent Desmond Blackburn is recommending the district hire an in-house attorney. Blackburn says the move isn’t expected to save money, but it will mean more hours devoted to work for the district. Florida Today.

School elections: The four candidates for Leon County school superintendent debate teacher retention and achievement in the city’s south side schools, and whether a new high school in that area is needed. Tallahassee Democrat.

Students injured: A 15-year-old John I. Leonard High School is seriously injured after being hit by a car while walking to school. Palm Beach Post. Two Palm Harbor University High School students suffer minor injuries after their school bus was hit by a car. Tampa Bay TimesWFLA.

Teacher investigated: A teacher at Avalon Middle School in Milton is under investigation after a photo posted on social media shows a student with tape over his hands and mouth. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Students arrested: A student is arrested at Coral Springs High School for making a threatening social media post after his friend was arrested for taking a loaded gun to the school Monday. Sebastian Darrah, 18, posted “Watch out for round 2 tomorrow springs. We comin guns blazin…” on an Instagram account. Ryan Trollinger, a 17-year-old former student at the school, was arrested after he was found with the gun on campus. A third student is being held for observation after he was found with a journal that warned of a mass shooting. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. A 15-year-old student at South Lake High School is arrested after taking an unloaded BB pistol to school. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel.

Drugs possession: More than 1,500 cases of drug possession were reported last year in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Pasco and Polk county schools. About 250 have been reported so far this school year. WTSP.

Clown sightings: Police are investigating a sighting of a clown with a weapon near Boone High School in Orlando. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: When Florida submits its new accountability system to the U.S. Department on Education for approval in the coming year, it should include components that will ensure that all kids count. Michael J. Petrilli and Brandon L. Wright, Orlando Sentinel. There’s a strong case for approving a 1-cent sales tax increase that will support Palm Beach County schools. Sun-Sentinel. Our schools, students and community as a whole will be better off if Alachua County voters renew the One Mill for Schools initiative. Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: The rock band Gooding pushes a message of financial literacy to 1,200 Miami-Dade middle- and high-schoolers at a concert Monday. Miami Herald. Fifty seniors from American Heritage High School are named National Merit Scholar semifinalists. The school has the most semifinalists of any school in Florida, and is ninth in the United States. Miami Herald. The Palm Beach Symphony donates a piano to Binks Forest Elementary School. Palm Beach Post. Collier County home-schooled students get lessons in art from the Naples Art Association at the von Liebig Art Center. Naples Daily News. Volusia County high school students are targeted for voter education and registration during Celebrate Freedom Week. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Eleven child-care centers in Bay County are receiving bonuses from the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida. Panama City News Herald.