Florida schools roundup: Computer coding, questionable loans and more

florida-roundup-logoCoding as a language: For the third straight year, a bill has been introduced in the Legislature that would allow computer coding to fulfill two credits of foreign language requirements in high schools. The bill, filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would not require high schools to offer computer coding classes, but would require universities to accept coding credits in lieu of foreign languages. It also allows Florida Virtual School to offer the coding courses. Gradebook. Florida Politics.

Charters’ loans questioned: The Florida Department of Education says two Miami-Dade charter schools illegally loaned $912,094 in taxpayer funds to sister schools outside the county. Keys Gate Charter School in Homestead and BridgePrep Academy in Miami should be asked by the school board to repay the money, recommends a district auditor. A spokesman for Keys Gate disputes the loans were illegal. Florida Bulldog. Miami Herald.

Superintendent search: The Lake County School Board will interview seven candidates to replace retiring Superintendent Susan Moxley on Dec. 13, then make a decision Dec. 14. The finalists are: Bob Anderson, deputy superintendent at Fulton County Schools in Atlanta; Quintin Shepherd, superintendent of the Linn-Mar Community School District in Marion, Iowa; Jerry Wilson, superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools in Berlin, Md.; Mark Mullin, deputy superintendent at the Brevard County School District; Diane Kornegay, deputy superintendent at the Clay County School District; Brennan Asplen, deputy superintendent for the St. Johns County School District; and Verna Ruffin, superintendent for Jackson-Madison County Schools in Jackson, Tenn. Moxley retires in July. Daily Commercial. Orlando Sentinel.

Principal at risk: Gulf Highlands Elementary School in Pasco County has gotten a warning from the Florida Board of Education – improve your school grade or lose your principal. The school, which has mostly students from low-income neighborhoods, has received grades of D, F, D and D in the past four years. If it doesn’t improve to a C or better this year, according to a letter sent to Superintendent Kurt Browning, the state may require adjustments, such as the replacement of the principal. Gradebook.

Principal removed: Deborah Houston is removed as principal at Manatee Elementary School for “disciplinary reasons,” according to Manatee Superintendent Diana Greene. Houston was reassigned to an administrative role in the district after an investigation by the school district’s Office of Professional Standards. District officials say the investigation had nothing to do with students. Houston declined comment, except to say the decision was unfair. Bradenton Herald.

Turnaround schools: Polk County school officials working on turning around five troubled middle schools say they are also paying special attention to the 32 elementary schools that feed those middle schools. Lakeland Ledger.

Fewer tests: Hillsborough County school officials are cutting back on the number of tests high school students will have to take this spring. Most of the tests being removed are duplications, officials say, and can be dropped to keep the students under the state’s rules that tests may take no more than 5 percent of a student’s total hours in school. Gradebook.

Rezoning fight: Parents from the Seven Oaks subdivision in Wesley Chapel vow to fight a last-minute change in rezoning boundaries for middle and high schools that will have their children switching schools. Gradebook.

Community school: Gulfside Elementary School becomes the first in the Tampa Bay area to be designated a community school, with help from a grant from the University of Central Florida. Gulfside partners with Pasco County Schools, The University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, Youth & Family Alternatives, and Premier Community HealthCare to help the students with issues in and out of the classroom. WTSP.

Contract negotiations: Sarasota County school bus drivers petition the school board for a change in their pay-scale classification, saying their responsibilities far outweigh their level on the scale. Bus drivers are on the fifth level of 13 pay classifications in the district, below such jobs as janitors and mailroom clerks. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Clear bottles only: Cypress Lake Middle School students are being asked to bring only clear beverage holders to school. A school email to parents noted that “the only approved drinking container on our campus is a clear water bottle.” Reasons for the change range from keeping the campus clean to student safety. Fort Myers News-Press.

No charges: The Polk County State Attorney’s office says no charges will be filed against two school board members over exchanged emails. Board members discussed the timing of a meeting to discuss the future of board attorney Wes Bridges, and there was no substantive discussion of the issue, says state attorney investigator Beverly Cone. Lakeland Ledger.

Lawsuit settled: The Sarasota County School Board is expected to approve a $175,000 settlement to a female student who said she was sexually assaulted at Booker Middle School in 2013. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Students in mourning: Grief counselors are at Vero Beach High School to help students after the death of popular freshman James Graves. Graves, 15, fell off his boat in the Indian River Lagoon Sunday. TCPalm.

Opinions on schools: Vouchers are not the answer to failing schools. It is high time for the state of Florida to fund all its schools adequately to meet that mandate of  “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education.” Richard Pfeffer, Tallahassee Democrat. One of my proudest achievements from my time in the Legislature was working to expand Florida’s tax credit scholarship program for low-income students. The program empowers parents to choose a private school or a public school across district lines. Will Weatherford, Tallahassee Democrat. Florida will fund more vouchers. That does not have to be bad news. The challenge is for the state to do vouchers right. Dave Denslow, Gainesville Sun. More tax cuts will result in state colleges and universities being pitted against K-12 schools, environmental initiatives and health-care programs in seeking needed funding. Ocala Star Banner.

Student enrichment: Kiley Griggs, a second-grader at Cotee River Elementary School, doesn’t let her cerebral palsy keep her from excelling at school. Tampa Bay Times. Lourdes “Lulu” de la Peña, a 14-year-old who developed her computer coding skills in fifth grade at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, is now teaching younger students coding after school. Miami Herald. Winter Park High School students get advice on picking a college major, college expenses and more from Rollins College economics students. Orlando Sentinel. Students around the state take part in an Hour of Code, a nod to Computer Science Education Week that provides the basics of computer programming. Fort Myers News-Press. Gainesville Sun. Braden River High School and Haile Middle School students each win nine top awards at the Manatee County Technology Student Association district competition. Bradenton Herald.