Florida schools roundup: Building funds, charters, testing, equal access and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool tax revenue shortfall: Tax revenue for building and repair schools is forecast to be lower than expected, and legislators may consider issuing school construction bonds through the Public Education Capital Outlay fund. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said issuing bonds would be a last resort, but Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, called bonding appropriate. Naples Daily News.

Charter capital funds: The Florida Department of Education drops a regulation that would have denied charter schools construction and maintenance money from the state if they received consecutive D school grades. The rule was adopted in September, but was changed after it was challenged as discriminatory against charter schools in poor communities. Politico Florida.

Charters to return money: Officials from two Miami-Dade County charter schools that loaned $912,094 to sister schools outside the county say they will return the money. The state Department of Education said the loan violated state rules. District officials say even after the money is returned, they will consider terminating the schools’ contracts. Miami Herald.

Testing problems: American high school students are falling further behind their peers from other countries in math. And the results in reading and science literacy testing are not much better, according to a study of students in 70 countries by the Program for International Student Assessment. Associated Press. Washington Post.

Equal access lawsuit: A federal appeals court rules that the Equal Access Act, which requires federally funded U.S. secondary schools to give equal treatment to all extracurricular clubs, applies to middle schools. The ruling overturns an earlier decision that supported the Lake County School Board’s decision to stop Carver Middle School students from starting a gay-straight club. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel. News Service of Florida.

Query review approved: The Clay County School Board asks the state to review an investigation into charges that principals deliberately mislabeled students as disabled to raise district school grades and graduation rates. The investigation, which was conducted by an outside consultant, concluded that the accusations were groundless. But some board members felt that investigation was incomplete. Florida Times-Union.

Mental health resources: The Duval County School District needs more mental health services, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti tells the school board. The number of Duval students who have attempted suicide or have suicidal tendencies is higher than state and national averages, Vitti said. Florida Times-Union.

Busing cutbacks: Courtesy busing for Hillsborough County students who live within 2 miles of their school will be phased out, the school board decides. About 7,500 students will be affected. The move is expected to save the financially struggling district several million dollars a year. Tampa Bay Times.

Superintendent’s raise: A scheduled school board discussion about boosting Palm Beach County School Superintendent Robert Avossa’s pay by $10,000 has been postponed until February. Avossa makes $325,000 a year now, which ranks him second in Florida and fourth among the country’s 11 largest school districts. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent’s plan: New Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier eliminates an administrative position and assigns new administrators to help the four lowest performing schools improve test scores. “I am thinning the administration at the top so that we can have more boots on the ground,” said Maier. Ocala Star Banner.

Contract negotiations: Non-union employees of the Pasco County School District will receive raises of 2.65 percent, the school board decides. The district had been at an impasse with union workers for the past month, and Superintendent Kurt Browning said he didn’t want to hold up raises until that dispute is settled. Later Tuesday, teachers and the district resumed negotiations, but no agreement was reached. Gradebook. Indian River County School Board members intervene in an impasse between the school district and its teachers to propose slightly lower health insurance premiums. The teachers union still has to ratify the deal. TCPalm.

New high school: Lee County School Board members applaud the design and academic plan for the new Bonita Springs High School. Six career academies will be located at the school, which will also offer dual-enrollment opportunities and an Advanced Placement International Diploma program. Fort Myers News-Press.

Art center at school: The Pasco County School Board approves a plan to locate a countywide arts center at the new Cypress Creek Middle-High School, which opens in August. It would be run by the school district and Pasco-Hernando State College. Tampa Bay Times.

District buys building: The Santa Rosa County School Board approves the purchase of an old grocery store in Milton that the district will convert into administrative offices. There is a restriction preventing the building from being used as office space, but officials think that will be cleared up soon. Pensacola News Journal.

Educators honored: Christina Arenth, who teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing children at Lake Sybelia Elementary School in Maitland, is named Orange County’s teacher of the year. Orlando Sentinel. Five teachers are named finalists for the Escambia County teacher of the year award. They are: Lisa Bloodworth, Workman Middle School; Lacey Brown, Jim Allen Elementary; Angelia Grimes-Graeme, Hellen Caro Elementary; Emily McMillan, Weis Elementary; and Cassie Mense, Myrtle Grove Elementary. The winner will be announced in January. Pensacola News Journal. Twenty-five Collier County teachers are selected as Teachers of Distinction by local nonprofit Champions for Learning. Five will be chosen for the Golden Apple Award in February. Naples Daily News. Mindy Goode, coordinator of Pine Ridge High School’s college readiness system, is one of three winners of the state’s 2016 Excellence in Education award. Daytona Beach News Journal. Jackson County School Board member Charlotte Gardner and retired Nassau School Superintendent John Ruis receive star awards for “exemplary” leadership from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations. Jackson County Floridan. Jeanette Acevedo-Isenberg, principal at the Downtown Doral Charter Elementary School, wins $10,000 from the Council for Educational Change for leadership and achievement. Miami Herald.

School calendars: Sarasota County students will begin school Aug. 14, 2017, and Aug. 13 in 2018, according to the school calendars approved by the school board. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School AD faulted: The former athletic director at Cutler Bay Senior High School pocketed more than $3,000 from student insurance payments and an unauthorized fee, according to an investigation presented to the Miami-Dade County School Board. Alphonso Thomas has agreed to pay full restitution but has not admitted any guilt. He retired in March at age 60 while the investigation was ongoing. Miami Herald.

Officials face suspension: The principal of Nova High School in Davie faces suspension for irregularities in the school’s nationally ranked debate program. The school board has approved the suspension of John Lacasse, who has been principal at the school since 2000, but he’s appealing and a state judge is reviewing the case and will make a recommendation. Sun-Sentinel. The school board also delays a decision on suspending an assistant principal at Miramar High School who is accused of overlooking cheating in the football program. Board members said they didn’t know enough about the case to make a decision to suspend Cornelia Hoff. Sun-Sentinel.

Teachers in trouble: A Pasco County teacher who made a racially tinged statement is suspended for three days and transferred. Wesley Chapel High School special education teacher John Sousa told several black students that he would call Donald Trump and have them sent “back to Africa” for their behavior. Sousa will be sent to Mitchell High School to teach students with autism. Tampa Bay Times. The case of a teacher accused of fighting with a student is sent to the Duval County state attorney’s office for possible prosecution. The school board referred the case against Terry Park High School teacher Darrel Countryman instead of suspending him. Florida Times-Union.

Student arrested: A prominent student-athlete at Sebastian River High School is arrested and accused of lewd and lascivious battery. Jamal Levon Riggins, 18, a linebacker on the school’s football team, has several Division I scholarship offers. TCPalm.

Students suspended: Six students are suspended for fighting at Santa Fe High School. Gainesville Sun.

School bus accident: Three Auburndale students were treated at a hospital and released after their school bus ran into a parked car. The bus driver, Timothy Harper, 55, was cited for careless driving. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: There’s hope for positive education measures from the next legislative session. Bradenton Herald. When it comes to considering the applications of charter schools, the Palm Beach County School Board is doing what it should do: demanding accountability for our tax money. Palm Beach Post. If none of the seven finalists for Lake County school superintendent are a clear fit or the school board has the slightest hesitation, members should restart the search without apology. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. There’s no silver bullet to finding and keeping teachers, but there might be a golden one – increasing salaries. Gil Smart, TCPalm.

Student enrichment: A disabling disease is not stopping Renee Rivera, at 17-year-old junior, from playing the flute for the Oviedo High School marching band. She stays in formation from her wheelchair, pushed by her mother. Orlando Sentinel. More than 100 Tate High School band students are in Hawaii to take part in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Pensacola News Journal. Satellite High School students finish third in the Quaker State Best in Class Challenge for refurbishing a car. Florida Today. A weather tracking unit is installed at Daniel Jenkins Academy in Haines City. The WeatherSTEM unit will record conditions 24 hours a day and provide lessons for students. Lakeland Ledger. Lincoln High School starts the first Future Farmers of America chapter in Leon County. Tallahassee Democrat.