Florida schools roundup: Amendments, longer days, early education and more

florida-roundup-logoAmendments and education: State law requires a review and update of the constitution every 20 years. Republican lawmakers intend to use the opportunity to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision that the school voucher program was unconstitutional and repeal the Blaine Amendment, which forbids state funds from going to religious institutions. The review will be conducted by the 37-member Constitutional Review Commission, which can put amendments on the 2018 ballot. Thirty-three of the members will be appointed by state Republican leaders. Miami Herald.

Extended days study: A Palm Beach County School District study indicates there has been little benefit to students from the state law requiring longer days at public elementary schools with the lowest reading scores. The district looked at the 58 times schools have been forced to extend the school day by an hour. In 22 cases, there was improvement in students’ reading scores. In 26 cases there was none, and in 10 cases schools’ performances worsened. Last year, the district estimates, the extra hour at 25 district schools cost $9 million. Palm Beach Post.

Early education benefits: Quality early childhood education is expensive but has lasting, positive effects in all areas of society, according to a new study by Nobel Laureate James J. Heckman, a University of Chicago economics professor. Every dollar invested in childhood education produced a return of $6.30, according to the study. For more than 30 years, Heckman tracked disadvantaged black children, 8 weeks to 5 years old, who were in an intensive child-care program in North Carolina. Florida Times-Union.

District cuts testing: The Volusia County School District is cutting the number of hours students are being tested. Fifth-graders, for example, will have 26 fewer hours of district assessment testing. Elementary students once were spending three times the hours taking district tests as students in neighboring Flagler and Seminole counties. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Technology and education: Central Florida school leaders say that by the time next year’s kindergartners will be high school seniors, in 2030, technology will have led to significant changes in the way students learn. They believe there will be less reliance on brick and mortar schools, and that students will have more options to learn at their own pace with a flexible schedule. Orlando Sentinel.

Equal access ruling: Advocates are celebrating a court ruling that Carver Middle School in Leesburg can have a gay-straight alliance. But the Lake County School Board has a variety of options it could use to try to block such a group anyway. Orlando Sentinel.

Superintendent’s deal: The Monroe County School Board is working on extending Superintendent Mark Porter’s contract through July 2020. The deal calls for a $15,000 a year raise, to $165,000, $650 a month for car expenses and $1,500 for a fund he can use for “civic and community activities” that promote good public relations. Keynoter.

Candidate withdraws: Quintin Shepherd, superintendent of the Linn-Mar Community Schools in Iowa, withdraws from consideration for the Lake County superintendent’s job. Six candidates remain. The interviews begin Tuesday, and the school board is expected to select a replacement for the retiring Susan Moxley on Dec. 22. Orlando Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: The Manatee County School District and the teachers union agree on the selection of special magistrate Robert Hoffman to serve as arbitrator of their contract impasse. Teachers are asking for more money and want the district to pay more toward health-care insurance premiums. The district say it doesn’t have the money to do so. Bradenton Herald.

Teachers honored: Five finalists are named for the Bay County School District’s teacher of the year. They are: Greg Barron, Mosley High School; Jimmy Owen, Rosenwald High School; Jeff Stem, Surfside Middle School; Shannon Warren, Hutchison Beach Elementary; and Lynette Shields, Tommy Smith Elementary, The winner will be announced Jan. 17. Panama City News Herald.

Cafeteria options: The Broward County School District plans to offer vegetarian options for school lunches next year. Hundreds of students taste-tested some of the options, and reactions ranged from “awesome” to “gross.” Sun-Sentinel.

Open enrollment: The Manatee County School Districts sets windows of time when students may request transferring under the state’s new open enrollment law. Bradenton Herald.

Hiring process: The Virginia principal who recommended Brian Damron for a job as band director at Jacksonville’s Stanton College Preparatory School was placed on leave after sexual allegations against Damron surfaced in Duval. Damron has resigned his job, though he denies the accusation. Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Damron was properly vetted before hiring. Florida Times-Union.

No charges in abuse case: No employees at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton will be charged for failing to notify police about a student sexually assaulting another in 2014 in a campus dormitory. Palm Beach PostSun-Sentinel.

School suit dismissed: A lawsuit to block development of a 1927 historic high school in Boynton Beach has been dismissed by a judge. Palm Beach Post.

Substitute teachers: The Sarasota County School District will relax its requirements for substitute teachers. Instead of needing a teaching certificate, subs will only be required to have a college degree. The change is a response to the shrinking pool of subs. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School threats: The Volusia County State Attorney’s Office will consider charges against two Flagler County high school students who allegedly made threats against Bunnell Elementary School and Flagler Palm Coast High School in September. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: The Orange County School Board is inviting abuse by allowing each member to control a $40,000 “slush” fund with no accountability. Orlando Sentinel. The time is long overdue to remind lawmakers who want to divert education funds into private and corporate hands that you are not just a parent and not just a taxpayer. You are also a voter. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. A bipartisan group of state senators recently struck a constructive tone on education priorities, vowing support for increased teacher pay and less testing among other commonsense approaches. Championing public schools shouldn’t be a controversial or partisan issue, but too many school choice supporters have framed the future of education as an either/or proposition. Tampa Bay Times. Once again, Lake County School Board members are foolishly focused on an expensive non-issue that does precisely nothing to help solve this district’s biggest problem: poor academic performance. Let’s stop spending on fighting children’s clubs and turn a laser focus where it ought to be — on academics. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. There’s an unmistakable tie between education and poverty. Geoffrey Canada, Palm Beach Post. The proliferation of charter schools brings benefits as well as challenges. Dave Denslow, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Berryhill Elementary School third-grader Wyatt Misenar launches a toy drive for children affected by fires in Tennessee. Pensacola News Journal. The Wellington High School student government raises more than $5,000 to provide Christmas gifts for students at Rosenwald Elementary in South Bay who otherwise might not have received one. Palm Beach Post. Dance is now offered as a class at River Ridge High School in Pasco County. It’s one of just two high schools in the county to offer dance as a class instead of an extracurricular activity. Tampa Bay Times. Interline Brands donates $100,000 and will partner with the Duval County School District to help students learning the construction trade at Asa Philip Randolph Career Academies. Florida Times-Union. Twenty-three south Florida schools participate in the first drone competition at Plantation High School. WSVN. Isaiah Asbed, an 11-year-old LaBelle High School student, scores in the 90th percentile on the SAT. Fort Myers News-Press. About 200 students from west Florida participate in a Lego League prequalification tournament. Fort Myers News-Press. Students at the Academy of Environmental Science are raising $2,000 to buy an American flag and a flagpole. The school is the only one in Citrus County that does not fly the flag. Citrus County Chronicle.