Florida schools roundup: Teacher pay, testing, budgets, pot concerns and more

florida-roundup-logoEducation goals: The head of the Senate’s K-12 appropriations subcommittee wants to raise teacher pay by changing the state’s teacher bonus plan, cut standardized testing and keep offering longer school days to the state’s lowest-performing schools. State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, outlined his 2017 legislative session goals during the subcommittee’s first meeting. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. WOFL.

Budget problems: Voters just approved a sales tax increase that will provide the Palm Beach County School District $1.4 billion over the next 10 years. But school officials say it isn’t enough to offset cuts in funding from the state, and they expect to have to cut budgets for at least the next three years. Sun-Sentinel.

Pot dispensaries: Florida legislators should protect children by adopting laws that ban medical marijuana dispensaries within 2,500 feet of schools, forbid any products that look like candy, and ban the products on school property without supervision, members of the Miami-Dade County School Board say. Miami Herald.

Superintendent favorite: Diane Kornegay emerges as the consensus favorite to become the next Lake County school superintendent. Kornegay, who is deputy superintendent at the Clay County School District, is the only one of the six finalists who will be interviewed further Monday and Tuesday. If she’s hired by the school board, Kornegay will succeed the retiring Susan Moxley. Orlando SentinelDaily Commercial.

Credit card abuse: An audit discloses that two former Palm Beach County school employees used district credit cards to make more than $13,000 in unauthorized, personal purchases. Terri Miller, former treasurer at Palm Beach Gardens High School, was arrested in May after making $12,200 in personal purchases. Her brother, assistant principal Richard Williams, charged $1,142 worth of food. He resigned in September. Sun-Sentinel.

Superintendent’s deal: New Superintendent Tim Forson will get a three-year contract and be paid $165,000 a year, the St. Johns County School Board decides. Forson succeeds the retiring Joe Joyner, who was named president of Flagler College. The board also approved a rare, mid-year zoning change to alleviate overcrowding at Patriot Oaks Academy. St. Augustine Record. WJXT.

HPV vaccinations: The Citrus County School Board approves a plan to offer all middle-school students free vaccination against the human papillomavirus, with parental permission. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that, untreated, can cause cancer. Citrus County Chronicle.

School impact fee: The Pasco County School Board is considering increasing the school impact fee from $4,800 per single-family home to perhaps as much as $10,204. District officials say they need more money to keep up with growing enrollment. Gradebook.

Recess movement: New Leon County School Board member Roseanne Wood wants to push mandatory daily recess for the district’s elementary schools. WFSU.

Schedule change: The Bay County School District is considering changing from seven periods a day to six, with each period increasing by 10 minutes to 55 minutes. School officials say the change would cut elective classes and keep students from being overloaded, and also lower the number of students each teacher is responsible for. Panama City News Herald.

Improvement plan: Janie Howard Wilson Elementary School, a charter school in Lake Wales, is added to the state’s list of schools that must prepare a plan for improvement. The school has received D grades from the state in each of the past three years. Lakeland Ledger.

Career academies: The explosive growth of career academies in Escambia County schools is changing the workforce in the area by better preparing students with specific skills and goals. Pensacola News Journal.

Testing for lead: All Leon County schools have now been tested for lead, according to district officials, and none shows a level that meets the EPA’s criteria for unsafe levels. Tallahassee Democrat.

Old school sold: The vacated Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School in Manatee County is sold to a company that plans to renovate it and use it as a charter middle school. The Rowlett Academy for the Arts and Communication bought the building for $2.2 million, and plans to open for the 2017-2018 school year with 350 students in sixth and seventh grades. Bradenton Herald.

Rezoning issues: Some parents in Pasco County are offering alternative rezoning plans for School Superintendent Kurt Browning’s consideration. A school boundary committee recently made recommendations for zoning changes to ease overcrowding at several schools, but Browning said he was taking over the rezoning planning and would submit his recommendations to the school board. Gradebook. Some parents are objecting to the school rezoning changes proposed for the Riverview area of Hillsborough County. Tampa Bay Times.

Personnel changes: Chris Force is selected as principal of First Coast Technical College. She had been St. Johns County School District director of Career and Technical Education and First Coast assistant principal  Florida NewsLine. Stacy Carlson is named president of the Pinellas Education Foundation. Carlson, who was president and CEO of the Florida Philanthropic Network, assumes her new role in March. Gradebook.

School bus GPS rejected: Hernando County School Board members like the idea of putting GPS in district school buses. But they don’t like the system installed by Synovia Solutions, complaining that it doesn’t work as promised. Tampa Bay Times.

School tours: Reporters get tours at two Hernando County schools that have exceptional student education classrooms as the district tries to counter accusations that classrooms for high-needs students are not properly staffed. Tampa Bay Times.

School elections: Longtime Orange County School Board member Joie Cadle says she will not seek re-election when her term ends in 2018. Cadle was first elected in 2002. Orlando Sentinel.

Support for schools: City Year Jacksonville receives a $1.2 million grant to put 120 AmeriCorps members into 12 Duval County public schools as tutors and mentors. Florida Times-Union.

Commandant stricken: The commandant and chief financial officer at the Sarasota Military Academy likely will not return to the school. Brig. Gen. Frank Laudano had a heart attack last weekend and is in grave condition, students were informed. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Fights at school: More than two dozen students are arrested after a series of fights in the courtyard at Eastside High School in Gainesville. Several students were tasered and pepper-sprayed as deputies tried to control the situation. Sheriff’s deputies say disputes among neighborhood gangs probably prompted the fights. Gainesville Sun.

Student sentenced: Zachary Connor Wynn-Marksberry, 18, is sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping a younger student and then trying to rape him in February. Both were students at the Pinellas Secondary School, an alternative school for grades 6-12. Gradebook.

Student arrested: A 14-year-old Brevard County middle-school student is arrested and charged with sexual battery after allegedly forcing another student to perform a sexual act in a school bathroom. Florida Today.

Caregiver arrested: The caregiver of a Palm Beach County kindergartner who missed 25 straight days of school is arrested when the child is found home alone. Tiffany Seabrook, 25, is accused of child neglect. Palm Beach Post.

Ex-aide convicted: A former teacher’s aide at Lincoln Park Primary School in Pensacola is convicted of battery for slapping a 4-year-old developmentally delayed student in March. Brenda Morris, 68, could get up to a year in the county jail at sentencing Jan. 4. Pensacola News Journal.

Educators on leave: Two Polk County educators have been placed on paid administrative leave. District officials won’t say why Lakeland High School athletic director Justin Troller and teacher Laura Williamson were put on leave, or if the cases are related. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: This community should be particularly alarmed by stagnant funding for crucial programs such as Head Start,which provides preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds who live in poverty. Because a lack of education leads to no hope, and no hope can lead to violence. Beth Kassab, Orlando Sentinel. A recent email exchange between Polk County School Board members should be treated as a teachable moment, and encourage those in charge of our education system to educate themselves on our Sunshine Laws and how to improve upon gathering maximum public input on the operation of the school system. Lakeland Ledger.

Student enrichment: Several burrowing owls have gotten a new habitat, thanks to students at Crystal Lakes Elementary School in Boynton Beach. The burrowing owl was recently placed on the state’s list of threatened species. Sun-Sentinel. Hidden Oaks Elementary School in Lake Worth will hold a benefit for teacher Kizzy Norris, whose fight against cancer has left her in a financial hole. Palm Beach Post.