Florida schools roundup: Senate agenda, graduation rates, top teacher and more

florida-roundup-logoSenate’s education agenda: Senate President Joe Negron’s agenda includes more school choice for K-12 and more money for the state’s universities. The Republican from Stuart also affirms his support for school testing and accountability. WUSF.

Graduation rates: South Florida schools’ graduation rates have been rising steadily for five years, and hit records highs this year. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN. St. Lucie County high schools have one of the best graduation turnarounds in the state. TCPalm. The Bay County School District sees a 10 percentage point increase in its graduation rate in the past year, and its rate is now higher than the state average. Panama City News Herald. Graduation rates in Citrus County schools are up 19.2 percentage points from 2004. Citrus County Chronicle.

Teacher honored: Sandy Waite of Southside Elementary School in Sarasota is named the Florida elementary school literacy teacher of the year. The award, given by the Florida Reading Association, honors teachers who are innovative in teaching reading, Waite incorporates music, art and lots of movement into her reading lessons. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teacher’s Satan display: A Palm Beach County teacher is within his rights to erect an “In Satan we trust” display in Boca Raton’s Sanborn Square, according to Palm Beach County Superintendent Robert Avossa. Preston Smith just needs to keep his religious views out of his English classes at Boca Raton Middle School, Avossa says. Palm Beach Post. WPTV.

Back to the classroom: After 12 years as a member of the Pinellas County School Board, Janet Clark returns to the classroom. Clark, 62, has been teaching disabled students at Bay Point Middle School since Nov. 27, and she’s already dealing with paperwork that she voted for as a board member. Tampa Bay Times.

Union and politics: After spending $825,000 in a failed effort to get Democrat Dwight Bullard elected to the Florida Senate, the Florida Education Association is now supporting his opponent to become chair of the state Democratic party. Bullard is running against Stephen Bittel. Politico Florida. Sunshine State News.

Superintendent process: Diane Kornegay, the front-runner for the Lake County superintendent’s job, wraps up interviews today with the school board and a Q&A with a public at a reception. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: The folly of zero tolerance was on display when a Florida middle school girl was disciplined for possessing a butter knife that she used to cut a peach to share with a classmate. David Rosenthal, Daily Signal. If the teachers union prevails in shutting down the tax credit scholarship program, there will be major negative consequences of more than $1 billion in increased recurring and nonrecurring costs for taxpayers. Dominic Calabro, Tampa Bay Times. U.S. secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos is not an enemy of public education as unions would suggest. She simply believes that students should not be forced into classrooms where they are not learning. In that, she is a champion for parents. It’s hard to believe such a premise could be so controversial. Phil Handy, Orlando Sentinel. It’s time to dig deeper into the health insurance premium problem for teachers. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. Let’s proclaim 2017 to be The Year of the Teacher in Florida, and resolve to ask the state’s best teachers how to recruit more individuals who are strong in their disciplines into the the teaching profession, and keep them there once they arrive. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Students at Moton Elementary School in Brooksville learn about Christmas traditions around the world. Tampa Bay Times. Two college students help design a prosthetic arm for a 13-year-old boy in Delray Beach. Sun-Sentinel. The Ridgewood High School academic teams – varsity and junior varsity – win the Clay County championship. Florida Times-Union. Students at Mariner Middle School in Cape Coral use virtual reality to travel around the world from their classrooms. Fort Myers News-Press. Special needs middle-school students in Lee County dance and make new friends at the Spirit, Optimism, Achievement and Respect dance. Fort Myers News-Press.