Florida schools roundup: Teacher shortage, Dreamers, Dr. King and more

florida-roundup-logoTeacher shortage: Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti wants to convert instructional coaches and interventionists into teachers in classrooms, as the district continues to struggle to fill open positions. Vitti, who had pushed for those coaching positions, now believes it’s more important to have qualified teachers in the classrooms. The district has nearly 200 openings. Several school board members are reluctant to commit to the change, saying they are worried about reversing recent reading improvements. Florida Times-Union.

Dreamers worry: More than 100,000 undocumented immigrants have been living in the United States, going to school and working under President Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. These Dreamers, as they are known, are worried that President-elect Donald Trump will follow through on his campaign pledge to end the program and send them back to their home countries. “I established my whole life here now, and it will be difficult if he does repeal it,” says Ahtziry Barrera, who graduated from Orlando’s Colonial High School in 2016 and is a first-year student at Rollins College. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida.

Lawsuit settlement: The Palm Beach County School Board is expected to approve a $4.7 million settlement this week with a student who suffered brain damage when a tractor tire exploded in his high school automotive repair class in 2013. Dustin Reinhardt lost one of his eyes, much of his face and part of his brain in the accident at Seminole Ridge High. The board will pay $300,000 now, and the rest has to be approved by the Legislature. Sun-Sentinel.

Teaching MLK: Teachers in St. Augustine schools try to weave the history Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made in the city into their lessons. St. Augustine Record.

Teacher honored: Jason Kester, a culinary arts teacher at Mainland High School, is named Volusia County’s teacher of the year. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Thirty-one Lee County teachers are selected as finalists for the district’s Golden Apple awards. Six winners will be chosen April 7. Fort Myers News-Press.

Personnel changes: Flagler County School Superintendent Jacob Oliva will become executive vice chancellor for K-12 public schools for the Florida Department of Education. Oliva, who has been superintendent in Flagler for two years, begins his new job in June. Flagler Live. Danielle Johnson, an assistant principal at Wesley Chapel High School, is named principal at the Pasco County school. She replaces Carin Hetzler-Nettles, who will be principal at the new Cypress Creek Middle-High School next fall. Gradebook.

Superintendents’ goals: Santa Rosa School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick outlines his six goals for 2017: Dealing with growth, renewing the sales tax for schools, showcasing STEAM programs, making a successful move to a seven-period day, expanding arts programs and reducing assessment testing. Northwest Florida Daily News. New Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay answers questions about her 100-day plan. Daily Commercial.

Superintendent’s raise: The Monroe County School Board approves a $15,000-a-year raise and a $650-a-month car allowance for Superintendent Mark Porter. It’s the first raise for Porter since he was hired in 2012. The three-year contract will pay Porter $165,000 a year. Keynoter.

Old schools: Sixty-four percent of the Okaloosa County School District’s buildings’ square footage is at least 41 years old. That makes the district home to some of the oldest schools in the state. Only seven of the county’s schools have been built since 1989. “As I see it, finding funding for schools is the most critical need facing our county,” says school board member Melissa Thrush. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Safety survey: The Flagler County School District launches an online survey to gather information about how students travel to and from schools. School officials say the survey will help them improve safety for students walking, riding bicycles or traveling in a family car within the two-mile radius of each school. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Resource officer: A federal grant is helping Ormond Beach Middle School hire a fulltime police resource officer. The $125,000 grant will cover three years. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Ex-teacher sentenced: Daniel Tyler Morgan, a former teacher at Centennial High School in Port St. Lucie, is sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to receive sexually explicit images of a child. U.S. Justice Department officials say Morgan, 30, sent explicit photos of himself to a 17-year-old girl who had been his student in 2016, and asked her to reciprocate. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm.

Student arrested: A 14-year-old student at Godby High School is arrested for bringing an unloaded gun to school. School officials found the gun when they searched the student’s backpack to look for some stolen headphones. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: It’s baffling that the Alachua County School Board hasn’t more seriously considered impact fees to help repair and replace aging infrastructure. Gainesville Sun. Until parents start standing up and requesting that their children be exempt from standardized testing, the state’s testing madness will continue. James Elmore, Ocala Star Banner. Before Betsy DeVos is approved as U.S. education commissioner, someone should take a closer look at what the reform movement she’s a part of has done to Florida’s schools. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. The dream of being a teacher is noble and honorable. And yet our teacher shortage is a clear reminder that when push comes to shove, the truth about what we value is displayed in what we see as satisfactory compensation. Cortney Stewart, Citrus County Chronicle. Children in Lake County remain plagued by poverty and poor education. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. Pensacola must stop the school to prison pipeline that too many of its young people are on. Paula Montgomery, Pensacola News Journal. The lack of clear data makes it difficult for parents to find good preschools for their children. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. The state auditor general’s report on the Manatee County School District’s finances shows a remarkable recovery from disaster. Bradenton Herald. Parents are the key factor in school attendance, so it’s a smart move for the Marion County School District to create a job for someone to encourage parents who are currently not engaged to become so. Ocala Star Banner. In her argument against the state’s tax credit scholarship program, Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall recently wrote: “We believe that those closest to the students should be making the decisions about what is best for the students they serve.” I would ask her this: Who is closer to a student than his or her parent? Peter Schorsch, Florida Politics. Decisions on math and science that students make in high school can limit their STEM options on college. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: A chorus and dance group from King’s Academy, a Christian school in West Palm Beach, will perform in the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. Sun-Sentinel. Surfside Middle School students win first places for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at the MathCounts competition. Panama City News Herald. Five Booker High School students present a mock hearing as part of a civil rights event hosted by the school’s Law Academy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Two Bay County schools are named five-star schools by the Florida Department of Education. Panama City News Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff