Florida schools roundup: Bonuses, achievement gap, arrests and more

florida-roundup-logoTeacher bonuses program: The chairman of the Florida Senate K-12 education appropriations subcommittee says he wants to rewrite the bill authorizing teacher bonuses. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would remove the use of teachers’ SAT or ACT scores from the formula for granting bonuses and replace it with a different measure of performance. He also said principals could get more authority in parceling out bonuses, and bonuses could be used to get better teachers to work in poorer schools. Officials hope these and other reforms will help recruit and retain teachers. Orlando Sentinel. Sun-SentinelGradebook. Politico Florida. WFSU.

Achievement gap: Two Polk County legislators file bills that would approve a study to find out why the state’s middle schools are performing significantly worse than elementary schools in reading and math. The bills are S.B. 360, filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and H.B. 293, filed by Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland. Bridge to Tomorrow.

School arrests: Nearly 70,000 U.S. students were arrested in the 2013-2014 school year, and in 43 states and the District of Columbia black students were arrested at disproportionately high levels, according to an Education Week analysis of federal data. Florida was 11th in the number of arrests, with 1,768. About 39 percent of the arrests were of black students, who made up just under 23 percent of the student population. Education Week.

Unequal treatment? An assistant principal who was demoted when she became pregnant in 2010, then won a $350,000 settlement against the Palm Beach County School District, questions why the man who demoted her was never disciplined, reprimanded or even investigated by the school district. Anne Williams Dorsey says the continued employment of Darren Edgecomb, now principal of Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, “raises eyebrows, to put it politely.” Palm Beach Post.

Facebook criticism: Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho criticizes social media companies for not doing more to prevent young people from broadcasting their suicides. About 1,000 people watched on Facebook Live this week as a 14-year-old Miami Gardens girl hung herself in her foster home. None of the people watching notified authorities in time to save the girl. Miami Herald.

School asthma policies: Florida is not among the top states in helping schoolchildren deal with asthma, according to a study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Fifteen states made the honor roll in the report, and Connecticut was the only one to meet all 23 benchmarks set by the group. Florida met just 16, falling short on availability of school nurses, air quality management and smoking policies, among others. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Employees honored: Jane Araguez, a kindergarten teacher at Saturn Elementary School in Cocoa, is named teacher of the year in Brevard County. Jamie Skinner,  a cafeteria manager at Ralph Williams Elementary in Viera, is named the district’s employee of the year. Florida Today. The Pinellas County School District names 10 finalists for teacher of the year. The winner will be announced Tuesday. Tampa Bay Times.

High school plan denied: The Broward County School Board rejects a request to convert Millennium Middle School in Tamarac into a K-12 school. School officials will continue to work on the plan and bring it back to the school board in a year. Sun-Sentinel.

Contract negotiations: The Manatee County School District and teachers union present their sides of their contract impasse to a special magistrate. The unions wants a cost-of-living increase, more pay steps and money to lower health insurance premiums. The district says it would need to dip into its reserves to meet the teachers’ demands. The magistrate will issue a report. If either side disagrees with the recommendations, the impasse will move on to the school board. Bradenton Herald. The Lake County School District and the union representing its service employees reach a contract agreement that will raise pay 3 percent for some employees and one step for others. Daily Commercial.

Mediation in the dark: Mediation sessions between the Pinellas County School District and the people suing it over what they call the unfair and unequal treatment of black students will be closed to the public. The case, Leon W. Bradley Jr. vs. Board of Public Instruction of Pinellas County, was launched 50 years ago. Gradebook.

Early education: The St. Johns County School District wants to bolster its early education programs, but will need financial help from the Legislature to do so. St. Augustine Record.

New school: The Miami-Dade School District will negotiate with a developer to build a school in the Brickell neighborhood. The district will also offer the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency parking spots on district property downtown in exchange for money that could be used to expand capacity at some schools in the downtown area. Miami Herald.

Money for buses: The Orange County School District is expected to receive $240,000 from the EPA to help pay the $1.1 million for the purchase of 10 school buses and to retrofit 10 older buses. The EPA awarded $7.7 million to districts around the country to update to school buses that spew less pollution. Orlando Sentinel.

Personnel changes: Jeff Estes Jr. is chosen as principal of Bonita Springs High School, which opens in the fall. The Lee County School Board has to approve the selection. Estes, 36, is the assistant principal at East Lee County High School. Fort Myers News-Press.

Notable deaths: Craig Howard, a longtime educator and football coach in several north Florida schools, died Friday at age 64. He was best-known for being Tim Tebow’s football coach at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach. Florida Times-Union. John C. Rawls, a teacher and principal in Alachua County schools for 30 years, has died at age 93. He taught at the formerly all-black Lincoln High School in southeast Gainesville from 1956 until it closed in 1970. Gainesville Sun.

Outside investigation: The Citrus County School District will hire a lawyer to investigate charges that the head of the Academy of Environmental Sciences improperly grabbed a student, belittled and improperly disciplined students and created an uncomfortable atmosphere at the charter school. Sandy Balfour has been reprimanded and transferred pending the investigation. She denies the charges. Citrus County Chronicle.

Students arrested: An 18-year-old Lakewood High School student is arrested after bringing a pellet gun to school. It’s the third time this school year that weapons have been found on the school’s grounds. Tampa Bay Times. An 18-year-old Santaluces High School student is arrested and charged with battery on a school employee after he pushed an assistant principal. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: The Orange County School Board needs to quit stalling and approve later starting times for high schools. Orlando Sentinel. Civility seems to have descended on the Collier County School Board. That’s a big difference from two years ago, when a consultant told board members their meetings were too painful to watch start to finish. Naples Daily News. Betsy DeVos is exactly the kind of education leader Americans wanted when they voted for Donald Trump. Barney Bishop, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Aleck Avila, a sixth-grader at Covenant Community School, wins the Columbia County Spelling Bee. Florida Times-Union. Melbourne High School Culinary Arts wins the second annual Clash of the Culinarians high school culinary competition in Brevard County. Florida Today. Three more Pasco County schools will offer the Cambridge Program: Anclote High, Paul R. Smith Middle and San Antonio Elementary schools. Tampa Bay Times. Talmesha Richards, the chief academic and diversity officer for STEMconnector and Million Women Mentors, speaks to Witter Elementary School students about science and math careers. Tampa Bay Times. Imagine Schools South Lake in Clermont wins the national school of the year in the 60-school network of public charters that spans nine states and the District of Columbia. Orlando Sentinel. Forty-five students from Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties spend the day planting potatoes as part of a 4-H field day. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Artwork by Jana Hur, a fifth-grader at Paterson Elementary School on Fleming Island, will be used on the Florida Council on Economic Education’s 2016-2017 economic poster. Clay Today.