Florida schools roundup: Retention suit, DeVos, weapons, adoptions and more

Retention appeal: At least two judges on the three-member First District Court of Appeal seem skeptical of a Leon County judge’s decision against the state and several school districts over retention and promotion policies for third-graders, and of the actions of parents whose children opt out of testing. That judge, Karen Gievers, ruled that students could not be retained solely on the basis of standardized test scores and should have options for earning promotion, The state and districts appealed. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

DeVos confirmation: School choice advocate Betsy DeVos is confirmed as U.S. education secretary on a 51-50 vote. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says DeVos will transfer power from the federal government and teachers unions and give it to states and parents. redefinED. Tampa Bay TimesPolitico Florida. Sunshine State News.

Weapons at schools: The Duval County School District is setting up a dedicated hotline to report weapons or violence at schools. Officials will also increase random searches at schools, and talk more to students about guns and violence. There have been 10 incidents of weapons found at the district’s public and charter schools this school year. Florida Times-Union.

Adoption help: A bill is being drafted that would extend state adoption benefits to charter school employees. Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, is working on a bill that would amend the law and give the benefit – up to $10,000 for special needs children or those from a racially mixed family – to charter and virtual schools workers. Lakeland Ledger.

Marijuana meeting: South Florida law enforcement and school officials meet to discuss what kind of medical marijuana rules are needed to protect students and still give people the access they need to the drug. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wants no medical marijuana dispensaries within 2,500 feet of schools, and said packaging must not look like candy or soda. WTVJ.

Open enrollment: Students who live outside of Orange County but want to attend a school in the district will get an extra two weeks to apply for a seat. The school board thought the original window – May 15-31 – was too short a time. “I think two weeks is very narrow,” said vice chairwoman Linda Kobert. “If we are really offering those parents choices, we need to give them every opportunity.” Orlando Sentinel.

Leadership survey: Alachua County residents say they want the next school superintendent to have experience as a teacher and administrator and be someone who “inspires and builds trust and models high standards of integrity and ethics.” The survey of 695 county residents was taken by the Florida School Boards Association, which is leading the search for the district’s next superintendent. Gainesville Sun.

Union election: A Palm Beach County teacher who took a leave of absence to care for a dying relative will be allowed to run for the union presidency after all. Justin Katz of Park Vista High School, who let his dues lapse during the leave in 2014, was initially denied a chance to run for the job by the district’s teachers union, which cited a rule that limited eligibility to those who had maintained union membership for two consecutive years. But the union reversed its decision after the statewide union, the Florida Education Association, recommended that Katz be allowed to run. Palm Beach Post.

Personnel changes: The Lee County School Board approves Jeff Estes Jr. to become principal at the new Bonita Springs High School. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. Carmine Alfano is named principal of Summerfield Elementary School in Hillsborough County. Gradebook.

Meeting skirmish: A Sarasota County School Board meeting that began by celebrating student reading achievements devolved into a bitter squabble about posting the minutes from a workshop meeting online. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Notable deaths: Pat Seery, founder of the Grassroots Free School in Tallahassee, has died at the age of 73. Tallahassee Democrat.

Three teachers suspended: Three Broward County teachers are suspended without pay. Miramar High math teacher Dagoberto Magana-Velasquez is suspended five days for making racial slurs and calling students dummies. Diane Neville, of Gulfstream Middle, gets a 15-day suspension for making threatening statements to other district staffers. And Stephen DeMatties, of West Broward High, gets a two-day suspension for falling asleep in class and checking social media instead of supervising his class. Sun-Sentinel.

Student arrested: An 18-year-old senior is arrested at Godby High School with an unloaded sawed-off shotgun and almost an ounce of marijuana in his car. Tallahassee Democrat.

False threat: A Bartow High School student is in custody for mental evaluation after falsely reporting seeing a man with a gun on campus. The school was locked down for almost two hours while deputies investigated. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: Rather than arguing about school type, we should be spending our energy on combating inequity and ensuring that every family, in every community, has a great public school. Jesse L. Jackson, Orlando Sentinel. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with school uniforms. But they aren’t a cure-all, and they shouldn’t be elevated above the real goals of public education. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Bills to protect Florida students’ religious liberties appears to be a solution in search of a problem. Ocala Star Banner.

Student enrichment: Hannah Mason, a student at Lake Butler Middle School, wins the Union County spelling bee. Florida Times-Union. Annie Farrell, a senior at Coral Gables High School, wins a statewide 2017 Spirit of Community Award for community service. Miami Herald. Ydelmis Cutino, a 17-year-old senior at Booker High School in Sarasota, is the first student to start dual enrollment classes at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee since the program started last summer. Cutino already has 37 college credits and sports a 5.2 GPA. Bradenton Herald. Financial literacy is the focus of Rob Moramarco’s math classes at Gainesville’s Eastside High. Gainesville Sun. Students at Rymfire Elementary School in Palm Coast create the Hammock, a space in the media center with STEM-related playthings. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Fifteen Bay County classrooms will share $28,000 in STEM grants from the Bay Education Foundation. Panama City News Herald.