Florida schools roundup: Schools of hope compromise, budget and more

Schools of hope: A compromise on the “schools of hope” bill is drawing support from previously opposed Democratic lawmakers. The $200 million measure was introduced by the House to offer incentives to highly regarded charter school companies to open schools in areas where traditional public schools are persistently low performing. While details of the compromise are not known, some Democrats involved in the process say it’s a mixture of the original House bill and a Senate suggestion that more money be made available to public schools before charters are recruited. “I think we’re 80 percent there” on a final compromise, says House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. Miami HeraldPolitico FloridaWFSU. Teachers and education activists protest the legislation at a news conference in Tampa. “Diverting $200 million in our taxpayer money away from our children’s public schools to unaccountable private companies is a terrible plan,” said Michelle Prieto, coordinator for the group Mi Familia Vota. Florida Politics.

Budget agreement: Senate and House leaders announce a deal on an $83 billion budget that blends the educational priorities of both chambers. Details are being worked out in conference committee. Associated PressPolitico Florida. Public school leaders make a last-minute push for more K-12 funding. Politico Florida.

Virtual open enrollment: The House passes a bill allowing Florida students to attend any virtual charter school in the state that is authorized by a school district. Right now, students can only attend the virtual school in the district in which they live. Many consider the bill as the natural extension of the state’s new open enrollment law, which allows any student to attend any public school that has space available. redefinED.

Reversing district cuts: The Brevard County School District is starting to reverse some of the significant budget cuts made by previous Superintendent Brian Binggeli during a financial crisis in 2013. A shuttered school is being reopened, and busing for choice students, an expansion of the gifted program and adding school police officers and clerks are all being considered. Florida Today.

New schools questioned: Two new schools are being proposed for the Brickell area of Miami. One would be a traditional public schools for middle and possibly high school students, and the other is a Mater Academy K-12 charter school. Critics of the plans say there are plenty of spots open in nearby schools. Miami Herald.

Bethune statue: The Florida Senate passes a resolution urging that a statue of educator Mary McLeod Bethune replace the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith at the U.S. Capitol. Bethune founded the college that is now known as Bethune-Cookman, in Daytona Beach. The other statue at the Capitol is of John Gorrie, an Apalachicola doctor who is considered the father of air conditioning. Florida Politics.

Superintendent’s evaluation: Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins has done well in improving graduation rates and in other areas, school board members say in his evaluation. But they think he needs to improve his communication skills. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher evaluations: The Pinellas County School District is considering switching to a modified, simpler version of the Marzano system to evaluate teachers. The system being considered would use 23 indicators to compile an observation score, instead of the current 60, and the weighting of the scores would change. Gradebook.

Union unrest: Employees of the state’s biggest teachers union, the Florida Education Association, complain about their working conditions and the direction of the organization, according to an anonymous poll. About 100 people work for the FEA, and 83 percent of the staff participated in the poll. The 74.

Rezoning challenge rejected: A state administrative judge rejects a complaint from parents that the Pasco County School Board did not properly follow state rules in approving new middle and high school boundaries in the east part of the county. Gradebook.

Building uncertainty: A report on what it will take to rehabilitate the Okaloosa County School District Administrative Complex is called incomplete by the school board. The company that made the report will meet with the board May 8 to clarify exactly what needs to be done and how much it will cost. The building was evacuated in March in March after vermin and “blow fly” infestations. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Canopy repairs: The Sarasota Architectural Foundation will pay the $34,000 needed to repair the concrete canopy walkway at Sarasota High School. The foundation also will install a plaque on a canopy pillar to highlight the architectural significance of the Paul Rudolph-designed canopy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent’s milestone: Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna talks about the challenges of his first 100 days on the job. Tallahassee Democrat.

Personnel changes: Stephanie Woodford, the head of the Hillsborough County School District’s human relations department, has been fired. She had been in the job since 2013. Gradebook. Former Republican state senator John Legg is named to the board of Step Up For Students, which helps administer the state’s tax credit scholarships for low-income students and the Gardiner scholarship for students with special needs. Step Up For Students hosts this blog. Politico Florida. redefinED.

Teachers win cash awards: Four Duval County teachers win Gladys Prior awards, earning them $15,000 each. The awards are given annually by philanthropist Gilchrest Berg in honor of his fourth-grade teacher. The winners are Patrice Haupt at Paxon School for Advanced Studies, Alicia Henderson at Assumption Catholic School, Larry Knight at Stanton College Preparatory and James Miller at La Villa Middle. Florida Times-Union.

School calendar: The Pasco County School Board will consider changing the 2017-2018 school calendar after being criticized for holding classes on Good Friday earlier this month. The board has already approved a calendar that will have students in school on March 30, 2018, which is Good Friday. Spring break is the week before. Gradebook.

Drone for school cops: Miami-Dade County School District police have bought a small drone with a camera, called a DJI Phantom, that sells for between $500 and $1,200. Officials have yet to say how they will use it. Miami New Times.

Slave ad draws suspension: A Fleming Island High School student is suspended after posting an ad on Craigslist entitled “two slaves for sale” that included a photo of two black students. WJAX.

Missing money: About $67,000 in money from athletic and other events is missing from Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. A suspect was identified, but the state attorney says there’s not enough evidence to file charges. Sun-Sentinel.

Two teachers arrested: Two Ocoee High School teachers are arrested and accused of committing sex crimes on the same female student. Chad Michael Coy, 27, and Ryan Stewart Kirkpatrick, 22, are charged with committing a sexual act with a 16- or 17-year-old by a school authority. Orlando Sentinel.

Students arrested: Three Seminole Middle School students are arrested and accused of assaulting a teacher and a support employee. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. A female student at Lake Worth High School is detained after school officials find an unloaded gun in her backpack. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: The McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, which allows parents to use the state funding allocated to their special-needs child to find the best educational fit for that child, increases school choice and the point that it inherently tries to address: Each child is different, with different needs. Patricia Levesque, Tampa Bay Times. Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, recently said that all charter schools are not-for-profit. Florida provision requires charter schools to be operated or controlled by a nonprofit organization. But many nonprofit charter school boards enter into contracts with for-profit companies. Cortes’ statement leaves out important details, so we rate it half true. Politifact Florida.

Student enrichment: Remie Bivens, a Newbury High School student, is named one of Florida’s Youth School volunteers of the year. Gainesville Sun. Students at the Doral Academy in Miami start a Go-Fund-Me page to raise money for Syrian children. They’re partnering with Save the Children, a group that promotes children’s rights in developing countries. Miami Herald. Panama City churches and volunteers provide bags of food for about 1,600 needy Bay County students every Friday. Panama City News Herald. Leesburg High School students earn “Bee Bucks” for good behavior that can be exchanged for treats every Wednesday. Daily Commercial.

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BY NextSteps staff