Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069, new rules, charter fees, climate and more

Video rebuttal: Florida House Republicans respond to a threat to sue over H.B. 7069 by releasing a promotional video touting the “schools of hope” provision in the bill, which creates incentives for charter schools to move into areas with persistently low-performing public schools. The video says those opposed to H.B. 7069 don’t want to give tens of thousands of children in failing schools another public education option. Last week, the Broward County School Board voted to sue over the bill, claiming it improperly forces districts to share property tax revenue with charter schools and strips local boards of the authority to approve or deny charter applications. Miami Herald. At its July 25 meeting, the Manatee County School Board will consider joining Broward County in a lawsuit against H.B. 7069. Bradenton Herald.

New school rules: Here are some of the new rules in effect when schools reopen next month. Orlando Sentinel. Is H.B. 989 a threat to science teaching, or an expansion of accountability? Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Charter school fees: Are charter schools charging questionable or even illegal fees? In the past five years, there are eight cases of charters doing just that in the United States. One of those cases was in Hillsborough County, where the school board felt compelled to caution one school against pushing parents for donations, using invoices for donations, and against dismissing students because parents didn’t give even volunteer hours. Education Week.

Teaching climate change: A study financed by the National Science Foundation concludes that more than half of science teachers in Florida are passing along faulty information on climate change. About 70 percent incorrectly think ozone layer depletion and pesticide use are causes of climate change, and about 50 percent say climate change science has to be studied through controlled experiments to be valid. WUWF.

Foreign-exchange scandal: A Miami-Dade schools administrator is being investigated over a sex scandal with foreign exchange students involving her ex-husband. Police say Dale Leary and his ex-wife, Claudia Leary, the school administrator, tried to kill themselves after he was arrested and accused of molesting the younger sister of an exchange student that the Learys hosted and Dale later married. Dale Leary died, but Claudia Leary is expected to survive. Miami Herald.

Gifted options: The Duval County School District’s planned expansion of its gifted programs hasn’t been unanimously approved by all parents. Some prefer the model of pulling out a child once a week for something special, and others question the idea of separating gifted students. The district is moving ahead toward placing all-day, every-day programs for gifted students at every school. Florida Times-Union.

School impact fees: The Tampa Bay Builders Association is lobbying against the Pasco County School District’s proposed school impact fee increase. The district wants to double the fees on new home construction. The association says the hike is an “overly aggressive fee system (that) will strip money from your pockets and set Pasco County back.” The county commission will consider the fee increase Tuesday. Gradebook.

School renovations: The Martin County School Board is considering borrowing money to begin renovations of South Fork High School’s athletic facilities. If the board approves, the project would begin during the 2018-2019 budget year instead of 2019-2020. The loan would be at least partially paid back with proceeds from the sale of the district’s administration building in Stuart. TCPalm.

Title I funding: The Escambia and Santa Rosa school districts will receive a bump in Title I funding from the federal government, school officials say. Title I grants are awarded to schools with more than 40 percent of their students living in poverty. Escambia will receive $13.5 million, a boost of about $700,000, and Santa Rosa will get $4.4 million, or about $100,000 more than it did last year. Pensacola News Journal.

School grades: More reports on grades for school districts and schools. Perry News-Herald. The County Record. Holmes County Times Advertiser. Gilchrist County Journal.

New charter school: The Florida Charter Educational Foundation, backed by Charter Schools USA, files a draft application to build a charter school in southwest Alachua County. The foundation wants to build the Alachua Charter School for 1,145 students and open it for the 2018-2019 school year. Gainesville Sun.

Technical education: In a Q&A, Michael Armbruster, associate superintendent of career and technical education for the Orange County School District, talks about the benefits of technical education, and points out that some jobs directly out of high school can pay up to $80,000 a year. Orlando Sentinel.

Personnel moves: Vicki Schultz, principal at Sandalwood High School, is expected to be named the new chief of schools for the Duval County School District by interim Superintendent Patricia Willis. Sharwonda Peek, principal of James Weldon Johnson Middle, is expected to be named assistant superintendent for school choice. The school board votes on the hirings today. Florida Times-Union.

New judge assigned: A new judge is assigned to hear the defamation lawsuit of a former athletic director/football coach of Manatee High School against the school board and two former administrators. The previous two judges assigned to the case recused themselves. Bradenton Herald.

School times: The Marion County School District sets start and finish times for all county schools. Ocala Star Banner.

Tutoring contract: The Volusia County School District rehires A+ Tutoring Inc. of Ormond Beach a year after switching companies. School officials say they didn’t get the results they expected with Catapult Learning of Camden, N.J., and turned back to A+, which had provided tutoring services for the district for 14 years. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Board chief to prison: The president of the board at the Manatee School of Arts and Sciences is sentenced to eight months in jail for stealing $27,591 from the small charter school in Bradenton. Lori Bergeron pleaded no contest and also was ordered to pay back the money. Bergeron spent four years in prison from 2003-2007 after a conviction on arson and fraud charges, but was still appointed to the board and given authority to the school’s bank accounts. Bradenton Herald.

School officer fired: A Pasco County school resources officer at Fivay High School is fired after he allegedly sent inappropriate social media messages to several female students. Milton Arroyo, 50, also was arrested on charges of illegally accessing the law enforcement database at the sheriff’s office. Tampa Bay Times.

High school fined: The Florida High School Athletic Association fines Archbishop McCarthy High School about $16,000 and its baseball team will forfeit all its 2017 regular-season victories for fielding ineligible players who were getting impermissible benefits. The school, in Southwest Ranches, will retain the 2017 state baseball title because none of the players participated in the playoffs. Sun Sentinel.

Teacher investigated: A Duval County teacher is under investigation for allegedly calling her elementary school black students “rats who could infest the class.” School officials say they will “take appropriate action … when school resumes” against Jordan Cataldo, a teacher at Carter G. Woodson Elementary. WJAX.

School vandalized: Four people break into Golden Gate High School, stealing more than $1,500 worth of items and vandalizing the school. Naples Daily News.

Opinions on schools: Florida has evolved into a paradise for complainers about public school curriculum. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. School districts have relinquished discipline, in large measure, to law enforcement agencies. And so the “school-to-prison pipeline” is overflowing with students. Michael T. Mangino, Northwest Florida Daily News. A new state law might spark challenges to evolution and climate change. But the challenges won’t be limited to science; the law permits any resident to challenge anything. And some school officials are bracing for the deluge. Gil Smart, TCPalm. If people who do not have kids in schools in Florida can complain about what kids are taught in schools in Florida, why can’t anyone who has ever been to Florida complain about what kids are taught in schools in Florida? It only seems fair, if not wildly ridiculous like the new law itself. Scott Hollifield, McDowell (Marion, N.C.) News. We, as a state and a community, should be striving to elevate the quality of our public schools that educate the vast number of Florida children rather than shoveling money to unproven charter school operators looking to get their hands in the public education trough. Ocala Star Banner. The end of a garden-planting program at schools through Bok Tower Gardens is a stiff lesson in Tallahassee politics — one that has left a bad taste in plenty of mouths. Lakeland Ledger. The answer to narrowing the education gap will not be found in gimmicks or the state’s zealous pivot toward charter schools. It will require a sustained commitment of human and financial capital, and the willingness of school officials to tap into communities that stand ready to lend a hand. Tampa Bay Times. How Vero Beach Elementary School went from an F grade from the state to a C. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. Let’s listen to the voices of our schools. They are telling us what needs to be done and how to do it. They have insights the Legislature does not. Carole Fernandez, Gainesville Sun. School grades are only one measure of student success, but they do provide Flagler and Volusia students, parents and educators with tangible recognition of their hard work — and another motive to keep pushing toward excellence. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student enrichment: Summer interns are cleaning, re-imaging and testing 68,000 Duval County School District computers. Florida Times-Union. Teenage students learn about careers, life skills and community service at Support Our Students, a free summer program at Dunbar Community School in Fort Myers. Fort Myers News-Press.