Florida schools roundup: Teacher bonuses, H.B. 7069, eclipse and more

Teacher bonuses: Each Florida school district will be responsible for determining the eligibility of teachers for state bonuses under the “Best & Brightest” teacher bonuses program, the Department of Education says. The program was redefined as part of the new education bill, H.B. 7069, which also calls for $1,200 payments to teachers rated “highly effective,” up to $800 for those rated “effective,” plus bonuses for those teachers who scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT test. Teachers are expected to receive the bonuses April 1. Principals are also eligible for bonuses for the first time, but the state has yet to say how that program will work. Miami Herald.

H.B. 7069: Orange County School Board members informally say they are likely to join the lawsuit against the new state education law, H.B. 7069. All eight members support the suit, saying the law infringes on the authority of school boards and could hurt students. The board expects to take an official, binding vote next week. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE. Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has removed state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, from his assignment as chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee for pre-K-12 education. Replacing him is first-term Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. Simmons angered many Republican leaders by voting against the House’s top priority, H.B. 7069. Negron denies the change was made as punishment. Gradebook. Naples Daily News. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida. Simmons says he plans to remain involved in education issues. Gradebook.

Eclipse schedules: School districts around the state are deciding if their students will be permitted to view the solar eclipse Monday, and if they will be, how they might do so safely. Sun-SentinelGradebook. WPLG. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton HeraldOcala Star-Banner. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. WFTV. Florida Today. WQAM. Panama City News Herald. Lakeland Ledger. WJAX. WFLA. WTSP.

Superintendent evaluation: Lake County School Superintendent Diane Kornegay earns high marks in her first formal evaluation by the school board, and will receive a $7,000 bonus on top of her $195,000 salary. Board members gave Kornegay a cumulative average of 4.313 on a 5-point scale. She’s been on the job 100 days. Daily Commercial.

Superintendent search: Duval County School Board members agree that all public comment on the search for a new superintendent will go through board chairwoman Paula Wright. Wright says she wants to give the appearance of the board members being collaborative, hoping that will improve the chances of attracting high-quality candidates. Florida Times-Union.

Back to school: More from districts around Florida that have returned to school or will soon. Key West Citizen. School enrollment is up for a fifth consecutive year in Pasco County. On Monday, the first day of school, there were 1,254 more students than on the first day last year, and school officials expect another 550 to arrive soon. Gradebook.

School impact fees: The Pasco County Commission approves an increase in school impact fees on new home construction. The fees will go up $2,300 on Jan. 1, and another $600 in 2019 and again in 2020, eventually taking them to $8,328. School officials say they need to extra money to build schools to accommodate increasing enrollment. Gradebook.

Turnaround plan: A charter school’s turnaround plan was criticized by Sarasota County School Superintendent Todd Bowden and school board members, who say  school officials seemed unprepared and the plan was light on details. The Suncoast School for Innovative Studies is the only county school to get a D grade from the state. School officials will rework the plan and present it to the board Sept. 19. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School closes: Catapult Academy, a dropout prevention school in Tampa, closed Tuesday. Hillsborough County school officials issued a statement: “The contract with Catapult Academy expired on June 30. We have reviewed data with regard to student success and the outcomes are not where we believe they should be for students.” WFLA.

Proposed school: Parents seem more enthusiastic about the prospect of a high school in Destin than the students who might attend it. The Okaloosa County School Board is proposing a half-cent sales tax increase to expand Destin Middle School into a school for grades 6-12. If it’s approved by voters, construction would begin in 2019. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Home schooling decline: While the number of Florida students being home-schooled continues to go up, Miami-Dade County has shown a decline of 11 percent. Home schooling advocates say the decline can be explained by the county’s request for documentation beyond what the state requires, though other state districts that also ask for additional documentation have not seen similar declines. Some parents also say that demand for extra personal information has prompted the creation of so-called umbrella schools, which are private schools that offer programs to home-schooled students, who then don’t show up in the state’s data as home-schooled. redefinED. A Pensacola parent explains why she has chosen to “unschool” her 5-year-old daughter. WEAR.

Substance abuse program: The Lee County School District starts a substance abuse intervention program that will keep first-time offenders in their schools instead of being suspended or sent to an alternative school. A nonprofit, the Hanley Foundation, is providing the $450,000 for the program. WGCU.

School nurses: Nurses would be placed in every Pinellas County school by 2021 under a plan worked out between the Pinellas County Commission and the school board. The commission will vote Sept. 26 to raise the millage rate enough to raise $1.5 million a year to fund the expansion. Right now, most school nurses cover two or three schools. Tampa Bay Times.

In-house auditing: Brevard County School Superintendent Desmond Blackburn wants to start an in-housing auditing department to address what he calls “huge blind spots” in the district’s finances. The move comes after $278,000 was embezzled from two schools, allegedly by the schools’ bookkeepers. Audit committee members react cautiously to the proposal, but agree to discuss it further at a meeting Sept. 21. Florida Today.

Schools and technology: Flagler County school officials are rolling out two programs that help parents, teachers and school officials monitor students’ use of district-issued computers. The cost is about $90,000 a year. Flagler Live.

Teacher training: A $480,000 grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation will be used to train Sarasota County teachers on ways to prepare lessons that help students be successful in math class. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School board elections: Former Collier County teacher Jen Mitchell announces her candidacy for the District 3 seat on the Collier County School Board. The seat is held by chairwoman Erika Donalds, who has not yet announced if she is running for re-election. Kathy Ryan is also a candidate. Naples Daily News.

Bus driver investigated: Pinellas County school officials are investigating the actions of a school bus driver who made 24 students get off her bus 10 blocks before it arrived at a dropout prevention school. Angela Williams, who has been driving for the district since 2005, says she put the students off the bus when she detected a “chemical smell” from the engine. “I feel that somebody’s pouring some kind of chemical on my bus,” she said on a call to dispatchers. “I feel like my life is threatened.” She has been removed from driving pending the investigation. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Opinions on schools: School choice should be evaluated by how it affects the lives of students, not how it affects the racial ratios of schools. Max Eden, Real Clear Education. A close look at the Collier County School District’s academic performance of 2016-17 creates a high bar for the incoming year’s student body and district staff to surpass. Naples Daily News. Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend has proposed that the school district implement a policy banning one district employee from supervising someone he or she is romantically involved with. The rest of the board should endorse his idea. Lakeland Ledger.

Student enrichment: About 20,000 low-income students in south Florida will be given a free phone or tablet and 3 GB of monthly data for up to four years under a nationwide project initiated by the wireless and Internet provider Sprint. PCMag. WFOR. More than 600 books and 300 backpacks with school supplies are being donated by Goodwill of Central Florida, Hope Not International and 9 Family Connection to low-income students at Rock Lake, Washington Shores and Mollie Ray elementary schools in central Florida. WFTV. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue donates an old fire engine to the Wellington High School Fire Academy to help students with hands-on training. Palm Beach Post. Riverdale High School students Daniela Jang, Sunghee Kim and Lauren Brashear win first place awards in the social media campaign category at the Future Business Leaders of America National Leadership Conference. Fort Myers News-Press. Village School of Naples student Katie Montgomery, 10, creates her own ice cream flavor, I Want S’More Ice Cream. Naples Daily News. Kindergartners from Wisconsin send tips on how to clean the beach after seeing news reports of litter on Sarasota County beaches. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff