Florida schools roundup: H.B. 7069 suit, charter school conversion and more

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: A law firm is selected to represent the Florida school districts that are suing the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. Husch Blackwell, a Chicago firm, will handle the case, with attorney John Borkowski taking the lead. Borkowski is not licensed to practice in Florida, however, so Harrison Sale McCloy, the law firm of Bay County School District attorney Franklin Harrison, will work with Borkowski. The Bay, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Polk, Lee, Volusia, St. Lucie and Hamilton school districts have all agreed to join the suit. Several other districts are considering joining them. Panama City News Herald.

Charter conversion: The Manatee County School Board approves the conversion of Lincoln Middle School into a charter school. It’s only the 22nd time in Florida that district-run schools have converted into charter schools. The changeover was initiated by the school staff and parents, and recommended by Superintendent Diana Greene. Local NAACP president Rodney Jones backed the conversion, even though the national group recently called for a moratorium on charter schools. “We are seeing kids go astray,” Jones says. “They should be allowed the opportunity to give the child the best opportunity of success that they can possibly have. They will provide a very unique cultural experience for these students that they will not get anywhere else.” The school has about 500 students, and every one receives a free or reduced-price lunch. redefineED. Bradenton Herald.

Teacher shortage: School districts around the United States are increasingly falling back on emergency measures to fill teaching vacancies. In Citrus County, the district is looking at retirees. In Franklin County, school officials made a last-minute math teacher hire and avoided the contingency plan of online classes. Some districts are hiring parents, and others are hiring people without any formal teacher training or certification. Education Week.

VAM evaluation use: While some state school districts are moving away from use of the value-added model to evaluate teachers, Pasco County school say they most likely will continue to use it. Union officials have no problem with that, saying its use hasn’t changes the outcomes of evaluations. The district and union are negotiating a contract. Gradebook.

School board diversity: Having more diverse school boards can reduce suspension rates for all students and closes the gap between whites and minorities, according to a study by criminology researchers at Florida State University. “We know that school suspensions have implications for a variety of crime and justice outcomes,” said study co-author Patricia Warren, an FSU associate professor. “Policymakers and school administrators should continue to explore alternative school punishments that do not force students out of school for long periods of time.” Florida State University.

New school discussion: A developer who is offering land and money to the school district in return for permission to build in Palm Beach County’s agricultural reserve wants the district to sign a legally binding contract. But school officials say they want to wait until they know if the county will grant permission for the homes. Any decision from the county is not likely to come before December. Palm Beach Post.

Charter turnaround: A Leon County charter school begins a do-or-die turnaround on a two-year timetable. Governor’s Charter Academy, a K-8 school, got a D grade from the state, leading the school board to to give the school two years to improve or be terminated. The school has a new team of administrators, and half the teachers were replaced. Tallahassee Democrat.

Community meetings: Brevard County School Superintendent Desmond Blackburn and school board members will hold a series of community meetings to brief residents and answer questions. Florida Today.

Technical education: During a campaign stop, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam re-emphasizes the need to have more career technical education available to Florida students. He acknowledges the importance of science, technology, engineering and math education, but says the emphasis placed on it does not reflect the state’s current workforce needs. Florida Politics.

Recess time: Citrus County school officials continue to tweak schedules to give students the state-required 20 minutes a day of recess. Citrus County Chronicle.

District schools ranked: More than 70 Palm Beach County public schools received A grades from the state, but there is variance among them under Florida’s school-grading formula. Here are the top 20. Palm Beach Post.

School traffic accidents: An assistant principal directing traffic at a Coral Springs high school is injured when she’s hit by a vehicle. Lisa Pannazzo, 56, was struck by an SUV at J.P. Taravella High School and pinned on the ground. Her injuries are not life-threatening, police say. The driver of the SUV, 43, says she confused the brake and gas pedals. Sun-Sentinel. A Key West High School employee is hurt when a student hits him with his car in the parking lot. Richard Fox is expected to make a full recovery. Key West Citizen. A Navarre Primary School student was hospitalized when one Santa Rosa County school bus runs into the back of another. Pensacola News Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Principal arrested: The principal at the Miami Jackson Adult Education Center is arrested and accused of using $42,000 in school funds to pay a housekeeper. Joey Bautista, 48, was put on special assignment when the district became aware of the investigation and will be fired. Miami Herald.

Sex battery reported: A Gateway Charter High School student says she was sexually battered on a school van by another student, who continued his unwelcome advances throughout the school day. School officials have reported the incident to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Fort Myers News-Press.

Backpack leads to arrest: The smell of marijuana emanating from a Palm Springs Middle School student’s backpack leads police to the student’s home, where they arrest his parents for growing the drug. Associated Press.

Wrongful death suit: The family of a 15-year-old Wakulla boy who killed himself files a wrongful death lawsuit against the school board, the sheriff and the teacher who was arrested for having an inappropriate relationship with him. Tallahassee Democrat.

PTA treasurer arrested: The treasurer at the Brooker Creek Elementary Parent-Teacher Association is arrested and accused of stealing $5,000 from the organization. Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies say Lisa McMenamin, 50, used the money to pay her credit card and phone bills. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: The fact that problems plague some charter school networks doesn’t reveal a flaw in the Schools of Hope plan. It shows why Florida could use that program — or, at least, something like it. Travis Pillow, redefinED. No amount of rationalizing about the Great Recession, the loss of state money or the age of certain schools can change the fact that Hillsborough County school officials did not react forcefully enough to their air-conditioning crisis. Tampa Bay Times. That some Hillsborough County schools are without air-conditioning is a moral failure by Republican leaders in Tallahassee who are more interested in helping the for-profit charter school industry than in ensuring the more than 2.5 million children in traditional public schools have the resources they need to succeed. State Rep. Janet Cruz, Florida Politics. Why should Hillsborough County officials wait for a child to get seriously injured or killed before deciding to resume courtesy busing? Danielle Hauser, Tampa Bay Times.

Student enrichment: Cameron Gant, a junior inventor and filmmaker at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Hernando County, gets an audience with some of the nation’s greatest scientific minds at the recent Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders. Tampa Bay Times. Ninety-five percent of the Gainesville High School students in the Cambridge program receive the Advanced International Certificate of Education diploma, Alachua County school officials announce. Gainesville Sun. Five Bay County schools are getting career academies for construction, hospitality and tourism, and pre-med. Panama City News Herald. A drive initiated by the Clay County teachers union brings in 40,000 books for students and school libraries. Clay Today.