Florida schools roundup: ESSA plan, H.B. 7069, gender neutrality and more

ESSA plan submitted: Florida submits its plan on how it will implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The deadline to file the plan was Monday, but the state received an extension from the U.S. Department of Education because of Hurricane Irma. The plan would continue the state’s accountability program, which calls for annual standardized testing and school and district grades, and increase the reporting period for English language learners from two years to four years. The state originally planned to ask for several waivers, but backed off in the final plan. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Politico Florida.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Two more Florida school districts will join 12 districts in suing over the state’s new education law, H.B. 7069, while another district narrowly decides against it. Joining the suit are the Alachua and Wakulla school boards. Manatee board members vote 3-2 against signing on to the suit, which has yet to be filed. Gradebook.

Gender-neutral request: A 5th grade teacher at Canopy Oaks Elementary School in Leon County riles some parents with a request that her students use gender-neutral pronouns in class. In a note to parents, Chloe Bressack wrote: “My pronouns are ‘they, them, their’ instead of ‘he, his, she, hers.’ I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural, but students catch on pretty quickly.” She also ask that students address her as Mx. Bressack. Principal Paul Lambert says he supports Bressack’s request, and Superintendent Rocky Hanna says, “I can assure you that teachers in our district will not be allowed to use their influence in the classroom to advance any personal belief or political agenda. At this time, I do not believe that is the case in this instance.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Makeup days, storm recovery: Some school districts announce decisions about making up days lost to Hurricane Irma, while others are still considering their options. The Florida Department of Education says it will waive two days, but other days will have to be made up. Schools may apply before Oct. 16 for an exemption. Bradenton Herald. Sun-Sentinel. WFLA. WTSPGradebookGainesville SunNaples Daily News. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Daily Commercial. Citrus County Chronicle. Eighty books and several board games were stolen from a Dunedin Highland Middle School classroom when the school was used an an evacuation shelter. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. The Pasco County School District approves spending up to $10,000 to hire a consultant to supervise the filing of a claim to FEMA for storm damage reimbursement. The district has 30 days to initiate a claim and 60 days to file it. Gradebook. The Immokalee Community School, a charter school primarily for migrant families, plays a key role in the community’s recovery. redefinED.

District budgets: The Pasco County School Board approves a budget of $1.19 billion that includes an undisclosed amount of money set aside for pay raises. Tampa Bay Times. The Hernando County School Board approves a $285.9 million budget, which includes almost $50 million for school improvements and equipment. Tampa Bay Times. Citrus County School Board members approve a $217.9 million budget. Citrus County Chronicle.

School repairs: Air-conditioning repairs will be made at four Hillsborough County schools with $2 million that had been set aside to replace the air-conditioning system at Lee Elementary School, which was destroyed by a fire Sept. 12. Gradebook.

School changes: Pasco County School Board members urge district officials to slow down on the plan to remake Ridgewood High School into a technical education school by the fall of 2018. Superintendent Kurt Browning said he will look into the proposal further and update the board in October. Tampa Bay Times.

District wish list: Brevard County school officials present a wish list to their legislators, and it’s about the same as last year’s: Please get us more money for busing and vocational programs. Florida Today.

Teacher suspended: A highly regarded teacher at Lake Shore Middle School is suspended after several students in his class engaged in sexual activity while he worked on his computer. Brent Swady, a civics teacher who was the school’s nominee for Duval County teacher of the year, told investigators he saw only one instance of inappropriate contact, and cautioned the offender. School officials say Sawdy “failed to provide adequate supervision when he allowed students in his class to participate in an inappropriate game which involved kissing and exposure of private body parts.” He’s been suspended for a week without pay. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. WJXT.

Teacher resigns: A 1st grade teacher at a Bay County elementary school resigns a week after her arrest on drug charges. Kenya Williams, who taught at Breakfast Point Academy, is charged with keeping a public nuisance structure for drug activity. Panama City News Herald.

Teachers arrested: A Hillsborough County teacher is arrested and accused of stealing another teacher’s wallet and using her credit cards. Sheriff’s deputies say Sylvia Clark, 58, took the wallet from a teacher who was watching her students during recess at Hammond Elementary School in Odessa, and later in the day used a credit card at Publix. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. David Michael Stokes, 45, a history teacher at Ramblewood Middle School in Coral Springs, is arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor after two teens were found intoxicated in his car at 2:50 a.m. in a public park. He’s been removed from the classroom pending the investigation. Sun-Sentinel.

After-school aide sentenced: A Plantation after-school program counselor is sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity. Roosevelt Miller, 20, a counselor at Plantation Middle School, pleaded guilty in June. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: The state’s Best and Brightest scholarships program for teachers violates common sense and is an affront to all educators. Indeed, it’s so laughably misguided that it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to change it. A simple act of the Legislature will suffice. Sun-Sentinel. As the Manatee County School District moves forward with a plan to ask voters to approve a property tax for education, we urge officials to be as explicit as possible about how this proposal would translate into reality, and to establish a framework for monitoring how the funds would be spent. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It is imperative that, as a community, we collectively analyze and critique negative media depictions of our public schools and question how those negative depictions drive education policy. Elizabeth Currin and Stephanie Schroeder, Gainesville Sun. A student who is struggling in many subjects as reflected by low test scores may have a much larger problem than the ability to retain certain subject matter. She or he may have a serious reading disability that needs to be addressed. Bill Hoatson, Tallahassee Democrat. If Florida wants more high school students to study computer coding, it should allow students to substitute a coding class for biology 1. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Fourteen students from Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties are named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Northwest Florida Daily News.