Florida schools roundup: Charter schools, kids’ well-being, pay and more

Charter schools: The Florida Department of Education overrules the Manatee County School Board’s denial of a charter school application last year. Parrish Charter Academy’s application was denied because board members decided the school’s plan did not meet state standards in five areas and did so only partially in four others. Parrish appealed, and the department followed its charter school appeal commission’s recommendation to reverse the denial. Because of the delay, the school may not open until 2019. Bradenton Herald. Plans for the first charter high school in Volusia County have been withdrawn. Officials of the Ivy Hawn School for the Arts and Sciences decided not to present their application after it became clear that Superintendent Tom Russell would recommend to the school board that the application be denied. Ivy Hawn backers say they’ll apply next year. Russell also is recommending against approval for a K-8 charter school, Volusia Charter Academy. District officials had doubts about both schools’ abilities to handle special-needs students, among other things. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

State of children: Minority children will outnumber white children by 2024, but they continue to lag behind on indicators including reading proficiency, pre-kindergarten enrollment, and poverty by racial group, according to the latest Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Florida ranks 29th in well-being of white children, 9th with Hispanic children, and 28th with black children. “We certainly have the data to say this is a national crisis and so many children are falling through the cracks at a faster rate than ever before,” says Florida Kids Count director Dr. Norín Dollard. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times.

Filling classrooms: The Hillsborough County School District is preparing a plan that would bring preschool students into empty classrooms. There are about 29,000 empty seats in the district, and Superintendent Jeff Eakins thinks retrofitting them for 3- and 4-year-olds would better prepare the children for school and also make better use of available space. Tampa Bay Times.

Bill would bump pay: A bill to boost pay for teachers and principals is filed by state Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. Under the bill, H.B. 389, teachers and principals would get a $3,000 raise in 2018, then 3 percent increases in each of the next three years. News Service of Florida.

Ethics and charters: The Florida Commission on Ethics, with a 3-3 vote, rejects a staff opinion that charter schools are not public agencies. The staff issued the opinion last week after Robin Gibson, who is a Lake Wales city commissioner and general counsel for the Lake Wales Charter Schools, asked about potential ethical conflicts if the city donated or sold land to the charter schools. Ethics commissioner Guy Norris said he didn’t see how a charter school could be considered a private entity, since it gets money from the state and must follow some state regulations. Politico Florida.

Coexisting with charters: The Sarasota County School District is held up as a model of how school districts can integrate and coexist with charter schools. Superintendent Todd Bowden says the district starts with the attitude that charter schools are part of the district, and their successes contribute to the district’s. “There are years for which we would not have been an A-rated district if we had removed some of the charter schools from that system,” Bowden told the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools’ forum last week. redefinED.

Contract negotiations: Hillsborough County’s teachers are told by the district that they won’t be getting the $4,000 raises they were scheduled to get as part of an agreement reached in 2013. During a negotiating session, district officials say they can’t afford to do so, and say they are trying to avoid additional layoffs. Another session is scheduled next week. Gradebook. The Bay County School District and its teachers union come to an agreement on every issue except pay. The union wants $2.2 million for raises, and the district is offering $2 million. The deadline to reach an agreement is Nov. 1. Panama City News Herald.

Displaced students: More than 1,000 students from islands devastated by natural disaster have enrolled in Orange County schools. About 75 percent of them are from Puerto Rico. About 2,000 displaced students have enrolled in Florida schools, and many more are expected. WKMG. Daily Commercial. WTSP.

Minority teachers: A report on the distribution of new teachers in Pinellas County still shows high levels at struggling elementary schools – between 10 and 20 percent. But that’s not as high as the levels in the 2014-2015 school year, when the district was criticized by the state for clustering new teachers in struggling schools. The report also shows that African-Americans now make up 9 percent of the district’s teachers, up from 8.8 percent last year. The district’s goal is to mirror the district’s black student enrollment, which is 18 percent. Gradebook.

STEAM curriculum: One hundred and thirty-four Santa Rosa County teachers are getting training to support the expansion of  district’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math education program into high schools. It’s the third year that the curriculum has been used. Santa Rosa is reportedly the first U.S. district to have a comprehensive K-12 STEAM program, according to digital content provider Discovery Education. Pensacola News Journal.

Abuse reporting policies: Three changes are proposed for the process of reporting child abuse allegations within the Okaloosa County School District: The superintendent would be required to notify the parent involved in a complaint, notify school board members, and report all suspected student neglect or abuse to the Department of Children and Families central abuse hotline. The proposed policies will be discussed at public hearings. Northwest Florida Daily News.

School security: Coral Springs city commissioners are asking Broward County school officials why promised school security measures have not yet been installed at Coral Springs High School. The district said it would provide single-entry point security at the school when an $800 million bond issue was approved by voters in 2014. The project hasn’t been started, and a year ago a former student walked into the school with a loaded gun. School officials say the project will be completed by the summer of 2019, but commissioners say that’s too long to wait. Sun-Sentinel.

Late software overhaul: Installation of a new business software system for the Manatee County School District is behind schedule and over budget, according to school officials. The original cost estimate was $10 million, with a completion date of February 2017. The new cost estimates are $19.3 million, with a completion date of July 2018. The school board will vote today on the change. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Bus stop escorts: Tampa police are escorting students to their bus stops in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood, where three people have been murdered in the past 11 days. Tampa Bay Times.

Principal honored: Ahmet Temel, principal at Tallahassee School of Math and Science, is one of nine Florida principals to be given the 2017 Florida TaxWatch Principal Leadership Award. The principals were honored for their success at high-risk schools. Tallahassee Democrat.

Personnel moves: The Pasco County School District is losing two administrators: Tallahassee lobbyist Spencer Pylant is resigning in November to become government affairs director for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and Lynn Pabst is retiring as principal of New River Elementary School. Gradebook.

Notable deaths: Marcellus Andre Shackelford, 38, a teacher and girls basketball coach at Wesley Chapel High School, and another man die in a car crash near the border of Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. James Anglin, longtime agriculture science teacher at Inverness Middle School and a Future Farmers of America adviser, dies at 55 after a long illness. Citrus County Chronicle.

New charter thriving: Classroom innovation, a STEAM curriculum and a green philosophy combine to make the newly opened Babcock Neighborhood School a hit in its first year. The K-6 charter in Lee County quickly reached its 156-student capacity, has a waiting list of almost 100 and gets about 10 applications a week. Fort Myers News-Press.

Ex-teacher arrested: A former teacher at Lake Academy in Eustis is arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. Alex Michael Palomino, 27, was a behavioral technician at the school, but no longer works there. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Two students arrested: Two students are arrested and charged with battery after pushing a Ribault High School administrator to the ground several times during a melee at a school pep rally last week. A third student is also expected to be charged. Florida Times-Union.

Opinions on schools: A team of journalists from the Orlando Sentinel demonstrated last week beyond any doubt whatsoever that dramatic reform in Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program is desperately needed, and that it should be implemented quickly, before any more students in the program are damaged any further. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Our students deserve more than a profit-driven approach to education. Our children should not be looked at as tools for corporate money schemes. Wendy Doromal, Orlando Sentinel. We can’t create draconian rules for public schools and then water them down a bit for charter schools or drown them completely for private schools. Kerry Smith, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Immokalee High School’s all-girls robotics team wins the VEX Robotics tournament in Miami, beating 52 other teams. Naples Daily News. Sarasota County school officials say 22 percent of the food consumed in their cafeterias is grown on farms in the area and state. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Pasco County students get to make music with the Florida Orchestra at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge. Tampa Bay Times. Fifty Leon County teachers visit Florida A&M’s Meek-Eaton Black Archives & Museum to learn how to better integrate local information into black history lessons. Tallahassee Democrat. Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Co. presents a $2 million check to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit program. Sun-Sentinel. The Pasco County School District launches an updated school choice website. Gradebook. The Clay County School District is partnering with an ambulance service to give career academy students training toward certification. Florida Times-Union. The Broward County School Board is considering opening a greenhouse system at Plantation Middle School that would provide food for the school and also allow students to sell extra food onsite, like a farmer’s market. Sun-Sentinel.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff