Florida schools roundup: Resegregation, board term limits, Libre and more

Segregation and graduation: The resegregation of Florida schools, reported in a recent study, is likely to have a negative impact on graduation rates in the state. The authors of another study say dropout rates rise a percentage point for black students and 3 percentage points for Hispanics in U.S. school districts that don’t require integration of schools. Education Week.

Board term limits: Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board and the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, is proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would impose term limits on school board members. She suggests no board member be allowed to serve more than eight consecutive years. If it’s approved for the ballot by the commission, it would need the support of 60 percent of voters to go into effect. Gradebook.

Libre in Florida: The billionaire Koch brothers are financing a campaign called the Libre Initiative in Florida and several other states to convince Hispanic families of the merits of school choice. Included are bilingual mailings that back the law providing financial incentives for charter schools to move into areas with persistently struggling schools. The president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Mike Petrilli, says the Kochs’ selection of school choice as a core issue is “telling us they have good reason to believe this is an issue that’s resonating with Latino families.” Politico.

Board member investigated: An anonymous complaint prompts the Florida Department of Education to order an investigation of a Hillsborough County School Board member’s actions. According to a tip, Susan Valdes used her influence to have a district department dissolved so the staff couldn’t detect problems with construction work done by her friends and campaign donors. Tampa Bay Times.

Contract negotiations: The Miami-Dade County School District reaches a contract agreement with its teachers union. The deal calls for teachers rated “highly effective” to get a 2.67 percent raise, with “effective” teachers and support staff getting 2 percent hikes. If the deal is approved by the school board, new teachers would make $41,000 a year and the top rate would be $72,720. Miami Herald. The Okeechobee County School District and its teachers union is at a contract impasse. The district is offering bonuses for all teachers, but no raises. Okeechobee News. The Bay County School Board approves a contract agreement between the district and its teachers and other employees. The deal calls for raises of about 2.3 percent, and employees and the district will split the 7.5 percent increase in health insurance premiums. Panama City News Herald. The Polk County School Board delays a discussion about teacher raises until Nov. 14. Board members ask the district staff to research how much the district can afford. The two sides have been at an impasse for a year. Lakeland Ledger. Two-dozen Hillsborough County teachers protest the district’s decision to withhold previously promised raises. WTSP.

Tax holiday, 2018: A bill is filed for the legislative session beginning in January that would extend the 2018 back-to-school tax holiday to 10 days, from July 27 through Aug. 5. This year, the tax holiday lasted three days. News Service of Florida.

Hurricane expenses: The Lee County School District has already spent $19.3 million on Hurricane Irma-related expenses. Through Oct. 23, the expenses include $10.5 million for roof repairs or replacements, $3.6 million for building repairs and $3.6 million for repairs to cooling and heating systems. The district has filed 55 insurance claims, and the items not covered will be submitted to FEMA. Fort Myers News-Press. The Pinellas County School District reports that 104 students from Puerto Rico have enrolled in its schools. Gradebook. The Brevard County School District has enrolled more than 125 students who were displaced by hurricanes. Space Coast Daily.

Teachers honored: Fifty-six Escambia County teachers will be considered for the district’s teacher of the year award. The winner will be announced in January. Pensacola News Journal.

Superintendent search: The Duval County School Board will hold four community meetings in November to hear what qualities county residents want in a new school superintendent. The board hopes to make the hire by next spring. Florida Times-Union. WJAX.

School programs: Every elementary school in Sarasota County now participates in the Reading Recovery program, which includes daily one-on-one sessions and 12 to 20 hours a week of reading instruction. Sarasota is the only Florida district offering the program. WUSF.

District’s wish list: The Lake County School Board is lobbying its legislative delegation to eliminate the district cost differential portion of the state’s school-funding formula, re-evaluate the part of the education bill that requires districts to share capital funds with charter schools, allow local districts to assess up to 2 mills in property taxes for capital improvements, and more. Daily Commercial.

Charter withdraws: After a Sarasota County School District report concludes that the application for the Sarasota STEM Academy charter school was filled with inaccuracies and meets just 28 percent of the needs of the district, backers of the school withdraw their application. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: Less than two weeks after Mac Hall was removed as head of the private Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg, all four members of the school’s board of trustees resign. Gradebook. Deborah McNichols, who once attended Greenacres Elementary School in Palm Beach County, is now its principal. Sun-Sentinel. Sharon McManus Comkowycz, founder and director of Our Children’s of Winter Haven private school for children with disabilities, is retiring this week. Two school employees were recently accused of child abuse. Lakeland Ledger. A school police officer at West Nassau High School in Nassau County resigns after being questioned about the improper use of a Florida School Resource Officers Association credit card. Nassau County Deputy Clifford “Doc” McDonald had been treasurer for the organization. Florida Times-Union.

School employee arrested: A student nutrition assistant at Adams Middle School in Tampa is arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student for the past three years. Edward Lee Ruffin III told police the sex was consensual. WFLA.

Teacher on probation: An Osceola County teacher is placed on probation by the Florida Department of Education for allegedly harassing teachers while she was a principal at Reedy Creek Elementary in Poinciana. Katrina Sanders, now a 5th-grade teacher at Hickory Tree Elementary, also is fined $750. WFTV.

Opinions on schools: Parents and school officials are not doing enough to stop bullying and cyberbullying. Richard Schwamm, Sun-Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Emma Skantze, a 17-year-old senior at Land O’Lakes High School, is developing a music appreciation program for children living in poverty. She’s using a $50,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Lightning to purchase instruments for the project. Tampa Bay Times. An Orange Park High School graduate who is now president of a construction company donates equipment and labor to level and rebuild the school’s baseball field. Florida Times-Union.