Florida schools roundup: Shelters, choice, turnaround schools and more

Schools as shelters: A bill is filed that would require any K-12 school that receives construction funding from the state to be available as an emergency shelter or, if it doesn’t meet the requirements to be a shelter, for any other use officials think is necessary. That requirement would include charter schools. H.B. 779 was filed by state Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. No companion bill has yet been filed in the Senate. Gradebook.

School choice growth: New research suggests that the growth of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program has not led to a corresponding increase in the number of schools that perform poorly academically. Urban Institute researchers conclude: “This analysis indicates that participation in the [tax credit scholarship] program has not shifted toward schools with weaker track records of improving student outcomes, as measured by two broad categorizations. But it provides less guidance on the ideal level of government regulation in private school choice programs.” Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program. The program has grown from 50,000 low-income students receiving scholarships in 2012 to more than 100,000 this year. redefinED.

District consultant: The Duval County School Board will spend $480,000 for a consultant to help turn around eight struggling schools. Turnaround Solutions Inc. was founded by James Young, a former Duval principal with experience in turning around failing schools. Three of the schools have less than a year to boost their grades from the state, while the others have until the end of the 2018-2019 school year. If they don’t improve to at least a C grade, state law requires the district to close the schools or allow them to be taken over. Florida Times-Union.

Panel: Turn over school: An oversight committee at Oscar Patterson Elementary School is recommending that the struggling school be turned over to an outside manager. The Bay County school has gotten poor grades from the state the past two years, and under state law the district has to contract with an outside entity to manage the school, close it and transfer the students, or close it and reopen it as a charter school. The recommendation now goes to Superintendent Bill Husfelt. If he agrees with the recommendation, the district must have a signed contract with a management company by Jan. 31, 2018. Panama City News Herald.

Term limit talk: Attendees at the Florida School Boards Association annual conference have thoughts on the proposed constitutional amendments that would  limit Florida school board members to two consecutive terms and eliminate their pay. Gradebook.

Educators honored: Collier County School Superintendent Kamela Patton is named 2017 superintendent of the year by the Consortium of Florida Education Foundation. The award is given based on a superintendent’s level of involvement with local education foundations. Patton is the first Collier superintendent to win the award, which is in its 11th year. Naples Daily News. The group also named Lake County’s Bill Mathias as Florida’s school board member of the year. Daily Commercial.

Displaced students: Enrollment of students displaced by Hurricane Maria is growing daily in Florida, with more than 1,300 enrolling this week. The total around the state is now about 8,500, most of them from Puerto Rico. Officials say about 200,000 Puerto Ricans have fled the island and moved to Florida. “We do anticipate that there will be more students that will be coming as individuals are able to leave Puerto Rico,” Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said this week. Orange County has received the most, about 2,200, and School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins talks about how the district is absorbing the influx. WMFE. The Capitolist. This map shows where K-12 students displaced by Hurricane Maria have enrolled in schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Contract negotiations: Hillsborough County teachers react negatively to Superintendent Jeff Eakins’ remarks this week that teachers are “positioned very well” on pay and outearn their peers in neighboring counties. Teachers are angry that a promised pay raise will not happen, and say the district is wasting millions of dollars a year on special programs and high-paid administrators. “Teachers are rightly angry because this is a failure of leadership and planning, and teachers are being asked to pay for it,” says James Stewart, a King High School chemistry teacher and union officials. Gradebook.

District CFO resigns: The chief financial officer for the Manatee County School District has resigned. Rebecca Roberts’ departure is not related to the delays the district has had reconciling its bank statements, says Superintendent Diana Greene. But newly elected school board chairman Scott Hopes says he thinks voters will see the change in leadership as a sign the district is heading in the right direction, and will improve the chances of them approving a property tax hike for schools in March. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School opening delayed: The opening of the K-8 Parrish Charter Academy will be delayed a year, Manatee County school officials say. Charter officials wanted to open the school next August, but agreed to hold off until August 2019 to “address issues raised by the school district,” according to district attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum. Those issues were not detailed. Bradenton Herald.

School calendar: The Broward County School Board will consider a proposal to begin the 2018-2019 school year on Wednesday, Aug. 15, which would break the district’s tradition of starting on Mondays. “A midweek start will allow days for teachers and students to settle and organize,” district officials wrote. “Students will have an opportunity to visit all of their classes … and have a fresh start on the following Monday.” The school year would end June 4, 2019. Sun-Sentinel.

School boiling water: West Shore Junior/Senior High School in Melbourne is under a boil water advisory after a water line breaks. Florida Today.

Student dies at school: A 14-year-old student collapses and dies during a physical education class on an athletic field at the Somerset Academy Village charter school in Wilton Manors. Broward County authorities do not yet know why the 7th-grader collapsed. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. WTVJ.

Two hurt in school fight: Two East Lee County High School employees are injured and at least one student is arrested after three fights break out at the school. Police say at least seven students were involved. Fort Myers News-Press.

Teachers arrested: A Miami-Dade County physical education teacher is arrested, then fired, after he’s accused of sexual battery on a child. Wendell Alfredo Nibbs, 51, a physical education teacher at Brownsville Middle School, had been under investigation since 2015 for allegedly engaging in sexual activity with several female students between 12 and 18. WSVNMiami Herald. A St. Lucie County substitute teacher and football coach is arrested and accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl. Freedom Whitfield, 24, was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior with a person aged 12 to 16, according to Fort Pierce police. Whitfield, who was a sub at Dan McCarty Middle School  and a coach at Fort Pierce Central High School, has been fired, school officials say. TCPalm. Palm Beach Post.

Custodian targeted: Okaloosa County school officials are recommending that a custodian at Choctawhatchee High School be fired after allegedly harassing a woman with “unprofessional/vulgar behavior” since 2014. Stephen Hall has been moved twice since 2014 after reports that he was sexually harassing female school employees. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Student arrested: A Jupiter High School student is arrested after bringing a pellet gun to school, posting a photo of it in a classroom on social media and making threats. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Critics argue that preventing bullying and escaping bullying with the Hope Scholarship are mutually exclusive solutions. They are not. Alyson Hochstedler, Fort Myers News-Press. Lessons learned in my first year as a member of the Collier County School Board. Stephanie Lucarelli, Naples Daily News.

Student enrichment: About 50 Port St. Lucie High School economics students tour the traveling C-SPAN bus to learn how to find nonpartisan information. TCPalm.