Florida schools roundup: Testing extension, ESSA plan reviewed and more

Testing extension: The Florida Department of Education has agreed to extend the window for the Florida Standards Assessments testing and all state end-of-course exams. School districts had asked for a delay in the testing because of a busy hurricane season that caused many districts to miss days of school. Instead, K-12 Chancellor Herschel Lyons extended the testing time-frame by a week. The decision gives districts the option of delaying the tests, or using the full two weeks to complete them. Gradebook.

ESSA plans: A group of 45 bipartisan reviewers gives Florida’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act mixed reviews, with no one awarding the state the highest rating in any of the nine categories studied. The strengths of the plan include a clear, student-focused vision of high standards, an easy-to-understand grading system, inclusion of science and social studies assessments, and the identification of struggling schools. The highest marks came in academic progress, for measuring learning gains, and in continuous improvement for identifying struggling schools and helping them improve. The weaknesses: incorporating subgroups into the accountability system, and in marking progress toward English language proficiency. The 74.

Dangerous school zones: Miami-Dade County has the most dangerous school zones in Florida, according to an analysis of vehicle crash data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles by San Diego company 1Point21Interactive. Eight schools in the county are in the state’s top 10 most dangerous school zones. Miami Herald.

Tax hike proposal: A Constitution Revision Commission committee approves a proposal that would require any future tax or fee increases to be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature. The amendment, sponsored by commissioner Fred Karlinsky of Weston, would require support from at least 80 of 120 House members and 27 of 40 senators. The proposal now moves to the full commission, where 22 of the 37 members must approve it. If they do, 60 percent of voters would have to vote for the measure next November for it to take effect. News Service of Florida.

School board pay: Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board and Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, says she has decided to resubmit a proposal to end salaries for school board members. She says she has not decided whether to amend it. Her proposal for a constitutional amendment was headed for defeat in the commission’s education committee in November when she pulled it back. Two of her other proposals – to end elections of superintendents and to impose term limits on school board members – are before another committee this week. Gradebook.

School on MLK Day: Collier County schools will be in session on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the school board decides. The local NAACP had asked the board to reconsider its September decision to hold classes as a makeup day for time lost to Hurricane Irma. Naples Daily News.

Superintendent search: The Jacksonville Civic Council is asking the Duval County School Board to be included in the search for a new school superintendent, and to delay any hiring until after the elections next November so newly elected board members can have input. The school board has said it wants to hire a new superintendent by next summer. The council is a nonpartisan group of business leaders who try to help resolve community issues. “We offer our service with no agenda other than to support the school board in identifying and hiring the most highly qualified candidate possible and continuing the progress we have seen in recent years,” council chairman Ed Burr wrote in a letter to the school board. Florida Times-UnionFlorida Politics.

Child abuse investigation: A grand jury will be convened to review how a child abuse investigation in the Okaloosa County School District was handled. A teacher was charged in September with child abuse and two other school employees are charged with failing to report the child abuse in a timely manner. Several other claims of misconduct in the district have surfaced since then. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR.

Outside investigator: The Sarasota County School Board will hire an outside investigator to look into a charge of discrimination against Superintendent Todd Bowden. Lyna Jimenez-Ruiz says she was reassigned and subsequently discriminated against after claiming Bowden sexually harassed her. The board also decided it will pay for Bowden’s private attorney during the investigation. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

No new board election: Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner’s call for a new election for the chair position gets no support and dies. Miner wanted a revote because he thinks chairman Scott Hopes, elected just two weeks ago, misled the board into thinking he enthusiastically supports the property tax increase initiative that’s scheduled to go to voters in March. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: The principal at Anthony Elementary School in Marion County is demoted to an assistant principal’s job at Fessenden Elementary School. District officials say Lisa Coy and three members of her staff at Anthony failed to contact the Department of Children and Families about a child abuse allegation. Ocala Star-Banner. Mac Hall, head of school for Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg, has his contract extended for a year by the school’s board of trustees. Gradebook.

School headquarters: The St. Lucie County School Board approves a plan to build new headquarters in the west part of the county, near Interstate 95. The 107,000-square-foot building will cost about $17 million and is expected to open in April 2019. The headquarters had been in Fort Pierce, and was flooded when Hurricane Irma passed through. TCPalm.

New school owner: The new owner of the Florida Preparatory Academy of Melbourne is a subsidiary of a Chinese company buying its first school in the United States. Newopen USA is owned by the Newopen Group, based in Chongqing, China. Newopen operates three universities and a network of primary and secondary schools in China, according to Florida Prep president James Dwight. Florida Today.

Transgender teen’s trial: Attorneys for Drew Adams, a transgender teen who is suing the St. Johns County School District for not allowing him to use the boys bathrooms, rest their civil case in federal court. The district, meanwhile, begins its defense with school officials testifying that safety concerns led to the decision to order Adams to use gender-neutral bathrooms. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher faces firing: The Palm Beach County School Board will consider a recommendation to fire a teacher who allegedly dragged an 8th-grade student into his classroom by her wrist and ankle. Zedrick Barber, 58, is a social studies teacher at Howell L. Watkins Middle School in Palm Beach Gardens. Palm Beach Post.

Students hospitalized: Eight Kinloch Park Middle School ranging from 12 to 14 years old are hospitalized after becoming sick when they swallowed pills, according to officials at the Miami school. Authorities do not yet know what was in the pills. Three other students were treated at the school and sent home with their parents. Miami Herald.

Teacher’s aide arrested: A teacher’s aide at Buchanan Middle School in Tampa is arrested and accused of using social media to solicit nude photos and sex from students. Quinton J. Bradford, 24, used Instagram to contact the girls, deputies say. Tampa Bay Times.

Arrests at schools: Two sisters are arrested for fighting in the Palm Beach Lakes High School school courtyard before school last week. Aneshia Williams, 25, and her sister Amber Williams, 19, were at the school to pick up their sister. They’re both charged with trespassing on school grounds, disrupting school function, affray and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Palm Beach Post. The mother of a Lincoln High School student is arrested after going into the Tallahassee school and allegedly striking a student over a dispute with her daughter. Erika Morgan is charged with battery and trespassing. Tallahassee Democrat. A 12-year-old Crestview girl is arrested after pushing a teacher who was trying to break up her fight with another student. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: I have nothing against football, but I am highly invested in education. And I hope that our nation can rethink the relationship between sports and education and begin to value what’s most important. Jennifer Tomlinson, Fort Myers News-Press. Getting Barnes & Noble to reverse a decision to close a store was a priceless life experience for a group of Volusia County 3rd-graders. It’s the kind of gift that doesn’t come wrapped and placed under a tree, and one they likely will treasure for a long time. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The rise of virtual learning is a threat to the teaching profession. Terri Friedlander, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: The Polk Education Foundation receives a nearly $128,000 grant from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundation. The money will go to schools for STEAM and reading programs for students, and toward training for teachers. Lakeland Ledger.