Florida schools roundup: Education bills, guns in schools, flu closing and more

Legislative education bills: The Florida House and Senate release their education bills, revealing differences in per-student spending and the teacher bonuses program. The Senate proposes spending an additional $110 per student, while the House wants $100. Both are below Gov. Rick Scott’s $200 proposal. The Senate also puts $184 million into general operations for teacher pay raises, while the House wants to keep the Best and Brightest bonus program and spend $234 million on it. Other highlights of the Senate proposal include $88 million to remove the limit on the number of traditional public schools eligible for extra money under the Schools of Hope program, almost $18 million for teacher classroom supplies and $40 million for student mental health issues. The House’s 109-page proposal includes new scholarships for 3rd-graders who fail the state reading exam, an expansion of the powers of charter schools and networks, a cutback in computerized state testing and new accountability rules for private schools accepting tax credit scholarships. Gradebook (Senate). Gradebook (House). redefinED. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Meanwhile, the Senate release its higher education budget, which calls for a $383 million boost in spending. Tuesday, the House proposed cutting spending for universities and colleges by $217 million. Tampa Bay Times. WFSU.

Guns in schools: The Florida House Criminal Justice Committee approves bills that would allow people to carry guns in public schools and churches with schools. H.B. 621 would allow designated people, chosen by superintendents or principals, to carry concealed weapons in public schools. Those designated, who could be any school employee or even volunteers, would have to complete 40 hours of proficiency training. H.B. 1419 would allow concealed weapons in churches, synagogues or religious institutions, even if they have schools. Current law prohibits anyone from having a gun in a school. Sunshine State News. WFSU.

Flu closing district: All Gulf County schools will be closed Friday due to the widening flu outbreak. Superintendent Jim Norton says about 20 percent of students have missed school this week with the flu, and the district is running out of healthy substitute teachers and school bus drivers. Schools will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized Friday. Other northwest Florida counties are also seeing more flu cases. Port St. Joe StarWMBB. WJHG. Destin Log.

McKay scholarships: A proposal to make it easier for parents of disabled students to receive McKay scholarships is approved by the House K-12 Innovation Subcommittee. Right now, those students must spend a year in a public school to become eligible for the state’s McKay scholarship. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, would cut the time to a semester. redefinED.

Bonuses lawsuit: Thirty-eight school districts being sued by the Florida Education Association over the teacher bonuses program are asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. The Best and Brightest teacher bonus program wasn’t their idea, the districts contend, so they shouldn’t be sued just because they’re a “pass-through” from the state to the teachers. The teachers union should instead pursue its legal case against the Florida Department of Education, the districts argue. Gradebook.

Teacher evaluations: Palm Beach County school officials acknowledge that their system for evaluating teacher disproportionately gives lower ratings to teachers at low-income schools, which results in lower salaries for those teachers. Just 30 percent of teachers at low-income schools received top evaluations last year, while 64 percent of teachers at wealthier schools earned top marks, district officials say. Palm Beach Post.

Teachers honored: Brandon Jenkins, the band director at Heritage High School in Palm Bay, is named the Brevard County School District’s teacher of the year. Florida Today. Erin Cosky, who teaches earth and space science and Advanced Placement environmental science at Gulf Breeze High School, is named the Santa Rosa County School District’s teacher of the year. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. Three finalists are chosen for the Seminole County School District’s teacher of the year award. They are: Samantha Neff, a math coach at Idyllwilde Elementary; Leesa Lavender, a 7th-grade civics teacher at Markham Woods; and Julie DelRusso, who teaches exceptional students in grades 9-12. The winner will be announced March 15. Orlando Sentinel.

Health centers in schools: Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital open health centers in Ribault Middle and at Ribault High schools, respectively,  to serve those schools’ students. Next month, the hospitals will open a pediatric clinic for children who live throughout Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union.

Seven-period day dead: Santa Rosa County school officials say they won’t switch to an extended, seven-period school day next year because of the costs. Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick says making the transition would cost as much as $8 million a year. “This is something that needs to be done,” he says, “but creating it now would create fiscal problems because of a lack of funding from the state. We’d need them to help.” Pensacola News Journal.

Board, district at odds: A Marion County School Board member accuses district administrators of failing Evergreen Elementary School and operating in bad faith. Nancy Stacy says administrators deliberately neglected the school’s needs so they could open a “cushy magnet program” at the site. Superintendent Heidi Maier denies the charge. Maier had recommended the board close the school, which has received grades of D or F from the state for five straight years, if it didn’t receive a C grade this year. But instead the board chose to turn it over to an outside operator if its grade doesn’t improve. Ocala Star-Banner.

School calendar: The Leon County School District is asking parents to vote for their preference among three proposed school calendars for the 2018-2019 school year. All the options start the year Aug. 13 and end May 31, with a week off for Thanksgiving and spring break from March 18-22. The vote will not be binding on the school board. Tallahassee Democrat.

Superintendent finalist: Harrison Peters, chief of schools for the Hillsborough County School District, is chosen as one of two finalists for the job as superintendent of the Omaha Public Schools. A decision is expected in the next week or so. Omaha World-Herald. Tampa Bay Times.

Tops in graduation: For the second straight year, Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate and Lakeland Collegiate high schools rank first in graduation rates among 448 public high schools in Florida, according to the governor’s office. Both charter schools graduated 100 percent of their students in the 2016-2017 school year. Polk State College.

Contract negotiations: Clay County teachers ratify a two-year contract agreement with the school district. Highly effective teachers will get an extra $1,000 a year, and effective ones will receive about $750 a year. The school board vote on the deal is Feb. 1. Clay Today.

New schools: The KIPP Miami Sunrise Academy opens this fall in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami in an unusual agreement with the Miami-Dade County School District. Sunrise will share space with Poinciana Park Elementary, a traditional public school. In return for the space, KIPP will share its development process and best practices with the school and district. It’s expected to have 200 students in kindergarten and 1st grade. The 74. The city of Boca Raton and the Palm Beach County School District are negotiating a deal that would locate a new elementary school on land owned by the city within two years, or two years earlier than expected. The new school would house Addison Mizner Elementary students when that school is torn down. When Addison Mizner students return to their school, the site will become the home to a neighborhood elementary school. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Roundabout for school: A four-way stop in front of Moseley High School in Lynn Haven will be converted into a roundabout this summer, according to City Manager Michael White. The Bay County School Board agreed to give the city land needed for the project. White says the intersection is heavily congested and can be a public safety hazard during rush hour. “Anything is going to better than what we’ve got right now,” says School Superintendent Bill Husfelt. Panama City News Herald.

Sunshine Law refresher: Hillsborough County School Board members will get a refresher course today from a county attorney on the state laws governing public records and open meetings. After the session, which is open to the public, district officials will update the board on district policies, systems and practices. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Ben Hopper will take over as principal of Sarasota’s Cardinal Mooney High School in July, according to the Diocese of Venice’s Education Department. He succeeds interim principal Stefan Gates. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Legal contract renewed: The Lake County School Board renews its contract with a law firm to provide legal services to the district. McLin Burnsed of Leesburg collected$259,000 in fees from the board in 2017. Board members say they may consider conducting a formal review of the firm’s performance. Daily Commercial.

Marijuana field trip: The CEO of a new marijuana dispensary in Lake Worth invites officials from the charter school across the street to tour the business. Palm Beach Post.

Inappropriate lyrics: Officials at Pickett Elementary School in Jacksonville are apologizing for playing a Lil Pump song, Gucci Gang, that contains references to cocaine at a school dance. WJAX.

Blogger’s stunt ripped: School officials and parents are criticizing a Hernando County blogger posing as an unauthorized person trying to pick up a student at a bus stop last week. Floyd Thomas Lemons III says he was testing the driver, who refused to allow a girl out of the bus. Tampa Bay Times.

Teacher arrested: A Pinellas County teacher is arrested and accused of sexually battering a former student in 2009. Matthew Franklin Pinder, 43, a teacher at Palm Harbor University High School, was teaching at Calvary Christian High School at the time of the alleged incident. He resigned just before he was taken into custody. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Principal put on leave: The principal at Riley Elementary School in Tallahassee is placed on administrative leave with pay for alleged misconduct. Superintendent Rocky Hanna says the district won’t provide any further details in the case of Karwynn Paul, who is in his 11th year as principal at the school. Tallahassee Democrat.

Students arrested: A 16-year-old Tenoroc High School student is arrested after a school police officer found a loaded gun in her backpack. Lakeland Ledger. WFLA. WTVT. A 14-year-old Martin County student is arrested after luring a 13-year-old classmate to a park in Stuart and then beating her while others filmed the attack. The girl is charged with misdemeanor battery. WPTV.

Missing student found: Officials at the Manatee School for the Arts say a student reported missing after leaving school Tuesday has been found and is safe. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Opinions on schools: When it comes to determining the amount of school impact fees that should be collected or scheduling the date of an election to ask voters to raise more money for schools, Lee County commissioners shouldn’t substitute their judgment for that of elected school board members. Naples Daily News. What high school students have to gain from having a strong science and math background, and how we can steer them into it. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Sydney Miller, a 7th-grader at Oak Hall School in Gainesville, wins the Alachua County School District spelling bee. She and runner-up Gracie Peprah-Asante, a 10-year-old 5th-grader at Williams Elementary, advance to the regional competition in Jacksonville March 9. Gainesville Sun. Four Gainesville High School students earn “top of the country” scores on the Cambridge Program’s college-level exams. Gainesville Sun.