Florida schools roundup: Tax levies pass, school security, finances and more

Tax hike votes: Voters in Sarasota and Manatee counties approve an additional 1 mill on property taxes for schools, by a wide margin in Sarasota and a narrow one in Manatee. In Sarasota, the extra $55 million in each of the next four years will help pay for 30 extra minutes of classtime a day, higher teacher salaries and more art teachers and behavioral specialists. In Manatee, the extra $33 million a year for the next four years will be used to lengthen the school day by 30 minutes, pay teachers and other employees more, expand STEM and career programs and support charter schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Martin County School Board members are considering asking voters to approve a hike in property taxes to pay for teacher bonuses and construction projects. If approved, the measure could raise about $11.2 million a year for four years. TCPalm.

School security, finances: Putting a resource officer in every Pinellas County school by July 1 will cost $23.6 million, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri tells the county commission. The state’s contribution is $6.1 million, and the sheriff’s office and municipal police departments’ contribution is $1.6 million, leaving the school district to find $12.4 million to put 201 school resource officers in the 139 district schools and 18 charter schools. And, Gualtieri notes, there would be an additional $11.2 million needed for upfront costs such as cars, weapons, uniforms and computers. Neighboring Hillsborough County school officials say the district will get an additional $41 million from the state, but still is projecting a $16 million deficit because of new state requirements on school security, an expected 3,000 extra students and other expenses. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin talks about the district’s finances, and the new education and school safety bills. WMNF. The head of one of Florida’s largest charter school networks is asking the 13 districts where it has schools to provide resource officers on every campus by April 1. Gradebook. The Gulf Breeze City Council votes to fund the placement of part-time officers in all the city’s elementary schools through the end of the school year. WEAR.

Civics proposal: The Constitution Revision Commission will consider a proposal by former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz to add a civics literacy requirement to another as yet unspecified education proposal. The measure still requires approval of the commission in April to make it on the November ballot, where it would have to pass with 60 percent of the vote to be added to the constitution. Gradebook.

School shooting developments: The woman who took in Nikolas Cruz talks for the first time about his troubling behavior and attachment to guns and says, “I did everything I could.” Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Another school shooting in Maryland on Tuesday adds a sense of urgency to a rally held by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students as a sendoff to those traveling to Washington for Saturday’s March For Our Lives. Sun-SentinelMiami Herald. A year and a half before the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High that killed 17 people, authorities considered involuntarily committing school shooter Nikolas Cruz. But they didn’t. Here’s why. Miami Herald. The Broward County School Board is authorizing district officials to ask for bids on replacing the Stoneman Douglas building where 17 died. Sun-Sentinel. Bond is set at $500,000 for Cruz’s brother Zachary, who was arrested Monday for trespassing at Stoneman Douglas and is considered a threat. He was also involuntarily committed under the state’s Baker Act. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Three Stoneman Douglas students are arrested, two on unrelated charges for bringing knives to school and the other for making a social media threat. And a school deputy is suspended for sleeping on the job. Sun-Sentinel. After the latest incidents, Gov. Rick Scott offers to place armed officers at every access point at Stoneman Douglas High. Sun-Sentinel. Politico Florida. Gov. Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran announce the appointments of 15 people to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. Capitol Soup. Florida Today. Politico Florida. Northwest Florida Daily News. Citrus County Chronicle. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the federal commission on school safety that she will be chairing will begin work in the next few weeks. The members will all be Cabinet officers. Associated PressThe 74. Chalkbeat. Parkland students say they are not aligned with any political party. Politico Florida. Broadcast students at Stoneman Douglas High release a documentary that pays homage to the shooting victims. Sun-Sentinel. An Ohio company is selling “active shooter” insurance policies that compensate schools and victims after an attack. WSAU.

Walkout ban supported: Despite complaints from some parents, most Citrus County School Board members say they support the administration’s decision to ban walkouts by students on March 14 as a violation of board policy. Students at some schools are now working with administrators on an alternative to walkouts as a show of support for Parkland victims on April 20. Citrus County Chronicle.

Virtual learning: In its guide to K-12 online and blended schooling, the Network for Public Education cites the pervasive profit motive, fraud and mismanagement of online education providers in its recommendation that parents “not enroll their children in virtual schools.” The report notes that students get far less teacher contact time with online education, and graduate at a rate that’s only about half of the national average for traditional schools. T.H.E. Journal. Alison Harte, an instructional materials specialist in the Bureau of Standards and Instructional Support at the Florida Department of Education, talks about how the state’s digital transition required an overhaul of the process. EdScoop News.

State spending: Two top Florida House budgetmakers – Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Doral, and Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs – discuss the state budget, education spending, the school safety law and more. WLRN.

School board elections: Six candidates are in the races for three Volusia County School Board seats. In District 1, Bill Kelly, chief financial officer of the Seminole County School District, and Leslie LaRue, a school registrar, are running. In District 3, incumbent Linda Cuthbert is the only candidate so far. In District 5, incumbent Melody Johnson has drawn competition from respiratory therapist Ruben Colon and electrical engineer Robert Mann. Qualifying ends June 22 for the Aug. 28 election. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

No charges in board spat: No charges will be filed against Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner, who was accused of threatening fellow board member Scott Hopes with his car after a meeting Feb. 27. Bradenton police determined there was no probable cause for criminal charges. Hopes had no comment, while Miner suggests Hopes owes the school board and the community an apology. Bradenton HeraldSarasota Herald-Tribune.

Educator honored: Helen Christian, director of elementary education for the Sumter County School District, wins the 2018 NAFEPA State Leadership Award. Villages-News.

Personnel moves: Spencer Lodree, who has left two jobs in the past two months under a cloud, has a new job at a private school in Clay County. Lodree resigned as principal at Fernandina Beach High School in Nassau County in February after he admitted stealing $1,300 from the school, and then was hired as an assistant principal of Northwestern Middle School in Duval County. He was fired from that job earlier this month for not disclosing “relevant information” about his departure from Fernandina. Monday, he started work as director of operations at the Orange Park Performing Arts Academy. WJXT. WTLV.

District headquarters: Martin County School Board members approve the construction of a new administration headquarters on Southeast Ocean Boulevard between Stuart Middle School and the old Stuart High School. The cost would be about $10 million. TCPalm.

New buses for district: The Santa Rosa County School District is getting new buses for the 2018-2019 school year. Its five-year contract with Student Transportation Inc. calls for 221 new buses, each with lap belts, air conditioning, GPS, radios and a camera system. The base cost is $10.4 million in the first year, and cannot go up more than 3 percent a year. The contract begins July 1. Pensacola News Journal.

Principal’s problems: Karwynn Paul, who forestalled the firing process by resigning as principal of Riley Elementary School in Tallahassee this week, was under investigation by the Leon County School District for alleged “inappropriate touching and interactions with female employees.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Teacher reprimanded: A Belleview Middle School teacher is reprimanded for comparing a black 8th-grader to a “monkey smoking cigarettes.” In a note to school administrators, Kayralee Neveau wrote, “I sincerely apologize for what was said and how (the student) took it. It was never my intention to call (the child) anything derogatory.” Ocala Star-Banner.

Opinions on schools: Another day. Another shooting. Another school everyone knows about now for the worst of American reasons. David Hyde, Sun-Sentinel. Florida has made real strides over the past three decades in improving its public schools. They’d get better faster with more money. Michael Putney, Miami Herald. Choosing Mary McLeod Bethune’s statue for the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol is a bold statement that recognizes Florida’s rich history and the role blacks have played in it. Miami Herald. Instead of spouting talk-radio conspiracy theories and offering only condescension toward young people engaging in the civic process by protesting for stricter gun laws, Marion County School Board member Nancy Stacy should be supportive of our students for wanting to join in the public conversation — even if she does not agree with them. Ocala Star-Banner. If you are a professor in a college or university physics, chemistry, computer science or math department, then you have a responsibility to help recruit high school teachers. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Several websites have reported that a Florida school jumped to the top of the state rankings after dumping the Common Core program. It is true that Mason Classical Academy in Naples ranks first in Collier County in language arts. But the school never adopted Common Core standards, and its math scores were only 5th-best in the county. Snopes.

Student enrichment: Bharath Ram, a 7th-grader at Oakridge Middle School in Naples, wins the Collier County spelling bee and qualifies for the national competition in May. Naples Daily News. The Holocaust Learning and Education Fund donates $1,000 to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Holocaust studies teacher Ivy Schamis to replace the teaching materials locked in the building where 17 were shot and killed Feb. 14. Sun-Sentinel. The Manatee Riverside Rotary Club is providing materials and mentoring to help Daughtrey Elementary School students improve their reading. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.