Florida schools roundup: Florida aces nation’s report card, security and more

Nation’s report card: Florida is the only state that improved in the National Assessment of Educational Progress math exam, according the annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics. Florida is also just one of nine states showing improvement in the reading exam. Among the nation’s larger districts, Hillsborough County was first in 4th-grade reading and math, and 8th-graders tied for first in reading and were tied for second in math. NAEP exam results are called the “nation’s report card” because they are a common test that can compare student academic performance across the country. “Something very good is happening in Florida, obviously,” says Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of assessment at the NCES. “Florida needs to be commended.” Nationally, test results showed little or no gains. Orlando SentinelTampa Bay Times. Chalkbeat. Hechinger Report. U.S. News & World Report. For the first time, a majority of U.S. students took the tests on computer tablets. Some educators are concerned that the change makes year-to-year score comparisons unreliable. Chalkbeat.

School security: The Jefferson County School Board votes against allowing school employees to carry concealed weapons in schools. School Superintendent Marianne Arbulu and Sheriff Mac McNeill agree that only deputies and resource officers should be armed on campus. WTXL. Manatee County School Superintendent Diana Greene says the district will need to find $1.8 million to put a resource officer in every school in August. The state is contributing $3.4 million to the district for the officers, but the total cost will be $5.2 million, Greene says. She also provided details of how the district will spend money from the voter-approved increase in property taxes for schools. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Citrus County commissioners are considering using  law enforcement impact fees and the other drug seizure funds to pay for school resource officers. Citrus County Chronicle. Student leaders from Lake County high schools collaborate to create a survey on school safety for students. Daily Commercial.

Texting troubles: A majority of Sarasota County School Board members express their their disappointment with fellow board member Eric Robinson about text messages he exchanged with Sheriff Tom Knight over how to pay to put resource officers in every school. Robinson urged Knight to hold his ground in refusing to pay a portion of the cost. Caroline Zucker says Robinson should resign, and Jane Goodwin says she “will never trust him (Robinson) again.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Scott and education: Gov. Rick Scott surprises no one with his announcement Monday that he is challenging incumbent Bill Nelson for a Florida U.S. Senate seat. Scott has been touring the state touting what he calls record levels of spending on education in the state’s budget, but the state’s largest teachers union responds with an email saying, “a candidate who cares so little about our public schools — and our students, teachers and staff — doesn’t deserve another job on the public dime.” Associated Press. Tallahassee DemocratTampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida.

Charter schools: The city of Waldo is proposing to open a charter school in the old Waldo Community School building. That school was closed by the Alachua County School Board in 2015 because of dwindling enrollment. The new school would be for about 100 K-5 students. WUFT. The city of Palmetto Bay buys a 2.34-acre site where a developer wanted to build a charter school because officials felt the 1,000-student school would worsen traffic. The city says it plans to put a recreation center on the site, for which it paid $2.9 million. Miami Herald.

School shooting developments: A North Miami Beach police officer who suggested on social media that the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School could be a hoax and called student-activists “paid actors” has been reassigned. Ericson Harrell is now on restricted administrative duty during the investigation into his comments. Sun-Sentinel. Broward County hires the nonprofit Police Foundation to lead the county’s investigation into the law enforcement response to the school shootings in Parkland. Sun-Sentinel.

School sign-in process: The Pasco County School District has begun using a computerized tracking system for all visitors to schools. The Raptor system reads ID cards, which tracks visitors to each campus, checks the state sexual offender database and records volunteer hours. Gradebook.

Contract negotiations: The Volusia County teachers union is expecting a fight when contract negotiations with the school district begin this month. Tight budgets and a mandate to put a resource officer at every school are expected to limit what the district offers. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School board elections: Two 18-year-old high school seniors, Nick Lahera and Adam York, are running for the Citrus County School Board District 5 seat. WUSF.

Teacher, district settle: The Duval County School District reaches a tentative agreement with a teacher and blogger over his lawsuit charging harassment. Chris Guerrieri posted incorrect information on his blog about the district. He corrected it when notified it was wrong, but the district sent him a cease-and-desist letter anyway and school board member Scott Shine publicly criticized him. Guerrieri will receive $60,000 and keeps his job. Florida Times-Union.

New trial denied: A Pensacola judge denies a request from Steven Kunkemoeller for a new trial on charges of fraud and racketeering. Kunkemoeller was convicted in March of artificially inflating prices for materials sold to the charter school company Newpoint Education Partners. He’s expected to be sentenced in the next 30 days. Pensacola News Journal.

Missing student found: A 12-year-old Mount Dora Middle School student who went missing Monday morning from the school is found safe in south Florida. Police says she had been picked up at school by a relative who was not authorized to take her. Orlando Sentinel.

School bus problem: A Monroe County school bus driver pulled over last week and told the 10 students onboard that he was going no further, and they had to find their own rides home. A school district official says the driver pulled over because he was feeling light-headed, but did not follow policy when he told students to call their parents to pick them up. The policy is to call the district for a substitute driver. Keynoter.

New law protects buses: A provision in a new state law adds school buses as part of school property, elevating trespassing on a school bus to a first degree misdemeanor. The change was pushed by Escambia County school officials. “We were made to realize that when a person gets on a school bus like an upset parent, law enforcement doesn’t have much ability to charge them,” says Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. Pensacola News Journal.

Program director fired: The director of the after-school program at Southeast High School in Manatee County is fired after he’s alleged to have made sexually inappropriate remarks to an 18-year-old student. Wendell Faison worked for the Boys and Girls Club of Manatee County. Bradenton Herald.

Students arrested: Two more Volusia County students are arrested for making threats against New Smyrna Beach and Holly Hill middle schools. Twenty-two students have now been charged with threatening county schools since the Parkland shootings on Feb. 14. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: The “nation’s report card” survey released today that ranks Hillsborough County as a top-rated urban school district reflects the good work being done in the country’s 8th-largest school system. Tampa Bay Times. A proposal by the Constitution Revision Commission would take power away from our local elected school boards and give it to an unelected, unaccountable state board with free rein to create new charter schools whenever and wherever they want. Haley Richards, Pensacola News Journal. Giving more parents more discretion in choosing schools for their children yields better outcomes at less cost. That’s why lawmakers continue to expand the state’s school choice programs. Ron Matus, Gainesville Sun. I hope local education leaders will put aside their oppositional predispositions to charter schools, use their leadership to fully review the merit of the Tallahassee Classical School and remember who they were elected to serve: our students. Joni Scott-Weideman, Tallahassee Democrat. Leon County School Superintendent Rocky Hanna hasn’t shown a legitimate cause to block two charter schools from opening. He just doesn’t like charter schools and doesn’t want to see them grow. Lane Wright, Tallahassee Democrat.

Student enrichment: Sawgrass Elementary School becomes the latest Lake County school to install a buddy bench on the playground to help students find playmates during recess. Daily Commercial.