Florida schools roundup: No special session, lawsuit support, taxes and more

No special session: There won’t be a special legislative session to reconsider education funding, according to the latest polling results from Department of State officials. Polling doesn’t end until Thursday, but already 52 Republican members of the House have voted against having a special session, while 36 Democrats voted for it. Three-fifths of each chamber must support the request, made by two Democratic representatives, to require a special session. So supporters needed 70 votes in the House, and the most they can now get is 65. Eleven senators have voted yes, and nine have voted no. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaPolitico Florida.

H.B. 7069 lawsuit: Ten members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission are asking to file a friend of the court brief on behalf of the school districts challenging the constitutionality of the Legislature’s 2017 education law, H.B. 7069. The 10 say they are the framers of the 1998 ballot measure that inserted a clause into the constitution that requires the state to provide a high-quality system of public schools, and they want to convey their intent behind the amendment to the Florida Supreme Court. Among the 10 are former attorney general Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court justice Gerald Kogan and former speaker of the House Jon Mills. The state is objecting. News Service of Florida.

School taxes: The Orange County Commission approves a request from the school board to place a special school property tax referendum on the Aug. 28 primary ballot. The tax has been approved by voters in 2010 and 2014, and a yes vote in August would keep it in place another four years. School officials estimate the tax would raise $622 million through 2023, and the money would be used for teacher raises, academic programs, the arts and extracurricular activities. Orlando Sentinel. Martin County commissioners approve the school district’s request to put two tax measures on upcoming ballots. A half-mill property tax hike for teacher pay and security goes onto the Aug. 28 ballot, It would raise about $11 million a year for four years. A half-cent sales tax increase for school construction will go to voters Nov. 6. It would raise about $112 million over seven years. TCPalm.

Waiting on promotions: School is out this week for a majority of Florida’s 3rd-graders, but their parents still don’t know if their children are moving on to 4th grade. The results of the Florida Standards Assessments language arts test that is required for promotion are still out, and may not be delivered to schools until the end of the month. Testing was delayed two weeks this year because of time lost to hurricanes last fall. Gradebook.

School security: Brevard County School Board members vote to move ahead with a plan to hire “security specialists” who will carry concealed weapons to guard schools next year. The cost will be about $1.2 million. Florida Today. Hernando County officials tell the school board that they won’t help pay to put armed officers in the schools. Tampa Bay Times. No backpacks are allowed at schools in Orange, Seminole and Polk counties this week. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV. The Manatee County School District will begin hiring 30 “safety guardians” next week. The guardians are the equivalent of security guards, and the plan will cost about $1.38 million. Bradenton Herald. The Lee County School District is asking Bonita Springs and Estero officials for help paying to put school resource officers in every city and village school. Fort Myers News-Press. Lake County School Board members say they want a police officer or sheriff’s deputy in every school next year. Daily Commercial. The Citrus County School Board agrees to pay $1.1 million to help put a school resource officer on each of the county’s 22 public school campuses. Citrus County Chronicle. The Madison County School Board will participate in the state’s school guardian program that arms school employees. Greene Publishing. A pilot program that allows students to text anonymous warning messages to school officials will be expanded to all Monroe County students next fall. Key West Citizen.

School safety report: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tells members of Congress that the school safety commission created by President Trump after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland won’t have a report until the end of the year, though she said an interim report might be available sooner with some recommendations. NewsdayWTHI.

Principal raps district: A Broward County principal whose daughter was killed in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has harsh words for her district, saying it lacks empathy and an ability to accept blame for the tragedy. April Schentrup, principal at Pembroke Pines Elementary School, lost her daughter Carmen. She says the district tried to dock her pay for the time she took grieving, and that when she wanted to ease back into work Superintendent Robert Runcie told her “this is not a part-time job.” And a week after the shootings, Runcie told her and her husband that the district “had done everything right.” Sun-Sentinel.

Charters and capital funds: An Orange County charter school is challenging the Florida Department of Education’s rule that its D grades disqualify it from receiving capital funding from the state. Kids Community College’s Orange County says the “DOE’s determination using the school grade for the 2016-2017 school year is a misapplication of the rule.” It’s asking the state Division of Administrative Hearings for a ruling. redefinED.

Raise approved: The Broward County school administrator who oversees the controversial Promise program for alternative discipline will get a $24,000-a-year raise in salary and benefits. Mickey Pope, who makes $149,389 as executive director of student support services, gets a title upgrade to chief of student support services and now reports directly to the superintendent. “She is vital to this district,” says school board member Robin Bartleman. Sun-Sentinel.

Departure criticized: Manatee County School Board member Dave Miner thinks Superintendent Diana Greene should work through Dec. 1 before leaving for the same job in Duval County, because her contract does not contain an opt-out clause. The other members of the board disagreed, and Green will start the Duval job July 1. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Kindergarten readiness: Thirty-nine percent of Sarasota County’s voluntary pre-K providers do not meet the minimum standards set by the state, according to a recent report. In Manatee County, 58 percent do not. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Personnel moves: Christopher Stowe, a retired 24-year veteran of the U.S. Marines Corps, is named safety and security director for the Pasco County School District. The school board will vote on the appointment May 29. Gradebook. Tina Errthum, a direct instruction coordinator in Greeley, Colo., is named head of the Classical Preparatory Charter School in Pasco County. She replaces Ben Davis, who is moving to a Christian school in California. Gradebook. Andrea Hagan will oversee the community partnership school initiative that’s being started this fall at Crystal Lake Elementary School in Lakeland. Lakeland Ledger. Five Leon County schools are getting new principals: Jennifer Ricardo, Apalachee Elementary; Taita Scott, Riley Elementary; Lisa Mehr, Woodville Elementary; Sarah Hembree, Cobb Middle; and Carmen Conner, Pineview Elementary. Tallahassee Democrat.

School board elections: Five candidates are challenging three incumbents for seats on the Sarasota County School Board, and the results could shake the balance of power and influence key decisions on such issues as teacher salaries, a new internal police department and even Superintendent Todd Bowden’s job status. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Stormwater fee dispute settled: The Marion County School Board votes to pay stormwater fees to the city of Ocala, ending a seven year-long dispute over the question of whether the board was required to pay the fees. The city will waive the $760,000 in unpaid fees, and the board agrees to pay $111,847 a year. Ocala Star-Banner.

Teachers fired: The Brevard County School Board unanimously agrees to fire a special education teacher who had pornography on his district-issued laptop. Jonathan Goosey’s contract was terminated for “misconduct, gross insubordination, willful neglect of duty, immorality and conduct unbecoming of a public employee,” Superintendent Desmond Blackburn wrote in his recommendation to the board. Florida Today. A Clay County substitute teacher is fired after allegedly telling a Ridgeview High School student that if she wanted to shoot herself, to “go ahead but make sure you do it outside.” WJAX.

Protest against teacher: A Palm Beach County teacher is under investigation for making “potentially inappropriate” remarks about Haiti to students. A video of the incident shows the Palm Beach Gardens High School teacher telling students not to walk out of class before the bell. Then he asked a girl if she understood and said: “It’s called a door, and let me show you how it works. Now I don’t know where it works where you’re from, down in some Third World island country where they don’t got them, but let me show you what it’s like in America.” Residents of Haitian descent protested the remarks and are asking for an apology. Palm Beach Post.

Charter won’t appeal: Plato Academy, one of the charter schools whose application was recently denied by the Leon County School Board, says it will not appeal the decision to the Florida Department of Education. Tallahassee Democrat.

Students arrested: A 16-year-old Bayshore High School student is arrested after taking a loaded handgun to school, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A 16-year-old Weeki Wachee High School student is arrested after allegedly threatening the school in a fake social media post. The girl told deputies she did it so she could “get out of school.” Tampa Bay Times.

School fight: Twenty-five students are treated after being pepper-sprayed during a fight at Wekiva High School in Orange County. Three students were fighting when one of them began pepper-spraying the area. Two girls were arrested and are expected to face aggravated battery charges. WFTV.

School bus accident: A man is in critical condition after he apparently turned in front of a school bus in Clermont. None of the 51 students on the bus was injured. Daily CommercialOrlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: Diana Greene will have some big challenges to face as the next superintendent of the Duval County School District. She should start by creating a citizens task force on facilities and evaluate all of the district’s schools and buildings to determine which should be renovated and which should be closed. Florida Times-Union. We hope the Polk County School District’s new $4 million program featuring armed “guardians” in each school will never be necessary. But, compared to the alternative, heightened security seems more grounded in reality. Lakeland Ledger. The Manatee County School Board’s search for a new school superintendent will require lots of homework. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Student enrichment: Jack Rummler, an 18-year-old senior at Orlando’s Boone High School, is named the state’s “student journalist of the year” award by the Florida Scholastic Press Association. Orlando Sentinel. Ten high school juniors from northwest Florida are named Sunshine State Scholars by the state for their achievements in STEM subjects. Tallahassee Democrat. Feeding Northeast Florida and the KIPP Jacksonville Schools will set up a pantry inside the school this fall  to serve the school’s 1,100 students and their families. Until then, the groups have set up a mobile food pantry in the school parking lot. The school is located in an area with few options for fresh and affordable food. WJCT. Florida Times-Union.