Florida schools roundup: Homework, anti-test lag, security, lawsuit and more

Homework revisited: A year after Marion County School Superintendent Heidi Maier ended homework for students, the school board will consider a policy that allows elementary school teachers to assign it again. Maier and other administrators conceded last week in a workshop session that some homework is necessary. But they don’t want it to get excessive. “It needs to be meaningful and engaging,” says deputy superintendent Jonathan Grantham, not just busy work. Ocala Star-Banner.

Anti-test movement: The once vibrant movement to slow or eliminate high-stakes standardized testing as a tool for measuring student progress has slowed significantly, according to many in the field. “I think it is much quieter, whether that’s because (Every Student Succeeds Act) plans (are mostly approved) and federal law is not going to be opened up for awhile,” says Patricia Levesque, chief executive officer of Foundation for Excellence in Education, a think tank started by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But she doesn’t think the debate is dead. “A lot of things are cyclical,” she says. “That’s just the way that policy is.” Many states are still tweaking details. Levesque’s group, for instance, is urging states to push testing to later in the school year. Education Week.

School security: Metal detectors will be used at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this fall, but the school district will no longer require students to have clear backpacks. Sun-Sentinel. The 20 new armed guardians for the Manatee County School District met Monday for their first day of training. More than 270 people applied for the jobs. The district chose armed guardians over sworn school resource officers because of the costs. “Let’s not rush to judgment right now,” says Pat Bartholomew, the director of safety and security for the district. “We had a very solid vetting process, a selection process, so let the training speak for itself.” Bradenton Herald.

Hearing on amendment: A Leon County circuit court judge will hear arguments Aug. 17 in the lawsuit filed to remove proposed constitutional Amendment 8 from the November ballot. The Florida League of Women Voters brought the suit, claiming the amendment is intentionally misleading. It would allow charter schools and other types of schools to be approved by an entity other than local school boards. It would also limit terms for school board members and require civics education in public schools. News Service of Florida.

Schools, primary coexist: Citing security concerns, south Florida elections officers asked school districts to close Aug. 28 for the election primary since many schools are used as voting precincts. So far, administrators in the Broward and Palm Beach school districts say will go to schools that day as scheduled, though they say both districts will close schools for the general election Nov. 6. “Considering the climate that we live in now, I would love to have the schools closed to students on primary day,” says Brenda Snipes, Broward supervisor of elections and a former teacher, principal and school district administrator. Sun-Sentinel.

District budget: The Volusia County School Board is considering boosting the property tax rate by 3.5 percent to help cut into its projected deficit of $2.49 million. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Mental health services: A plan to provide mental health services to Volusia County students is being revised to include a hospital left out of the original plan. The decision to partner with Florida Hospital for the services cut out Halifax Health. After hearing criticism from Halifax and others, the school board will now revisit that proposal. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Talking education: Prominent voices in Florida education will talk about school safety, charter schools, teacher retention and K-12 scholarships during an hour-long forum tonight televised live by Spectrum News in the Tampa Bay area and Orlando. Participants include State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Sorings; Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee; Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples; former state senator John Legg, who runs a charter school; 2018 Florida teacher of the year Tammy Jerkins; and Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and helps administer four state K-12 scholarship programs. Gradebook.

‘Listening’ session: Pasco County School Board member Colleen Beaudoin schedules a “listening session” with constituents Wednesday to hear what they think about district issues. “I respond to emails and call people back,” she says, “but I feel like some people just want to be heard.” Gradebook.

Principal to testify: Carl Burnside, principal at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, will testify before the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee this week about career and technical educational opportunities at the school. “I feel truly honored to share the kinds of career and technical education opportunities that Dunbar has developed to prepare students for both college and careers,” says Burnside, who was asked to appear by U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, a Republican from Naples. Fort Myers News-Press.

School district enrollment: More than 1,200 students are expected to attend Nassau County schools this year, a record high. And school officials think enrollment will grow as the start of the new school year gets closer. WJXT.

School board elections: A candidate for the Sarasota County School Board is being criticized for “liking” a vulgar Facebook post about State Rep. Joe Gruters’ wife. Nick Guy, who is running against board chairwoman Bridget Ziegler, says he “liked” the comment without reading it to the end. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Candidates for the District 4 seat on the Sarasota County School Board debate school security, Superintendent Todd Bowden, school choice and charter schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The race for the District 5 seat on the Citrus County School Board includes two retirees and two students. Citrus County Chronicle.

Personnel moves: Four Pasco County schools will have new principals this year. Tampa Bay Times. Hernando County has just one new principal this year: Edward LaRose takes over at D.S. Parrott Middle School in Brooksville. Tampa Bay Times.

Boosting immunizations: The Palm Beach County Health Department is expanding its hours and adding staff to help meet the goal of tripling the number of back-to-school immunizations given to students. Palm Beach Post.

Principal removed: A Leon County principal is being removed from his school because of his romantic relationship with a teacher. David Solz, who had been principal at Gilchrist Elementary School since 2009, is being replaced by Scotty Crowe. Solz is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, which will determine if he is reassigned to another district job. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.

Failure to report investigated: Leon County sheriff’s deputies are investigating whether two Leon High School staffers failed to report two sexual crimes allegedly involving a student, as required by state law. WFSUTallahassee Democrat.

Bear sighting at school: Teachers working on their classrooms last Saturday at Shalimar Elementary School report a black bear prowling around the playground. A trapper was called, but the bear had gone by the time he arrived. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: Amendment 8 deliberately obfuscates the ballot title and summary in an apparent attempt to hoodwink the electorate into voting for it. Citrus County Chronicle.

Student enrichment: Max Mateer, a sophomore at Pensacola High School, wins in the performance category at the National History Day finals in Maryland. His presentation was on President James K. Polk. WEAR.

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BY NextSteps staff