Florida schools roundup: Teacher of the year, school security issues and more

Teacher of the year: Joy Prescott, a 4th-grade math teacher at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School in Glades County, is named Florida teacher of the year. She wins $20,000 and will be the state’s Christa McAuliffe Ambassador for Education for the next year. The other finalists were Kyle Dencker, a computer science teacher at Timber Creek High School in Orange County; Samantha Neff, a math coach at Idyllwilde Elementary School in Seminole County; Patrick Farley, a 3rd- and 4th-grade gifted teacher at Crystal Lake Elementary School in Martin County; and Molly Winters Diallo, a social science teacher at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in Miami-Dade County. Each wins $15,000. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Department of Education.

School security: Only 35 of the 140 applicants for armed guardians jobs in Broward County schools pass the first screening test. The district says it needs to hire at least 80. Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman says based on his experience with his city’s police department, only about five of those 35 candidates will survive further screenings. He says most candidates fail the psychological tests. Sun-Sentinel. Only 24 of the eventual 107 school safety assistants will be in Duval County classrooms when students return to schools Aug. 13 because of hiring and training delays, say district officials. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. Insuring each security guard the Brevard County School District will cost only $150 a year, says Mark Langdorf, director of risk management for the district. District officials say they need 28 guards, so the insurance premium will be $4,200. Florida Today. The Leon County School District’s patchwork of protection for schools will test the state law demand that every school have an armed officer every day. Tallahassee Democrat. Lawrence Leon, the former chief of the Palm Beach County School District’s police department, will keep his $137,732 salary even though his job now is patrolling Jupiter Farms Elementary School. Palm Beach Post. The city of North Miami Beach is partnering with the Miami-Dade County School District to place a resource officer in all schools located in the city. The agreement adds officers at the two elementary schools; the middle and high schools were already covered. WTVJ. Several of the 13 Manatee County charter schools still do not have a plan for school security. Bradenton Herald.

School safety commission: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission makes progress on uncovering what happened before, during and after the shootings Feb. 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School, and is finding that many of the problems did not directly contribute to the deaths of 17 people. “In the heat of the moment, things get reported, things become facts that with the benefit of some time and some understanding of the events you start to realize those weren’t as big a factor as you thought,” says commissioner Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina died in the shooting. Associated Press. The commission wants to ask FBI officials at its September or October meeting why they failed to act on a tip about accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz that might have prevented the shootings. WLRN.

Teacher union membership: Teachers unions in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties report that membership is growing since the state passed a law requiring unions to have at least 50 percent membership of eligible workers or risk being decertified. Miami-Dade stands at 50 percent, Broward at 65 percent and Palm Beach at 56 percent, say union officials. Sun-Sentinel.

Ethics complaint filed: An advocate for the rights of the disabled files a state ethics complaint against Hillsborough County School Board member Lynn Gray, alleging that she has violated the state’s Sunshine Law and used her status as a board member to help her personal business. Gradebook.

Education podcasts: Ron Meyer, the attorney representing the League of Women Voters in its lawsuit to remove Amendment 8 from the November ballot and the Florida Education Association in its suit against a law that requires teachers unions to have 50 percent of eligible members be dues-paying or risk decertification, talks about both suits. WFSU. Delving into the reasons why Lori Romano was fired as superintendent for the Hernando County School District. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Fred Fout is named head of school at the Sarasota Military Academy High School, a charter school. Mainspring Communications.

School board elections: Brevard County School Board candidates detail how they would prevent the abuse of students and theft by district employees. Brevard Times.

Merging schools: Two New Smyrna Beach elementary schools would be merged under a plan Volusia County school officials are recommending to the school board. Under the propoal, a second story would be added to Chisholm Elementary School, and Read-Pattillo Elementary students would be moved there. The plan would save $23 million off the original idea to replace Read-Pattillo. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Verifying addresses: Pasco County school officials have added documentation requests to make sure parents aren’t lying about their addresses so their children can attend an out-of-zone school, and are considering other revisions to the district student assignment policy. Gradebook.

Early release days: A Volusia County School District contract negotiations pitch to switch from early-release days to eight half-days to create more planning time for teachers is raising questions from teachers and parents. But details are scarce. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Board member suspended: Gov. Rick Scott suspends Putnam County School Board member Nichole Cummings, who was arrested last month for allegedly shoplifting from a Walmart store in Palatka. WJXT.

Accused teacher not rehired: A 26-year-old Lee County teacher accused of sexual activity with another teacher in a classroom has been let go. School officials say Samantha Wilhide was reprimanded, and her contract not renewed, after she was found with Justin Pinto, 24, partially undressed in a Heights Elementary School classroom in Fort Myers. Pinto, a first-year teacher who was on probation, was fired. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: Florida ranks 41st among 43 states that fund pre-K programs. Is it any wonder that the rate of preschoolers ready for kindergarten has fallen from 76 percent eight years ago to 64 percent today? Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Allowing charter schools to be approved at the state level instead of solely at the county level by the local school board, is a lousy idea. Amendment 8 deserves a “no” vote. Jim Ross, Ocala Star-Banner. Amendment 8 has what legislators would call sweeteners, adding civics education and school board term limits to a measure that would put charter schools and other private operations beyond the governance of your local, elected county school board members. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. Any citizen unhappy that the Palm Beach County School District might ask voters to approve a boost in property taxes should take their complaint to the Florida Legislature. That’s because lawmakers — in particular, House Republicans — have taken their anti-tax ideology to an extreme. Palm Beach Post. Our system of free and appropriate public education deserves the majority of the credit for making America great. Now, it is up to all of us to see that public education gets the credit and support it needs to keep America great. Leonard Pellicer, St. Augustine Record. The Marion County business community’s ambivalence to a 1-mill tax for schools four years ago has turned to enthusiastic endorsements this time around. Why? Because the school system has delivered on its promise of more and better vocational programs that has resulted in more sorely needed skilled workers coming out of our high schools. Ocala Star-Banner. Before now, the Volusia County School Board has picked up most of the tab for school security itself, with the exception of some grant-funded positions. So it’s reasonable for the board to reach out to local governments for funding help. Certainly, everyone shares the goal of keeping students safe. Daytona Beach News-Journal.