Florida schools roundup: School security issues, board turmoil and more

School security concerns: A survey of all 67 Florida school districts reveals the struggles officials are having paying for the state directive to place armed guards in all public schools, finding enough qualified applicants and getting them trained before schools start this month. All districts say schools will be covered. Forty-five districts are using only sworn police officers in schools, though some have yet to complete hiring and are paying overtime to officers for coverage. Nine districts are hiring security guards, and 13 are using armed volunteer administrators, custodians and other non-classroom staff members. Associated Press. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is expected to hear from experts on school hardening and federal privacy laws at its monthly meeting that begins today. Associated Press. The city of Deltona will reconsider its refusal to help the Volusia County School District pay for armed guardians in city schools. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Citrus County commissioners sign a contract to help the school district pay for school resource officers, and are urging Sheriff Mike Prendergast to do the same. Citrus County Chronicle.

Turmoil on Broward board: The attorney for the Broward County School Board made the decision to ask for a contempt order against a newspaper for disclosing information that was supposed to be redacted from a district report on accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s educational history. Barbara Myrick says she and another school district attorney made the decision without notifying board members or district officials, even though it was filed on the behalf of the board. Board members are unhappy. “Communication to the board must improve,” says chairwoman Nora Rupert. “The aspect that we’re getting our information from the news is ridiculous.” Board members also argued about Superintendent Robert Runcie’s decision this week to delay putting metal detectors in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when schools reopen Aug. 15, then abruptly recessed the meeting. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Privacy experts say the Broward County School District violated federal law when it failed to properly redact the report on Cruz’s educational background, but is unlikely to be penalized. Sun-Sentinel.

Taxes and teacher raises: If Broward County voters approve a property tax referendum Aug. 28, the school district’s teachers will likely get raises of about 6 percent, district officials say. The tax would raise about $93 million a year for four years. Seventy-two percent of that money, or about $67 million, would go into raises for teachers and other employees who work directly with students. About 20 percent would be used to hire resource officers and other security staff, and 8 percent would be used to add guidance counselors, social workers and behavioral staff. Sun-Sentinel. Q&A on the Broward tax referendum for schools. Sun-Sentinel.

Back-to-school anxiety: Grief counselors say it’s normal for Broward County students to feel anxiety about returning to school after the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, since the shock of that trauma is beginning to wear off. “It’s like when you cut your finger: It doesn’t hurt at first. But, an hour later, it’s killing you,” says Pat Stauber, a social worker. “The numbness helps us not feel the full impact of the trauma when it first happens — and that numbness can last weeks, months.” Stoneman Douglas teachers are also nervous about returning. WLRN.

Medical marijuana use: Broward County School Board members agree to allow students who are registered to use medical marijuana to take it on campus in the form of an edible, oil or lotion. Parents or caregivers will be required to administer the drug at school. Students with cancer, epilepsy, HIV, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, among other illnesses, will be eligible to take the drug at school. Board members say they will revisit their decision if it jeopardizes federal funding. WPLG. WSVN.

Mental health services: The Clay County School District is using money from the state to add at least eight new employees to expand mental health care services. Positions were created for mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers, and coordinators for nursing, mental health and student engagement, says Superintendent Addison Davis. WJXT.

Sharing funds with charters: The Pasco County School Board delays consideration about sharing capital funds with charter schools. Board members agree to start a discussion next month, after the Aug. 28 primary in which three of the five seats are on the ballot. “This is a significant change, and we really need to talk about it,” says vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley. “The public needs to weigh in on it, too.” Gradebook. The Sarasota County School Board votes 3-2 to cut the money it sends to charter schools from $8.5 million last year to $3.6 million this year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Administrator on leave: Manatee County School Board chairman Scott Hopes says Ron Ciranna, assistant superintendent for operations, is under investigation for his handling of the district’s upgrade of its software for business management. The project, which started in 2015, was budgeted at $10 million and was supposed to be completed by April 2017. The upgrade just went live July 1, and cost about $19 million. Hopes says the district is concerned that some of the work “may not have gone through proper authorization.” Bradenton Herald.

Superintendent’s contract: The Sarasota County School Board unanimously tables a vote to extend Superintendent Todd Bowden’s contract and remove the “terminate without cause” clause. Bowden had asked the board to delay the vote beyond the opening of the school year and the Aug. 28 board elections. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Teachers transferred: At least six teachers with low evaluation scores from the state are being transferred from the struggling Terwilliger Elementary School, according to Alachua County school officials. The teachers were deemed ineffective based on their value-added measure scores, and are being reassigned. Terwilliger has received grades of D the past two years, which triggers a district to use the VAM scores to judge teacher performance. Gainesville Sun.

Lost lessons from space: Lessons teacher Christa McAuliffe intended to give from space but never did after the space shuttle Columbia blew up shortly after takeoff from Florida in 1986 were finally presented Tuesday. Astronaut Ricky Arnold performed one of the experiments from the International Space Station, which was then broadcast by NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Associated Press.

Superintendents’ goals: Manatee County’s interim school superintendent, Cynthia Saunders, says the district’s goals are to get school security measures in place, improve to become an A district and maintain financial health. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. New Duval County Superintendent Diana Greene says she wants to add assistance principals at struggling schools to help inexperienced teachers, and is asking principals to set goals to improve student performance by 11 points on state exams. Florida Times-Union.

School board elections: A message from the Facebook account of a Pasco County School Board candidate challenges a critic to a face-to-face meeting, where the candidate would “have that paddle ready.” The candidate, Kenny Mathis, denies writing it, but he hasn’t contacted Facebook about the alleged fake account. Gradebook. Bay County School Board candidates answer questions from constituents at a community meeting. WMBB. Candidates for the District 4 seat on the Duval County School Board answer questions from the audience at a community forum on topics such as teacher retention, arts education, the school board’s role and schools that are under enrollment capacity. Florida Times-Union. WJCT. Nine Polk County School Board candidates express support for a proposal to turn the struggling McLaughlin Middle School into a charter school under the Lake Wales charter schools’ guidance. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter finds home: The Athenian Academy Charter School will open Friday in a strip mall in Estero. About 100 K-2 students are enrolled at the school, which expects to move to a permanent location for the 2019-2020 school year. Naples Daily News.

Displaying a motto: Escambia and Santa Rosa school officials say they have plans in place to comply with a new state law that requires the state motto, “In God We Trust,” to be displayed conspicuously in all schools. Posters have been made in Escambia for all schools, and Santa Rosa schools will display the Florida seal, which includes the motto. Pensacola News Journal.

What’s in a name? The Pasco County School District says it will no longer have substitute teachers. Instead, those teachers who are, well, subbing for regular teachers will be known as “guest teachers.” The new title “better represents the caliber and scope of responsibility of temporary classroom employees we seek to recruit and retain,” writes human resources director Christine Pejot in a note to administrators. Gradebook.

Clothes for teachers: The Pasco County nonprofit Marjorie’s Hope is setting up a place where district teachers can find clothes for school at no charge. “Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Why did we wait so long? Why did one person have to reach out, have the courage to reach out?” says nonprofit founder Debi Shackowsky. WFTS.

Contaminated crayons? A consumer advocacy group says Playskool crayons are contaminated with toxic levels of asbestos and should be recalled. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund says it tested 36-packs of crayons from a Dollar Tree store in Chicago, but that the item is also sold online by Amazon, eBay and DollarDays.com. Washington Post.

Teacher arrested: A Bible school teacher at a Jacksonville church school is arrested and charged with lewd battery with a minor, lewd and lascivious molestation and transmission of material harmful to minors. Robert Russell Browning, 59, a teacher at Cedar Creek Baptist Church for the past six years, engaged in sex acts and traded sexually explicit texts and photos with the girl, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Opinions on schools: Weighing the requirement of parents to disclose their child’s mental health information to school officials with personal privacy is a delicate maneuver. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Parents can do several things, even after the first bell rings, to help ensure a successful school year for their children. Randy Kambic, Fort Myers News-Press. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene’s statement, “There is a big correlation between third grade reading level and whether you go to college or whether you go to prison,” makes a connection between reading scores and prison rates that might be true, but we cannot know for sure. PolitiFact Florida. The days of state prohibitions against spending public tax dollars on religious education may be numbered, affording all families – rich and poor – the tone and substance of education that is so cherished by the rest of us in raising our families. John E. Coons, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Kevin Dimaculangan, a 15-year-old student at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, wins a world championship for his ability to use Microsoft software programs Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Fort Myers News-Press.