Florida schools roundup: Medical pot, security, mental health and more

Medical marijuana: Many Florida school districts are defying the state law that allows students to use prescribed medical marijuana at schools. State law requires all school districts to have a written policy governing medical marijuana. But that same law exempts schools from accommodating on-campus use of medical marijuana. So some districts are choosing to follow federal laws that still classify marijuana use of any kind illegal. “The voters approved keeping it away from schools and prisons,” says Mitchell Teitelbaum, attorney for the Manatee County School District. “But the Legislature amended it to allow students to use it. What we need is the state Legislature to provide clarity on what is allowed.” USA Today.

School security and more: As more schools open today and this week, districts continue to pull together their security plans, try to fill open teaching positions and refine their objectives for the year. Sun-SentinelMiami HeraldPalm Beach PostOrlando Sentinel. Daily CommercialDaytona Beach News-Journal. Key West Citizen. Citrus County Chronicle. Palm Beach Post. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Ocala Star-Banner. WFLA. WTSP. Leon County teachers talk about inspiration and offer advice to new teachers. Tallahassee Democrat.

Mental health services: School districts are getting millions of dollars from the state to offer students more mental health services. And while there are questions about student privacy, since they are required to disclose previous mental health issues, experts expect the benefits of the new initiative to be substantial and long-lasting. “It’s fantastic,” says Candice Crawford, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida. “A lot of these children, and especially at-risk kids, tend to end up in the juvenile justice system without ever having been evaluated for mental health issues or given any services. And then people just write them off as bad. The long-term impact of this is going to be remarkable.” Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Disclosure case: A newspaper argues that it did not violate a court order by publishing the educational records of accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz, in response to a Broward County School Board request that it be held in contempt. South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson says if Cruz’s right to privacy was violated it was by the school district, which was ordered to redact portions of the report before releasing it but used a method that allowed the redacted material to be read after it was copied and pasted into another computer document. Sun-Sentinel.

Education budget talks: The Florida Board of Education is expected to talk about education spending at a workshop Wednesday. Board members have heard a lot of complaints from school officials around the state about the level of educational funding and the financial commitments for state mandates. The Florida Association of District School Superintendents, for instance, has already said its priorities for 2019 are funding and school safety. Gradebook.

Reading scholarships: More than 2,400 Florida students have already expressed interest in applying for a reading scholarship from the state, which begins accepting applications today. Third-, 4th- and 5th-graders who have scored below Level 3 on the Florida Standards Assessments language arts test are eligible, on a first-come, first-served basis, to receive $500 for tutoring or reading materials. About $9.7 million is available this year. The program is administered by Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog. redefinED.

Turnaround schools: Two Manatee County elementary schools get one last chance this year to improve their D grades from the state to C or face state-mandated changes. Blanche H. Daughtery Elementary and G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary, which have each received D grades the past three years, will be forced to close, become a charter school or be put under the control of an outside operator if they can’t improve to C grades. Bradenton Herald. The Escambia County School District is hiring New York-based Rensselaerville Institute as a consultant to help principals and teachers at Warrington Middle School and nine elementary schools. The contract is for $500,000 over three years, paid by a federal grant, and if Warrington doesn’t improve from a D grade to a C the district will get the money back or another year of consulting, free. WEAR.

Alternate school site: The expansion of the Plato Academy Trinity in Pasco County won’t be done in time for the reopening of school today, so classes for the 240 students have been moved to a church about 2.5 miles away. Contractors now say classes can move into the new Plato building by Sept. 1. Gradebook.

Advanced classes cut: About half the advanced classes at Yulee Middle School in Nassau County have been eliminated. All the advanced classes for 6th-graders have been cut, and about half the ones for 7th- and 8th-graders. “We believe, and there is a body of research to support, that mixed ability classrooms are what’s best for students, says district spokesman Mark Durham. “We are confident in the abilities of our teachers to differentiate instruction in the classroom to meet the needs of all students.” WJAX.

Schools upgraded: Five years after it was closed, South Lake Elementary School in Titusville reopens as a choice elementary school. Friday, the first day of school, 315 students streamed into the school, which used more than $1 million in impact fees from the school district to become a school focusing on science, technology, engineering, math and the arts. Florida Today. A new Pierson Elementary School is drawing positive reviews from Volusia County students. The school had old buildings, air-conditioning problems and almost 30 portable classrooms. The new school has two-story buildings with big windows, a “cafetorium,” artwork and lots of bathrooms. It’s the first new school the district has built with money from the extension of the half-cent sales tax. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Superintendent’s decision: New York City’s unwillingness to match a $24,000 yearly retirement contribution apparently prompted Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s last-minute decision to back out of a job offer to be that city’s school chancellor, according to text messages. New York offered to match Carvalho’s $352,000 salary, but would not match the $24,000 retirement contribution or $12,000 for expenses he also receives. Carvalho apparently thought New York City officials had agreed to the $24,000, was “caught me totally off guard” when informed that was not the case, and declined the job. At a press conference announcing he was staying in Miami, Carvalho said he didn’t know how “to break a promise to a child” by leaving. Miami HeraldPolitico Florida. Chalkbeat. New York Times.

School board elections: A lawsuit is filed to remove a Lake County School Board District 1 seat candidate from the ballot for failing to resign from his current office to run for another. Perry Berkowitz, 75, was supposed to resign from a position on the North Lake County Hospital District board, but didn’t until July 25. He says he was unaware of the resign-to-run rule. Orlando Sentinel. Eight of the 15 candidates for the Lee County School Board say they do not support the district’s half-cent sales tax referendum for school security, building and maintaining schools and technology. Fort Myers News-Press. All 10 candidates for Volusia County School Board seats say they support higher pay for teachers, a curriculum upgrade for elementary students to improve grades, improving the graduation rate and that niche charter schools are good for the district. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The seven candidates for the Okaloosa County School Board say they want to restore the public’s trust in the board. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Slain teacher honored: A street in Dix Hills, N.Y., has been renamed from Hart Place to Scott J. Beigel Way to honor the teacher who was shot to death Feb. 14 while trying to protect students from a shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Beigel grew up in Dix Hills. Associated Press.

E-school honored: The Pasco eSchool is named the state’s 2017-2018 virtual school of the year among large-district franchises. The school offers 160 courses to about 11,000 K-12 students. Tampa Bay Times.

Transgender suit settled: A discrimination lawsuit filed by a transgender student against the Volusia County School Board is settled after the school district agreed to “treat the student as male for all purposes including the use of communal boys restrooms and locker rooms.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Ex-counselor sentenced: A former counselor at Chaires Elementary School in Leon County is sentenced to 20 years in prison for having a sexual relationship with an underage boy. Kathgret Rentz, 30, was arrested in 2016 and charged with six counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, and pleaded no contest in April. Her attorney says he will appeal the sentence. Tallahassee Democrat.

Opinions on schools: Whatever happened to that old belief that the government closest to the people governs best? That used to be an article of faith among conservatives, particularly Republicans. Isn’t your county school board better able to weigh needs of the students against profit potential for charter investors? Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. It’s time to expand school choice to the middle class. Renee Stoeckle, redefinED. No one should blame teachers if, once school begins, they close their classroom door and ignore all the background noise from the outside world. Doing so might be their best defense against distractions and cynicism. Tom Tryon, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties all elect superintendents, but should explore switching to appointing  them. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Student enrichment: The Ocala Forest High School classroom that was the site of a shooting in April has been converted into a student sanctuary called “The Rock.” Ocala Star-Banner.