Florida schools roundup: Extended-day benefits, teacher shortages and more

Expanded-day benefits: Students at the state’s 300 lowest-performing elementary schools benefit from the extra hour of daily reading instruction the state requires, according to new research from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. The extra time requirement began in 2012 at the 100 lowest-performing schools, and two years later was expanded to 300 schools. Researchers who looked at the 2012 data say that in one school year, students’ test scores jumped by the equivalent of one to three months of extra learning. That cut the gap in reading test scores between the best schools and average ones by about a third. Chalkbeat.

Teacher shortage: Florida’s shortage of teachers is real and it’s getting worse, the Florida Board of Education was told this week. Cathy Boehme of the Florida Education Association told the board that two years ago, the number of advertised teaching positions posted on district websites was about 2,400. Last year it was 3,000, and this year it’s 4,063. “That’s the acceleration in the teacher shortage you need to be looking at,” Boehme said. “This is a critical problem we must address.” Gradebook.

School security: Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, wants the Legislature to take another look at school security in the 2019 legislative session. News Service of Florida. Some south Florida schools have decided to lock their entry gates all day as a security precaution, which means visitors must call ahead to the front office and wait for someone to unlock the gates. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina says he can’t commit to placing an officer in every school for a full day because of high crime rates. Schools open Monday. Miami Herald. Florida charter schools are struggling to pay for officers to guard their schools. One example: Highly rated New Dimensions High School in Kissimmee has 427 students, and was quoted a cost of $90,000 a year from the Osceola County sheriff to supply a school resource officer. “We literally do not have even $3,000 in our bottom line of our budget,” says school co-director Jackie Grimm. redefinED. Twenty school guardians complete their training and will be on duty in Manatee County schools Monday. Bradenton Herald. The Jackson County School District’s police department needs to hire three more officers to have one for each school. WJHG.

Key facts redacted: Among the key facts about accused school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s experience in the Broward County School District that a judge ordered redacted from a district report: The district knew Cruz had shown profound emotional and behavioral troubles as early as age 3; that Cruz had never sustained periods of acceptable behavior while mainstreamed into regular classes; and that Cruz was sent to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland without a behavior intervention plan. Sun-Sentinel.

District appeals on charters: The Palm Beach County School Board’s attempts to deny two charter schools’ applications have already been overturned twice by courts, but board members vote unanimously to file another appeal. In 2014, the board turned down an application from South Palm Beach Charter School, and in 2015 rejected Renaisssance Charter High School of Palm Beach. Both denials were based on the grounds that the schools weren’t innovative. The state overruled the board both times, leading to an appeal that was rejected in 2017 and the Florida Supreme Court refusing to hear a board appeal of that ruling. Palm Beach PostredefinED.

Missing exams found: A box of college credit exams from 300 students at Santaluces High School in Palm Beach County has been found by the United Parcel Service — in Montreal, Canada, 3,200 miles away from the University of Cambridge in England where they were supposed to have been sent and graded. Students had been expecting to learn the results this week, and instead were told by the principal that the tests had been lost and they would have to retake the exams. Palm Beach Post.

Contract negotiations: The Volusia County School District ups its contract offer to teachers to the 2 percent raise requested, but the teachers union also wants to change the salary schedule to make it fairer, cut down the number of monthly meetings teachers must attend and continue to discuss any proposals to increase the elementary school day. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Property tax increase vote: The first of two ballot initiatives asking taxpayers for more money for Martin County schools hits the ballot Aug. 28. The half-mill hike in property taxes would raise $11.2 million a year for four years, and $8.2 million of that would go to teachers in the form of stipends or bonuses. The rest would pay for school guards, mental-health services and professional development. In November, the school district is asking for an extra half-cent in the sales tax to pay for school construction. The last tax referendum of any kind passed in Martin County was in 2006. TCPalm.

School board elections: Hillsborough County teachers say they’re getting school board elections campaign flyers in their work email. Some have complained to state elections officials that candidate Steve Cona is violating the law that says candidates shall not “use the services of any state, county, municipal, or district officer or employee during working hours” or be allowed to “solicit or knowingly accept any political contribution in a building owned by a governmental entity.” Gradebook. Brevard County School Board candidates talk about their positions on arming school staff. Florida Today.

Personnel moves: Robert Wallace, who retired in 2015 after 35 years in education, is taking over as principal at Flagler Palm Coast High School. He replaces Dustin Sims, who is taking a job with the state Department of Education. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Virtual school query closed: There’s no evidence to conclude that a former Polk County administrator used his position to benefit his new employer, a virtual school vendor, or that any crime was committed when that company tried to collect $1.8 million for services that hadn’t been approved by the school board, concludes an investigator from the State Attorney’s Office. Lakeland Ledger.

Security guard arrested: A security guard at Olsen Middle School in Dania Beach is arrested on the first day of school and charged with bringing a firearm on campus. Nathaniel Strowbridge, 57, who has been a Broward County security specialist since 1994, has been removed and officials are recommending he be fired. Miami Herald.

School threat: A 13-year-old boy arrested in April for taking a loaded gun to Dowdell Middle School in Hillsborough County is arrested again and accused of threatening to launch a shooting attack against the school. Tampa Bay Times. A Port St. Lucie High School student is arrested after making threats on a school bus. The student is charged with making false claims to harm others and disruption of a school function. TCPalm. A 15-year-old student at Buddy Taylor Middle School in Palm Coast is arrested after threatening to shoot up the school and kill herself after arguing with a teacher over dress code compliance. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Bus problems: A 6-year-old student at Lee Magnet Elementary in Tampa has two bus problems in the first week of school. Monday, on her first-ever bus ride home, she was dropped off at the wrong stop, 20 miles from her home. Tuesday, she was allowed to board the wrong bus, but the driver alertly caught the error. “It’s unacceptable that this happened twice, and we didn’t want it to happen a third. We addressed this immediately,” says Tanya Arja, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County School District. WFLA.

School lunch denied: A student at University High School in Orange City was denied school lunch on the first day of school Tuesday because she owed 15 cents from the last school year. “The school is always willing to work with students and families as needed,” says Roger Edgcomb, spokesman for the Volusia County School District. “The school will be contacting the family directly to help resolve this issue.” WKMG.

Opinions on schools: All high schools should consider a “Power Hour” to combine two short lunch periods into a longer one and bring students from all grades together to reinforce the idea that all people must learn to respect, support and work with others. Chris Salamone, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: The ratings website Niche says Pine View School in Sarasota is the best public high school in the state. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.