Florida schools roundup: Charter schools, prayer case, budgets and more

Charter schools: Included in the Florida Board of Education’s budget wish list for the Legislature is a request for an extra $10 million for charter school construction. If it’s approved, it would boost the amount available for charter schools to $155 million. The money comes from Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO), whose collection is expected to total $1.18 billion this year. But money is still tight because that total has to cover debt payments on bonds issued by public school districts and universities, universities have already requested an extra $64 million, and there are unfinished projects totaling $732 million. redefinED. A group of Okaloosa County parents are making plans to build a charter high school in Destin. “We are moving full steam ahead right now. We are looking for donations to actually put our money where our mouth is and get this school built,” says Prebble Ramswell, a member of the committee. The anticipated opening is August 2020. WMBB.

Pregame prayer case: A federal appeals court will hear arguments Wednesday about the constitutionality of religious schools broadcasting a prayer on a stadium loudspeaker before playing a football game. Three years ago, before a state championship game between Tampa Cambridge Christian and Jacksonville’s University Christian School, Cambridge asked permission to use the public broadcast system to pray. The Florida High School Athletic Association denied the request, prompting a legal challenge from Cambridge Christian. Last year a federal judge backed the FHSAA, which argued state law did not require or permit the organization to promote a “sectarian prayer through its state-run public-address system.” Cambridge Christian argued the denial was a violation of its free speech rights. News Service of Florida.

District budgets: The Pasco County School Board passes a $1.26 billion budget that has a slightly lower tax rate and funds for new schools in the eastern and western sides of the county. But the main topic of discussion was the still-undefined amount of money that will be used for employee raises. Everyone seems to agree employees, and especially teachers, should be paid more, but Superintendent Kurt Browning wants to wait to hear how much the district will get from the state before committing to higher pay. Tampa Bay Times. The St. Johns County School Board approves a $719 million budget, an increase of about $8 million over last year. The district’s property tax millage rate will decline, but that will be offset by increases in property values. St. Augustine Record. The Gulf County School Board approves its school budget. Port St. Joe Star.

District equity report: The Flagler County School District has enrolled more students in advanced classes and dual-enrollment classes over the past five years, but continues to struggle to achieve racial parity in its workforce, according to the district’s latest equity report. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Education and politics: Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and his opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, have wildly differing proposals on education policy. But they do agree that the state needs to broaden technical and vocational education programs for students who aren’t interested in college. News Service of Florida.

Carbon monoxide at school: Three children and two adults at Carol City Elementary School in Miami-Dade County are hospitalized with possible carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms. Their conditions were not disclosed. School officials are investigating. Miami Herald. WPLGWFTV.

A Red Tide redirect: Two Pinellas County schools move recess and physical education classes inside this week because of the odor of dead fish caused by a Red Tide outbreak that has moved into the Intracoastal Waterway. Madeira Beach Fundamental School is also leaving on its air-conditioners all night to keep clean air circulating and offering face masks to students and staff, and a nurse at Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach is closely watching students with asthma and other breathing problems. Gradebook.

Water-boiling at schools: Three Collier County schools are under a boil-water advisory after a water main break in the northern part of the county. Affected are Palmetto Ridge High, and Corkscrew Middle and Elementary schools. Naples Daily News.

Public records battle: The Broward County School Board, Sheriff’s Office, State Attorney’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol are withholding public records about the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to lawyers representing the families of slain students Meadow Pollack and Carmen Schentrup. The lawyers filed a petition this week in Broward Circuit Court. Sun-Sentinel.

Mental health training: Sarasota County middle and high school students and staff will receive training on how to recognize warning signs in students who threaten to harm themselves or others. The training will be provided and paid for by the national nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Homeless students: The number of homeless central Florida students has been declining for the past four years, but the number living in motels and hotels has soared from 981 in 2012-2013 to 1,7932 in 2016-2017, according to the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. Group officials say the numbers point to a need for more affordable housing. Orlando Sentinel.

School board elections: A Pasco County School Board candidate who donated $1,000 to Charter Schools USA, which runs the new Union Park Charter Academy in Wesley Chapel, says the donation does not define her or her candidacy. Tara O’Connor says she supports charter schools, especially locally controlled ones, as a form of school choice. Gradebook.

Personnel moves: Dan Ceaser, head of school at Hershorin Schiff Community Day School in Sarasota, is appointed to the Florida State Board of Education’s Education Practices Commission. The commission handles disciplining of educators. Sarasota Magazine.

Complaint against principal: An assistant principal at Deerlake Middle School in Tallahassee files a complaint against her principal, saying he has created a hostile work environment. Julie Lawson filed the complaint against Stephen Mills, who was appointed principal in July. A complaint of an unknown nature was also filed against Lawson. Lawson will meet with the assistant superintendent of school management, ESE and health services and the director of labor and employee relations to review her complaint. Tallahassee Democrat.

Notable deaths: Warren Napoleon Jones, principal of the Innovations Middle Charter School in Orlando for more than 10 years, has died at the age of 58. Holmes County Times-Advertiser. Grief counselors will be on hand today to console students at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Golden Glades after a 12-year-old student was killed Tuesday in a car crash. Lapsca Philogene died in the three-car crash, and two of her relatives are in critical condition. WSVN.

Student’s death: An official with the Indian River County medical examiner’s office says the 17-year-old Sebastian River High School student-athlete who collapsed and died Saturday after a pickup basketball game at the school had “some abnormalities of the heart.” Christine Canard, administrative manager for the office, says “further testing is pending to determine the cause of death” for Kamaree Lyons. TCPalm.

Student shot at bus stop: A 17-year-old student from Westside High School in Jacksonville is critically injured after being shot in the chest at a school bus stop. The student managed to get on the bus after he was shot, and the school bus driver drove the student to a nearby fire station. This was the sixth school bus-related shooting in Jacksonville in the past four years. Florida Times-Union. Associated Press. WJAX. WJXT.

Teacher arrested: A Jacksonville middle school teacher is arrested and charged with sending and soliciting sexually explicit photos to and from minors. Kristopher Paul Beckstrom, 42, is a music teacher at Landon Middle School and a former Duval district teacher of the year nominee. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX.

Abuse allegation: Sarasota sheriff’s deputies are investigating a child abuse allegation against a teacher at the Foundations Christian Montessori Academy in Sarasota. The teacher is alleged to have physically abused a 20-month-old child and withheld water from her. WFLA.

School buses burglarized: Several school buses at Gulf Breeze High School in Santa Rosa County are burglarized, and fire extinguishers are stolen. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: Dual enrollment and early college can open access to bachelor’s degree-level STEM careers for students from a wide range of backgrounds. Those options can also derail promising students. What matters most is what always matters most – great educators and informed choices by students and parents. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Instead of exploring plans that have a legitimate chance of getting passed and having a real-life effect in most classrooms, the Florida candidates for governor have come up with pithy sound bites and buzz phrases that appeal to their base. John Romano, Tampa Bay Times. Resources devoted to high school athletics in Brevard County should be redirected to academic activities. Ken Rhoden, Florida Today. Seven rules teachers should follow in using social media in their classrooms. Keith Earls, Education Week. School choice gives families more relief from the bullying/harassing form of violence than a whole battalion of school resource officers ever could. Robert Holland, Heartland Institute.

Student enrichment: Donna “Mickey” Reynolds, principal at Lake Mary High School in Seminole County, and some of her staff light up the Internet when they join the school’s step team during a pep rally. The video has nearly 100,000 views since being posted online Friday. Today. The St. Johns County School District is experimenting with paper lunch trays at Otis Mason Elementary School after nearby districts Flagler, Nassau and Indian River made the switch from Styrofoam. WTLV. Charlotte County is joining Sarasota and Manatee in the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Twelve Manatee County students are named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Bradenton Herald.