Florida schools roundup: Corcoran picked, Florida’s spending on schools and more

Corcoran chosen: Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis has officially nominated former House Speaker Richard Corcoran for the job of education commissioner. Corcoran is a staunch supporter of school choice, vouchers and charter schools, and former Senate president Don Gaetz says Corcoran could become the “most disruptive education reformer in our state’s history.” Politically liberal groups and traditional public schools advocates are reacting negatively. “Richard Corcoran has a terrible track record of putting private interests over the needs of Florida’s children,” says Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. The State Board of Education will have to approve the appointment. Associated Press. News Service of FloridaOrlando Sentinel. Tampa Bay TimesPolitico Florida. WUSF. Florida Times-Union. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics. WJXT. Florida Phoenix. DeSantis’ 41-person education transition committee includes, among others, state Board of Education chairwoman Marva Johnson, Florida State University president John Thrasher, former Brevard superintendent Desmond Blackburn and John Kirtley, founder and chairman of Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog and helps administer several state K-12 scholarship programs. Sunshine State News. Florida PoliticsGradebook.

Spending on schools: Spending on K-12 schools across the United States increased for the third consecutive year, according to a report released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics. Across the country, $678.4 billion was collected and $596.1 billion was spent in the 2016 fiscal year. The average spent per student was $11,841, but the totals varied widely. The District of Columbia, for example, spent $27,067 per student, and New York spent $24,717, while Idaho spent $8,258 and Utah $8,408. Florida spent $9,176, which was almost identical to the two previous years and ranks 43rd among the states and D.C. Education Week.

School security: The Marion County School District wants to start a district security force next school year in elementary schools instead of paying more for sworn school resource  officers. School officials say the money saved could be used for fencing, cameras and other safety equipment. Ocala Star-Banner. The Hendry County School District’s plan to arm employees in schools hits a snag because the district and county sheriff are having a hard time finding qualified candidates. WBBH. Parents of students at Lake Brantley High School in Seminole County criticize an unannounced active-shooter drill, saying it traumatized teachers and students. District officials attributed any panic to social media posts by students, and say those responsible will be disciplined. Orlando Sentinel.

After the storm: More than 3,800 Bay County School District students are considered homeless since Hurricane Michael devastated the area Oct. 10. School officials say many of those students are staying with family or friends, in their damaged homes without power or at a hotel. Once declared homeless, the students will remain eligible for free school meals for the rest of the school year, and the district is helping find them clothes and other personal things. Panama City News Herald.

Charter school closes: The Unity Charter School in Cape Coral closed without notice Thursday, leaving about 200 students without a school. The Lee County School District is working with parents to place their children. The K-8 school was in its seventh year of operation. Its property is in foreclosure, according to court records, and is scheduled to be sold at auction Dec. 26. Fort Myers News-PressWFTX.

AP honors two districts: The Lee and Manatee county school districts are the only two school districts in the state to be named to the honor roll by the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program for increasing access to AP classes and improving students’ scores. AP classes allow high school students to earn college credits. Across the country, 371 districts were honored. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Contract negotiations: Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas County teachers union, talks about the union’s decision to turn down a district offer that included a 2.55 percent raise but didn’t address working conditions. Gradebook.

New admissions process: The admission process for magnet schools programs in the Alachua County School District will change as the district tries to add more diversity. A lottery will be added to select 25 percent of the students going into magnet programs at all grade levels. New school board member Tina Certain calls the new process “a step in the right direction,” but the director of the Academy of Health Professions magnet at Gainesville High School, Janine Plavac, says by not using essays, teacher recommendations and test scores as considerations, the district is setting students up to fail. Gainesville Sun.

District hides comments: Comments on the Facebook page of the Sarasota County School District may soon be readable if the school board approves a change in policy. The district has been “hiding” comments under the school policy that states: “District accounts are intended as one-way communication tools to provide information to the community.” Spokeswoman Tracey Beeker says the district is now recommending “that we allow those two-way conversations to be had. We have staff now able to really monitor and manage all of our social media efforts.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School officials sentenced: William Napolitano, a former Pasco County School District transportation manager, is sentenced to life in prison for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy and possessing hundreds of photos of children being sexually abused. Tampa Bay Times. Marlynn Stillions, a former pre-K special education teacher at Kenwood Elementary School in Okaloosa County, is sentenced to seven years in prison for abusing a student during the 2015-2016 school year. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Employee reinstated: An Okaloosa County School District custodian who was fired in December for gross insubordination, misconduct and harassment is reinstated. An administrative law judge had ordered that Stephen Hall be reinstated because the district did not have just cause to fire him. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Student arrested: A South Miami Middle School student is arrested for carrying a gun on campus. School officials discovered the gun in the 14-year-old boy’s book bag when he was sent to the office for fighting. Miami Herald.

Students targeted: A couple tried to lure two students from Bridge Prep Academy of Osceola into their car this week by offering candy. The students, 12 and 13, refused and walked off and the car drove away, according to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. Orlando Sentinel.

School rat video: A videotape of a rat running through a Palm Beach County high school vending machine has gone viral. Officials at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach say the machine has been locked so it can’t be used and exterminators were called. “I was horrified actually to see that at a public school this would go on,” says LaToya Johnson, whose daughter attends the school and took the video. WPTV. WPLG.

Opinions on schools: Richard Corcoran for state education commissioner? Sure. Why not make Tallahassee’s hostility to public education even more apparent? Sun-Sentinel. Florida’s demographics projections point to a potential future battle over limited state resources, a generational battle between the old and the young, education spending versus health care spending. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: In May, Trinity Catholic High School senior Camp Clifford will become the first high school student in Florida in 70 years to earn an FAA commercial pilot’s license. Ocala Star-Banner. The Santa Rosa Education Foundation awards $53,000 in grants to 53 school district teachers. Gulf Breeze News. Students at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus school in Sarasota participate in Hour of Code, a global program to expose children to computer education. This year the school is pushing for more girls to get involved. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.