Florida schools roundup: DOE changes, Corcoran, borrowing for schools and more

DOE departures: Commissioner Pam Stewart isn’t the only top Department of Education official who is leaving soon. Linda Champion, the department’s deputy commissioner of finance, and K-12 chancellor Hershel Lyons have also announced their impending retirements. Today, the Florida Board of Education will consider Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ proposed appointment of Richard Corcoran as Stewart’s replacement. Gradebook.

Borrowing for education: Leaders in the Florida Senate say they will consider borrowing money through bonding to pay for school infrastructure needs. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, says the state has a lot of capacity to borrow, up to $2.6 billion through the Public Education Capital Outlay program, and may need to do so because of infrastructure needs, a slowing economy and hurricane recovery costs. News Service of Florida.

Virtual school bills questioned: A Florida Virtual School audit finds that a former top attorney, Frank Kruppenbacher, billed the school for a hotel room on business unrelated to the school, pushed school employees to hire a technology company without multiple bids, and circumvented school policies when entering into contracts. A report law week found that Kruppenbacher, who resigned in August when the investigation into his actions was launched, used school employees to work on his outside business activities, hired his daughter’s boyfriend to investigate a former FVS executive and likely made “boorish and gender-based comments” to women. Orlando Sentinel.

School shooting aftermath: Parents and relatives of the 17 people killed in the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School describe the details of their meeting last week with the FBI, which apologized for not following up on a tip about the accused gunman it received 40 days before the Feb. 14 massacre. Sun Sentinel. The draft report by the state commission investigating the Stoneman Douglas shootings lays out the chaos created when the antiquated police radio system of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office collapsed. Sun Sentinel.

School security: Some Duval County parents and the League of Women Voters refile a lawsuit against the school safety assistant program, calling it illegal and dangerous. A judge rejected the first version of the lawsuit earlier this month on technical grounds. WJCT. Some Lake Brantley High School students say they are still traumatized by an unannounced active-shooter drill at the Seminole County school Dec. 6. Orlando Sentinel. The Sarasota County School District adopts new school lockdown procedures and prevention programs that were created by the Sandy Hook Foundation. WWSB.

Retiree gets blame: Lawyers for interim Manatee County Superintendent Cynthia Saunders say the blame for manipulating graduation rates should be placed on the now-retired assistant principal at Horizons Academy, Dave Marshall. Last week, the state Department of Education accused Saunders of ordering employees to falsely characterize student withdrawals in order to boost graduation rates. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Education subcommittees: Incoming Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami, announces the appointments of chairs for three K-12 education subcommittees. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, will lead the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee. Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, is the new chair of the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, and Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, will lead the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. Florida Politics. Tampa Bay Times.

Education podcasts: The new chair of the Florida House Education Committee, 27-year-old Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mt. Dora, talks about how being home-schooled has shaped her views on school choice, personalized learning and public education. redefinED. State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, discusses the draft recommendations of the state commission that investigated the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. NPR.

Removing caps for anthem: Lee County School Board member Chris Patricca wants all students to remove their graduation caps during the playing of the National Anthem at commencement ceremonies. “If my memory serves me correctly, I have not yet attended a graduation where caps are removed, and it’s embarrassing to me,” says Patricca. The board is asking its attorney to research whether asking students to take off their caps during the anthem would violate their constitutional rights. Fort Myers News-Press.

School enrollment: Enrollment in Volusia County’s schools is at 63,264, school officials say, the highest since 2008-2009, though still under the peak of the 2005-2006 school year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Administrators pitch in: Fourteen high-ranking Hillsborough County School District administrators are volunteering to teach classes at least part-time for the rest of the school year at four schools that have teacher shortages. The 14 responded to Superintendent Jeff Eakins’ plea for help to cover classes at the academically struggling schools. Tampa Bay Times.

School choice programs: More than half of the 36,000 applications to school choice programs went to just 18 schools in Palm Beach County, and more than a quarter of the applications went to just six schools. About half the students who applied to school choice programs were accepted, though many did not get their first choice. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent search: The Hernando County School Board decides to get feedback from the public before deciding whether to conduct a formal search for a new superintendent or consider hiring interim superintendent John Stratton. Hernando Sun.

Personnel moves: Dustin Dahlquist is named principal at Lakewood Ranch High School in Manatee County. He had been principal at Buffalo Creek Middle School. Dahlquist replaces Craig Little, who will become principal at North River High School when it opens next August. Bradenton Herald.

Two schools merging: Two Duval County Episcopal schools are merging in July 2020. Beaches Episcopal School will operate independently through June 30, 2020, then merge into the Episcopal School of Jacksonville. School officials say the decision will enable them to “continue their mutual mission of Episcopal Christian education.” Florida Times-UnionWJXT.

Bus drivers needed: The Bay County School District is looking for 10 school bus drivers. School officials say they have 127, but need the extra 10 to help cut down on overtime and cover for drivers who are sick or are still working on Hurricane Michael recovery. Panama City News Herald.

Graduations scheduled: The Palm Beach County School District releases its schedule and locations for 33 high school graduations next spring. Palm Beach Post.

FHSAA reclassifications: The Florida High School Athletic Association releases its revised district and classification assignments for football. FHSAA. Miami HeraldTampa Bay Times. Gainesville SunMiami Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton HeraldFlorida Today. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Teacher arrested: A Miami-Dade teacher is arrested and accused of trying to seduce a 13-year-old student. Police say Andrea Jimenez, 47, a teacher at Doral International Math & Science Academy, sent lewd texts and expensive gifts to the boy. She’s been charged with lewd and lascivious conduct, and attempted lewd and lascivious conduct on a child and with certain uses that are prohibited on a computer device. Miami Herald.

Bus attendant arrested: A Palm Beach County School District bus attendant has been arrested of accused of attempted murder. Deputies say Shimara Josey, 36, is not the alleged shooter, but was in the car when a man began shooting at two women. Palm Beach Post.

Students arrested: A 16-year-old Flagler Palm Coast High School student is arrested and accused of threatening a gun attack against the school. “This is the sixth juvenile charged in Flagler County while at school since last Friday,” says Flagler Sheriff Rick
Staly. “This behavior must stop.” WJXT. Orlando Sentinel. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Flagler Live. Q&A about the recent rash of school threats in Volusia and Flagler counties. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A 17-year-old Marco Island Academy student is arrested for having a gun on campus. The unloaded rifle was found in the boy’s car. He told police he left it in the car after going hunting. Naples Daily News.

School threats: An Orange County parent uses videos on Facebook and YouTube to protest the way the school district handled threats against Freedom High School in Orlando and a student. District officials say the school “has investigated all allegations, and the appropriate discipline has been handed out to the full extent of the code of student conduct.” Orlando Sentinel.

Racial slur investigated: A Palm Beach County student’s racial slur made during an 8-second video posted on social media prompts an investigation by the student’s school and the Palm Beach County School District. Palm Beach Post.

Opinions on schools: Arming teachers is eyewash, an utterly unacceptable alternative to the many other steps, however more expensive, that would keep our schools safer without degrading the learning environment. Sun Sentinel. If you want to see how far into the weeds test-centered schooling can go, then take a trip to Florida, where some folks are worried that 4-year-olds are not experiencing enough rigorous testing. Peter Greene, Forbes. Rebuilding the teaching profession in Florida is the K-12 issue that matters most. Will the 2019 session of the Florida Legislature address that? Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. As a member of the Florida House and then speaker, Richard Corcoran has helped push through legislation that diverted tax dollars to the charter school industry, expanded a voucher program for private schools and exempted charter schools from regulations imposed on school districts. What do you think will happen when he becomes education commissioner? Gil Smart, TCPalm. A newspaper has mischaracterized the Broward County School District’s response to the Parkland school shooting. Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie, Sun Sentinel. How can an educator deny a child access to a classroom based solely on that child’s hairstyle? How can an educator claim that a child’s hairstyle impairs their ability to learn? It’s shocking that we are still asking these questions in 2018. Nancy Abudu, Orlando Sentinel. Community partnership schools seem like a natural fit that might help to close the persistent achievement gap in our public schools. Now all we need is the will and the collaboration to make it happen. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Young people have suffered so much harm from an overly broad interpretation of the Second Amendment that they’re willing to more narrowly interpret the First Amendment. Nathan Crabbe, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Eddie Beck, a junior percussionist at Gainesville’s Buchholz High School, is named to the 2018 All-National Honors Ensembles by the National Association for Music Education. Gainesville Sun. Seniors at the Villages Charter High School Construction Academy are completing a class project by working on a home for Habitat for Humanity in Lady Lake. Daily Commercial. Students at the Montverde Academy produce a short film, Dear America, which shows how students cope with the aftermath of gun violence. Daily Commercial. Fifteen Lake County schools receive grants of $5,000 for music equipment and curriculum. Daily Commercial.