Florida schools roundup: AP test success, board term limits, Grammy win and more

AP test success: Almost 32 percent of 2018 graduates from Florida high schools passed at least one Advanced Placement exam, according to data from the College Board that was released by the Florida Department of Education. The 31.7 percent pass rate ranks Florida third in the country, behind only Massachusetts (32.9 percent) and Connecticut (32.2 percent). The national average is 23.5 percent. In 2008, Florida’s passing percentage was just 19.3 percent. Florida also led the country with 55.9 percent of students taking an AP exam. Florida school officials have been pushing students to take advanced courses and exams, which mimic college introductory classes and can give the students college credits. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. Florida Daily. WGCU. Florida Politics.

School board term limits: The Florida House PreK-12 Quality subcommittee unanimously approves a resolution to ask voters to impose term limits on local school board members, effective Nov. 3, 2020. The bill caps service at eight years, though some members of the committee suggest 12 is more appropriate. The bill has several more hurdles to clear before making it to a ballot. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. Gradebook.

Educators honored: Jeffery Redding, the choral director at West Orange High School in Winter Garden, is the winner of the Grammy Music Educator Award. Redding, 48, was the pick among 2,800 nominees. Orlando SentinelCBS News. Paul Milford, a social worker at Bonita Springs Middle School, is named the Collier County School District’s school-related employee of the year. Naples Daily News.

School budget: Palm Beach County school officials are planning to use the voter-approved property tax increase to boost teacher pay and hire more police officers, guidance counselors and psychologists. Under the budget proposal presented to the school board this week, 110 new officers would be hired, each middle school will have three guidance counselors instead of one or two, 40 psychologists would be hired, and teachers will see raises of $1,000 to $10,000, depending on experience. Sun Sentinel.

Charter schools: The Pasco County School District is threatening to close the MYcro School for what Superintendent Kurt Browning calls an “abysmal” record. The alternative charter high school opened in 2017 and promised to help dropouts and at-risk students graduate. Last year it had about 60 students and graduated two, Browning said. Gradebook. A year after their application to open was rejected by the Hernando County School Board, backers of the Chehuntamo Advanced Performance High School have filed another proposal. The application promises a rigorous curriculum and a focus on AP classes, but also includes criticism of the district for its academic performance. The pitch to the school board is set for April 23. If approved, officials say the school would be ready to open in August 2020. Tampa Bay Times.

Private school investigation: The Florida Department of Education visits a Port St. Lucie private school as part of its investigation into its operations. Nation Christian Academy came to the state’s attention last October when a video surfaced showing the school’s basketball coach, CEO and president profanely berating and threatening a player from Haiti. The school has since changed its name to Barnabas Christian School. TCPalm.

School security: Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and families of those killed, testify at a congressional hearing on gun violence. Sun Sentinel. New Jersey will install panic alarms in all schools under the “Alyssa’s Law” passed this week. It’s named in honor of Alyssa Alhadeff, who died at Stoneman Douglas. Her parents, who used to live in New Jersey, say they want to pass a version of the law in Florida. Sun Sentinel. Here are the highlights of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act, passed in 2018, and the various types of emergency drills now conducted in central Florida schools. Lawmakers say they will make changes to the law in this legislative session, which may include arming teachers. WKMG.

Board member quits job: A Duval County School Board member says he is resigning from his job to avoid any potential of a conflict of interest. Board member Darryl Willie is the executive director of Teach For America in Jacksonville, which trains and places recent college graduates into teaching jobs at urban schools. The Duval district discontinued its contract with the organization last year because of a tightening budget and concerns that many of its teachers leave after two years. Florida Times-Union.

Literacy effort expands: The DeSoto County School District joins the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading in an effort to boost 3rd-grade reading scores in its schools. Just 29 percent of its 3rd-graders read at grade level and the district has the lowest reading scores among the state’s 67 counties. DeSoto joins Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties in the campaign. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School health technology: Some central Florida schools have adopted telemedicine technology, which links school nurses with doctors for a video consult and prescriptions. The connection will expand in the 2019-2020 school year with a pilot program between the Orange County School District and the Nemours Children’s Health System. WFTV.

Cancer cluster questions: A man whose school nurse wife died of cancer last month says the Orange County School District has not looked carefully enough at the possibility that something in or around the school contributed to her death and the cancer diagnoses of six other employees in the same time period. Susan Busillo was the school nurse at Southwood Elementary School in Orlando when she was diagnosed in 2016. District officials investigated after being notified of the occurrences by the principal, and said they found no evidence of a cancer cluster. WFTV.

Lead testing completed: Water in all Polk County schools has now been tested for lead, according to school officials. Eighty-eight schools have been cleared, while fixtures at 22 schools were replaced because of contaminated water and will be retested. Results from another 16 schools are pending. Lakeland Ledger.

After the storm: Officials and teachers in Gulf County schools are going classroom-to-classroom to detail the damages caused by Hurricane Michael last October. The district has received $2 million from insurance, and another $6 million has been approved. Port St. Joe Star.

Employees arrested: The headmaster at the private Kingdom Preparatory School in Auburndale is arrested and charged with the lewd molestation of a 15-year-old student. Polk County deputies say Charles Aguon II, 34, who is also a teacher, football coach and pastor at the school, was touching the boy in an inappropriate manner. Deputies say there could be more victims. Lakeland LedgerBradenton Herald. An Escambia County teacher is arrested for the third time in three weeks. Deputies say Mark Lua, a teacher at Washington High, is charged with using a computer to solicit a child and using a two-way device to facilitate a felony. His previous arrests were for inappropriate contact or communications with minors. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Students arrested: An 18-year-old student at the Henry D. Perry Education Center in Miramar is arrested after police say he pushed a teacher while trying to retrieve his phone, then resisted arrest. Miami Herald. An 11-year-old Okaloosa County 5th-grader is arrested and accused of threatening to kill a 3rd-grader at Shalimar Elementary School with a shotgun. WEAR.

Crimes in district’s schools: Here are Brevard County School District crimes reported during the 2016-2017 school year, school-by-school. Brevard Times.

Opinions on schools: If Gov. Rick DeSantis really wants to rip out every last vestige of Common Core in Florida, here’s what he needs to do: End the Big Standardized Test. Don’t streamline it, modify, shorten it or edit it. End it. Cancel it. Peter Greene, Forbes. The community school model is producing promising early results in providing counseling, tutoring and other help to students at The Nest at Howard Bishop Middle School in Gainesville. But more must be done to expand the concept. Gainesville Sun. Pinellas school leaders did the right thing by removing a principal who was, by many accounts, a toxic presence at John Hopkins Middle School. But they took far too long to do it and sent a terrible message by providing him a very nice parachute with a $104,000 salary. Tampa Bay Times. There’s no fault to be found in the governor’s call for expanding scholarships for special-needs students. St. Augustine Record.

Student enrichment: Sean Farnsley, a junior at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, is chosen as the Gulf County School District’s Sunshine State Scholar. Each district in the state selects its top 11th-grader in the areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Port St. Joe Star.

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BY NextSteps staff