Bill arming teachers signed, teacher of the year finalists, Schools of Hope and more

Arming teachers: Gov. Ron DeSantis rejects intense lobbying from school officials, teachers and gun control advocacy groups to sign the bill that gives districts the option to arm teachers in schools. S.B. 7030 will allow local school boards to decide if they want to give guns to teachers who volunteer for the job, and are willing to undergo 144 hours of training and a psychological screening. About 25-30 districts now take part in the school guardian program, though some of them have already said they will not arm teachers. The bill also focuses on improving mental health services and hardening schools, and requires school officials to report crimes on campus and make assessments of students considered to be threats. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. Naples Daily News. Education Week. About 39 percent of Floridians say they support arming teachers in schools, according to a new poll from Saint Leo University, while 46 percent are opposed and 15 percent undecided. Gradebook.

Teacher of year finalists: Two music teachers round out the field of five finalists for the 2020 Florida teacher of the year award from the Florida Department of Education. Dakeyan Graham, the band director at King High School in Tampa, and Shane Swezey, a music teacher at Oak Park School in Sarasota, join Nicole Mosblech of Indian River County, Leigh Ann Norris of Hamilton County and Megan Crombie of Leon County as finalists from the field of 176,900 teachers in Florida schools. The winner will be announced July 18. Gradebook. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Schools of Hope: The Schools of Hope legislation passed by the 2017 Legislature is finally showing signs of blossoming in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties. The bill provided incentives for highly regarded charter school companies to open schools in neighborhoods that have persistently low-performing traditional public schools. The first companies to step forward are the Knowledge is Power Program, known as KIPP, in Miami and Texas-based IDEA Public Schools in Tampa. Tampa Bay Times. Today, Gov. DeSantis is scheduled to sign the education bill that includes the creation of the Family Empowerment Scholarship using public funds to send students to private schools. redefinED. The Florida Education Association teachers union and several other advocacy groups are organizing a summit May 18 in Orlando to “unite the allies of public education.” The FEA and the other groups opposed the recently passed legislation expanding the school vouchers program and allowing districts to arm teachers. Florida Politics.

2020 legislative session: The 2020 legislative session will be held Jan. 14 through March 13, according to a schedule posted on the Florida Senate website. News Service of Florida.

Security in schools: The city of West Melbourne is considering hiring armed security guards for the six schools in the city in place of the six sworn officers now assigned. Police Chief Richard Wiley cited the need for more officers patrolling the streets and the costs. Each school resource officer costs the city $79,000 a year, and the city receives just $52,000 for each from the Brevard County School District. City council member John Dittmore supports Wiley’s proposal, and said police officers are trained to do more “than babysit kids at a school.” Florida Today. WKMG.

VPK evaluation: Florida’s Office of Early Learning says it is working on changes for evaluating voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. The new formula would include test scores taken in kindergarten as well as learning gains. The changes would have to be approved by the State Board of Education. The latest set of evaluations showed that 42 percent of the VPK providers failed, which sparked criticism of the evaluation system. WPTV.

School board oversight: When Manatee County approved an increase in property taxes for the school district, part of the deal was the creation of a Citizens’ Financial Oversight Committee to make sure the tax dollars were spent appropriately. But some school board members say the committee is overstepping its role by looking into district matters outside of spending, such as outcomes. Committee members point to a line in the referendum that states, “In addition, the committee shall identify relevant outcomes and report results to the community,” as a mandate for their actions. Bradenton Herald.

New school proposed: Clay County School Board member Janice Kerekes is proposing that a K-8 school be built on Fleming Island to alleviate overcrowding at several schools and prevent Patterson Elementary students from being rezoned. Clay Today.

New school building: The Sarasota County School Board approves the demolition of the kindergarten building at Englewood Elementary School, and has hired an architect to draw plans for a replacement. The cost is expected to be about $5.5 million. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Superintendent’s job: Forty-five people have applied to become the interim Indian River County school superintendent. Among them are former superintendent Roger Dearing and retired St. Lucie County superintendent Genelle Yost. School board members say the interim’s job could last from six months to a year until a permanent superintendent can be hired for Mark Rendell, whose final day is May 24, and they expect to select the interim Tuesday. TCPalm.

Personnel moves: Three Hernando County assistant principals have been promoted to principal’s jobs. Dana Pearce will take over at Springstead High, Rosemarie Maiorini at Challenger K-8 and Kristen Tormey at Spring Hill Elementary. Gradebook.

Student code changes: The Collier County School Board approves a new student code of conduct that eliminates a list of zero-tolerances infractions, strengthens penalties against tobacco use by athletes, requires students to wear school badges, and allows teachers to decide if students may use electronic devices for “instructional content.” Naples Daily News.

School bus tracking app: The Nassau County School District is starting to make a school bus-tracking app available for parents. The app will allow parents to see when their child’s bus will arrive at his or her stop, and can send text messages when the bus is near. Students will get a bus ID card that will be scanned to make sure they are accounted for and on the right buses. Nassau County Record.

Squabble over contract: The director of a Polk County charter school says the proposed contract for providing therapy services for its students has several “inconsistencies,” prompting her decision to look for a new company. Tandia Callins, director of Language and Literacy Academy of Learning for students with disabilities in Winter Haven, says ultimately she wants the therapists to be school workers, and she is looking at a replacement for the therapy company Special Kids Innovation Program until then. Some parents say the proposed change will have a negative impact on their children. Lakeland Ledger.

Sex charges for school officer: The Duval County School District police officer who was arrested this week on a extradition warrant out of Michigan faces two charges of criminal sexual conduct against a child in that state. Sean Michael MacMaster, 45, and his stepfather are accused of “sexually penetrating” a child under the age of 13 sometime between July 2011 and January 2016. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher accused of hitting student: A Duval County teacher is under investigation after being accused of striking a student. The James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School teacher has been reassigned to a role with no student conduct during the investigation. WJAX. WJXT.

Students arrested: About 20 students at Miami Norland Senior High School in Miami Gardens were doused with pepper spray by another student during a fight in the school auditorium, according to police. The girl who discharged the pepper spray was taken into custody. The affected students were treated at the scene by paramedics. Miami Herald. A Jupiter High School student is arrested after Palm Beach County School District police officers found a pellet gun in his backpack. Palm Beach Post.

School threat: A 28-year-old LaBelle man is arrested after posting a meme on Facebook that deputies say constituted a threat. Juan Jesus Madrid told Hendry County deputies the post was an attempt to be funny. WBBH.

School bus incident: Deputies say a Pasco County man was arrested for pulling a gun on a driver who had driven around a school bus that stopped to pick up students. The daughter of Daniel Henry Carroll, 43, was boarding that bus. Deputies say Carroll followed the driver home and threatened him with the gun. The driver told deputies he had turned left in front of the bus as students were boarding. Tampa Bay Times.

Students treated: Forty students from the Port Charlotte Adventist school are taken to a hospital with breathing difficulties after hydrochloric acid was spilled in a closet. No one was seriously injured. WWSB. Charlotte Sun.

Opinions on schools: Our tax dollars shouldn’t go to educational institutions that cater to individual preferences and beliefs or sustain a particular religion, and are thus designed to discriminate against everyone who doesn’t fit the bill. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald. Data comparing math and reading results of American students against international students shows we have miles to go to catch up. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Wisely, the Lake County School District does not intend to arm teachers. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. When are we, collectively as a nation, going to decide that we will no longer tolerate the horror of shootings in our schools? When are we going to mean enough really is enough? Mara Bellaby, Florida Today. Florida spends less per pupil than the U.S. average, and less than all but one neighboring state, yet equals or exceeds in achievement in nearly every category. Clearly, it gets good value from what it spends on K-12 education, again proving that the amount spent on a service is less relevant than the value of the service. Lloyd Brown, Florida Politics. The controversial case that struck down the Opportunity Scholarship Program in 2006 may soon be tested by Florida’s newest school voucher. Patrick Gibbons, EducationNext.