School funding, spelling bee, guardian program, tip, speech denied and more

Education funding: Florida is one of seven states where funding for K-12 schools remains more than 10 percent below pre-recession levels, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In all, 22 states and the District of Columbia are spending less than they did before the recession, the study concludes. When state and local education funding is adjusted for inflation, Florida’s spending is down 22.7 percent since 2008, the most of any of the seven, and the state now ranks 45th among the states and the District of Columbia in education spending , according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report. Education Week.

National spelling bee: Simone Kaplan, a 13-year-old 7th-grader at St. Bonaventure Catholic School in Davie, finished 9th in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, where history was made when eight winners were declared co-champions because bee officials ran out of challenging words. Kaplan bowed out in the 15th round when she missed the word “tettigoniid,” which is a long-horned grasshopper. The other eight contestants went five more rounds, and shortly after midnight the competition was declared an eight-way tie. The other Florida student who advanced to the finals, Dhyana Mishra, a 14-year-old 8th-grader at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in West Melbourne, was eliminated in the eighth round when she misspelled the word “scaevola,” which is a plant. Associated Press. NPR. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Florida Today. Orlando Sentinel. Fort Myers News-Press. Scripps National Spelling Bee.

School security: School boards in Baker, Escambia, Franklin, Levy and Taylor counties have all decided to participate in the state’s school guardian program that allows willing teachers and other staff to carry guns in schools, according to the Florida Department of Education. At least 30 of the state’s 67 school districts are taking part in the guardian program: Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Clay, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gilchrist, Hendry, Hillsborough, Holmes, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Nassau, Okeechobee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Suwanee, Taylor and Volusia, though not all are willing to arm teachers and Okaloosa was not listed, though it voted this week to join the program. Department of Education officials say another 13 districts have expressed an interest. WTXL. News Service of Florida. WJXT. St. Johns County school officials say they won’t show an active-shooter training video when schools reopen in the fall. St. Augustine Record.

Student honored: Audrey Stone, an 8th-grader at Attucks Middle School in Miami, is honored by the Hollywood Police Department for alerting authorities about a student’s plan to carry out a shooting at a high school in Springfield, Ohio. She had met the student online three years ago and he told her about his plans. When he wouldn’t tell her what school, she followed up with a friend of his to find out what school he went to. She then notified Hollywood police, who relayed the threat to Ohio authorities, who were able to confirm the information and intervene. WFOR. Yahoo. WSVN.

Valedictorian’s speech killed: Orange County school Superintendent Barbara Jenkins has apologized to the valedictorian at University High School after the principal barred her from giving her commencement speech. The three-minute speech prepared by Kriya Naidu, 18, focused on her parents’ challenges as emigrants from South Africa. A few hours before the graduation, a school administrator called Naidu’s mother to say her daughter would not be allowed to give the speech because she hadn’t recorded it ahead of time as requested. Orlando Sentinel. WOFL. Washington Post. Florida Politics.

Education podcast: Katherine Metheny, the valedictorian at Newsome High School in Hillsborough, explains how she compiled a 10.58 GPA. Gradebook.

Medical marijuana: Next Wednesday, the Palm Beach County School Board will consider changing the district’s policy to allow medical marijuana to be administered at schools. Only parents and caregivers could administer the drug to students who have a form signed by a physician, and no marijuana could be stored at schools. WPEC.

Charter struggling: Lincoln Memorial Academy, a charter school in Manatee County, is in a “deteriorating financial condition,” according to an assessment from Heather Jenkins, the district’s chief financial officer. The school reported a deficit of $235,438 for the period that ended April 30. It’s the third straight month the school has had a negative fund balance. Lincoln has 30 days to prepare a turnaround plan and submit it to the Florida Department of Education. Three weeks ago Lincoln’s principal, Eddie Hundley, had his educator’s license revoked for five years by the state for giving job recommendations for an employee who was under criminal investigation. Bradenton Herald.

School improvement plan: Pasco County school officials are proposing spending about $600,000 in the next budget to improve the curriculum at several schools on the west side of the county. Superintendent Kurt Browning wants to add an International Baccalaureate program at Gulf Middle School, the Cambridge Programme at all three schools on the Hudson High campus, and also the AVID college readiness program at Hudson High and Hudson Middle. Gradebook.

Alternative school planned: Residents in Howey-in-the-Hills are expressing safety concerns about an alternative school that’s opening in their town this fall. Lake Success Academy will offer second chances for suspended and expelled Lake County students who have been moved out of their regular schools for violations ranging from minor offenses to have a weapon at school. District officials say the concern is overstated, and will hold a community meeting Monday to answer questions. Orlando Sentinel.

Board meetings going online: The Pasco County School Board will consider a proposal Tuesday to begin taping its meetings and streaming them in July. As a first step, the board recently restructured meetings to put the discussion of non-agenda items at the end. Gradebook.

Appointing superintendents: A civic group in Okaloosa County is calling for a referendum to make the school superintendent’s position an appointed one. Pat Ryan, the spokesman for Yes for Okaloosa Schools, is citing the case of Mary Beth Jackson as a reason for the switch. Jackson was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis for failing to properly report allegations of child abuse against a teacher. The school board would have to approve a referendum. Ryan would like to see a special election in March 2020. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Personnel moves: Sarah Brown, the chief human resource officer for the Manatee County School District for the past four years, is resigning in late June. She offered no explanation. Bradenton Herald. Ian Saltzman, the south region superintendent of the Palm Beach County School District, is named superintendent of the Everett (Wash.) School District. Daily Herald. Diane Stephenson, who led Academy of the Lakes softball team from Land O’Lakes to consecutive state titles, is resigning to take a job as a physical education teacher at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times.

Polk schools Hall of Fame: Four people are being inducted today into the Polk County Public Schools Hall of Fame. They are: Perry Blocker, a 1973 graduate of Winter Haven Senior High and a longtime teacher; Ralph Frier, a 1964 graduate of Kathleen Senior High School who has been an educator for 51 years; Maxine Lavon Montgomery, a 1977 graduate of Mulberry Senior High who is a professor at Florida State University; and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert Eyman, who graduated from Lakeland Senior High School and will take command next year of the 525th Military Police Battalion in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Lakeland Ledger.

Class ring found after 17 years: A 1986 Alabama high school class ring lost in 2002 in Panama City Beach has been found by a snorkeler in the jetties at St. Andrews State Park. Associated Press. Panama City News Herald.

District loses appeal: The Escambia County School District has no standing to intervene in a dispute between Pensacola Beach leaseholders and the county’s property appraiser, an appeals court has ruled. The case is about taxation of property on leased land. The district has been holding $6 million in collected taxes in a reserve account pending a ruling. Pensacola News Journal.

Teacher takes plea deal: A Lee County teacher has agreed to a plea deal with the federal government on a charge of possessing child pornography. Warren Baxter, 35, a former band teacher at Estero High School, could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. He admitted asking for nude photos from a 17-year-old male student. Miami Herald. WBBH.

Teacher arrested: A Santa Rosa County middle school teacher has been arrested after allegedly sending sexually inappropriate text messages to a student. Christopher Alan Johnson, 30, a science teacher at Sims Middle School in Pace, is charged with solicitation of a minor for sexual activity by electronic device. Pensacola News Journal. WKRG.

Gun charges dropped: Charges have been dropped against a homeless Palm Beach County student who took a pellet gun to school for protection. Drew Yarde, who was a graduating senior at Jupiter High School, had been charged with possessing a weapon on school property. He was not permitted to receive his diploma at the commencement ceremony. Palm Beach Post.

School bus incident: A Santa Rosa County school bus driver is cited with reckless driving after pulling away from a stop with a student stuck in the door. The student’s backpack was caught in the door and not immediately noticed by the driver. The student was slightly hurt. WKRG. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s teachers are already under a lot of stress. Arming them will only make it worse. Bea Hines, Miami Herald.

Student enrichment: Corey Udell, a 16-year-old student at Ponte Vedra High School in St. Johns County, launches a club to work with the BairFind Foundation to locate missing children. The club makes signs to post in the community to raise awareness. WJXT.