Teacher certification, tax holiday, sharing with charters, pre-K changes and more

Teacher certification: Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says the backlog of teaching certification applications has been cleared. In late January, more than 15,000 applications had been languishing for more than 90 days. The backlog, couple with a declining number of qualified applicants, concerned districts that were already struggling to fill teaching vacancies at schools. “We are now looking towards our next goals, analyzing how we can turn around completed applications in 60 days, and eventually 30 days or less, rather than the statutory limit of 90 days,” said DOE spokeswoman Audrey Walden. Gradebook.

Back-to-school tax holiday: Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the bill that designates tax holidays for back-to-school and hurricane supplies, requires school districts to share revenues from future voter-approved property tax increases with charter schools, reduces the sales tax on commercial leases and more. The back-to-school tax holiday is Aug. 2-6, and covers clothes costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less and personal computers costing $1,000 or less. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Capitol News Service. WLRN.

Preschool changes: Gov. DeSantis calls the number of pre-K students unprepared for kindergarten “not defendable and certainly not good enough for Florida’s youngest learners,” and says there will be changes in the program. The Department of Education has been ordered to develop more accountability measures for pre-K providers, and also to change the formula that determines preparedness to include student learning gains as well as test scores. A recent report, based solely on test scores, determined that 42 percent of pre-K students aren’t ready for kindergarten. Preschool providers have long complained about the timing of the tests and the method by which they are given. WPTV. Gradebook. News Service of Florida.

Investigation of district: The revelation this week that the U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating the Volusia County School District for the past year over allegations of discrimination against students with disabilities prompted the move to terminate Superintendent Tom Russell. The complaint accuses the district of failing to accommodate students with disabilities and denying them access to equal educational opportunities. Russell informed school board members of the investigation at a meeting this week, and board member Ruben Colon responded with a motion to negotiate the end of Russell’s contract. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Security in schools: Holmes County School District officials say they will be considering whether to arm teachers as allowed under the state’s new school security law. “It’s an option that’s going to be made with community input and the school board members,” says Superintendent Terry Mears. “We need to do everything within the scope of providing a safe environment for our kids.” He expects the board to make a decision before schools resume in August. Holmes County Times-Advertiser. Superintendent Sandra Himmel, teachers and parents urge the Citrus County School Board not to consider arming teachers. The board did not take a vote. Citrus County Chronicle. The Manatee County School Board approves spending $1.7 million for additional security measures at schools, including cameras. Bradenton Herald. WWSB. The Monroe County School District agrees to give law enforcement access to security cameras at all county schools. Key West Citizen.

Report about accused shooter: Seven key facts that were hidden in the school district’s heavily redacted report on accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s educational history tell a different story than the one presented to the public by the Broward County School District. This week, a judge dismissed the school board’s request that the Sun Sentinel and two reporters be held in contempt for publishing redacted information about Cruz. The information was available because it wasn’t properly redacted and could be seen by anyone using Microsoft Word. Sun Sentinel.

School impact fees: Santa Rosa County school officials are pleading with the county commission to assess impact fees on new development to help the district build new schools to keep the pace with population growth. The district will need to build at least three schools in the next 10 years to accommodate enrollment growth, says Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, and needs the fees to raise the needed $100 million or so. He’s asking for impact fees of $5,000 per single-family home, $3,000 for multifamily homes in the north end of the county and $1,500 for those in the south part. Commissioners will decide at their June 24 meeting. Pensacola News Journal. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR.

Low-performing schools: Sixty-nine percent of Florida’s schools are low-performing, have poor graduation rates or have been targeted by the state for extra support, according to the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. The report of all the states’ plans was compiled by researchers at the Center on Education Policy at George Washington University. Education Research Report.

Discipline program changes: The Polk County School District is overhauling the way it deals with student discipline and how administrators report incidents. The discipline program involves a three-step process that starts with pushing students toward better behaviors, then escalates to small-group intervention and finally to “individual intensive intervention.” Other initiatives include the hiring of intervention and behavioral specialists. Lakeland Ledger.

Bullying targeted: The Palm Beach County School District’s two-year-old anti-bullying program, called Social Emotional Learning, puts an emphasis on communication, empathy, problem solving and handling accusations at seven schools. In late March, First Lady Melania Trump praised the program, teachers and students for supporting her “Be Best” initiative. WPTV.

New student dress code: Indian River County students will be allowed to wear T-shirts with graphics as long as they’re not obscene, leggings and hoodies under the new dress code approved by the school board. Still banned are sheer clothes, mesh and pajamas. TCPalm.

School start times: The Charlotte County School Board approves adding 30 minutes to the school day: 15 minutes at the start and 15 minutes at the end. The decision honors the promise made by the district for a longer school day if voters approved a tax hike in November. Charlotte Sun. Nine Pasco County schools will start earlier next school year, one will start later and there’s no change for the rest. The school board will vote on the school hours at Tuesday’s meeting. Gradebook.

Teachers protest: Teachers and education activists in Collier and Martin counties protest low pay, funding for education, voucher programs and gun violence in schools on Wednesday as part of a “Save Our Schools” protest. Naples Daily News. TCPalm. WPTV.

New name for school: Johnson Middle and Wakeland Elementary schools will officially become one K-8 campus next year in Manatee County, and the merged school will have a new name. The Louise R. Johnson K-8 International Baccalaureate School honors a longtime educator and school board member who died in 1992. Bradenton Herald.

New school considered: The St. Johns County School District is negotiating to buy a 68-acre property in the World Golf Village area as a site for a potential high school. The proposal is meant to ease overcrowding at Nease High School. St. Augustine Record.

Education podcasts: Brevard County School District spokesman Matt Reed and teachers union president Anthony Colucci talk about the possibility of the district asking voters to approve a tax increase to improve teacher pay. The district and the union are at an impasse in contract negotiations. Florida Today. Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt discusses the ongoing recovery of the district from Hurricane Michael. The district’s student enrollment is down by 4,000, and 300 staff members have been moved or let go because of the declining enrollment. WFSU.

Teachers honored: Nevin Marshall, a teacher at Trafalgar Middle School in Cape Coral, is honored by the police department for saving a colleague who was choking during lunch in the staff lounge. Marshall “performed three abdominal thrusts” on the victim and dislodged a piece of chicken. Fort Myers News-Press. The Palm Beach County School District presents Dwyer Awards for excellence in education to six teachers. Palm Beach Post.

Top teacher’s travels: The 2019 Florida teacher of the year, Joy Prescott, talks about the necessary ingredients of being an educator and the need to focus on students’ social and emotional learning. “Students learn better when they’re safe and happy and feel like they fit in,” she said. “These are the skills we have to give them.” The 4th-grade teacher at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School on a Seminole Indian reservation in rural Glades County has been traveling the state for the past year as an education ambassador. redefinED.

Teaching climate change: Teaching climate change in public schools has been challenging because of inconsistent materials, the political divide on the issue and uncertainty of where to fit the topic into the curriculum, say science educators across the United States. “It is a pretty scary topic to take on,” said Diana Allen, a teacher at Sanford Junior High School in southern Maine. Associated Press.

Superintendent’s job: Tim Smith, executive area director for the Orange County School District, is one of three finalists for the superintendent’s job at the Auburn, Ala., school district. Opelika Auburn News

Home-schooling option: Parents in the Tampa Bay area say the abundance of teaching  resources available is helping them decide to home-school their children. “I could be out of my house everyday doing things – field trips, hiking, hands on labs at the Florida Aquariums,” says Denise Mestanza-Taylor, who is homeschooling her son. “It’s crazy how much you can do that you can’t do when you’re constrained to a classroom -especially with a dyslexic student who need that hands-on learning, and need that real-world experience because they can’t learn in a a traditional setting.” WFLA.

‘Jeopardy!’ runnerup: A Miami-Dade teacher finished second in a semifinal match in the Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament and won’t advance to the finals. Matthew Bunch, a teacher at AcadeMir Charter School Middle in west Miami-Dade, won $10,000 for his performance. Miami Herald.

Trouble for school deans: The dean of students at Montverde Academy in Lake County has been fired after being accused of sexual misconduct with a student. A school spokeswoman says authorities are investigating the actions of Jerry Matos, who had been at the boarding school for about 10 years. He has not been criminally charged. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial. The acting dean of Westridge Middle School  in Orange County is under investigation after allegations that he molested several students. School officials say he has been suspended with pay until the investigation is completed. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel.

Student released: A homeless Palm Beach County student arrested for having a pellet gun at school for personal protection is released from jail. Court documents indicate that 19-year-old Drew Yarde won’t be allowed to attend the Jupiter High School graduation, but will receive a diploma. Palm Beach Post.

Man dies in crash with bus: A motorcyclist is killed when he drove into the back of a Lee County school bus in Bonita Springs. No students were injured. Fort Myers News-Press.

Opinions on schools: Florida schools get a failing grade on “infusing” black history and culture into everyday classes. Palm Beach Post. High schools in central Florida will spend in the vicinity of $700,000 to launch their senior classes into the world. For many, the cost is worth the memories. Lauren Ritchie, Orlando Sentinel. The expansion of school choice is just one of the many successes from this year’s legislative session. J. Robert McClure III, Tallahassee Democrat. Every single child from impoverished neighborhoods has potential. And shame on any system that allows an ideology to shine, instead of a child. Catherine Durkin Robinson, redefinED.

Student enrichment: Leon County schools name their valedictorians and salutatorians for the class of 2019. Tallahassee Democrat. Students at Royal Palm Charter School have their own fulltime therapy dog. Bailey was homeless a year ago, but the Brevard County Animal Services picked her for therapy training. She was passed over as a law enforcement therapy dog, but landed at the Palm Bay school. Spectrum News 13. The private Maclay School of Tallahassee opens the new Beck Family Research Center and research classrooms for biomedical and student research; art, inspiration and design; and computer science, robotics and engineering. Tallahassee Democrat. Students at Poinciana STEM Elementary School in Boynton Beach beautify a dingy, 8-foot by 300-foot wall near the school with a mural. Palm Beach Post.