Mass attacks report, ex-principal blames parent, sales tax hikes, grades and more

Mass attacks warnings: A U.S. Secret Service report concludes that nearly all mass attacks on schools, churches and businesses in 2018 were preceded by threats. Two-thirds of the attackers had mental issues, according to the report, and one-third had a history of serious domestic violence. Studied were 27 incidents in public places in which 91 people were killed and 107 injured, including the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. Associated Press. USA Today.

Ousted principal speaks: The Palm Beach County principal who was removed after telling a parent that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened” is blaming the parent for his demotion. “I have been reassigned to the district office due to a statement that was not accurately relayed to the newspaper by one of our parents,” William Latson wrote in his farewell message to the staff at Spanish River Community High School. “It is unfortunate that someone can make a false statement and do so anonymously and it holds credibility but that is the world we live in.” District officials say Latson was moved to a district administrative position not because of any false statement by the parent, but because of the national outcry after Latson’s written statements to the parent were disclosed. Palm Beach Post.

Sales tax hikes: Clay County commissioners reject the school board’s request to place a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot. Instead, commissioners are sending it back to the school board to amend the resolution to change the date of the referendum to November 2020. School officials say they need the 30-year tax hike, which would raise an estimated $404 million, for replacing and repairing schools and updating technology. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX. Some prominent Duval County organizations have come out in support of the school board’s proposed half-cent hike in the sales tax to help raise money for the almost $2 billion officials say they need to replace and repair aging schools. The school board wants the measure on the November ballot, but it has yet to be approved by the Jacksonville City Council. Many of its members say they could support putting it on the November 2020 ballot. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. The Duval County School Board discusses the creation of a committee to oversee the spending of the sales tax proceeds if voters approve the half-cent increase. WJAX.

Schools’ migrant challenges: Schools in Florida and other areas of the country are being overwhelmed with thousands of new migrant students. School officials say the sheer number is daunting, and many of the students are trauma-stricken after being separated from their families. Some don’t speak English and have serious learning deficiencies, and others are more interested in working to support themselves and families back home than they are in learning. “They have to go to school, but that is not what they came here for,” says Harvey Oaxaca, director of the Palm Beach County School District’s multicultural education programs. New York Times.

Children and Baker Act: The number of Florida children being involuntarily placed in hospitals for mental evaluations under the Baker Act increased 10 percent in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, according to a new state report. In the past 15 years, the number of those commitments of children has doubled. WFTV.

Voting on contract: Brevard County teachers will begin voting Aug. 9 on a contract that offers pay raises half as big as the union wanted. A special magistrate backed the union’s position, which called on the school board to dip into reserves for the raises, but Superintendent Mark Mullins rejected the recommendation and the board agreed. District officials say the contract will be imposed even if teachers reject it. The board-approved plan calls for $650 bonuses for all teachers, $500 bonuses for teachers who just completed their first year, $1,100 raises for highly effective teachers, $825 for effective ones, and $835 bonuses for special education teachers. Florida Today.

Grades for schools: Grades for the state’s school districts and each of their schools could be announced as early as today or as late as next week, according to Leon County school officials. The Florida Department of Education has not said when grades will be released. “I’d expect them soon, but there’s no specific date,” said DOE spokeswoman Cheryl Etters. Tallahassee Democrat.

Test scores analyzed: Nearly half of the 5th-graders in Florida schools flunked the Florida Standards Assessments science exam, and only 25 percent of them scored at a level that is considered proficient. Florida Phoenix. An analysis of test scores at Hillsborough County schools shows that nearly 24 percent of all students who took the Florida Standards Assessments tests scored at the lowest level, 1. That’s almost 2 percentage points higher than the state average. Ten county schools had 50 percent or more of their students scoring at Level 1. Gradebook.

Investigation results: Volusia County school officials say on Monday they’ll release the results of an investigation into a principal’s decision to give “placebo” Advanced Placement tests to 336 Mainland High School students who thought they had a chance to earn college credits. The principal, Cheryl Salerno, said she just wanted to expose students to more advanced courses and collect data on their performance. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Student discipline: For the second year in a row, Wharton High School had the most students removed from Hillsborough County schools during the 2018-2019 school year. Wharton accounted for 40 of the 517 students who were removed for causing a major disruption on campus and other offenses. More than half the students taken out of schools were black, although only 21 percent of total student enrollment is black. Gradebook.

Career planning program: A career-planning program will be restored to Lake County middle schools this fall after a two-year absence. The program, which was part of the recently enacted H.B. 7071, will give students class time to explore potential careers through an online guide sponsored by the state. Daily Commercial.

Education podcasts: In the first of two parts, education historian Sherman Dorn and redefinED executive editor Matthew Ladner discuss Florida’s A+ Plan, standardized testing and K-12 policy during the Obama presidency. redefinED.

After-school busing: Marion County school officials have agreed to bus 230 students to existing stops so they can attend Boys & Girls Clubs after-school programs in Ocala, Dunnellon and Silver Springs. The club announced a few weeks ago that it could no longer provide busing because its vehicles weren’t reliable and it didn’t have the money to replace them. Ocala Star-Banner.

Statue fundraising nears completion: The group raising money for a statue of educator Mary McLeod Bethune says it’s collected $380,000 of its $400,000 goal. An Italian sculptor has begun work on the 9-foot statue, which will be placed in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol when it’s finished next year. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Notable deaths: Gerald Eubanks, a teacher and administrator in the St. Johns County School District for more than 30 years who was also a local civil rights pioneer, has died at the age of 77 in St. Augustine. St. Augustine Record.

Personnel news: David Solz, the former principal at Gilchrist Elementary School who was reassigned to the Leon County School District offices after his relationship with one of his teachers was revealed, has been named the principal at Astoria Park Elementary in Tallahassee. Sylvia Myers also was appointed as principal at Springwood Elementary. She had been the assistant principal at Kate Sullivan Elementary. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. Lake County School District Superintendent Diane Kornegay has been elected as Area IV director of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents board of directors. Daily Commercial.

Top court takes case: The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to consider the case of a Broward County School District worker who injured her shoulder at work but was turned down by workers compensation for recommended shoulder surgery. News Service of Florida.

School employee arrested: A program assistant at an Orange County school has been arrested and accused of molesting three 14-year-old students. Milly Andy Michel, 29, who works at Westridge Middle School, is charged with lewd and lascivious molestation, offenses against students by authority figures and false imprisonment, according to court record. Michel has been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of a district investigation. Orlando Sentinel.

Charges against student dropped: A former Port Charlotte High School student won’t be charged after he was arrested for drawing a picture in April that showed a gamer with a gun pointed at a teacher and read, “Sorry (teacher’s name), the gaming community will not let you oppress another minority.” The student said it was a joke and he meant no harm. Charlotte Sun.

Opinions on schools: We can’t say whether William Latson, the former principal of Spanish River High School, is an anti-Semite. But he did give Holocaust denial an undeserved and indefensible respectability, a false equivalency with historical truth. Sun Sentinel. The world is full of people willing to rewrite history by trying to normalize “alternative facts,” as they have been recently branded. But that doesn’t change the terrible, provable history of the Holocaust. To imagine that a school principal in Boca Raton would find that concept challenging is … well, it’s practically unbelievable. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post. Taking algebra 1 in middle school is a key milestone for students in the pipeline for bachelor’s degree-level STEM careers. So it’s disturbing that the percentage of black students reaching that milestone is so much smaller than the corresponding percentage for the whole student population. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Students from around the country are in Miami for a youth climate summit organized by the international advocacy organization Zero Hour. Sun Sentinel. A back-to-school supplies drive is launched by Tools for Schools, which is organized by the Broward Education Foundation and BrightStar Credit Union and continues through Aug. 16. Sun Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff