DeSantis: Scrap bonus plan: Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state’s educator bonus program is too complicated, and he wants to replace it with his own, as-yet undisclosed plan that would tie in with higher teacher pay and incentives to improve retention. “How the Legislature did it last time, I still don’t understand how that’s going to work,” DeSantis said Tuesday after a Cabinet meeting. “I don’t want it to be that complicated.” Last year the Legislature reworked the Best and Brightest Scholarship Program, and the result is that teachers from just 52 percent of the state’s schools are eligible for some of the $285 million available. DeSantis said his plan will be released within a month. GateHouse. Gradebook. Florida Phoenix.
Sexual harassment policy: Broward County teachers and other school employees who are accused of sexually harassing a student would be removed from the classroom and fired if an investigation corroborates the accusation under a new “zero tolerance” policy being considered by the school board. The proposal was prompted after at least two district employees whose behavior with students was deemed inappropriate were allowed to keep their jobs. Sun Sentinel.
Waiting for Irma payments: The Lee County School District’s proposal to borrow $25 million to pay for repairs to schools damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 was approved by the school board. Officials say the storm caused $31 million in damages, but the district has received just $4 million in reimbursements from insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The “tax anticipation note” gives the district a cushion for emergencies, and will be paid back as soon as it receives its share of property taxes. Fort Myers News-Press. The Polk County School District has received just $1.28 million against about $200 million of insurance claims filed for damages Irma caused to 1,000 buildings at 156 schools. Lakeland Ledger.
Security in schools: Hillsborough County school officials say they have received 28 tips through the state’s new threat reporting app, Fortify Florida, and none have been legitimate threats. Pinellas County has received 43 tips and Pasco County 74. Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning says the anonymity provided by reporting through the app is one of the biggest problems in generating false threats. WFLA.
District budget: The Volusia County School Board was expected to approve a nearly $1 billion budget that included dipping into its reserves to cover a projected deficit of $8.1 million. Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Contract negotiations: The Brevard County School District and its teachers union have agreed to resume contract negotiations Nov. 30. Talks broke off last week, with pay the primary point of disagreement. The union is proposing raises of $2,300 and $1,725 for highly effective and effective teachers, respectively, and a recurring $2,000 supplement for teachers beginning in their 12th year. The district offered a 3.5 percent raise for teachers rated highly effective on their evaluations and 2.5 percent for effective ones, plus a $550 raise for teachers hired before July 2007. Space Coast Daily.
Persistent A/C issues: Hillsborough County voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase last year to make repairs to schools, and almost $75 million has been spent to fix persistently problematic air-conditioning systems at 21 schools. But school and district officials are quickly discovering that having new systems doesn’t necessarily mean they work 100 percent of the time. Tampa Bay Times. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has gotten more than 20 emails in response to his call for teachers to send him their classroom maintenance problems. Florida Times-Union.
LGBTQ policies: Conservative activists vow to continue pressing the Pasco County School Board to change the district’s policies on dealing with LGBTQ students. They’re protesting at schools, collecting signatures for petitions and are active on social media to convince the district to require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their birth gender and parental permission to join clubs, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance. Tampa Bay Times.
Superintendent search: Indian River County residents want their next school superintendent to be someone who is approachable, a good communicator, collaborative, fiscally knowledgeable, a champion of students, supportive of all staff and with experience in a “comparably complex diverse community.” Nearly 1,000 people responded to an online survey or were interviewed. TCPalm.
School programs: Weeki Wachee High School will be the first school in Hernando County to get the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) programs to help mid-level students prepare for college or other educational options. More than half the state’s districts have such programs. Tampa Bay Times. Nine Hillsborough County schools are testing a curriculum called Expeditionary Learning that combines reading and writing with “social emotional learning.” The program was developed by Harvard University and Outward Bound. Tampa Bay Times. A new program at Coronado High School in Fort Myers accepts at-risk 7th- and 8th-graders to help them improve to grade-level achievement, then returns them to their schools. Fort Myers News-Press.
Graduation honors debated: A Monroe County School District advisory committee is recommending that the district do away with valedictorian and salutatorian titles, beginning with this school year’s freshman class. Instead, the committee suggests, students should be recognized as cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude for their grade point averages. The board will take public comment on the proposal at its next three meetings. Key West Citizen.
Notable deaths: Jacquez Welch, the 17-year-old senior football captain at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg who collapsed during a game Friday and was taken off life support Tuesday, had a rare condition called arteriovenous malformation. It tangles blood vessels and arteries, and when ruptured can cause bleeding on the brain. His mother donated his organs, and they are helping five people, she says. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.
Personnel moves: Pennie Zuercher, the chief financial officer for the Brevard County School District, says she’s resigning to take a job as a city finance director in Broward County. Florida Today.
Hackers target PTAs: Hackers are targeting school PTA parents in Florida and around the country with requests to buy gift cards. Often, the emails are sent out under the name of a PTA member. The FBI is investigating. WFLA.
An officer’s history: The school resource officer who was fired after arresting two Orange County 6-year-olds for misbehaving at their school was disciplined seven times during his previous 23-year career with the Orlando Police Department. Police records show that Dennis Turner stunned a trespassing suspect five times with a Taser, was accused of racial profiling and was named in 16 citizen complaints. Orlando Sentinel.
Board, teacher settle: The Lake County School Board agrees to a settlement with a teacher who was accused of spraying water at an autistic student in 2018. The board fired Cara Sanderlin, who taught special education students at Pine Ridge Elementary School in Tavares. But she appealed, and the board’s attorney recommended paying Sanderlin $7,500 and allowing her to resign instead of fighting the appeal because it would have cost more. Daily Commercial.
School vandalism: Two Hernando County students could be expelled after they broke into their elementary school last weekend and caused $15,000 worth of damage, according to sheriff’s deputies. The children, 8 and 9, attend John D. Floyd Elementary School in Spring Hill. Deputies say they damaged computers, discharged a fire extinguisher, overturned tables and wrote obscenities on whiteboards. WFTS. Miami Herald.
Students and the law: An 18-year-old student at Spruce Creek High School in Volusia County is arrested and accused of bringing a knife to school to protect himself. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A 7-year-old boy at Ferry Pass Elementary School in Escambia County is arrested after striking a behavioral coach several times with a closed fist earlier this month. WEAR. A student at Bayshore High School in Manatee County is under investigation for posting a video on Snapchat that shows her holding a gun and threatening a classmate, according to police. The girl says the gun wasn’t real and she wasn’t threatening any specific person. Bradenton Herald.
Opinions on schools: Using the so-called “value-added model” has forced good teachers out of classrooms where they are most needed. The state should change this dysfunctional practice before it causes even more harm to vulnerable students. Tampa Bay Times. Florida’s quality of education has improved steadily over the past 15 years, and we can be proud of rising assessment scores, fewer achievement gaps and skyrocketing graduation rates. But there is so much more we can do. David Lawrence Jr., Sun Sentinel. Florida’s student achievement ranking is proof that classroom teachers have been the driving force in preparing the state’s public school students for future success. Now, it’s incumbent upon state lawmakers to sustain this success by not only raising teacher salaries, but by also fully resourcing our schools. Citrus County Chronicle. Raising test scores certainly is a worthy goal. But realizing the responsibility and dignity of the not-so-rich parent (and thus, the child) will be the true payoff of school choice. John E. Coons, redefinED. It’s a testament to the Orange County school resource officer’s restraint that he didn’t use lethal force to handle the misdeeds of two 6-year-olds. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.
Student enrichment: The Englewood High School football team is surprised with a $100,000 makeover of its locker room, courtesy of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Florida Times-Union. Tattoo artist Izic Woodall’s work now adorns the walls of the bathrooms at Medulla Elementary School in Lakeland. Two teachers at the school suggested the artwork as a way to add character to the restrooms. WTVT. Nine members of the Crystal River High School chorus are performing at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on Nov. 24. Citrus County Chronicle.