Early education emphasis, community school project, retaliation claim and more

Early education: Critics of the state’s early education system are optimistic that things might change for the better in the legislative session that starts Jan. 14. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ call for policy changes and improvements, and studies that show the state’s shortcomings in funding and quality standards and the impact that effective early education has on students, have helped make the issue of early education a priority for lawmakers. “For years we thought about early education as babysitting, and we know now it’s so much more,” said Lindsay Carson, chief executive officer at the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County, which monitors the program locally. Tampa Bay Times. Early education leaders around the state are lobbying for the state Department of Education’s Early Learning Advisory Council to be disbanded by the Legislature in its next session. Shan Goff, executive director for the advisory council, says the state’s open records law is getting in the way of the council doing its job of offering advice to the Office of Early Learning. Politico Florida. Florida House education committees and subcommittees have meetings scheduled Nov. 5-7 and 12-14. News Service of Florida.

Community schools: The Children’s Home Society has applied for a grant to help create the Sarasota County School District’s first community school at Gocio Elementary School in Sarasota. The society would partner with the school district, the University of South Florida and other organizations to bring health, social, medical and educational services for the community into the school. Recent studies have shown that creating community schools results in higher student test scores, better attendance rates and more parental involvement. The district should know within a month if it’s getting the $80,000 grant. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

School cop claims retaliation: A Sarasota County school resource says district officials retaliated against her after she began investigating a Brookside Middle School teacher for sexual misconduct. Kimberly Whyley said a student reported to her that a male teacher had grabbed her breast. When she looked into it, she claims, school administrators criticized her, placed negative comments into her personnel file and began a criminal investigating into her actions in breaking up a fight Oct. 1. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Recovering from storms: Lakeland Kathleen Middle School will reopen today, more than a week after a tornado caused extensive damage at the school. At least 12 portable classrooms have been set up for students while repairs continue. WTSP. WTVT. Schools in Gulf County are still struggling a year after Hurricane Michael ripped through the area. “We’re still dealing with the effects every single day,” says Port St. Joe High School principal Josh Dailey. “Words can’t really describe it.” The school is still missing some of its roof and has issues with mold. “Our folks are stressed out,” said Superintendent Jim Norton, who lost his home. “We’re still rebuilding our lives a year later and we won’t have it perfected.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Substitute teaching pay: St. Johns County school officials said they need more substitute teachers, and are proposing to boost their pay from $12 an hour to $14. If the school board approves the proposal, it would be the first increase for subs since 2007. “We need substitutes,” read a district presentation to the school board. “We need our substitutes to work more often. Substitutes need and want to feel valued. It is important we take care of our substitutes, so they take care of our students when teachers need to be out.” WJXT.

Mental health days: A proposed bill that would give Florida students a mental health day off school each semester is drawing a mixed reaction from educators and parents in the Treasure Coast counties of Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie. Some worry that without attaching a specific mental health service to the day off, it’s just more time missing school for students. TCPalm.

District construction plans: Monroe County school officials outline plans to build affordable housing for employees at a school-owned property, expand May Sands Montessori School, relocate the district administrative offices, and finish work at Stanley Switlik Elementary School and the transportation facility on Stock Island. Key West Citizen.

Experiment yields results: About 250 students at the Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences working on a science project for a school fair find microplastics at South Lido Beach and the nearby mangroves. The water samples will be added to the 300 or so already collected for the Florida Microplastics Awareness Project. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Parents sue district: The parents of a child with Down syndrome are suing the Palm Beach County School District after the then-7-year-old was left alone for hours on a hot school bus in 2015. The boy was supposed to be dropped off at J.C. Mitchell Elementary School in Boca Raton in the morning, but was overlooked and left in the bus in the district bus yard for at least three hours before a mechanic found him. WPTV.

Students and the law: A 16-year-old Monroe County student has pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a weapon at Key West High School, burglary of a vehicle and grand theft of a firearm. He’s been sentenced to a year in county jail. Key West Citizen. Miami Herald. A 16-year-old Volusia County student is arrested and accused of stabbing two University High School classmates in an after-school brawl that was coordinated through social media during school. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Orlando Sentinel. Two students at Lyman High School in Longwood were arrested for writing threats on bathroom walls at the school, and a third was arrested for playing an audio of gunfire through a loudspeaker in a school hallway, according to police. Orlando Sentinel.

Opinions on schools: An bold early-learning pilot program proposed for Alachua County preschools has promise to better prepare disadvantaged students for school. James F. Lawrence, Gainesville Sun. If Escambia County schools aren’t good enough to instill confidence in service members who have a choice to accept orders in Pensacola, then they aren’t good enough for any of the children who grow up here. Pensacola News Journal. The Duval County School District needs the best leader, not the best politician. Duval County School Board chair Lori Hershey, Florida Times-Union. A judge’s decision that Sarasota County schools denied a student “a free and appropriate education” underscores the necessity of keeping students reaching beyond their grasp. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Proposed H.B. 311 would close a potentially dangerous legal loophole in prosecuting threats against schools. Citrus County Chronicle. Legislation is needed to require cameras in separate classrooms for children with disabilities. These cameras would not only offer protection of our children, but for teachers as well. Stacey Hoagland, Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Every Friday morning, students at Pride Elementary School in Deltona line up to welcome kids being dropped off at school as part of 4th-grade teacher Joanne Miller’s Kindness Squad. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Students from Krinn Technical High School in Pasco County are competing to have their science project chosen to get on the International Space Station. Gradebook. More than 250 Miami-Dade County from 14 schools take part in a simulated stock market challenge sponsored by Junior Achievement of Greater Miami. WLRN. In the past five years, the Nyah Project has funded 10-day leadership trips to foreign countries for 57 high-performing high school students from struggling communities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Miami Herald. The Viera High School woodwind ensemble will perform at the Music for All Foundation’s national festival in Indianapolis in March. Florida Today. Carson Holley, an 11-year-old 5th-grader at Oak Hall Elementary School in Gainesville, releases her first recording, a single in Spanish named Que Late. Gainesville Sun. Several 5th-graders at Parker Elementary School in Panama City learn about city government in a “Mayor for the Day” event. Panama City News Herald.



    If you doubt for a moment that whistleblowers on childhood sexual abuse, like Sarasota’s school resource officer Kimberly Whyley, are not retaliated against, you severely underestimate the indifference to predators by school administrators, clergy, law enforcement, judges, medical professionals, and others in positions of authority. You severely underestimate the appalling epidemic numbers of predators and their enablers in our midst.

    What really happens when a conscientious adult reports childhood sexual abuse? I know and am still living the aftermath of my reports made in Indiana, with tentacles here in Florida.

    The immediate repercussions of my eyewitness reports about a 350-pound adult male counselor lying on top of a child pinned beneath him on the floor against a wall were for me to be put under surveillance by the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center, where the attack occurred. My husband’s boss, attorney Robert W. York, later issued an ultimatum that my husband would be fired if he did not silence my reports.

    After firing my husband, Robert York was appointed as a hearing officer for the Indiana Supreme Court, paid scores of thousands of dollars, and worked directly under Indiana Justice Steve David. As a trial court judge, Steve David had fined me $60,000 for attempting to have the mother of a convicted violent childhood sexual predator answer questions under oath about her son, who was one of many predators frequenting the Indy JCC, including Subway’s infamous Jared Fogle, finally imprisoned for his sexual crimes against children around the world.

    When I repeatedly gave proof of Robert W. York’s frequent commission of the unlicensed practice of law in Florida to numerous Sarasota and Manatee County judges and to Florida’s Attorney Generals, their indifference was stark. The simple lesson is that crimes against children are met with indifference, and crimes of intimidation and retaliation (and unlicensed practice of law) by predators and their enablers meet the same fate.

    We must all strongly support the courage it takes to blow the whistle on predators, whose fate is protected; while child-victims are abandoned and betrayed by those entrusted and empowered to shelter them from irreparable harm inflicted upon them in classrooms, churches, and community centers.

    Beverly Newman, Ed.D., helpelders@hotmail.com
    941-792-4284, 4102 66th Street Circle West, Bradenton, FL 34209

    • Dr. Newman, thanks for your comments to this news story that we posted to our morning roundup. I recommend you share your experience with the Sarasota/Bradenton sites where the story appeared if you haven’t already done so.