Educator bonuses bill, medical marijuana in schools, academic standards and more

Educator bonuses: The state’s controversial bonuses program for teachers and principals would be repealed by a bill that’s been proposed for the next legislative session, which starts Jan. 14. State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, filed S.B. 440 Friday. Gov. Ron DeSantis said last month that the Best and Brightest Scholarship Program was too complicated and suggested it be replaced and linked to higher teacher pay. That announcement came just a few days after the state agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the program discriminated against veteran and minority teachers. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Medical pot in schools: Only one of 10 west-central Florida school districts is in compliance with a state law requiring districts to allow ailing students with prescriptions for medical marijuana to receive the drug as treatment at schools. But officials for those districts without policies say they worry that complying with the state law will break federal law, which still considers marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic. Pasco County School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso has advised board members that “the policy we have now is to follow the controlling federal law.” The student code of conduct “does not contemplate a lawful use of marijuana” in school, he added. Gradebook.

Listening tour begins: State education officials begin their tour of Florida today to hear from residents about what changes they’d like to see in academic standards. The Florida standards, which are based on the Common Core standards, are getting a revision at the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis. The first stop in collecting feedback is today in Highlands County. Eight more meetings are planned through Oct. 23. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran will submit recommendations for new standards to DeSantis by January. Sunshine State News. Highlands News-Sun. Gainesville SunFlorida Department of Education.

Hope scholarships: School principals may be failing to tell students about the state’s Hope scholarships for bullied students to attend a different public school or a private school, say some south Florida education officials. Only 26 students in Broward County and 14 in Palm Beach County have opted to use the scholarships to switch schools. The state raised $42 million last year for the scholarships by giving car-buyers the option of putting $105 or the 6 percent state sales tax into the program. “We got the money for it,” according to Patrick Gibbons, a spokesman for Step Up For Students, which helps administer the program and hosts this blog. “Now we need to advertise it.” Sun Sentinel.

Charter hires ousted principal: A Palm Beach County charter school has hired a principal who was removed from his public school job after being accused of having an affair with a teacher and then threatening her after they broke up. Guarn Sims, 50, who had been the principal at Boynton Beach High School, is now the principal of the Bright Futures Academy, a K-8 school in Palm Beach Gardens. The school’s CEO, Henry DiGiancinto, said he’s satisfied with Sims’ explanation of what happened. Palm Beach Post.

Teacher shortage: More than half of the teachers hired by the Polk County School District leave within the first five years on the job, according to research of school data. “The average burnout rate for a teacher is three to five years,” said Teddra Porteous, associate superintendent for human resources. Nationally, about 44 percent of teachers leave in their first five years. Lakeland Ledger.

Parents oppose sheriff’s return: The families of the victims of the 2018 Parkland school shooting are urging state senators to not allow Scott Israel to return as Broward County sheriff. A Senate special master recently recommended that Israel, who had been removed by Gov. Ron DeSantis because of his and his agency’s actions during the shootings, be reinstalled. The Senate will vote on that recommendation Oct. 23. News Service of Florida.

Battle on the board: The attorney for the Marion County school superintendent and school board members clashed late last week over the rights of board members to speak to school employees. Henry Ferro, who represents Superintendent Heidi Maier, warned board members Thursday to abide by a memo he wrote instructing them to not talk directly to school employees and to direct all inquiries to him. Board members reminded Ferro that by law, they can visit schools and speak with principals anytime they want and without notice or escorts. The board recently authorized an outside law firm to look into allegations that Maier has created a hostile work environment. Ocala Star-Banner.

Electing a superintendent: The Duval County School Board and a Jacksonville City Council committee oppose a local bill that would change the school superintendent’s job from appointed to elected, but the Duval legislative delegation is expected to push it through at its next meeting Nov. 1. Local bill J-1 was proposed by state Rep. Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville. Florida Politics.

Storm recovery: Nearly a year after Hurricane Michael devastated Bay County, school employees are still dealing with insurance companies and contractors, and students are still trying to get over the trauma of being displaced. Panama City News Herald. WFSU. In words and drawings, 3rd-graders from Callaway Elementary School in Bay County compile a book to share their memories of Hurricane Michael. Tallahassee Democrat.

A district’s budget: The Volusia County School District is projecting an $8.1 million deficit in its budget, which means it will have to dip into its reserves for a second straight year to make ends meet. The district could adjust its spending to cut down the deficit, as it did last year, but chief financial officer Deb Muller is warning board members that dipping into reserves is a solution they can’t continue to use. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

School programs: Twenty-four new students have entered the Tavares High School Teaching Academy in its second year. Program directors hope to have 100 students by the time the academy hosts its full four-course plan. Daily Commercial. The Eustis High School Construction Academy has enrolled 107 students in its first year, and 95 of them are freshmen. The program is still waiting for many of the tools students will use. Daily Commercial.

Politics in the classroom: The U.S. House is considering impeachment charges against the president and the presidential election is just over a year away. But political partisanship is making some southwest Florida schools, and others around the country, wary of how to proceed in discussing politics in the classroom. WBBH. Education Week.

Legislative agenda: Brevard County residents are asking their legislative delegation for tighter regulation of e-cigarettes to cut use by students, and for support for a bill requiring sanitary napkins and tampons be provided for free in bathrooms in public schools. Florida Today. Highlands County Superintendent Brenda Longshore lobbies her delegation for more money for mental health counseling, new buses and full-time certified teachers. Charlotte Sun.

Historic home for preschool: The Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board is being asked to approve a zoning change so a historic home can be turned into a preschool. The Deen home was built in 1912, and has been a bed and breakfast. If the zoning change is approved, the home will become the Alta Schoolhouse and use Montessori teaching principles. Lakeland Ledger.

Help for teacher: Employees at North Fort Myers High School launch a GoFundMe page for a Spanish teacher who had brain surgery last week. Dianira Rivera had a migraine headache she couldn’t shake and went to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery three days later. Her insurance covers only 80 percent of the expenses. Fort Myers News-Press.

School employee resigns: A technology worker for the Manatee County School District has resigned after sharing a lewd video with a woman he was having an affair with, according to a district investigation. Ryan Bremner had been placed on administrative leave after the woman’s husband contacted school officials July 30. Bradenton Herald.

Students and the law: A Collier County student was arrested after Corkscrew Middle School in Naples was placed on lockdown last week. Sheriff’s deputies did not say what the student is accused of doing. Naples Daily News. A 10-year-old Monroe County student has been charged with taking a knife to Stanley Switlik Elementary School in Marathon. She told police she needed the knife to protect herself against potential armed attackers. Key West Citizen. Keynoter. WPEC.

Opinions on schools: As state lawmakers pay greater attention to early learning, Alachua County should position itself to be a leader in ensuring children are prepared for kindergarten and beyond. Gainesville Sun. When drunks can wander into classrooms unnoticed, you have to wonder at how effective recent security upgrades at schools have been. Mark Lane, Daytona Beach News-Journal. While the decision to review the state’s academic standards is well-intentioned, I believe that changes to the standards will actually weaken them. Angela Schoon, Orlando Sentinel.

Student enrichment: Civics students in Armwood High School’s Ought to be a Law club have written a proposed bill that legislators have filed to allow English-language learners to take state tests in their own languages. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. The family of the late state Sen. Dorothy Hukill is starting a foundation to help students who are planning careers in teaching and other public services. Florida Today. About 100 middle school students suit up in surgical gowns at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for a close-up lesson in dealing with breast cancer. WTSP. The National Council of Jewish Women Palm Beach Section has opened its 17th Kids Community Closet, this one at Palmetto Elementary School in West Palm Beach. The clothes stocked are available free to students who need them. Sun Sentinel. The LGBTQ+ advocacy group ALSO Youth names the Sarasota County School District a community partner of the year for “helping young people deal with related issues of body image, gender identity, bullying and suicide and offering training and support in schools to meet the needs of students.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff