No phones in school zones, guns at child-care, pay issues, mental health and more

Phone use in school zones: Beginning today, drivers may be issued a warning for holding a cell phone or other wireless device in a designated school crossing, a school zone or an active work zone. Those warnings will turn into tickets in January, and they carry a $60 fine and a 3-point penalty against a driver’s license. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Phoenix. Florida Today. Charlotte Sun. Sunshine State News. WFLA. WTSP.

Guns at child-care: Two Democratic lawmakers have filed bills that would ban guns at all child-care facilities in Florida. Guns are already not permitted at K-12 schools. The bills, S.B. 398 and H.B. 245, are sponsored by Sen. Lori Berman from Boynton Beach and Rep. Cindy Polo from Miramar, respectively. “In our schools, we protect our children by only allowing guns on campus in the hands of trained personnel. This same standard should apply here,” said Berman. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics.

Board members take pay cut: Brevard County School Board members are taking an $850 pay cut because of a new state law that prohibits them from being paid more than a starting teacher. Board members had been paid $40,080, but were dropped to $39,226 because that’s the school district’s starting salary for a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree. Florida Today.

Contract negotiations: Some veteran Brevard County teachers would get a 5.9 percent raise under the latest contract offer from the school district. Highly effective teachers would get a $2,000 raise, and effective ones $1,500. Teachers with 12 years or more of experience would get an additional $900. Negotiations resume today. Space Coast Daily. Negotiations between the Charlotte County School District and the teachers union are continuing. Charlotte Sun.

Mental health instruction: School districts are busy working in a variety of ways to fulfill the state-mandated five hours of mental health instruction for each student in 6th through 12th grades. Some districts will have standalone classes, while others weave the material into other courses. Each district must submit a plan to the state by Dec. 1 on how it will deliver the information. WUFT. The Players Championship men’s pro golf tournament has donated $1 million to the Flagler Health Care Foundation, which is collaborating with the Flagler County School District to encourage students to seek mental health care services when they’re needed. Florida Times-Union.

Community school: Dodgertown Elementary School in Vero Beach will become a community school with the help of an $80,000 grant. The Indian River County school is just one of 10 in the state to be awarded the grant. The school district will partner with Indian River State College, the Children’s Home Society of Florida and Treasure Coast Community Health Centers to provide educational, social, mental and nutritional help to students and community members. There are 25 such schools in the state, with two more coming on line this year. The transformation typically takes five years, said Amy Ellis, director of the University of Central Florida’s Center for Community Schools. TCPalm.

Hiring relatives: The State Commission on Ethics tells the Florida Association of District School Superintendents that a school superintendent does not have a conflict of interest by proposing that a relative get a job in the district she or he runs because hires are simply proposed by superintendents but approved by school boards. Boards are free to reject the hiring proposals. The commission made its ruling this summer, and clarified it recently for the superintendents. The decision was made in the case of a Hendry County School Board member who voted to renew her husband’s contract as a principal. Gradebook.

Social media monitoring: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has issued a final order awarding a contract to NTT Data to help the state’s schools monitor social media for threats. Two other bidders challenged the contract, but an administrative law judge ruled that Corcoran had the authority to disregard the recommendation of a negotiating team and give the bid to NTT. News Service of Florida.

Personnel moves: Kim Moore, the Hillsborough County School District’s director of administration, has been hired to be the Pasco district’s first assistant superintendent overseeing career, technical and workforce education. Gradebook.

Employees arrested: A Hendry County teacher was arrested for having a handgun on campus. Lisa Horton, an English teacher at LaBelle High School, kept the gun in her car. She has a concealed carry permit, but state law specifically prohibits concealed carry permit owners from taking a gun on school properties. WFTX. A 25-year-old Pasco County school secretary has been arrested and accused of sending a sexually explicit video to a 14-year-old student. Deputies say Heather Matheison, who works at Chasco Middle School in Port Richey, acknowledged sending the video and knowing the boy’s age. Miami Herald.

Students arrested: A 15-year-old Flagler County student is arrested and accused of making a threat against students at Matanzas High School. Flagler Live. WJXT. A 12-year-old Pinellas County student was arrested for making a social media threat to shoot a classmate at Palm Harbor Middle School. Tampa Bay Times.

Opinions on schools: Substitute teaching is a learning experience. Mark McEwen, Orlando Sentinel. Last spring, a record number of Florida middle school students passed the state’s algebra 1 end-of-course exam, putting them in the pipeline for a bachelor’s degree level STEM career. But this tidal wave and economic transformation will not happen if we don’t provide these students with many more great math and science teachers than our state already has. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: Two Flagler Palm Coast High School seniors are among 16,000 U.S. students named as semifinalists for a National Merit Scholarship. Flagler Live. Clermont Middle School in Lake County will get a new playground, thanks to a $70,000 donation from the Niagara Bottling Co. Daily Commercial. Positive and encouraging quotes have been posted in the bathrooms at Port Charlotte Middle School. “Kids won’t be successful if they feel it [school] is not a happy place to be,” said Charlotte County School Board member Kim Amontree, who paid for the signs. “Anything we can do to encourage the kids.” Charlotte Sun.