Report urges more mental health spending, ‘newly hired’ defined, ACT scores and more

Safety panel’s report: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission has approved a draft report that calls on the Legislature to increase funding for mental health services to students. No specific dollar amount is mentioned. It also calls for teaching students about character development and “social-emotional learning,” starting in preschool and continuing through graduation, and more training for school guardians. The report from the 2018 Parkland school shooting could be delivered to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva as early as today. The Legislature will consider the recommendations during the legislative session that begins Jan. 14. News Service of Florida.

Redefining newly hired: One of the qualifications needed to be eligible for $4,000 bonuses from the state’s Best and Brightest Scholarship Program is to be a “newly hired teacher.” But the state didn’t define exactly what “newly hired” meant, so the Pasco County School District is proposing its own definition. If the school board approves, any teacher hired into the district on or after July 1, 2019, would be eligible. “It made the most sense to us to focus on people who are coming to us for the first time in their career,” explained assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley. Any decision might be temporary. Gov. Ron DeSantis has called for changes in the bonus program, and a bill has been filed for the legislative session that would kill it. Gradebook.

ACT scores: The average score for a Florida student on the ACT improved from 19.9 last year to 20.1 this year, according to the company that produces the college entrance exam. The national average is 20.7. Just under 98,000 2019 graduates took the exam in the state, down from almost 120,000 last year. Florida Phoenix. For the fifth year in a row, students in the Bay County School District scored above the state average on the ACT college entrance exam with an average score of 21.0. WJHG.

Nation’s Report Card: More reports on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math and reading test results, commonly called the Nation’s Report Card, both nationally and in Florida school districts. Florida Department of Education. Gradebook.

Voucher options: As Florida families consider where to send their children for the 2020-2021 school year, they have more choices than ever. The latest K-12 scholarship program, the Family Empowerment Scholarship for low- and middle-income families, is expected to expand. It was created earlier this year to eliminate the waiting list for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. There are also scholarships available for bullied students, the disabled and students who need reading help. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the state scholarship programs. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Department of Education.

School name: A second survey has confirmed the first: Gateway High School is the favorite as a name for a high school opening next August in Lee County. More than 60 percent of the nearly 12,000 people who responded to the survey prefer Gateway over Thomas Edison High (19 percent), Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. (almost 15 percent) and Gabriela Mistral High (5 percent). The school board is expected to vote on the new name Tuesday. Fort Myers News-Press.

Educators honored: LaShakia Moore of Rymfire Elementary School has been named the Flagler County School District’s principal of the year, and iFlagler’s Erin Quinn is chosen as the assistant principal of the year. Palm Coast Observer.

State paychecks: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is the second-highest paid state employee at $276,000 a year, according to Florida records. Other education officials in the top 40 are Marshall Criser, chancellor in the Department of Education at $199,999.92; Vikkie Shirley, DOE general counsel at $195,200.04; and DOE vice chancellor Timmy Jones at $191,400. Orlando Business Journal.

Education podcasts: Teachers from around the state are in the midst of a five-week, 50-stop bus tour to bring attention to and rally support for their positions on funding for schools, teacher pay, preschool funding and more. Andrew Spar, vice president of the Florida Education Association, talks about what they hope to accomplish on the tour. Gradebook.

Notable deaths: Johnnie Mae Riley, a longtime teacher at Merritt Island Senior High School, mentor and community church leader, has died at the age of 82. Florida Today.

Suit against board dismissed: A negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed by a family whose son died during a high school football practice in 2017 has been dismissed by a federal judge. Laurie Giordano alleged that the Lee County School Board and Riverdale High School football coach James Delgado were responsible for the heat-related death of her son, Zachary Martin-Polsenberg. Giordano’s lawyers say they will amend the case and refile it. Fort Myers News-Press.

Vaping suit options: While Citrus County school officials say they have seen an increase in the number of students vaping, they’re not ready to join other districts such as Palm Beach County in suing e-cigarette manufacturers. “We’re not Palm Beach County,” said school board member Sandy Counts. “Our kids are different.” Citrus County Chronicle.

Students and the law: Two 17-year-old Polk County students have been arrested and accused of bringing pellet guns to Ridge Community High School in Haines City. Lakeland Ledger. A 17-year-old Flagler County student is arrested and accused of threatening a classmate for “snitching.” The Matanzas High School student also posted a racist video about his target, police said. Flagler Live.

Opinions on schools: Gov. Ron DeSantis is incorrect when he says raising teachers’ starting salary to $47,500 would put Florida as the second-highest in the country. Eve Rosen, WUFT. Heartland Institute analyst Timothy Benson argues that DeSantis’ proposal is unnecessary because Florida teachers are adequately compensated. Here’s why he’s wrong. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. One bright spot in the National Assessment of Educational Progress test results is that Florida maintained its high rankings when adjusting for demographics. Patrick R. Gibbons, redefinED. Results from the NAEP math and reading tests were mixed: scores were stagnant and special education results were a disaster, but there were some positives. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

Student enrichment: The Leesburg High School band receives an $8,000 donation from the music education nonprofit Kids Rock the Nation to replace its truck, which was destroyed in a car crash Oct. 27. Daily Commercial. Students from the Benjamin School in Palm Beach team with a Palm Beach Gardens insurance agency to collect and send 600 pairs of shoes to the Bahamas to help with Hurricane Dorian relief efforts. Palm Beach Post.