Educational bills of rights: A bill that would give parents the right to control their children’s education, health care and more has won the approval of the Florida House Education Committee. H.B. 1059, introduced by state Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, would require schools to establish procedures giving parents the choice of opting their children out of lessons they object to and be notified about their children’s clubs and activities at school. “This is all about empowering parents,” said Grall. “I have heard from parents that the bureaucracy just wears them down. They don’t know where to go.” News Service of Florida. Gradebook. Florida Politics. Another type of bill of rights was proposed Thursday by the members of the House Commerce Committee. The draft would guarantee athletes at state universities financial aid and health care as well as allow them to be paid for the use of their names and images. It becomes the fifth bill in this session addressing compensation for college athletes. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.
District scammed by hackers: Hackers obtained bank accounts information from the Sumter County School Board and used it to get credit cards for a $206,000 spending spree. Two men from Michigan and Washington were arrested in November by the FBI, and a South Carolina man was taken into custody last week. FBI officials said a Sumter school administrator who was trying to log into a bank website to check the board’s accounts was redirected to a phony site, where bank data was stolen. The scammers then used the information to open five credit card accounts. Associated Press.
Educators honored: Miranda Harwood, a 4th-grade math teacher at Brooker Elementary School in Brandon, has been named the Hillsborough County School District’s teacher of the year. Also honored were Keyada George, a 7th-grade English language arts teacher at Wilson Middle, as the Ida S. Baker diversity educator of the year; and Angela White, a sign language interpreter at Colson Elementary, as instructional support employee of the year. Tampa Bay Times. Four finalists are selected for the Miami-Dade County School District’s teacher of the year award. The winner and the rookie teacher of the year will be announced Jan. 30. Miami Herald. Ten finalists are named for the Pinellas County teacher of the year award. The winner will be announced Wednesday. Two others will be honored as “emerging teachers of the year”: Courtney Titcomb, a 1st-grade teacher at Azalea Elementary; and Olivia Crawford, a language arts teacher at Largo Middle. Gradebook.
Book challenged: Some Palm Beach County parents are demanding that the school district pull the book Little & Lion out of the high school curriculum and libraries. The book, written by Brandy Colbert, is about a 16-year-old girl named Suzette who is home in Los Angeles for the summer from boarding school. It has themes of interracial relationships, sex, contraceptives, abortion, homophobia and mental illness, and includes cursing. Sun Sentinel.
Contract negotiations: A tentative contract agreement has been reached between the Sarasota County teachers union and the school district. Teachers rated as highly effective would receive pay raises of 4.25 percent, effective ones would get 3.25 percent and noninstructional employees would get a 3.75 percent increase. Union members and the school board will probably vote on the deal next month. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Teacher pay: The senator who introduced legislation to repeal the Best and Brightest educator bonuses program said he’s encouraged by the progress the bill has made, and believes money will be found from the program to help fulfill Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to raise starting teacher pay to $47,500. Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Merritt Island, said the House has found about $246 million and the Senate is looking at repurposing $288 million toward the raises. “And then I would certainly anticipate we would do more than that to address the salary increase issue for teachers,” Bradley said. Florida Politics.
Software problems continue: More than 18 months after a new business software system was installed for the Manatee County School District, it’s still not working properly, say members of the district’s audit committee. The software isn’t able to handle a basic function known as reconciliation, in which bank statements and internal records are compared to see if they balance. “The audit committee is extremely concerned and stresses that the district must make it a priority to take steps to correct the deficiencies in the PeopleSoft system,” the committee said in its report. The software was delivered behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget in 2018. Bradenton Herald.
Superintendent search: With Addison Davis taking the school superintendent’s job in Hillsborough County, the Clay County School Board is looking for a temporary district leader. Board member Janice Kerekes said she expects the board to select an interim superintendent next month. Then it will be up to Gov. DeSantis to decide whether to stick with the interim through the rest of Davis’ elected term in November or name his own. So far there are two candidates in the superintendent’s race: former superintendent Charlie Van Sant and Keystone Heights High School teacher Melanie Dawn Walls. WJXT.
New schools: A Catholic high school for students with special needs is expected to open in Pensacola next fall. Morning Star High School will be located on the Pensacola Catholic High School campus. Eleven students have preregistered, and officials of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee expect the maximum capacity to be 18. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. A Lakeland couple is backing out of a contract to buy a historic home that they wanted to transform into a Montessori-style preschool. Thomas and Madison Brawner had run into opposition from the community around the Deen House and the city over renovations. They said they will begin looking for other locations. Lakeland Ledger.
Security in schools: Charlotte County school officials say if voters approve an extension of the local sales tax surcharge, they’d like to use some of the money to buy a one-button lockdown system as part of a central school security strategy. A citizens advisory board, the Sales Tax Task Force, is reviewing about 30 requested community projects. Charlotte Sun. A virtual reality system called Kognito is helping more than 140,000 Florida school officials recognize the signs of students going through a mental health crisis, and help them. Gainesville Sun.
School safety concerns: Residents in a Fort Myers neighborhood have, for now, delayed the building of a sidewalk near Allen Park Elementary School. The majority of the sidewalk would be built across the street from the school, which those residents say would be more dangerous for children because they would have to cross the street more. Their concerns have reached the school board, which will consider amending the project. Fort Myers News-Press. Parents of students at the Tallahassee School of Math and Science charter school said school signs and crosswalks are needed to keep students safe. WTXL.
Education podcasts: Why school superintendents, elected or appointed, matter. Gradebook.
Teacher shot at second job: A longtime Escambia County teacher who was also working as a clerk at a Dollar General store was shot in the abdomen during a robbery Wednesday night. Police say Yashita Mackey, 44, is expected to survive. She’s been a teacher at a local private school for 25 years. WEAR. Pensacola News Journal.
Child left behind in classroom: Wakulla County school officials say they are reviewing dismissal procedures after a kindergarten student was left alone sleeping in a classroom at the end of the day. The 6-year-old girl was discovered only after she failed to arrive at home on her school bus an hour after school was dismissed and her father went to the school looking for her. She had fallen asleep in a reading nook and was still sleeping when an assistant principal found her. WCTV.
Ex-teacher sentenced: A former physical education teacher at Brownsville Middle School in Miami-Dade County has been sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual activity with a child. Wendell Alfredo Nibbs, 53, was arrested in 2017 and accused of having sexual contact with several underage girls. WTVJ. Miami Herald. WPLG.
Teacher under investigation: A Martin County High School teacher is under investigation for her behavior toward students, say district officials. Parents and students have complained that Kylie Lowe, who is also the director of the school’s advanced touring vocal ensemble, has belittled students and been verbally abusive toward them. TCPalm.
Students and the law: Five students and a former student at Fivay High School in Pasco County were arrested after two fights took place during the first lunch period. School officials said the five students, all girls, will be suspended. Tampa Bay Times. A third Mount Dora High School student has been arrested and charged with possession of a firearm on school property. Two other students were arrested Wednesday in connection with the crime. Orlando Sentinel. A West Orange High School student was arrested after Orange County deputies said they found a handgun in his backpack. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV.
Opinions on schools: What good will it do to attract new teachers if Florida does nothing to keep the teachers it already has? Gov. DeSantis’ proposal to raise starting teacher pay to $47,500 while doing nothing for veteran educators is a slap in the face to more than 70,000 Florida teachers. Eric Anthony Rodriguez, Branford News. Making Westside Middle School a swing school would mean an increase in traffic, a loss of tax dollars and continued inequities in Alachua County education. Michelle Hazen. Gainesville Sun. The U.S. Supreme Court should do the right thing and drive a stake through the heart of legalized anti-Catholic bias by killing the Blaine Amendment. Lakeland Ledger. Boosting the standards at Sarasota County’s Pine View School is what a centralized, gifted education is about. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.