Board considers withholding IG’s reports, teachers’ grading dilemmas, moments of silence and more

Grading, rethought: With most of this year’s education being disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, teachers are trying to balance the need for understanding the struggles of students with realistic assessments of academic progress as they determine what grades the students should be given. Should grades measure knowledge students show at the end of a term, or how much work they’ve completed along the way? Douglas Reeves, founder of Boston-based Creative Leadership and a proponent of changing grading models, said grading students on assignments submitted is a “dropout time bomb.” Tampa Bay Times.

Moments of silence: A bill requiring schools to provide students a minute or two of silence at the beginning of every school day for “quiet reflection” has been filed for the legislative session that begins March 2. S.B. 282, sponsored by state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, would also require first-period teachers to encourage parents to provide guidance to their children on how best to use the time. A similar bill was introduced in the 2020 session and was approved by the House but died in the Senate. The bill reads, in part, “The Legislature finds that our youth, and society as a whole, would be well served if students in the public schools were afforded a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day.” News Service of Florida. Lakeland Ledger. Florida Politics. Center Square.

Around the state: The Palm Beach County School Board is considering a policy change that would end the publication of the district’s inspector general’s investigations of potential fraud and waste in schools, Manatee Superintendent Cynthia Saunders has her contract extended two years by the school board, a Polk County charter school system is struggling with leadership changes, Collier school officials plan an expansion of teaching essential life skills to students with disabilities, the Lake County School Board approves a 2021-2022 school calendar, and eight more school districts get their spring education plans approved by the Florida Department of Education. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A senior at Everglades Ransom High School released a jazz album in November called Then + Now, his first. Connor Munroe, who plays the saxophone, said he and the 50 contributors to the album drew inspiration from the reigning district teacher of the year, Oliver Diez. Miami Herald.

Orange: District officials expect about 18,000 students will switch from remote learning to in-person instruction for the second semester. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is supporting the surge. “We have seen struggles at all three levels,” she said. “It all boils down to parents’ ability to help children on LaunchEd at home if children are trying to work independently then there is going to be some struggle.” Spectrum News 13.

Palm Beach: The school board is considering a policy change that would end the publication of the district’s inspector general’s investigations of potential fraud and waste in schools. If the proposal is approved, the investigations would be available only after a formal public records request is filed. And the person making the request could also be responsible for the cost to redact confidential information. Teresa Michael, the inspector general, supports the proposal as a way to cut access to sensitive details, such as the names of those targeted or who provided testimony. “What good would come, what positive effect would come, from placing things on the website?” Michael asked. “I really do not see any positive effect.” Palm Beach Post. A plan to provide rapid-results coronavirus tests to students has gotten off to a slow start because many parents are reluctant to give the necessary permission. “Consents at the present time are kind of barriers to performing those tests, so we definitely would like to see more parents sign consents,” said Dr. Belma Andrić, the chief medical officer, vice president and executive director of clinic services for the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. “I think it’s just a matter of time and understanding of importance of the test.” WPTV.

Polk: The Lake Wales Charter School District is going through a period of upheaval. The superintendent of the seven-school system, Jesse Jackson, has announced he’s leaving at the end of the school year, and the chairman of the school board, Danny Gill, briefly resigned when he and Jackson clashed over the timing of Jackson’s resignation. Gill has since been reinstated as vice chair, and he and Jackson said the dispute is behind them. But everyone agrees there is a lot to be done, and at a time when both the charter district and Polk County School District are looking for new superintendents. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: A 14-year-old Hollins High School student has been arrested and accused of making threats on Instagram to commit a mass shooting at the school. He was tracked down at his home hours after the threat was posted and admitted making it, according to sheriff’s deputies, who said the boy had no access to weapons and posed no credible threat. WFLA. WTVT. WFTS. Students in the Tarpon Spring High School’s Veterinary Science Academy are the first in Florida to have a synthetic cadaver dog to study and practice procedures on. The 45-pound female greyhound mix is named Sponger after the school’s mascot. “She gurgles. Her lungs expand. When you’re using a stethoscope, you can hear her lungs. It’s very realistic,” said teacher Jessica French. WTVT.

Manatee: School board members unanimously voted Thursday night to extend the contract of Superintendent Cynthia Saunders by two years, to June 2023. Her annual salary of $196,000 was not changed. Saunders took over as the interim leader in 2018 when Diana Greene left to run the Duval district and had the interim tag removed in early 2019. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB. A school district security officer has resigned after an investigation concluded that he filed false work records and often exercised at a gym during working hours. Vernon D. Everett was first reported to be lifting weights during working hours in March. An investigation was completed Nov. 4, and six days later the district’s Discipline Review Committee recommended Everett be fired. He then emailed a letter of resignation, which was approved by the school board. Bradenton Herald.

Collier: The school district has bought a home next to Naples High School and plans to use it to expand services for students with disabilities. District officials said the home will provide students between the ages of 14 and 22 with a “real world residential” setting where they can learn such life skills as financial management, cooking, laundry and cleaning. The city council will have to approve the necessary rezoning for the property. “We sincerely applaud and support the school district’s vision to reuse our home and believe the project is an excellent setting to provide independent living education,” said Rose Ann Toribio, whose family has lived in the home for more than 30 years. “Approving the school district’s proposal is a positive step for the community’s high school students with special educational needs.” Naples Daily News.

Lake: The 2021-2022 school calendar was approved this week by the school board. The first day of classes will be Aug. 10, and the last day May 27, 2022. Schools are off for a week at Thanksgiving and spring break, and for two weeks over the winter holidays. No classes will be held on Veterans Day. Daily Commercial.

Clay: Parents of children in the district are complaining about the delays in getting coronavirus information from school officials. Some said they are getting no notice from children’s schools even when they know there have been positive cases. One said she was contacted by the county health department two weeks after cases were reported. In a statement, school officials said, “The district recognizes that contact tracing procedures are complex and involve compliance from all parties for it to work effectively. Numbers within the district have remained relatively low due to the mitigation strategies used in schools and the diligent efforts and collaboration with the Florida Department of Health.” WJXT.

Leon: The school district’s 136 bus drivers and 92 assistants received turkeys donated by the Envision Credit Union and Second Harvest of the Big Bend food bank as a thank you for their work. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU.

Flagler: School officials are creating a coronavirus dashboard, starting Jan. 4, that will provide parents with web-based information on the number of cases and the schools where they’ve been reported. It will be updated daily around 5 p.m. The district decided to make the change after parents complained about the current system of sending emails. Flagler Live. The school board started this week’s meeting by paying tribute to Flagler Palm Coast High School principal Tom Russell, who died recently of complications from the coronavirus. Later, board member Janet McDonald told the county health director that she’d “like to see a little backing off of this fear about what a virus can do to you,” and claimed that face masks are harmful, COVID testing is unreliable, and that there have been fewer, not more, deaths from COVID-19 this year. Flagler Live.

Wakulla: The Wakulla High School class of 2020 will have an in-person graduation ceremony Dec. 18 at J.D. Jones Stadium. Superintendent Bobby Pearce said the pandemic forced a drive-in graduation for the class in the spring, and that the more traditional ceremony will give those students the recognition they deserve. WCTV.

Spring education plans: Eight more school districts have gotten their spring semester education plans approved by the Florida Department of Education. Getting sign-off from the state Thursday were the plans for the Brevard, Charlotte, Columbia, DeSoto, Hernando, Highlands, Holmes and Miami-Dade school districts. Plans from each state district were due Tuesday to be reviewed and approved by the state, or sent back for revisions. Florida Department of Education.

School vaccinations: While many educators are lobbying for teachers to be given priority when it comes to vaccinating against the coronavirus, there has been little talk about making vaccinations mandatory for them. TCPalm. WJXT. The Florida Department of Health’s latest report on the coronavirus in schools has been issued, and some districts are showing steep increases while others saw a surge just after Thanksgiving that has since abated. WPLG. Fort Myers News-Press. Naples Daily News. WEAR. WKMG. WJXT.

Around the nation: A College Athletes Bill of Rights has been filed in Congress by four Democratic lawmakers. The bill would allow college athletes to earn money off the use of their names, images and likenesses, and would require schools to share half of their profits from sports programs with athletes, after the cost of scholarships are subtracted. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: A recipient of a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship said the most important thing she has learned at La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Miami is to be charitable. “The charity I have received has inspired me to participate in acts of goodwill,” she said. Isabella Garcia, redefinED. The year 2020 should have been enough to convince Florida’s policy-makers that providing students with opportunities to pursue STEM careers must be a high priority for the state’s educational system. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.