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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida education news: MaryEllen Elia, UF online, high school for sale and more

NEXT STOP, NEW YORK: Ousted Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia lands on her feet as New York State's next education commissioner. More from Newsday, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Buffalo News.

LEADERSHIP: The Manatee School Board names deputy superintendent Diana Greene as its interim leader for at least a year, the Bradenton Herald reports. • The first candidate files for Okaloosa's superintendent election, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. • Volusia's new superintendent reorganizes his administration, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

DISCRIMINATION: Residents ask the Brevard School Board to add language referring to LGBT individuals into district policy, Florida Today reports.

ONLINE EDUCATION: Only a handful of invited students choose to enroll in the University of Florida's virtual program after being turned away from the full university, the Ocala Star Banner reports.

PLAY TIME: A foundation donates $250,000 for a handicap accessible playground at a Bay elementary school, the Panama City News Herald reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Polk school district denies two charter school requests to increase their enrollments, the Ledger reports. …

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Pasco teacher gets reprimand over testing

A Pasco County math teacher who faced an investigation over concerns that she encouraged students to opt out of a state end-of-course exam has received a formal reprimand for her action.

Meredith Jewell, a district teacher since 2005, has told the district she plans to submit a rebuttal to some of the specific accusations against her. Mitchell High School principal Jim Michaels wrote in his reprimand that Jewell deviated from set procedures for administering tests, in that she discussed the possibility of opting out of the exams with students and made them believe she supported that decision.

"Although many stated you advised them to discuss with their parents, several also stated that you provided them with information that influenced their decision not to fully participate in the test," Michaels wrote.

He noted that he did not think Jewell intended to undermine state or district testing procedures. Her actions, however, disrupted accurate testing and could have hurt student outcomes, he added.   …

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MaryEllen Elia snares top New York education post

UPDATE: The New York Board of Regents unanimously voted to install MaryEllen Elia as their next state education chancellor just before 4 p.m. She is to begin on July 6.

ORIGINAL POST: MaryEllen Elia, recently let go as Hillsborough County schools superintendent, wasn't out of the business for long.

The Buffalo News reports that Elia is about to become the next education commissioner for New York State: 

ALBANY - The State Board of Regents is preparing to appoint a well-regarded Florida schools leader with Lewiston roots to become New York's next education commissioner.

MaryEllen Elia, 66, would become the first woman and first Buffalo Niagara native to ever take the post.

Elia is being recommended by the board's search committee, but the full body must approve the appointment. The 17 Regents were given notice over the holiday weekend to report to Albany on Tuesday for a special meeting to interview Elia and then vote on her appointment.

They went into an executive session at noon to discuss her appointment.

If approved, Elia would replace John B. King, who left last year to take a job at the U.S. Department of Education. …

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Pasco school district taxable value rises

A second consecutive $1 billion increase in local property values will bolster the Pasco County school district's bottom line for the coming fiscal year.

Property appraiser Mike Wells informed district officials that their estimated taxable value for fiscal 2016 is $23.46 billion, up from $22.41 billion a year ago. The higher values should contribute to a stronger budget picture for the district as leaders seek to expand programs and improve salaries.

This positive news does not allay all concerns, though, as lawmakers have yet to settle the state budget, which annually includes specific mandates on local tax rates as well as the distribution of state tax dollars. Pasco officials have said they have to make plans without enough detail from the state.

They've also joined a statewide effort of superintendents and board members in urging lawmakers to fully fund student growth, as well as increase per-student funding, during a year that looks to have budget surpluses. …

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Florida education news: Testing, Spanish lessons, magnet schools and more

TESTING: The Palm Beach School Board will ask Gov. Rick Scott to halt the negative consequences associated with state testing, the Palm Beach Post reports.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS: Proposals to overhaul high school sports oversight won't return in Florida's special legislative session, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The failure of Acclaim Academy schools raises questions about the group's finances, the Florida Times-Union reports.

LANGUAGE LESSONS: The Miami-Dade school district reassesses the way it teaches Spanish, the Miami Herald reports.

ACHIEVEMENT GAP: Palm Beach leaders want to know why black and Hispanic boys struggle in school, the Palm Beach Post reports.

ON THEIR OWN: Some Okaloosa high school students learn through independent study, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

ATTENDANCE: The Bay school district looks into ways to improve student attendance, the Panama City News Herald reports.

MAGNET SCHOOLS: The Orange school district prepares to add more magnet programs, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

REVAMP: East Gainesville families warm to the Alachua school district's reorganization of their area schools, the Gainesville Sun reports.

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Florida education news: High-poverty schools, online learning, sand skinks and more

TOUGHER TIMES: Hillsborough and Pinellas teachers find it more difficult to teach at high-poverty schools.

ONLINE LEARNING: Florida Virtual School offers students desired flexibility, the Panama City News Herald reports.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: The sand skink nearly derails construction of a new Polk school, the Ledger reports.

DIVERSITY: The Marion school district seeks to hire more minority teachers and administrators, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

LABOR NEWS: The Volusia School Board prepares to ratify new employee contracts, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

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Florida education news: Testing, superintendents, reading and more

TESTING: Students and teachers react to the Florida Department of Education's decision not to count math end-of-course exams.

SUPERINTENDENTS: The Brevard School Board agrees to consider non-traditional candidates for its next superintendent, Florida Today reports. • Manatee deputy superintendent Diana Greene ponders her options as her School Board seeks a new leader, the Bradenton Herald reports.

READING LESSONS: Extra reading instruction has little effect on Palm Beach County's lowest performing readers, the Palm Beach Post reports.

GOING DOWN: Marion schools see a 36 percent decrease on property insurance, the Ocala Star Banner reports.

STUDENT DATA: Polk school officials deal with concerns that student social security information appears on test documents, the Ledger reports.

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Florida education news: Valedictorians, charter schools, science lessons and more

TOP OF THEIR CLASS: Pinellas County high schools name valedictorians and salutatorians. • Some Brevard high schools change their policies regarding valedictorians, Florida Today reports.

CONSTANT CAMPAIGN: Gov. Rick Scott often includes schools and students in his never-ending promotional efforts.

JUDGMENT CALL: It's unclear what it takes to keep or lose a job in the Hillsborough school district, the Times editorializes.

FUNDING: The Florida Education Association joins the call uging lawmakers to improve education funding, the Palm Beach Post reports.

ANSWERS NEEDED: Florida courts need to give the state's corporate tax credit scholarship program a proper constitutional review, the Sun-Sentinel editorializes.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Palm Beach school district takes its effort to exert more control over local charter schools to court, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

TEACHER DISCIPLINE: A Monroe first-grade teacher resigns after being caught drunk in front of her class, the Keynoter reports.

STEM LESSONS: A science experiment gone wrong injures students at a Leon high school, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

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Pasco school officials call for full education funding in 2015-16

While Florida Board of Education members urge lawmakers to meet the governor's call for historic per-student funding, superintendents have a slightly different message.

They want lawmakers, who head into a budget special session June 1, to fully fund the growing number of students entering the school system.

Flagler County superintendent Jacob Oliva raised the issue Wednesday when addressing the State Board. Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning and School Board chairman Steve Luikart followed up with public statement a day later.

"This school year, we have seen our funding reduced from the per-student funding levels allocated by the Legislature in 2014, because student enrollment exceeded projections, and we can't endure that for another year," Browning said.

Because of larger than anticipated enrollment statewide, Pasco got $67.37 per FTE less than was originally budgeted for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. District per student funding dipped from $6,992.70 (original budget) to $6,925.33 (4th quarter calculation).

"Our students deserve - in fact, are entitled to - have their schools funded at levels that will allow them to receive a world-class education," Luikart said. …

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Florida education commissioner takes heat over tweet

Stewart: I wake up with one goal- making sure every single students is able to receive a high quality education for future success.

The Florida Department of Education posted to Twitter on Thursday what officials hoped would be an inspirational, supportive message from commissioner Pam Stewart.

Instead, a stray "s" has made the tweet the subject of ridicule.

As Diane Ravitch, the national hero to groups fighting education "reform," put it on her blog, "Florida: Why the State Superintendent Should Not Tweet."

The comments under the department's tweet tell the tale, as people frustrated by testing troubles offer their version of the saying, "Judge not lest ye be judged." To note just one:

@EducationFL "every single students" huh? Perhaps we need less testing so teachers can get back to basics like grammar. #PublicEdRevolution

This is not, of course, the first time a typo has plagued the department. Remember when the Department of "Eduation" planned to release "mathmetics" results?

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Florida education news: Community school, flunk fees, class times and more

COMMUNITY SCHOOL: Hillsborough's Sulphur Springs Elementary prepares for conversion to a K-8 community school to better serve neighborhood children.

MOVING ON: Joe Sabin retires as principal of Jesuit High after 44 years at the school. • Twins Jake and Jon Wahl graduate Bishop McLaughlin High as their class salutatorian and valedictorian.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS: Florida high school coaches and athletic directors urge lawmakers not to revisit a proposal to overhaul athletics oversight, WTSP reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Escambia School Board terminates the contract of a charter school over contract violations, the Panama City News Herald reports.

COLLEGE COSTS: The University of Central Florida increases the fees for taking a class a third time, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

BELL TIMES: Three Manatee high schools might start earlier as they abandon block scheduling, the Herald-Tribune reports.

RECYCLING: The Orange school district will pilot recyclable lunch trays, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

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Zephyrhills High principal announces his retirement

Zephyrhills High School needs a new principal for the next academic year.

Andy Frelick, who lately has come under fire from teachers and some parents, has announced his retirement after 30 years with the Pasco school district. He let his teachers and staff know the news via email on Wednesday:

Dear Teachers and Staff,
It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement this summer from the Pasco County School system. I am finishing my thirtieth year and health events both personal and with friends in September helped to readjust my priorities. I look forward to spending time with family and friends and touring the US on my bicycles.
It has been a pleasure to serve all the stakeholders in the Pasco Community. I would like to go out just as I came in with no fanfare, off into the sunset riding my bike.
Sincerely, Andy Frelick

Frelick, 57, became Zephyrhills High principal in 2012 after the previous leader stepped down amid a scandal. He had to steady the staff while also focusing on improving academic performance. His tenure ran relatively quietly until this spring, when he imposed a requirement that students be escorted to the restroom during class time. …

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State to vendors: AIR will help Florida test validity review

The panel assigned to pick a firm that will review Florida's testing validity promised to answer any vendor questions in the week leading to the selection.

It appears that just one firm, Alpine Testing Solutions of Orem, Utah, submitted a query by the May 19 deadline. It asked logistical questions, such as whether Memorial Day would affect submission deadlines. But it also inquired about just how much help Florida's testing provider American Institutes for Research would support the review process.

As much as needed, the state responded in a document that's now posted on the panel's website.

"Upon selection of the entity to conduct the validity study, AIR will provide the entity all necessary specification documents and access to working papers relevant to all aspects of the assessment," the panel responded to one question. "Any other existing technical documentation created or used by FDOE will also be made available to the third-party entity."

They also pledged the full participation of staff: …

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Florida education news: Commissioner evaluation, student spending, lunch room trays and more

TOP MARKS: Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart gets a strong evaluation from the Board of Education, with slight mention of recent testing woes. • The board also debated how much school technology is needed in Florida schools, and for what purposes, WFSU reports.

BUDGET CUTS: The Hernando School Board holds off selecting spending reductions if its sales tax referendum fails. • Gov. Rick Scott continues to push for "historic" per-student funding in the state budget, the News Service of Florida reports.

ATTENDANCE: The Pasco School Board approves its Student Code of Conduct without language allowing students with unexcused absences to make up all missed work.

TESTING: Some Palm Beach schools experience another round of computerized testing glitches, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

SCHOOL SAFETY: An eighth-grade Sumter student is arrested with a loaded gun on campus, the Daily Commercial reports. • The Lee school district investigates students accused of cyberbullying a high school coach, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

BEING GREEN: Miami-Dade schools switch to recyclable lunch room trays, the Miami Herald reports. …

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Pinellas schools get guidance on assigning math course grades

Now that Florida's state math end-of-course exam results aren't required to count in student grades, district officials have needed to decide how to set the marks. They don't want to hurt students, or make too much extra work for teachers.

Pinellas officials issued their guidelines on Wednesday. Their plan calls for the second semester grade to be based on students' third and fourth quarter grades, and the final course grade to be an average of the two semester outcomes.

The EOC will come into play only if they boost student grade-point averages. From the district:

Next fall, when student scores do arrive in schools for this past spring's new EOC assessments in Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, Pinellas County Schools will review each student's records to determine if the inclusion of those scores would assist a student's grade point average in the course. If so, we will use the score. If the scores do not assist a student's grade point average, we will not use the scores that arrive in the fall. …

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