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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco non-instructional employees take steps away from steps

The Pasco school district's non-instruction employee bargaining team did not conclude contract negotiations Wednesday, as hoped, during a daylong bargaining session.

United School Employees of Pasco lead negotiator Jim Ciadella said he felt positive about the talks, and that the sides were close enough to agreement to plan another meeting for Monday.

"Given another session or two, we can settle the contract," Ciadella said.

District employee relations director Betsy Kuhn agreed, calling Wednesday's session "very productive."

The primary sticking point for the group remained economic. The union counted the district's offer of 3 percent average raises by asking for a minimum of 3 percent for all the workers. That means employees scheduled to see more would still get the larger increases, while those who might get less would receive at least 3 percent.

All said, the union asked for 3.48 percent in added pay.

"We realize the budget is what it is," Ciadella said. "We hope the district can do a little bit better." …

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Pasco school district sticks with plans to sell Zephyrhills property to developer

Despite complaints from Zephyrhills residents, the Pasco County School Board is moving ahead with plans to sell a 15.5-acre park to a developer rather than the city government.

Some people held out hope that school district officials had changed their mind after they withdrew the $2.32 million contract from their July 28 agenda. To the contrary, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe explained, the administration simply wanted to give board members more time to review the terms.

"They just worked out the details over the weekend," Cobbe said before the Tuesday session.

The item now appears on the board's Aug. 4 agenda. If approved, the contract calls for the buyer to build commercially on part of the land, most likely a gas station, after receiving needed city permits.

It also provides for the buyer to donate nearly 10 acres to the city for continued use as a public park. That property would revert back to the district if the donation does not go through within two years.

The future of the property, known as the Hercules site, has been in doubt since 2011, when the county goverment closed its swimming pool in the park. The district has discussed options since 2013.

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Florida education news: Deputies, suspensions, bank accounts and more

BACK TO SCHOOL: Tampa area students, parents, teachers and others talk about what it means to return to classes after summer break.

SECURITY: The Hernando School Board agrees to terms placing deputies at all middle and high schools.

STAY IN SCHOOL: Miami-Dade schools aim to eliminate out-of-school suspensions, State Impact Florida reports.

ILLEGAL? Area attorneys discuss whether Manatee's district lawyer was wrong to release a School Board member's bank account information to the FBI, the Herald-Tribune reports.

LABOR NEWS: The national American Federation of Teachers takes over its Orange County local, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

GETTING THERE: Lake and Sumter leaders look for ways to have children walk to school safely, the Daily Commercial reports.

CHOICE: Miami-Dade schools introduce dozens of new magnet and choice programs, NBC-Miami reports.

ROBOTS: Alachua schools launch a robotics program as part of a five-year STEM initiative, the Gainesville Sun reports.

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Pinellas teachers get contract choices

Salary steps? Or performance pay?

That is the question Pinellas County teachers face this summer.

District officials sent faculty a memo this week telling them that, for the first time, teachers on continuing or professional services contracts have the option to move to a performance pay schedule. They could see much larger raises if they have strong performance evaluations, thanks to state law.

On the downside, they also would lose contract protections: The change also requires acceptance of an annual contract.

Other districts took this step last year, with limited interest. Pasco schools, for example, had only about two dozen teachers make the move. Possibly likely candidates are veteran teachers with consistently good evaluations who are nearing retirement and face limited pay hikes in the old model.

Pinellas teachers have until Sept. 30 to tell the district if they want to switch contracts. The pay schedules to make a salary comparison are not available, the memo states, because negotiations remain under way.

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What if we treated teachers like athletes?

As school districts and teacher unions across Florida negotiate contracts this summer, consider this Key and Peele piece on Comedy Central. They host Teaching Center, a la ESPN's Sports Center complete with sponsors, highlighting teacher trades, plays of the day and even the draft, in which the school with the lowest test scores gets first pick of top newcomers.

"Just like that you're a millionaire," effuses host Jordan Peele, as he views the top choice teacher. "Mike Yoast is an incredible story. His father, living from paycheck to paycheck as a humble pro football player. Kid was a natural mathlete."

"You know who's gonna buy his mom a home!" partner Keegan-Michael Key chimes in.

Just watch the video below.

Get More: Comedy Central,Funny Videos,Funny TV Shows

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Florida education news: Technology, testing, recess and more

DISCIPLINE: The Hillsborough School Board unanimoulsy adopts new student discipline rules despite concerns from teachers and principals.

CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGY: How are Florida schools tackling the digital classroom? The Miami Herald takes a look.

TESTING: The Seminole School Board backs its superintendent's call to drop state testing for a national exam, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

INFIGHTING: A Manatee School Board member accuses the district's attorney of breaking the law, the Bradenton Herald reports. More from the Herald-Tribune.

PLAY TIME: Manatee district officials propose elementary students get 30 minutes of daily recess, the Bradenton Herald reports.

BONUSES: Principals at Bay's lowest performing schools will get $10,000 incentives, the Panama City News Herald reports.

RIPPLE EFFECT: The Polk School Board considers district-wide attendance zone changes to ease crowding, the Ledger reports.

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New choices limited for families of delayed Pasco charter school

Families coping with Garden Montessori Charter School's unexpected decision not to open in August won't have many new choices among Pasco County public schools heading into the new academic year.

"Because of where we are with the opening of the 2015-16 school year, I have directed staff to take school choice applications but they will not be acted upon until after the 20 day count," superintendent Kurt Browning told the School Board on Tuesday.

He noted that only one student had been transferred to Garden Montessori in the district's computer systems. All the rest remained attached to their zoned schools.

Some parents called the district asking to get a transfer from one campus to another for their children. But most were to schools already over capacity, Browning said.

"That ain't gonna happen," Browning said. "We cannot continue to put more students into schools that are already full, still meet class size and provide the education that we need to provide."

He also rejected the complaints some parents raised about Quail Hollow Elementary, to which some were assigned, noting that the school is reopening in new buildings with new staff after being closed two years. …

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Pasco teachers, district keep working on evaluation solutions

Tuesday marked the United School Employees of Pasco's turn to take another stab at an agreement on how Pasco County's teacher evaluations will look for 2015-16.

The union continued to push a model that would make it easier to earn a "highly effective" rating than district officials have so far been willing to accept.

Superintendent Kurt Browning has insisted that the past year's model, in which about 90 percent of teachers received the top mark, offered an unrealistic view. His team recommended a changed definition, in which a teacher would have to receive 60 percent "innovating" scores to be considered "highly effective." Last year, a teacher could get that same result with 60 percent "applying" -- a lower standard.

USEP negotiator Val Smith argued that the revisions were too drastic, "something we think is akin to pulling the rug out from under teachers." But on Tuesday, she moved a bit closer to the district's proposal. …

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Symmes Elementary gets a new principal

Symmes Elementary School Principal Anna Rothenbush

Hillsborough County Public Schools

Symmes Elementary School Principal Anna Rothenbush

Anna Rothenbush will be the new principal of Symmes Elementary School, subject to a Hillsborough County School Board vote this afternoon.

Rothenbush, 41, replaces Julie Hasson, who resigned.

Rothenbush joined the district in 1996 as a teacher at Essrig Elementary. She also taught at Gibsonton and Symmes before being promoted to assistant principal at the Riverview school in 2009.

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Pasco-Hernando State College picks new leadership

The Pasco-Hernando State College Board of Trustees has selected new leadership for the 2015-16 academic year.

Morris Porton, a retired banker from Spring Hill, will head the board as chairman. Porton served on the college foundation board until his appointment as a trustee in 2011. 

Ed Blommel, a retired TECO executive from Dade City, will serve as vice chairman.  Blommel, first appointed to the board in 2013, recently led the school's president search committee, which hired Tim Beard.

The leadership terms run one year.

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Florida education news: Paddling, priorities, apologies and more

TEACHER DISCIPLINE: A Hillsborough elementary music teacher faces unpaid suspension leading to possible termination over her "bizarre punishment" of a kindergartner.

WRONGDOING? The Brevard School Board chairwoman asks law enforcement to investigate a controversial district software purchase, Florida Today reports.

PADDLING: The Lake School Board deletes corporal punishment from its code of conduct, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

NOW HIRING: Lee schools seek to hire about 100 new bus drivers, NBC-2 reports.

PRIORITIES: St. Johns officials question some of the budgeting decisions made in the Florida Legislature, the St. Augustine Record reports.

EARLY EDUCATION: Manatee County wins a grant to expand its Head Start programs, the Bradenton Herald reports.

SORRY: A Palm Beach high school principal apologizes for ripping off his graduation day speech, the Palm Beach Post reports.

HOME SCHOOLING: Collier County sees a boom in home-schooled students, the Naples Daily News reports. …

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Pasco School Board delays two key issues

The Pasco County School Board has put off the two key issues it planned to address during its extra July meeting on Tuesday.

It had to postpone its first public hearing on the 2015-16 budget because of an advertising error.

The district was supposed to advertise the hearing in the July 26 Tampa Tribune and hold the session within five days. The ad did not run, and is now scheduled to appear in the July 29 paper. 

As a result, the board will have its first budget hearing at 6 p.m. Monday Aug. 3 instead.

The board also will not take up its contract to sell the Hercules property in Zephyrhills. The sale has proven controversial as some residents have pushed the board to sell the land to the city, rather than a private developer.

District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the administration pulled the item from Tuesday's agenda, because the details were not ironed out until this past weekend and board members needed more time to review them.

The deal is now scheduled to go to the board at its Aug. 4 meeting.

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Florida teachers get instructions how to seek bonuses tied to SAT, ACT scores

They might ridicule the idea. But plenty of Florida teachers have contacted their districts, the state Department of Education and, yes, even reporters who have written about the new Best and Brightest scholarship asking how they could get theirs.

Even for a year, up to $10,000 is nothing to sneeze at, after all. (The amount depends on the number of bonuses ultimately awarded.)

On Monday, the department issued the guidelines for how teachers can apply for the money, which is tied to their performance evaluations and their SAT or ACT scores. Among the highlights, a teacher may retake the college entrance test if past scores weren't good enough, the most current evaluations count, and the deadline is Oct. 1. …

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More teachers will be let go for lack of credentials

Another group of teachers are up for termination at Tuesday's Hillsborough County School Board meeting for failing to comply with certification requirements, and once again they were concentrated largely at high-needs schools.

Sixteen of the 21 had been assigned to so-called Title I schools, which get federal aid because of poverty in their communities. Of the 16, six were at the poorest "renaissance" schools including three at Middleton High School. The group fired in June also included two from Middleton.

About two-thirds of the district's schools are Title I.

Teachers who are hired without having passed all four parts of their general knowledge exams are given two years to do so

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New Pasco charter school won't open as planned

With one month before the first day of classes, Pasco County's newest charter school has informed parents it won't be opening after all.

"Despite our best efforts, the Board was unable to finalize negotiations on our facility lease and has made the heart breaking decision to delay our opening until the 2016-17 school year," Garden Montessori Charter School's leadership posted on its website Friday. "We have met with Pasco County School District and have officially applied for a 'Planning Year' for the 2015-2016 school year."

The School Board has granted planning status to charter schools in the past. That action does not extend a school's contract. It simply allows the school to keep its charter active while not fully operational.

Garden Montessori, which also operates a private preschool in Wesley Chapel, won a five-year contract in mid-February and held its student lottery in March. It had anticipated opening with 280 students in kindergarten through third grade, and growing over time. …

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