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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

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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Florida school districts get guidance on student uniforms incentives

Florida Board of Education member Gary Chartrand wanted to know: How are school boards responding to the Legislature's offer of $10 per student to adopt district-wide uniforms in kindergarten through eighth grade.

He asked Sarasota superintendent Lori White, who attended the board's recent meeting in Tampa, her view on the $10 million in the budget.

White did not bite. She said her administration and board allow each school to individually decide whether it wants uniforms, and that's the way things would stay.

"I think the board and I agree, we like our policy rather than it coming from above," White said, echoing the views of many district leaders across the state.

For those that have an interest, though, the Florida Department of Education on Friday delivered information about how to apply, even including with its memo some sample policies for school boards to consider. In its memo, the department makes clear that the money will be doled out first come, first served. …

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Florida education news: Uniforms, discipline, home schooling and more

DRESS CODE: Florida school district leaders say they couldn't take up the Legislature's incentive to adopt district-wide uniforms even if they wanted to -- and most don't.

LABELING: Sarasota schools are second worst in Florida when it comes to over-identifying black students as disruptive, the Herald-Tribune reports.

FILLING NEEDS: Education foundations help support Florida schools' financial shortfalls, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

HOME SCHOOLING: Duval parents and students explain why their area has become Florida's biggest home-schooling region, the Florida Times-Union reports.

BUDGETS: Manatee district officials aim to keep spending flat as they continue efforts to improve long-standing financial woes, the Bradenton Herald reports.

SPECIAL CARE: A Polk teacher creates a private school for students who require trauma-based care, the Ledger reports.

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... also Tuesday

Symmes Elementary School in Riverview will get a new principal to replace Julie Hasson, who resigned.


Symmes Elementary School in Riverview will get a new principal to replace Julie Hasson, who resigned.

At least one new principal will be named at Tuesday's Hillsborough County School Board meeting. Julie Hasson, the principal of Symmes Elementary School in Riverview, has resigned, and the board plans to name her replacement.

The meeting, which we will live-tweet, could be eventful.

The board is set to vote on the student handbook, which contains changes recommended by a task force on minority student discipline. At week's end members Melissa Snively and Doretha Edgecomb said they wanted to study the changes carefully, and Snively said she looks forward to a thoughtful discussion Tuesday -- and perhaps beyond.

The case of Potter Elementary School teacher Lindsay Blanc, who the district wants to suspend without pay pending termination, will be included on the consent agenda. Board members generally do not discuss personnel matters, as they could be called to officiate if the teacher asks for a formal hearing. …

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Florida education news: Discipline, prayer, leadership and more

DISCIPLINE: The Hillsborough School Board nears approval of a new student discipline model.

PRAYER: A religious freedom group asks the Okaloosa School Board to stop praying at its meetings, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

LEADERSHIP: Kamela Patton discusses her role as Collier superintendent with the Fort Myers News-Press.

LAWSUITS: The NAACP moves forward with plans to sue the Okaloosa school district over racial harassment claims, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

HELPING HAND: Valencia College offers free tuition and books to at-risk students, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

CAREER TRAINING: Manatee Technical College increases its marketing effort to lure students to vocational programs, the Bradenton Herald reports.

NEW DIRECTION: A Holmes County Christian boarding school aims to remake itself after troubled times, the Panama City News Herald reports.

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Florida education news: Electives, certifications, math competition and more

STUDENT CHOICE: Florida's middle schools no longer may offer sixth graders the electives wheel sampler course.

TRAUMATIZED: A Hillsborough mom says her son was not the same after his music teacher duct taped his eyes.

FINANCES: The Santa Rosa school district's financial stability increases over time, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

PAY UP: The Monroe school district expands a program that pays students who complete certain industry certifications, the Keynoter reports.

TAXES: Broward taxpayers will see their school taxes decline despite approving a recent bond, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Miami-Dade charter schools claim a rising number of teachers as their enrollment increases, the Miami Herald reports.

MATHLETES: An Alachua high school's math team captures its ninth straight national title, the Gainesville Sun reports.

CASH CRUNCH: Some Lee teachers complain that they don't have enough money to survive the summer and blame the district, which rebuts their criticism, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

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Florida education news: Duct tape, teacher evaluations, medical advice and more

BAD ACTS: A Hillsborough music teacher faces dismissal over an allegation that she duct taped a kindergartner's eyes as a punishment.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS: The Florida Board of Education sets statewide standards on evaluation ratings for teachers of courses with state tests, State Impact Florida reports. More from the Orlando Sentinel. • The Leon school district revises its evaluation model, reducing the amount that VAM counts, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

LAWSUITS: The Manatee school district reaches a tentative settlement with a former employee who claimed she was retaliated against, the Bradenton Herald reports.

BONUSES: Brevard teachers complain about the state's new Best and Brightest program, Florida Today reports.

HEALTH CARE: The Palm Beach school district installs a health care kiosk for employees to videoconference with a medical professional, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

CONSTRUCTION: The Leon school district cuts its capital projects list from $300 million to $20 million, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

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