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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

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.

SCHOOL DISTRICT

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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The discipline plan -- what stayed in, what was left out

A little while ago the Hillsborough school district posted the revised Student Handbook the board will vote on Tuesday.

As the agenda reads, they are voting on the handbook, not a discipline plan. But some of the changes that have been discussed and debated for two years are contained in the book.

What stayed? The reductions in zero-tolerance offences and the shorter suspension times for everything else. An area superintendent will need to sign off on any suspension beyond five days. The only zero-tolerance offenses are those designated as such by the state -- bringing a firearm to school, or issuing a threat.

What was excluded? There's no sign of a student bill of rights that was suggested by representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union; nor the disclosure form that students would be asked to sign before questioning, attesting that they understand their rights. A detailed list of rights and responsibilities is included in the beginning section of the handbook, as in prior years. …

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3 percent raise is Pasco district's best offer, lead negotiator tells union

As promised, the Pasco County school district on Thursday offered teachers average 3 percent raises, a $6.8 million proposal. Of that amount, half would go toward cost-of-living salary increases, and the other half would be distributed according to the district's performance pay plan. The recommendation is similar to the raises employees received in 2014-15.

United School Employees of Pasco leaders observed that, with this setup, some teachers will not get 3 percent, while others might get more. District officials agreed, but said it was the best they could do given state law regarding teacher pay.

The offer also included the district covering any increase in employee health insurance premium costs, or about $1 million, as well as some improved supplemental pay for areas such as athletic coaching.

USEP lead negotiator Val Smith said she appreciated the superintendent and School Board prioritizing and budgeting for raises. "How can we do better?" she asked.

Smith put forth ideas such as higher pay when teachers substitute in absent colleagues' classrooms during the school day, and for teachers who voluntarily take an extra daily class period. …

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And more about discipline, this time from a judge

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Denise Pomponio, who oversees juvenile judge court, wants the school district to keep kids in school and, after their suspension, help them catch up.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Denise Pomponio, who oversees juvenile judge court, wants the school district to keep kids in school and, after their suspension, help them catch up.

Think the Hillsborough schools are too lenient?

Take a trip to Circuit Judge Denise Pomponio's Wednesday drug court. 

That's when she does intake for juveniles. "I talk to them about how long they have been using drugs, how they are doing in school, their home life and everything else," Pomponio said.

Soon after she began this assignment about four years ago, she noticed a trend.

"I would ask them, 'how are you doing now?'" she said. "And they would say, 'not good. I had average grades,' or A's and B's, 'but now I have D's and F's because I was suspended for 10 days."

Count Pomponio among those who think kids should be allowed to make up their work after a suspension, one of numerous reforms that are expected to come before the School Board for approval Tuesday.

The way the system is now, some students go to Alternative To Out of School Suspension (ATOSS), where they are supposed to be allowed to make up their work.

Two problems here.

First: Not all kids have parents who can take them to ATOSS.

And, according to Pomponio, ATOSS students are not always successful in making up their missed work. Teachers might not assign it, or they might not accept it afterwards. …

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Another point of view about Hillsborough's discipline plan

More about the discipline plan that is coming before the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday:

Ted Hamilton, a parent in Lutz, addressed the board recently about behavior problems in his daughter's high school. He has since moved her to another school, but here is some of what he wrote in a follow-up letter to the Tampa Bay Times and School Board member Cindy Stuart.

"The administration was powerless to fix the discipline problems in the class rooms and to be honest had no desire, in my opinion, to fix the problems.

Further, the administration segregated the school populations, magnet and non magnet."

Hamilton believes teachers were not told to send students to the office because "they were trying to keep their discipline record at the school lower than actual."

"My daughter had her cell phone stolen from her backpack while she was walking up the stairs. The resource office did not want to complete a police report. In fact, she said the my daughter should not have a phone. …

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Florida Board of Education sets new rules for many teacher evaluations

Through 2014-15, Florida school district had the ability to set teacher evaluation ratings the student performance results they received.

That flexibility no longer exists for the teachers of classes that include state tests.

The Florida Board of Education on Thursday adopted a new rule connecting value-added model results to evaluation rankings, from highly effective through unsatisfactory, for those teachers.

"That has been a district decision to this point," deputy commissioner Juan Copa said. "This rule sets one statewide standard ... to be used starting with 2015-16."

The rule affects teachers in fourth- through eighth-grade math, fourth- through tenth-grade English/language arts, and Algebra I.

"This is about potentially one-third of the evaluation for one-third of the teachers," Copa told the State Board.

See a description here.

Board members did not dispute the direction set forth by the Legislature. They did, however, suggest the model could be made more easily understood. …

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