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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida education news: Homelessness, short-shorts, capital projects and more

HOMELESSNESS: Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton schools have more homeless students than many in the communities realize, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. 

HISTORIC: The Seminole school district shuts down one of its oldest schools, My News 13 reports.

PRIORITIES: The Lake School Board says it puts half of its new revenue into classrooms, but one member has doubts, the Daily Commercial reports.

STYLE: Chubbies shorts become the rage in some Brevard high schools, Florida Today reports.

REPAIRS: Polk schools lack the funds to complete needed capital projects, the Ledger reports.

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Florida education news: School zones, STEM lessons, home schooling and more

REZONING: Hernando officials seek parent feedback on proposed attendance zone changes aimed at filling under-capacity schools.

STEM: Moffit Cancer Center and the Hillsborough Education Foundation partner to offer students more access to STEM career options.

TECHNOLOGY: A Brevard elementary gets 50 computers donated from the U.S. General Services Administration, Space Coast Daily reports.

HOME SCHOOLING: Readers react to reports that Duval schools are seeing an increase in home schoolers in the Florida Times-Union.

BY ASSOCIATION: Two Sarasota School Board members debate the merits of Florida's competing school board organizations, the Herald-Tribune reports.

SECURITY: Central Florida districts begin looking at new ways to get emergency information to parents, WKMG reports.

REPRESENTATION: The Lake School Board won't advance a proposal to move to single-member districts, the Daily Commercial reports. …

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Schools still can get digital classroom funding, Florida education commissioner says

Education commissioner Pam Stewart has repeated the Governor's Office contention that her department may release $60 million in classroom technology funding despite the governor's veto of a study lawmakers had attached to the money.

The governor's staff argued the veto simply deleted the connection between the analysis and the money. Stewart took the same position:

"In sum, section 7 of the implementing bill that amended s. 1011.62(12)(g) F.S., to require the Department to contract with a third-party entity to conduct an assessment of digital readiness, implemented the proviso language attached to Specific Appropriation 130 that was vetoed. Therefore, the portions of the implementing bill pertaining to this vetoed appropriation and proviso language are void. All of the remaining requirements that are not dependent on the independent digital readiness assessment remain in effect."

Her assessment came in a letter to senators Don Gaetz and Bill Montford, who questioned the DOE's authority to distribute the money in light of the veto. …

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'We came for medals!' Team USA from Pasco wins Special Olympics soccer bronze

The Land O'Lakes High School unified soccer team, representing the USA, defeated China 2-1 on Friday to claim the bronze medal at the World Special Olympics in Los Angeles. Needless to say, the players were excited.

Andy Dunn, the district's videographer, was there.

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Pasco teachers, district closer to deal on evaluations

Pasco school district officials an evaluation system in which fewer teachers attain a "highly effective" rating. United School Employees of Pasco leaders aim to keep that score open to as many teachers as possible.

They expect to land somewhere in between.

Early in the week, the union took a step toward the district's position, acknowledging a teacher should have at least one "innovating" mark on an evaluation to be considered "highly effective." On Thursday, district negotiators edged slightly closer to the union view, cutting their proposal for the percentage of "innovating" elements to 40 percent (down from 60 percent) in 2015-16, and 50 percent the following year.

The district did not move from its call that student performance count as 35 percent of the overall evaluation, instead of 50 percent as in past years. The USEP had asked the district to see which level benefits most teachers before making that determination.

Before Thursday's session, the USEP issued a memo to members explaining its position. …

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Is there time for Florida teachers to retake the ACT and get a $10K bonus?

Florida's Best and Brightest teacher scholarship program continues to get attention -- much of it negative -- as teachers and organizations review all the ins and outs of how the bonus will work.

Among the many criticisms comes one that the offer of up to $10,000 provides a phony opportunity for educators who want to retake the gatekeeper SAT or ACT exams in order to qualify.

The state says "Teachers rated highly effective may retake the ACT or SAT in order to earn the scholarship; however, the requisite documentation that they have met the current 80th percentile ranking must be submitted to the district by the October 1 deadline."

Bob Schaeffer of FairTest is among many to point out that the next SAT testing date is Oct. 3 -- too late -- while the next ACT exam poses problems even though it comes Sept. 12. The ACT website advises that while scores are generally available online within two weeks after the test date (just under the wire), score reports are normally released three to eight weeks after the test. …

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Florida education news: Speech therapy, summer enrichment, athletic trainers and more

THERAPISTS NEEDED: The Pasco school district struggles to hire and retain qualified speech language pathologists.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Need info on the start of school in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando? Check out our back to school section.

ARNE'S WORLD: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits Florida and talks with State Impact Florida about discipline, NCLB and more.

ABSENTEEISM: Manatee's plans to place graduation enhancement specialists in every Title I school wins praise nationally, the Bradenton Herald reports. More from the Herald-Tribune.

SUMMER HELP: A community program Breakthrough Miami offers summer enrichment to hundreds of low-income middle and high school students, the Miami Herald reports.

SPORTS INJURIES: Duval high schools aim to have certified athletic trainers on all campuses by 2020, the Florida Times-Union reports.

NEW SCHOOLS: Palm Beach reopens two rebuilt elementary schools, the Palm Beach Post reports.

FEWER RULES: Palm Beach superintendent Robert Avossa seeks charter district status from the state, the Palm Beach Post reports. …

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Hernando schools to get new public face

The Hernando County school district has plucked its new communications and public information director from neighboring Citrus County schools.

Karen Jordan, a program specialist for the Citrus district, is set to take over the public speaking function for Hernando the week after next. She replaces Eric Williams, who was promoted to deputy superintendent.

Williams moved to his new post earlier this summer. Patrick Keough has filled in as spokesman but is expected to hand back that role after Jordan's arrival.

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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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