"The transportation program at the Hillsborough County Schools is not in crisis, but is under significant pressure."
How about this?
"While costs are reasonable relative to industry norms, they are increasing while the quality of service is rapidly deteriorating. Left unchecked, this trend will inevitably lead to major service disruptions and a concurrent loss of confidence in the system."
"The time for further study is, we believe, long since past. The time for action is now."
These passages weren't taken from the interim consultant report on the bus system, which was expected this week; but from an earlier consultant's report in 2007.
You can read the whole report here.
The consultants designed a four-part plan of improvement that included better use of technology to cut down on duplicative jobs, revised career paths for technicians; and investment in mobile repair units and fueling stations. …Full Story
In what should be the last year of FCAT in Florida schools, Pinellas sent out its testing schedule to principals with an extra message: We know the exams fall during religious holidays, and there's nothing we could do about it.
The schedule calls for testing on April 15, 16 and 22, during the Jewish holiday of Passover. In a statement from the school board and district, Pinellas explains:
"The Florida Department of Education set an earlier start date for the 2014 testing cycle to make it possible for districts to schedule this year’s increased number of computer-based assessments. The state’s prescribed start date for FCAT testing is Monday, April 14; the testing window ends Wednesday, May 7. In order to accommodate the number of students who must be tested within that window, it was necessary for the Pinellas County School District to schedule testing on most days within that window, including Tuesday, April 15; Wednesday, April 16; and Tuesday, April 22, all special observance days."
Students who don't come to school on those days will receive excused absences and be able to take the tests on make-up dates. "The district respects the right of all students to observe the religion of their choice and makes every effort to support their religious observances," the memo continues.
Click to download the FCAT schedule for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, and read the full statement after the jump.
Florida needs special education teachers. And English teachers. And reading teachers.
Those are the top three critical shortage areas for school districts entering the 2014-15 school year, according to the state Department of Education. They're followed by science, ESOL, foreign languages and math positions.
What does that mean? Districts have hired higher percentages of teachers without proper certification to teach these subjects than any others. For instance, 13.7 percent of ESE teachers newly hired in 2012-13 were not appropriately certified in their field. That rate was 13.3 percent for English teachers and 12.4 percent of reading teachers.
"Districts prefer to hire appropriately certified teachers, so in areas such as Exceptional Student Education, English and Reading where more than 10% of teachers were hired without the appropriate certification, the data indicate a likelihood that a shortage of appropriately qualified teachers exists," according to the FLDOE.
The data also show that schools serving high poverty areas, and those with low academic performance, tend to have higher percentages of out-of-field teachers than other schools. …Full Story
Each year, the Florida Department of Education takes a look at teacher-student ratios as a comprehensive whole after measuring class sizes. The information comes in handy as districts set their allocations and budgets for the coming spending cycles.
Again this year, the four Tampa Bay-area school districts have fewer students per instructional staff than the statewide average. But in most cases, the local rates have shown slight increases from a year earlier.
The 2013-14 student-instructional staff ratio for Hernando County is 13.2, compared to the statewide rate of 14. That's up from 13.1 a year ago. Pasco schools come in at 13.3, up from 13.0, and Pinellas schools logged in at 13.1, up from 13.0. Hillsborough, by contrast, decreased from 12.7 in 2012-13 to its current 12.5.
Notably, in most cases the charter schools had higher ratios than the traditional schools. Statewide, the student-instructional staff ratio is 18.5, and locally it is 15.6 in Hernando, 15.0 in Hillsborough and 45.4 in Pinellas. Only in Pasco was the rate lower for charters than that of traditional schools, at 11.9. …Full Story
STICKING WITH IT: Gov. Rick Scott says Florida is "doing the right thing" in adhering to its modified version of the Common Core State Standards.
MORE MONEY: House speaker Will Weatherford proposes increasing funding for public education over Gov. Scott's budget plan.
COLLEGE BOUND: St. Leo University reaches out to Pasco County students hoping to put the idea of going to college in mind.
RESTRUCTURING: The Hernando School Board approves superintendent Lori Romano's administrative reorganization but doesn't fund it.
TUITION: Legislative leaders discuss proposals to cut or eliminate differential tuition rate increases for universities, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
SCHOOL CHOICE: Duval School Board members are divided over superintendent Nikolai Vitti's proposal for full open enrollment, the Florida Times-Union reports.
BACK TAXES: Florida Gulf Coast University is told to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on several misclassified employees, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.
TEACHER PAY: A special magistrate paves the way for Orange County teachers to get raises, the Orlando Sentinel reports. …Full Story
With their bill to suspend Florida's new education benchmarks stalled in the Legislature, opponents of the Common Core State Standards are pursuing a new strategy.
They are turning the heat up on Gov. Rick Scott.
Last Sunday, about 80 members of the group Florida Parents Against Common Core protested outside a private fundraiser for Scott on Jupiter Island. Members of another group, Stop Common Core Florida, traveled to Tallahassee on Thursday to meet with Scott's top education adviser, they said.
What's more, the Republican Party of Florida's Legislative Affairs Committee issued a formal resolution last month, urging Scott to take executive action against the standards.
"It's time for Rick Scott to listen to the people," said Chris Quackenbush, a grandmother and businesswoman who drove from Fort Myers to Tallahassee on Thursday to make her point. "How does he expect to win reelection without his base?"
Indeed, the continuing controversy over the standards puts Scott in a political pickle.
Read more here.Full Story
The United School Employees of Pasco has its first new president in 15 years. Kenny Blankenship, the group's vice president for teachers, received 54.7 percent of 896 ballots cast to win the job.
Blankenship, formerly a social studies teacher at Land O'Lakes High School, will replace Lynne Webb, who did not seek another term. He defeated Pat Connolly, a Land O'Lakes High math teacher and the district's current teacher of the year.
"I am dedicated and deeply committed to work on behalf of all employees to defend and improve contractual rights, ensure dignity and respect, and strengthen the USEP membership and organizational unity for both units," Blankenship said in a release. "In order to be successful, we will need USEP members to continue their active role and potential members to join us and be actively engaged in the cause of improving our working conditions, which are our students learning conditions. We must unite to accomplish the goals and desires that we all deem important."
Bus driver Gay Kennedy also won another term as the USEP's vice president for school-related personnel with 64 percent of 795 votes cast. She bested paraprofessional William Hull. …Full Story
The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a proposal that would allow some undocumented immigrants (as well as the children of military personnel stationed on Florida bases) to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities.
The 19-7 vote was closer than some observers expected.
Some Republicans said it was a tough decision.
"I struggled voting for this," said Rep. Dennis Baxley, who represents a conservative district in Central Florida and voted in favor of the measure. "But if you live in Florida, you should pay in-state tuition."
Baxley said he was also convinced by Rep. Jeanette Nuñez's reading of Ezekiel 18:20: "The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child."
But Rep. Jamie Grant, of Tampa, said he voted against the proposal over concerns it might preclude some Florida residents from being able to pay in-state tuition rates.
"I think there is a fix," Grant said. "We are all trying to get there." …Full Story
You know Florida's high stakes tests are near when the note reminding students and parents of all the ways their scores can be thrown out goes home. And there are many.
Sunlake High School families got this list earlier in the week:
"Electronic Devices — If your student is found with ANY electronic devices, including but not limited to cell phones and smartphones, at any time during testing, including breaks (e.g., restroom), his or her test will be invalidated, which means it will not be scored. The best practice is for students to leave devices at home or in their lockers on the day of testing.
"Testing Rules Acknowledgment — All FCAT/FCAT 2.0 tests include a Testing Rules Acknowledgment that reads, 'I understand the testing rules that were just read to me. If I do not follow these rules, my test score may be invalidated.' Prior to testing, test administrators will read the rules to students, and students must acknowledge that they understand the testing rules by clicking a box or circle next to the statement. …Full Story
A bill to place textbook adoption solely in the hands of Florida school districts appears headed on a course to the governor's desk, despite concerns raised by school district officials.
The measure won support in both the House and Senate education committees this week and, to make sure it grabbed its due notice, Senate president Don Gaetz issued a press release to tout its movement.
"As a former school board member, superintendent, and most importantly a parent of two children who received their primary school education in Northwest Florida public schools, I know firsthand that textbooks and other instructional materials should be subject to review by local parents, teachers and district personnel," Gaetz said. "This legislation eliminates any suggestion of federal intrusion and affirms local control of a local responsibility."
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays in the Senate and Rep. Matt Gaetz in the House. Hays said he wants to bring the decision making process on instructional materials closer to the public. He acted after a world history book dispute in Volusia County. …Full Story
The days of graduating on the football field are winding to an end in Pinellas, as the district put out its official list of commencement dates and times this week.
The Times reported in October that nasty weather was prompting all but two of the traditional high schools to move commencement indoors. But seeing the list does a good job of driving home just how many graduations will now take place on the turf of Tropicana Field.
Tarpon Springs will continue to hold commencement on its football field, while Clearwater is sticking with outdoor venue Bright House Field. Everyone else is seeking shelter at the Trop, or in the case of north county schools, the Sun Dome.
It's the first time in nearly nine decades that St. Pete High hasn't held graduation at the school. There's been some grousing about its ceremony time: 7:30 a.m on June 3. Boca Ciega also got the early shift at the Trop, just a day earlier.Full Story
It was less than a year ago that Pasco County elementary teachers reached a deal with their district in which they'd get some relief from an overloaded work schedule. Superintendent Kurt Browning agreed to scale back meetings and testing that interfered with the educators' ability to prepare their lessons and evaluate student work.
This week, executive director for administration Kevin Shibley sent principals a clear reminder of this commitment, as they approach Friday's non-student teacher planning day. Some teachers have grumbled that the grievance settlement exists in theory, but not always in practice.
Their contract is clear, though, Shibley wrote:
"Planning time for teachers is described in detail in Article VII, Section S of the Instructional Master Contract (Teaching Assignments and Duties). Below are the relevant portions pertaining to Teacher Planning Days:
"18. Required staff development or lengthy faculty meetings shall be kept to a minimum on teacher planning days. …Full Story
TUITION: Gov. Rick Scott will support a bill granting in-state tuition to some undocumented Florida students. • The governor and lawmakers seek greater control over state tuition rates.
PACKING HEAT: Florida school leaders oppose a bill that would allow some school employees to carry weapons on campus, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • More from WEAR-TV. • A Miramar High student brings a rifle and loaded clips to school, but makes no threats, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
STILL WAITING: Teachers and district officials consider how to move forward without knowing which state test their students will take next year, State Impact Florida reports. • Meanwhile, a bill to change the state school grading formula moves forward, the Florida Current reports. • More from the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
UNDECIDED: State officials have not determined whether to investigate Manatee district finances as requested, the Bradenton Herald reports.
NEGOTIATIONS: Monroe school-related personnel reach a contract deal, but teachers remain far away from an agreement, the Keynoter reports.
CHOICES: Duval's superintendent proposes full open enrollment for students, the Florida Times-Union reports. …Full Story
Henry Kirby has served as dean of students at Florida A&M University for many years. He was credited for being one of the few voices encouraging suspension of the Marching 100 band after a student reported being injured in a hazing ritual in 2011. His decision was overruled, although Kirby did say he was allowed to give band members and angry, curse-word filled lecture before they traveled to the final game of the season in Orlando.
Of course, his words didn't sink in and drum major Robert Champion was killed after a hazing ritual there.
Now, it is Kirby who finds himself in hot water, accused of theft alongside former Student Government Association coordinator Morris Hawkins.
Here is more from the Tallahassee Democrat:
Former Florida A&M University dean of students Henry Kirby and Student Government Association coordinator Morris Hawkins stole money from a university fund that paid for students to attend FAMU football games, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation. …Full Story
Florida State University and University of Florida are the state's pre-eminent universities, and there are new hints that there may be attempts again to get tuition flexibility built into this special status. Here is an excerpt from a story about the true ramifications of the tuition proposals being considered during the 2014 session:
Gov. Rick Scott and legislators are so opposed to tuition increases that they want to change the law to get even more control over future hikes.
Currently, state universities can ask the Board of Governors for up to 15 percent higher rates, known as tuition differential. Additionally, there is an automatic increase to keep up with inflation. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have proposed cutting that flexibility by more than half. Scott wants to eliminate it altogether, making it that much tougher to raise tuition.
That's all good news for students and families worried about paying for higher education in the coming years. As for universities? Most say they're not fighting this united effort by a fiscally conservative governor and Legislature.
Read more here.Full Story