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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida education news: Sexual assault, online planning, teacher contracts and more

ASSAULT: A girl's report of sexual assault on the John Hopkins Middle School campus yields a questionable response by administrators that experts say failed the girl.

PLANNING: Hillsborough middle and high school students have access to a new online guidance and planning program.

RECOGNITIONS: Hudson High language arts teacher Beth Hess is named Pasco's 2015 Teacher of the Year.

FUNDING: Gov. Rick Scott's capital budget for Florida School for the Blind and the Deaf falls millions short of the school's request, the St. Augustine Record reports.

STUDENT DISCIPLINE: Some Okaloosa parents call for changes to the school district's discipline policies, saying students deserve the right to appeal, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The St. Lucie School Board announces five finalists for its superintendent vacancy, the St. Lucie Tribune reports.  …

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Who's filling Hillsborough's charter schools?

Henderson Hammock Charter School in Citrus Park has more than 100 students zoned for each of these district-run schools: Cannella Elementary, Bellamy Elementary and Pierce Middle School.

Henderson Hammock Charter School in Citrus Park has more than 100 students zoned for each of these district-run schools: Cannella Elementary, Bellamy Elementary and Pierce Middle School.

About 15,000 Hillsborough County public school children now attend charter schools, which amounts to roughly 7.5 percent of the district's population. While charters get tax money, they are operated independently and compete with district-run schools for both dollars and students.

Where do the kids come from and where do they go?

Statistics released by the district this week answer those questions in great detail, showing what district schools the children would be assigned to, and breaking the transfers down by race.

Two of the three schools operated by Charter Schools USA of Fort Lauderdale have attracted some of the largest migrations.

Henderson Hammock, a K-8 Charter Schools USA school in the Citrus Park area, has picked up 129 students who were zoned for Bellamy Elementary, 123 from Pierce Middle School and 105 from Cannella Elementary. Also in that end of the district, 135 students zoned for Lowery Elementary have enrolled in Hillsborough Academy of Math and Science.

It's a similar picture in Bloomingdale, where Winthrop Charter has 158 kids zoned for Ippolito Elementary, 114 for Giunta Middle and 110 from McLane Middle.

Hundreds of kids are opting out of Eisenhower Middle School in southern Hillsborough, with 140 attending Bell Creek Academy and 116 at Literacy Leadership Technical Academy.

Terrace Community School has long been a big hit in New Tampa, attracting 132 students zoned for Liberty Middle and 146 from Benito Middle.

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Pasco County district announces schools frozen to choice

When Pasco County opens its school choice application period on Sunday, parents will find more than a third of the district's schools frozen to new students who don't live in their zones.

Twenty-nine of 72 schools (not counting charters or education centers) have enrollments at or above their capacity, meaning there's basically no room for choice transfers.

That doesn't mean that families may not apply for these schools, government relations liaison Spencer Pylant said. Isolated seats in different grade levels might come open from time to time.

Rather, parents just need to be aware that the likelihood of getting approved for a move into these schools is very low.

The frozen schools are:

Elementary - Anclote, Cypress, Chasco, Connerton, Double Branch, Hudson, Mary Giella, Odessa, Oakstead, Pine View, Shady Hills, Seven Oaks, Sand Pine, Veterans, Woodland and West Zephyrhills

Middle - Rushe, Long, Pasco, Seven Springs and Weightman

High - Fivay, Mitchell, Land O'Lakes, Pasco, Sunlake, Wesley Chapel, Wiregrass Ranch and Zephyrhills

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Florida state-mandated testing costs Pasco County schools millions

During an early January meeting (video here), members of the Florida Senate education appropriations committee pressed education commissioner Pam Stewart for a key number. How much, they asked, does it cost to implement all state-mandated tests in Florida?

Stewart offered the number $90 million, but under questioning acknowledged that the amount included only state-level tests. District tests put in place solely to meet state requirements weren't part of the calculation.

Without details from the districts, Stewart said, "it would be difficult if not impossible for the state to determine what that cost would be."

"It is probably a good thing to know how much this costs," chairman Sen. Don Gaetz responded.

Pasco County school district officials took this exchange as a challenge. So they pulled together the amount their 68,000-student system -- the 11th largest in Florida -- is spending on such exams.

It's $3.58 million.

That amount includes $1.3 million in subscription costs, $300,000 in question development and $1.74 million in paper administration. It did not have information for technology costs or career-technical industry certification exams. …

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Hillsborough will hold community meetings on discipline

This from the Hillsborough County school district Friday morning:

Hillsborough County Public Schools will host eight Community Discipline Chats in areas throughout the county for parents and the community to review and provide input on 2014-2015 first semester in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, and alternative to out-of-school suspension data.  

The Community Discipline Chats will include a general session from 6 to 6:30 p.m. led by Assistant Superintendent of Administration Dr. Lewis Brinson followed by school-site breakout sessions from 6:30 to 8 p.m. led by principals.

The dates and locations are:

February 5 - Tampa Bay Technical High School

February 10 -Sickles High School

February 11- Middleton High School

February 12- Plant City High School

February 25- Bloomingdale High School

February 26- Jefferson High School

March 4- King High School

March 5- East Bay High School

The announcement coincides with several ongoing situations involving student discipline. …

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Florida education news: Student pickup, Bibles and Satanic coloring books, free meals and more

PICK-UP TIME: The Seven Oaks CDD complains that too many parents park illegally outside Pasco's Seven Oaks Elementary each afternoon.

HANDOUTS: The Orange School Board moves forward with a policy to ban groups from distributing religious and political materials to students, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

INSPIRATION: Top Miami-Dade teachers offer their thoughts on how to help students succeed, the Miami Herald reports. • A 19-year-old college student working as an elementary school receptionist wins Marion's School-Related Employee of the Year award, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: A small, struggling Palm Beach charter school continues to hold off closure, the Palm Beach Post reports.

NUTRITION: The Bay school district expands its after-school meals program, the Panama City News Herald reports.

VIOLENCE: Bomb threats disrupt six Broward schools, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

NEW SCHOOLS: Alachua district leaders look for ways to add schools in the growth areas west of Gainesville, the Gainesville Sun reports.

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Pasco schools open enrollment period begins Sunday

Pasco County families seeking to transfer their children to public schools other than the one they're assigned to can begin applying for open enrollment on Sunday.

The applications will be available online by clicking on a banner at the top of the district's main web page. Each child in a family must apply separately, and might not receive the same results.

Families already attending schools through choice do not have to reapply unless their address changed since the initial approval or they live outside Pasco County. Changes from one school level to the next also require new applications.

The district has not yet listed publicly the schools that are closed to choice because they are already above capacity. In the past, close to half the schools have been frozen.

Pasco's open enrollment application season runs through March 1. 

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Competition emerges in the Hillsborough teacher's union election

Jean Clements has led the Hillsborough teachers union since 2002. Thanks to the Gates-funded teacher evaluation system that she helped shape, the district is shielded from some state mandates.

Jean Clements has led the Hillsborough teachers union since 2002. Thanks to the Gates-funded teacher evaluation system that she helped shape, the district is shielded from some state mandates.

Jean Clements, who has served as the head of Hillsborough's teachers union for more years than MaryEllen Elia has been superintendent, has competition in the coming election.

Elementary teacher Amy Gabriel announced her candidacy in December for the election, which begins Feb. 15.

A 10-year employee of the district, Gabriel teachers fourth grade at Twin Lakes Elementary School. Clements taught special education and was a department head at Plant High School before she became a full-time union leader in 2002.

"I have a lot of experience in the classroom, and seeing how teachers deal with EET," Gabriel said, using the acronym for Empowering Effective Teachers, the Gates-funded evaluation and mentoring system.

She also took notice that last week Clements and executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins spoke out publicly against the School Board's move to fire Elia. Gabriel said she wishes the union leaders had polled their members first. "I think it would have been helpful," she said.

Her website goes into a lot more detail.

In her conversation with Gradebook, Gabriel was not particularly critical of Clements but said her candidacy offers an alternative. …

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Name change to Florida's technical centers could lead to guns on campuses

Florida Rep. Greg Steube's legislation to extend concealed carry weapons permits to colleges and universities could have a side effect that has school districts on edge.

It might allow guns on campuses that serve large numbers of high school students.

Over the past few months, several districts including Hillsborough and Pasco have renamed their technical education centers (such as Marchman and Aparicio-Levy) as colleges. They serve adults and accept financial aid, but also regularly have high school students in attendance for career training courses such as air conditioning repair or cosmetology.

That change officially makes them colleges, which would subject them to the terms of Steube's bill, if ultimately adopted, Steube aide Anna Lee said. It's no different, she noted, than if someone were to carry a concealed weapon at a state college where a teenager is taking dual enrollment courses.

The bill is winding its way through committees, with strong support and opposition from the public. An identical Senate version has yet to be heard.

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Florida superintendents talk testing with Gov. Rick Scott

Nine superintendents met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and education commissioner Pam Stewart on Wednesday to talk about testing.  Nothing really new was said. It was just presented to the governor in person.

Afterward, Florida Association of District School Superintendents leader Bill Montford sent its members a brief synopsis of their key points:

Superintendents Kurt Browning, Alberto Carvalho, MaryEllen Elia, Mike Grego, Barbara Jenkins, Joe Joyner, John Ruis, Malcolm Thomas, Tim Wyrosdick and I met with Governor Scott and Commissioner Stewart today to express our concerns about the critical challenges the school districts are facing this year in terms of administering assessments.  The Superintendents present agreed on the following five recommendations:

- Support the administration of the Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) this year and use the results as a baseline for measuring progress. The State’s accountability system relies on both learning gains as well as performance.  In the first year of FSA administration, there will be no learning gains and therefore will compromise its ability to drive accountability. …

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Florida education news: Superintendents, physical education, teacher pay and more

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The Hillsborough School Board will talk about its next steps to replace MaryEllen Elia at a Tuesday meeting. • The Palm Beach School Board forges ahead with its superintendent search, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • Outgoing Volusia superintendent Margaret Smith defends herself against accusations of poor management, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

FUNDING: Gov. Rick Scott proposes more money for K-12 education, to be funded primarily by higher local property taxes.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION: Pasco P.E. teachers take a new approach to teaching kids about healthy lifestyles and fitness.

TOP TEACHER: Challenger K-8 second grade teacher Stacey Visceglie is Hernando County's 2015 teacher of the year.

TESTING: Some Florida parents will continue to opt out of state testing despite the commissioner's warning that it's not allowed, WFSU reports. • Florida lawmakers must reduce student testing, the Bradenton Herald editorializes. 

REMEDIAL EDUCATION: Florida's experiment with college-level remediation influences reforms nationwide, Inside Higher Ed reports. …

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Rick Scott hears superintendents' testing concerns

Gov. Rick Scott did more than just unveil his budget recommendations on Wednesday.

He met with nine superintendents and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

The meeting gave the superintendents a chance to express their concerns about the state's new tests.

The issues aren't new: The superintendents want to see a temporary freeze on school grades, elimination of end-of-course exams for each subject and grade, and a change in how the state ties teacher evaluations to test scores. Superintendents also expressed ongoing concerns about having the technology and training for computer-based testing.

Pinellas County schools Superintendent Mike Grego, who attended the meeting, said the group is concerned that a rushed implementation of the new tests could cause the state's accountability system to "implode."

Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat and CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, said he plans to draft a bill that would address some of the superintendents' concerns.

Montford expects the Senate to work "feverishly" to address the issues.

"If we're going to make any changes, they have to happen quickly," he said. …

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Hernando school district wins reaccreditation

AdvancED announced its reaccreditation of the Hernando County school district on Wednesday.

The decision came after a thorough review including interviews with more than 200 employees.

“This is a great school district,” lead evaluator David Gullatt said in a released statement. “We were able to identify several powerful practices in Hernando County that folks in other districts would certainly benefit from knowing more about.”

Hernando first received district accreditation in 2010.

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Pasco schools nurse named top in Florida

Kathy Browning, a nurse at Pasco's Lacoochee Elementary School, has been named 2015 Florida School Nurse of the Year by the Florida School Nurses Association.

Browning, the wife of superintendent Kurt Browning, has worked for the school district since 1992 except for a two-year break. 

She was nominated for the award by several administrators and a Lacoochee fifth grader, James Royal.

“Whenever I have a headache even if it’s small, if she can’t get in touch with someone at home who can help me, she stops whatever she’s doing no matter what it is to find me a ride home or to a doctor,” James wrote of Mrs. Browning.  He also wrote that she collects food and clothing for his family and helps him get into programs that will benefit his health and learning.

She will receive the award on Feb. 6 at a reception in Orlando.

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FLVS gets new board chair as past leader steps down

Michael Olenick, recently appointed to the Florida Board of Education, has stepped down as chairman of the Florida Virtual School board of trustees.

The trustees on Tuesday selected Lady Dhyana Ziegler to step into the leadership position. 

Ziegler, who has been the board's vice chair for four years, is the Garth C. Reeves Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair of Excellence in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University. She previously held several administrative jobs at the university.  She was knighted as a Dame of Justice in England in 2008.

“FLVS is a crown jewel in virtual education, not only for the state of Florida, but the entire world, as we continue to expand our outreach and goals to deliver quality online education across the globe,” Ziegler said in a released statement. “I am proud of what FLVS has accomplished throughout the years and I only envision continued success. The best is yet to come.”

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