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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 24, 2016



Florida school districts continue to prepare for the return of teachers and students, tackling issues ranging from daily schedules to teacher hiring. Leaders worked to make sense of recently released school grade data, looking for ways to implement improvements where needed. Meanwhile, candidates for school board and superintendent entered their campaign home stretch, with elections just weeks off. Keep up with Florida education news daily at the Gradebook. Send your thoughts to

Top of the Times

Pinellas brings back recess, but it won't be the same at all elementary schools, Colleen Wright
"The district has not handed schools specific guidelines on how recess should be conducted because [superintendent Mike] Grego said principals and their staffs know what would work best for their schools, as many schools have limited play space. So recess will be held at different times and in different manners at every school."

Investigation of principal reveals strife among staff, PTA at Hillsborough's Bailey Elementary, Marlene Sokol
"Witnesses said he told the PTA leaders [Russell Wallace] might assign their children his worst teachers and might hold the kids back a year. Instead of ‘worst' he used a word that began with ‘s,' witnesses said. They also heard him say the ‘f' word, though Wallace denied threatening or swearing. The episode touched off an investigation that revealed three assistant principals found Wallace impossible to work for, a former boss called his judgment unreliable, there were allegations he had his wife coach his teachers, and hints that he mishandled state tests."

Pinellas votes to take over failed St. Petersburg charter school, at least for one year, Colleen Wright
"Superintendent Mike Grego, who approached the board at a workshop last week with a plan to take over the school, praised the board and district staff for their hustle in negotiating a lease and beginning the process of hiring staff within one week. Officials learned the charter school would face closure earlier this month after the school received its third consecutive F grade from the state."

Pasco school district to limit midyear job transfers for teachers, superintendent says, Jeffrey S. Solochek
Since 2013, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning has talked about restricting teachers' ability to transfer from one district school to another in the middle of the year. Beginning Monday, Browning plans to do something about it. ‘We're through,' he told the Gradebook. ‘No more midyear transfers, effective Aug. 1.'"

Around the State

Don't Say My Name Unless You're Saying Thank You, WLRN, Rowan Moore Gerety
"‘Ma'am, I would appreciate it that you don't mention names,"'came the voice of School Board Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman. ‘Names are not allowed.' Interruptions like that often punctuate the public hearing portion of Miami-Dade County School Board meetings, and they tend to come up when someone's complaining."

Suspensions hit 7-year high in Bay County, Panama City News Herald, Eryn Dion
"While the number of students suspended across Florida is at a three-year low, Bay District Schools' numbers have crept up to a seven-year high. The number of students receiving in-school suspensions broke the 3,000 mark in the 2014-15 school year, the latest year for which data is available. It was the first time that number had been reached since 2008, the earliest data available from the Florida Department of Education's website."

Non-Spanish-Speaking Teacher Sues Miami-Dade After She's Denied Job That Includes Teaching Spanish, Miami New Times, Jessica Lipscomb
"An English-speaking teacher says the Miami-Dade County School Board discriminated against her by not hiring her for a job. One requirement of the position? Teaching an hour of Spanish per day. Tracy Rosner, a third-grade teacher at Coral Reef Elementary, filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida last week claiming employment discrimination on the basis of her race - which is white."

For coaches, hours and pay don't add up, Herald-Tribune, Doug Fernandes
"If the hours are to be believed, one has to wonder when John Peacock finds the time to sleep. From January through December, the Venice High football coach estimates he devotes more than 1,200 hours to his sport. That time is spent on everything from workouts, games, practices and recruiting, to tasks as mundane as laundry and equipment collection and storage. What wasn't included were parent and coaches meetings, media interviews and fundraising, the latter one of Peacock's biggest consumers of time. And for all that, Peacock last season earned the not-so-princely sum of $4,972. After taxes, $3,206, or approximately $2.67 an hour."

Volusia seeks to expand minority enrollment in advanced classes, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Dustin Wyatt
"For Volusia students, there isn't a shortage of advanced education options. Take your pick: dual enrollment, advancement placement, honors, international baccalaureate, etc. The challenge, Superintendent Tom Russell said during a School Board meeting this week, is getting minority students - especially males - to take advantage."

School grade update highlights economic plight, Highlands Today, Marc Valero
"A recent update on the district's school accountability grades focused on the high rate of poverty in the district highlighted by the fact that Highlands has the third highest percentage, among 67 counties, of students receiving free or reduced-priced lunches. In the 2015-16 school year, only Dixie County at 99.76 percent and Okeechobee County at 79.22 percent had a greater percentage of free and reduced lunch students than Highlands County with 75.91 percent."

Other Views

A Small But Meaningful Change in Florida's School Grades System, Shanker Blog, Matt DiCarlo
"[I]it is very difficult to interpret overall ‘gains' as a growth indicator, since students need not exhibit growth to be coded as having made ‘gains.' This severely complicates the utility of this measure, and of the school grades in general. A little bit of good news: Florida has just altered this rule."

I returned to the classroom for a career change: I love teaching, Orlando Sentinel guest column, Jason Gines
"Fourteen years ago, I entered the classroom for the first time after four years as a federal agent with the U.S. Department of Justice. I felt I had become a kindergarten cop. My first day, frankly, was a nerve-racking experience. But by the end of the day, I felt truly satisfied with my decision. Many of my friends asked why I would make such a large career leap. I didn't see it that way. I've always had a passion for public service. The opportunity to positively affect the lives of others is what drew me to pursue a career in law enforcement, and also drew me to teaching. And, who better to help than our children?"

Making a case against high-stakes testing, Tallahassee Democrat guest column, Bill Hoatson
"I just read about the convoluted and Byzantine way that the state comes up with grading schools and calculates learning gains and feel the need to speak out very clearly on why the system of high-stakes testing and grading schools is a profoundly bad idea."

Florida's K-12 system hasn't gotten the memo about the importance of high school physics, but maybe your district has, Bridge to Tomorrow blog, Paul Cottle
"Florida's high school physics enrollment rate remains stuck at at 23 enrollments per 100 12th graders, about where it's been since I started paying attention in 2009.  Given the rhetorical emphasis on STEM careers from Florida's education and political leaders, that's an extraordinary statistic."

Closing Florida's Public Schools is NOT an Option, League of Women Voters Education Blog
"The Washington State Superintendent of Schools argues that it may be necessary to close public schools to force the state to comply with the court ruling on funding education.  Could this happen in Florida?  It may be up to the voters even if the Southern Legal Counsel (SLC) wins the Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit."

Reports of Note

Educating Students in Rural America, National Association of State Boards of Education
"Education policies often seek to identify deficits and address them. This can be misguided when it comes to rural education, which of necessity must focus less on deficits and more on capitalizing on assets already present in rural communities. By seeking a balance between addressing deficits and better deploying existing assets, this report and its suggested policy actions are designed to enhance the capacity of rural areas to prepare all students for college, careers, and civic life."

Trends in Bullying at School Among Students Ages 12 to 18, NCES
"There were significant increases in the percentages of students who reported being bullied at school from 2005 to 2007 among both males and females.  For both males and females, the proportion of students who reported that they had been bullied at school was lower in 2013 than in each of the other years reported."

Coming Up

Aug. 10 is the first date that Florida schools are permitted to begin classes, after years of being told to wait until two weeks before Labor Day. Even though it's a Wednesday, 40 of the state's 67 school districts will resume. The rest are waiting. Read this story for an explanation.

The Florida Education Practices Commission meets Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 to review disciplinary recommendations for teachers accused of violating state rules. The panel will hear 52 cases.

Florida voters return to the polls on Aug. 30, to vote in primaries for candidates in several school board and state legislative races -- at least those that haven't already been decided for lack of opposition. Registration runs through Monday.

[Last modified: Friday, July 29, 2016 1:44pm]


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