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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Coming up: School board meetings, FCAT and more

April 1-5: Legislative session (Senate calendar, House calendar)

April 1: No classes, Pasco schools

April 2: Pasco School Board, policy workshop, 9:30 a.m. • Hillsborough School Board, 3 p.m. • Pinellas School Board, workshop, 9 a.m.

April 4-5: Education Practices Commission, Embassy Suites Orlando North

April 9: Hillsborough School Board, workshop, 9 a.m. • Pinellas School Board, 10:30 a.m.

April 15-26: FCAT

April 15-16: Florida Board of Education, Tallahassee

April 16: Pasco School Board, budget workshop 4 p.m., meeting 6 p.m. • Herrnando School Board, 7 p.m.

April 23: Hillsborough School Board, 3 p.m. • Pinellas School Board, 5:30 p.m.

April 29: No classes, Pinellas schools

April 30: Hillsborough School Board, workshop, 9 a.m.

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Florida education news: Inclusion, evaluations, school security and more

PRAISE: Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego gets positive marks for his efforts to improve student achievement after six months on the job.

INCLUSION: A Hillsborough student with several medical special needs says schools should focus on what students can do and not what they can't do.

CURIOUS: Florida is among a growing number of states adopting new teacher evaluations where nearly all teachers pass, the NY Times reports.

TRADEOFF: Palm Beach school leaders consider ending nighttime campus security to add more officers to schools when kids are there, the Palm Beach Post reports.

RECRUITING: Lake Wales High, a conversion charter school, seeks students from outside its zone to attend, the Ledger reports.

ON THE MOVE: Seminole nears completion of its elementary school boundary revisions, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

SMART MOVE: Florida lawmakers' compromises to revamp high school graduation requirements are a positive step, Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab writes.

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Conversation starters on charters to come to Senate Education committee

There's been much talk in Tallahassee about the future of Florida charter schools during the legislative session, and the discussion is about to get more provocative.

Using substitutes for already filed bills, the Senate Education Committee on Monday will promote some ideas that are bound to capture attention. They don't deal with construction funding sources and shared spaces as much as some of the nuts and bolts of the way charters operate, and just who gets to benefit from the experimental nature of the less-burdened-by-red-tape model.

First, the committee will tackle the issue of charter school accountability, no small matter in the face of stories about charter schools closing mid year and, in one notable case, funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to employees rather than education as it closed. …

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Florida education news: Teacher pay, magnet schools, armed guards and more

TEACHERS ON TOP: Florida teachers appear to be one of the main beneficiaries of the legislative budgets unveiled Friday. More from the Florida Times-Union.

TECHNICAL TRAINING: The Senate puts $1.5 million in its budget for a K-20 STEM magnet school in Pasco County. • The House puts a like amount in its budget for an adult education program in Hernando County.

ECONOMIC BOOSTER: An economic impact study shows Pasco-Hernando Community College puts about $240 million a year back into the counties it serves.

KNEE-JERK REACTION: Colleagues defend a Pierce Middle School teacher who faces dismissal after a student in her care wandered away.

SHINY AND NEW: Northeast High School culinary arts students get a new state-of-the-art kitchen.

NO MORE GUNS: Florida schools don't need armed guards, the Times editorializes.

RUMOR PATROL: The Palm Beach school district hires a strategic communications director to help market itself better, the Palm Beach Post reports.

HEAD TO HEAD: The College of Central Florida Brain Bowl team will compete for the national title against Ivy League squads, the Ocala Star Banner reports. …

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Adult technical education in Hernando to get $1.5 million boost?

Hernando County’s effort to launch an adult technical education program have been hobbled so far by a familiar foe:

A lack of money.

That problem could go away soon.

Tucked into the Florida House’s proposed 2013-14 budget is $1.5 million dedicated to creating an adult technical training program in Hernando.

Local officials say the center is critical to the goal of retraining the county’s workforce and reducing Hernando’s high unemployment rate. For several years, Hernando has struggled with one of the highest unemployment rates in Florida — 9 percent in February.

Click here to read more about the story.

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Senate issues its budget plan with differences from House

The Florida Senate outlined its budget and spending overview on Friday, just a few hours after the House released its plan. Like the House, Senate president Don Gaetz stressed education as a key priority in his press release. But the Senate proposal differs from the House in some key areas.

The Senate, for instance, sets aside $480 million for increased teacher pay, compared to nearly $675 million for raises in the House. The Senate also adds more money for high school industry certification programs that is not contemplated in the House version. And it does not call for a tuition increase as recommended by the House.

See the proposed Senate education appropriations bill here.

A Senate summary of its proposal follows: …

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Orange teachers union decertified

Defective paperwork has caused the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association to lose its state certification, which in turn has chilled relations between the organization and the district, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

"We don't seem to have that collaborative, working relationship," CTA president Diana Moore told the Sentinel. She offered a couple of examples, including the district's recent dismissive reaction to a union climate survey and the superintendent's unwillingness to meet to talk about morale issues.

The union expects to have its certification cleared up next week. As to the underlying relationship, it's not so clear.

Read more here.

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Pinellas beefing up school police dispatcher job

Pinellas County Schools is tweaking the job description for its police dispatcher — a key figure when a school's in the middle of an emergency situation.

The qualifications for the job used to only list a high school diploma (or GED), communication and listening skills, and the willingness to work flexible hours. But the language that's on the docket to be added speaks to increased standards at a time when everyone's eying school security:

Must be able to remain calm in emergency situations and use sound judgment. Must pass an extensive background investigation. Law enforcement certification by FDLE (Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement) using FCIC (Florida Crime Information Center), NCIC (National Crime Information Center) and NLETS (International Public Safety Network) within 6 months of employment, and certification as a 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator, both certifications require a minimum of 3 years law enforcement/911 emergency dispatching experience prior to 2009.

More changes, after the jump.

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School board attorney designs own evaluation

Most Floridians with functional ears have caught wind of how controversial teacher evaluations have been in the state of Florida. Notably, teachers are concerned that certain metrics are out of their control, and some say that state policymakers don't really know what it's like to be in the classroom.

It might be interesting to note that not all people working in the school systems are evaluated as teachers are. On Tuesday, Pinellas County School Board Attorney David Koperski will submit a document that he, himself, has proposed the school board use to evaluate him.

Per the school board workshop agenda: "Mr. Koperski, in compliance with his contract, will present a proposed instrument for his evaluation by the Board."

You can read the eight-page evaluation form Koperski has submitted here. It judges him on seven standards:Full Story

Florida House releases its education budget plan

The Florida House on Friday officially released its 2013-14 spending plan, which still must be smoothed over with Senate budgets that have yet to be finished. Among the highlights, the House would set aside $674.6 million that school districts could use for raises, bump up per-student funding by 6.2 percent, and increase school recognition funding to $125 per student at receiving schools.

The House does not propose putting as much money into education technology as the Board of Education recommended. A Senate bill to stall implementation of the PARCC assessments until all schools have adequate technological capabilities has been postponed in committee.

In higher education, the House calls for a 15 percent increase in general funds, and a 6 percent university tuition hike. State colleges would see a 3.3 percent increase in funding.

The House summary of education funding follows: …

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Florida education news: University tuition, FCAT exams, high school diplomas and more

TOP TEACHER: Cassandra Mattison of Spoto High School is Hillsborough County's teacher of the year.

AFTERMATH: Osceola Middle School students are left to fend for themselves emotionally after the removal of their abusive social studies teacher.

MORE MONEY: Florida universities stand to see a boost in state funding, yet a tuition increase remains in play. More from the Associated Press and the Orlando Sentinel.

OPTING OUT: Bake County schools don't advertise the fact that students can choose not to take the FCAT exams, the Baker County Press reports.

GRADUATION: The Florida House and Senate close in on agreement for a plan to add more pathways to high school graduation, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

CLOSER LOOK: The Florida Department of Education calls for an investigation into the actions of Lee superintendent Joseph Burke, the Naples Daily News reports.

REIMBURSEMENT: Two Manatee School Board members ask their colleagues to cover their legal costs associated with accusations they violated the state Sunshine law, the Bradenton Herald reports. …

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More money, possibly higher tuition for state universities

House and Senate leaders say they plan to boost funding for state universities by over $100 million this year, in addition to restoring $300 million cut from university budgets last year.

That is a huge turn from a year ago. Then, the 12 public universities felt blind-sided by state budget cuts and were powerless to prevent them.

Some of the new money will be tied to university performance.

The University of Florida and Florida State University would receive even more money, as much as $30 million, as part of a proposal to grant them special status as the state's top-ranked institutions.

House leaders are even considering a 6 percent tuition increase that would add $37 million to the schools' coffers.

"We're having a very good legislative session," university system chancellor Frank Brogan said this week.

Read more here.

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Senate, House close to agreement on new high school graduation requirements

After tense moments when it looked like a deal was dying, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a bill (SB 1076) that would change the rules for Florida high school graduation.

The legislation creates what lawmakers are calling pathways to graduation, by permitting students to substitute career and industry certifications for course requirements that include the same curriculum standards. While maintaining the current standard diploma, it also sets up two optional designations -- one for students pursuing industry certification and another for students seeking a tougher academic path.

They are not creating three separate diplomas, including one with less rigorous requirements than the current standard diploma, as initially proposed in the House. …

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National spotlight: Chicago school closings

If any one issue has dominated national education news in the last couple weeks, it’s been the proposed school closings in Chicago . The nation’s third-largest school district plans to close 53 elementary schools and one high school program, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The proposal to close the schools, which have predominantly black student populations, has prompted protests and charges of racism from the Chicago Teachers Union. The school district has said it needs to close under-enrolled schools to save money.

(It’s worth noting, too, that Chicago is a minority-majority school district. Most of its students are black or Hispanic.)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel – Chicago schools are under mayoral control – has said the time for negotiating is over. The schools will close. That didn’t stop teachers from protesting in the streets Wednesday.

It’s certainly not the first clash between Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union. Teachers went on strike last year over pay and contract issues.

Check out some of the stories about the school closings here, here and here.

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Pension changes would hurt teachers, union leaders say

Florida's teachers union held a press conference Thursday to blast proposed changes to the state’s retirement system, our friends at The Buzz are reporting.

Florida Education Association President Andy Ford and Vice President Joanne McCall said pension proposals would deprive teachers of their nest egg. They said such proposals – along with merit pay and changes to the teacher evaluation system – make it difficult to recruit and retain good teachers.

See the full post here

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