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Gradebook

Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Gov. Rick Scott signed onto tuition hikes in past, now calls them a tax

An excerpt from Saturday's story on Gov. Rick Scott's veto of a tuition increase in this year's budget although he approved tuition hikes in 2011 and 2012: …

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Seven Oaks Elementary principal job draws large applicant pool

There's a big group of hopefuls seeking to take over Pasco County's Seven Oaks Elementary School next year, including the leader of embattled Lacoochee Elementary School, where all instructional staff were recently dismissed and required to reapply if they wished to remain there.

Shirley Ray, who left her assistant principal post at Seven Oaks in 2011 to take over Lacoochee, is one of 13 applicants to run Seven Oaks, which serves a upper-middle class Wesley Chapel suburb. She's the only current district principal in the candidate pool. Ray also has reapplied for her job at Lacoochee.

She was a favorite among many parents while at Seven Oaks, and some have said they would gladly have her back when B.J. Smith, who has run Seven Oaks since it opened, retires at the end of the year. …

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Another round of test results due out next week

When discussing FCAT writing and third grade results a week ago, Florida education commissioner Tony Bennett said all the rest of the FCAT and end-of-course exam outcomes would be released no later than June 8.

The Florida Department of Education announced today that it will meet the deadline.

It scheduled a media call to provide background information on Tuesday. The report is to come at some point afterward. A spokeswoman said the date is not set because the department's number crunchers are still ensuring the validity of the data.

It's the first year the state will have a passing score for geometry and biology end of course exams, and the second for algebra. The U.S. History end of course exam still does not have a cut score.

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Pasco teacher contract negotiations yet to begin

As soon as the United School Employees of Pasco ratified their 2012-13 contract in early April, superintendent Kurt Browning announced his hope to get the next year's contract done before teachers leave for summer on June 6.

That's not happening. Talks have yet to begin beyond some early logistics. And Browning wants it known that he isn't causing the holdup.

"I've been pushing to meet earlier than later," Browning told the Gradebook. "My desire is to get teacher raises out as quickly as possible. We're ready. We're waiting on the USEP."

USEP business representative Jim Ciadella, who negotiates the teacher contract for the group, said his team is anxious to get to the table, too.

"But we want to make sure we understand all the budgetary issues before we get there," Ciadella told the Gradebook. …

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Imagine charter's elementary school closing in Pinellas County

Imagine Charter School in St. Petersburg will close its elementary school for the 2013/14 school year, leaving its middle school open.

Charter officials had been fighting to keep the school open since last year, when former superintendent John Stewart recommended that the elementary school be closed because of chronic low academic performance. The charter had earned three F grades in four years and had the lowest FCAT scores of any public school in Pinellas County.

Imagine got a reprieve from the School Board in July - which went against Stewart's recommendation - only to then have the School Board move forward with the closure in February under new superintendent Mike Grego. The charter then appealed its case to a state administrative law judge.

But Imagine withdrew its appeal earlier this month. Charter officials and district officials signed off on a joint stipulation of dismissal with the state Division of Administrative Hearings, which means the School Board's decision to close the school stands. Dot Clark, who reviews charter schools for the school district, said they are working out the logistics now.

It's not clear yet where Imagine's elementary students will go to school next year. Clark said they came to Imagine from all over Pinellas, with the biggest concentration of kids - about 28 students - zoned for Lakewood Elementary. 

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Florida education news: Pensions, eye scans, K-8 schools and more

PENSIONS: Increased state pension costs sting Florida counties much worse than the school districts.

HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU: The Polk school district delays implementation of a student eye-scanning device for buses after some parents protest, the Ledger reports.

SEEKING ACHIEVEMENT GAINS: The Orange school district will open more K-8 schools, State Impact Florida reports.

NEW ATTRACTION: A Palm Beach middle school wins International Baccalaureate certification in the district's effort to lure more students to the school, the Palm Beach Post reports.

BUDGET CUTS: College of Central Florida cuts 28 positions to help balance its budget, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

TOP 10: A Broward student makes it to the final 10 in the National Spelling Bee, the Miami Herald reports.

WHO'S ON BOARD? Daytona State College trustees delay extending their president's contract amid confusion over which of them will remain on the board after this week, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

DIVISIONS: The Lee School Board is split over whether to continue with a national superintendent search a day after appointing a principal to the top job for a trial run, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. …

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Gov. Rick Scott signs antibullying bill into law

In the battle against bullying, many school principals complained that they had no authority to deal with students who did most of their bullying away from campus yet brought the aftermath to school.

Florida lawmakers sought to give the principals more control by saying they could discipline students for off-campus cyberbullying "if the bullying substantially interferes with or limits the victim's ability to ticipate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school or substantially disrupts the education process or orderly operation of a school."

Schools would not have to look for such activity, but could act upon it if presented with evidence.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on Thursday. It will take effect on July 1, and districts will have to revise their policies to reflect the update of the 2008 antibullying law.

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Pinellas County Schools interviewing for some administrative and principal jobs

The Pinellas County School District still is interviewing candidates for a few high-profile jobs.

District officials are considering applicants for area superintendent - the job opened after William Corbett was promoted to deputy superintendent - and three executive director positions. Those positions are sort of new; superintendent Mike Grego "upgraded" the directors for elementary, middle and high school education. The upgrade to executive director means the jobs pay more, making it easier to recruit qualified candidates, Grego said. 

Job advertisements also have come down for several principal jobs, including Clearwater Fundamental Middle, Blanton Elementary, Largo Middle and Plumb Elementary. Candidates also are being interviewed for those jobs, according to the district.

There also are a few schools with principals who haven't yet been reappointed for the coming year - Godfrey Watson at Campbell Park Elementary, Kim Short at Pinellas Park Elementary and Alisa Gatlin at Largo Middle. Most of the principals in the district were reappointed this month. Grego said some names also will be on the June 11 agenda. …

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Online Pasco budget town hall meeting outdraws face-to-face sessions

The Pasco County School Board turned to the internet Wednesday evening for its first interactive online budget town hall meeting.

More than 350 people logged in to listen. That's more than three times the number of people who attended the board's two live budget sessions held May 22 and May 28, combined.

"For the first time out of the gate, I thought it was fine," superintendent Kurt Browning told the Gradebook, noting that he did not have numbers for viewers on the district cable television station. "We're probably going to use that medium a little bit more. We have that PETV channel that we're not using."

Feedback from viewers was mostly positive, with commenters on the district Facebook page praising the idea and the format. At least one respondent on the district YouTube page added that the information was useful and the method made it possible to listen when he otherwise was unable to attend. …

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Florida education news: Credit recovery, charter schools, reading camps and more

NEVER GIVE UP: Weeki Wachee High senior Monica Diaz makes up four years of school work in one year to graduate on time.

CHARTER NEWS: Newpoint Tampa High School will close because of poor enrollment. • Dayspring Academy in Pasco County seeks to add two new locations, while other charters in the district prepare to expand their enrollment.

DO IT AGAIN: Florida elementary schools prepare for summer reading camps after receiving third-grade FCAT scores, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

RISING COSTS: The Osceola school district works with Valencia Community College to keep dual enrollment viable with new state funding rules, the Osceola News-Gazette reports.

JOB CUTS: Manatee's superintendent tells parents protesting teacher layoffs that district budget woes have made the moves necessary, the Bradenton Herald reports. More from the Herald-Tribune. • Florida State College at Jacksonville will cut 76 jobs to reduce spending nearly $5 million, the Florida Times-Union reports.

NO CHANGE: Broward College and Palm Beach State College decide not to increase tuition and fees, the Sun-Sentinel reports. …

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"Under the Lights" in Tampa

Instrumental music from Just Elementary School

Marlene Sokol

Instrumental music from Just Elementary School

These are some images from "Under the Lights," the culmination of after-school programs at Potter, Just, B.T. Washington and Miles elementary schools. Students and their parents filled the auditorium of Blake High School on Wednesday night for 14 performances.

Three of the schools are in the Hillsborough County school district's Ed-Venture program, which keeps the kids on campus until 5 a.m. and showers them with dance, sports, music lessons and other enrichment activities. The acts included drumming, cheerleading, step teams and martial arts.

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Lacoochee Elementary turnaround nears full restaffing

Pasco County's struggling Lacoochee Elementary School, which has been targeted for a district-managed turnaround, is getting closer to having a new-look faculty for the coming school year.

In April, superintendent Kurt Browning announced that all teachers and administrators would have to reapply to keep their jobs. He did so as part of a state-mandated improvement plan for schools that earn three consecutive D grades from the state, as Lacoochee is expected to do. This year's grades have not been completed, although initial FCAT scores have begun trickling in.

The school hired 17 educators, including 12 who already worked there, after its first advertisement closed. It readvertised several positions afterward, and came much closer to full a staff.

District officials reported that the second ad brought in 31 new applications for general K-5 teacher, of which the school hired five. It also got nine dropout prevention teacher applicants, of which one was hired; two guidance counselor resumes, of which none were hired; and six inquiries for ESE teacher, of which two were hired. …

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A ride home for IB students in Hillsborough

Following up on a situation we reported in recent weeks: The Hillsborough County school district is working with families who are in a lurch because of transportation changes in two high school International Baccalaureate programs.

I.B. students at Robinson and Strawberry Crest High Schools used to get picked up at hubs in the early morning, then dropped off near their homes after school. It was a compromise of sorts, as the normal magnet transportation set-up involves long bus rides and a change of buses at a transfer station.

But the school district is short 150 bus drivers, and parents were told the afternoon service will not be available in the 2013-2014 school year.

Instead, they were told, students will be taken to schools in their communities -- "hubs," they are called -- where tutors will be available to help them with their homework until their parents can pick them up.

Most parents were satisfied, officials said.

But not Pamela Ward, a single mother who works three jobs. Ward stated her position emphatically at the May 7 school board meeting. These students, she said, are the most ambitious in the district, and should not be penalized because their parents work long hours. …

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Report: P.E. should be a core subject

Reading, writing, 'rithmetic and... kickball? The U.S. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies says yes, arguing in a new report that physical education should be considered a core subject in the nation's public schools.

It's an interesting thought, as Pinellas County pushes its elementary schools away from daily P.E. to more easily create planning time for core-subject teachers. (Worth noting: The change would not reduce the time spent in P.E. But most standards, including the Institute of Medicine, say daily P.E. goes a lot further for kids than longer, less-frequent sessions.)

The Washington Post links to the report, which details how P.E. has fallen by the wayside both due to budget cuts and policy decisions that have steered more school time toward tested subjects like reading and math. Since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, 44 percent of school administrators report significant cuts to P.E. and recess, as well as the arts. A significant number moved away from daily, or even thrice-weekly, P.E. …

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Chief of USF St. Pete says goodbye

When Margaret Sullivan resigned her post as the chancellor of USF St. Petersburg last summer, Bill Hogarth was chosen to take the reins until a search committee could find a permanent replacement.

The director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, and a former dean of USF's College of Marine Science, Hogarth fell happily into step on his first day in August. He even decided to throw his hat in the ring for the permanent gig. But a university search committee eliminated him after a couple rounds, and Sophia Wisniewska, chancellor of Penn State Brandywine, was ultimately chosen to be the new chancellor.

Hogarth has a month left before Wisniewska takes over, and in a recent blog post he reflected "with a little sadness and joy all at the same time" on his tenure leading the school by the bay.

"I have enjoyed and will remember every minute of my time on campus, whether it was my official work as chancellor or just hanging out at the [student center] late at night flipping pancakes for the students. Hogarth wrote.

Read his full message to USF St. Petersburg's faculty, staff and students after the jump.

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