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Gradebook

Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida education news: School grades, summer school, ESOL and more

SCHOOL GRADES: The credibility of Florida's accountability system could hang in the balance as leaders explore modifications to the school grading formula.

SUMMER LEARNING: Struggling Pinellas students get an extra dose of reading, math and science in the district's new Summer Bridge program.

OPEN UP: The Pinellas school district needs to become more transparent in its operations, the Times editorializes.

FRUSTRATION: Hundreds of Orange County students still learning English get trapped in ESOL programs, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

WARNED: Florida Keys Community College has its accreditation placed on "warning" status over financial controls, the Keynoter reports. More details here.

LABOR NEWS: PERC rules that the Marion school district can deal directly with substitute teachers outside collective bargaining, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

OPEN DOORS: Technology helps Miami-Dade students with disabilities learn more skills for life, the Miami Herald reports.

NEVER FORGET: Brand new Booker High in Sarasota has a room set aside for the school's long history, the Herald-Tribune reports.

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Florida education news: Retirement, land banking, school snacks and more

STABLE HAND: Retiring Hernando superintendent Bryan Blavatt cleaned up the district's messes during his three years in office.

LAND BANK: The Pasco school district prepares to buy more property for a new school in the growing State Road 54 corridor.

HEALTHY SNACKS: Florida is ahead of the game in the federal effort to make school lunches and snacks more nutritious, the St. Augustine Record reports.

COUNTER CORE: A grassroots group of parents plans an Orlando protest of the Common Core, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

POLK POACH: The Polk school district grabs four Duval administrators, theee of whom were slated for demotion, the Florida Times-Union reports.

INCLUSION: Gov. Rick Scott signs into law a bill that gives parents more say in the education of their children with special needs, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • Flagler finds success with a pre-k program that includes students with and without special needs, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

WHAT'S IN THE BOOK? An atheist group sues the Orange school district claiming censorship after it tried to distribute books criticizing Christianity and Islam in area high schools, the Orlando Sentinel reports. …

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Scott Hopes nominated for USF Board of Trustees

Gov. Rick Scott has appointed businessman Scott Hopes to the University of South Florida Board of Trustees, succeeding Tampa's Fowler White Boggs law firm CEO Rhea Law for a term ending in 2018. The Florida Senate must confirm the appointment.

Hopes, 52, is a USF alum, earning both an undergraduate degree and master's of public health from the school. He is chairman and CEO of CliniLinc, a medical technology and services company. Hopes, of Homestead, is a member of the Florida Public Health Association and a founding member of the Inter-American Society of Chemotherapy.


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Pasco School Board to consider buying 22 acres for $2.2 million

With an eye toward future growth along State Road 54, the Pasco County School Board on Tuesday will consider the purchase of 22 acres just east of the Suncoast Parkway for a new elementary school. (Agenda item)

Developers have approvals in hand to build thousands of new homes and apartments in the corridor between the parkway and US 41. The schools in the area already are near or above capacity, and the district has just one site in hand to handle the potential overflow.

District officials say they need three to meet the projected demand.

"The need definitely is coming," said board chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong, also a real estate agent. "We were a high-growth county before the recession. I don't see any reason to believe we won't be one again in the future."

See the full story here.

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Jeb Bush's foundation grades Florida lawmakers on education votes

It's time again for Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future to rate state lawmakers for their votes on education issues near the former governor's heart.

The annual report card offers few surprises. Those senators and representatives getting the top marks backed Bush's reform agenda, which included parent trigger, high school graduation requirement changes and tweaks to the state's teacher evaluation system.

What's notable is how closely the lawmaker grades adhere to political party. A could easily stand for R, and F for D.

In fact, of 44 House Democrats, 39 earned failing grades from the foundation, while the remaining five got D's. Meanwhile, 65 of 76 House Republicans received A's. The 40-member Senate didn't follow party line quite so closely, with three Democrats (Gwen Margolis, Bill Montford and Jeremy Ring) getting B grades and three Republicans (Nancy Detert, Greg Evers and Rene Garcia) being tagged with C's. Pinellas County's Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, who refused to bend on some of Bush's key priorities, got a D.

Who got top marks? Depends on who's judging. …

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Pinellas School Board attorney receives high marks

The Pinellas County School Board gave its new attorney, David Koperski, high marks on his professional evaluation this year.

Koperski, who replaced former board attorney Jim Robinson in August, was praised and congratulated for his work during Thursday's work session. Board members discussed his evaluation only for a few minutes.

Koperski was evaluated in seven categories, including professionalism, management, knowledge of the law and communication. Board members ranked him in each category on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being highest. He received a 3 or above in every category by every board member; most of his marks were 4s and 5s.

In professionalism, six of seven board members gave him a 5. One gave him a 4. For knowledge of the law, he earned four 5s, two 4s and one 3.

Koperski worked for the school district for about seven years before filling the role as board attorney. He earns about $152,000 a year. He is one of two employees who report directly to the School Board. Superintendent Mike Grego is the other one.

Grego, although he doesn't have authority over Koperski, described him as an "absolute joy" to work with.

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Pinellas teachers get a tiny bit more in referendum dollars

This is a little bit of good news for teachers in Pinellas County.

The special property tax that pays for a salary supplement for teachers - $2,852 each last year - should increase this coming year as property values improve. Before everyone celebrates, keep in mind this is a very small improvement. The projected supplement for the 2013/14 school year is $2,922, or about $70 more. 

That doesn't make up for other cuts teachers have experienced in recent years. But it's a positive trend for teachers.

Voters approved a tax referendum for the first time in 2004 - and again in 2008 and last year - that provides a salary supplement for teachers and puts money toward the arts, music and reading in Pinellas County's public schools. The split is 80 percent for teacher salaries and 20 percent for the arts.

This year, revenue from the referendum is expected to be about $29 million, with $23 million going to teachers. The money is built into the salary schedule. 

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Pinellas teachers expected to get a tiny bit more in referendum dollars

This is a little bit of good news for teachers in Pinellas County.

The special property tax that pays for a salary supplement for teachers - $2,852 each last year - should increase this coming year as property values improve. Before everyone celebrates, keep in mind this is a very small improvement. The projected supplement for the 2013/14 school year is $2,922, or about $70 more. 

That doesn't make up for other cuts teachers have experienced in recent years. But it's a positive trend for teachers.

Voters approved a tax referendum for the first time in 2004 - and again in 2008 and last year - that provides a salary supplement for teachers and puts money toward the arts, music and reading in Pinellas County's public schools. The split is 80 percent for teacher salaries and 20 percent for the arts.

This year, revenue from the referendum is expected to be about $29 million, with $23 million going to teachers. The money is built into the salary schedule. 

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Cost of Summer Bridge estimated at $3.9 million

The Pinellas County School District has attracted more than 6,600 students to summer school as part of a new six-week program to lessen summer learning loss. 

Now, into the program's second week, the district has a cost estimate: $3.9 million.

That number, which still could change, hasn't been put out by the district, although the program has been in the works since February. Part of the reason is that it depended a lot on how many students turned up - superintendent Mike Grego targeted 10,000 to 12,000 struggling students. About 9,000 students registered ahead of time.

The program is being paid for with Title I dollars, among others. Title I is federal money meant to provide extra help for students living in poverty. The cost of the program has been split across fiscal years, as is allowed with Title I funds.

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Florida education news: FAMU Marching 100, resource officers, science standards and more

PLAY ON: The FAMU Marching 100 will return to action after a lengthy suspension over the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

UNSWAYED: Pinellas School Board members are not convinced to hire the Sheriff's Office for the district's policing needs.

FIRED: A Collier teacher is ousted after admitting to having helped students on an FCAT prep test, the Naples Daily News reports. • A Duval resource officer is let go for making an employee badge for a friend who didn't work for the district, the Florida Times-Union reports.

TEACHER TALK: Gov. Rick Scott and commissioner Tony Bennett tell teachers of the year that the coming years of changes will be monumental, the Florida Current reports.

DUAL ENROLLMENT: Manatee school officials seek solutions to a new funding model that threatens the availability of dual enrollment courses for high school students, the Bradenton Herald reports.

THUMBS UP: Florida teachers indicate they like the Next Generation Science Standards under consideration by the State Board, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

EASING OFF: The Brevard School Board scales back its budget cuts to save jobs and programs, Florida Today reports. …

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District police force will stay, Pinellas School Board says

The Pinellas County School Board rejected Thursday a proposal to contract out its internal police force.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri brought a draft contract to the school district that would have transferred the district police officers to his control for a three-year cost of $1.9 million. He argued that the School Board would maintain control, that officers wouldn't lose their jobs, and there would be a higher level of service and cost savings to the school system.

"You're not losing control," he said.

At least two board members, Terry Krassner and Linda Lerner, had strong objections to the idea. Krassner said it was important, when she was a principal, to be able to pick up a phone and immediately get a school resource officer. The officers added greatly to the school's operations, she said.

"To me, it's just been incredibly valuable," she said.

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Pinellas Education Foundation delivers cost-savings report

The Pinellas Education Foundation presented its latest Savings for Classrooms report to the School Board today, emphasizing that it wasn't intended as criticism. 

Jim Myers, foundation chairman, said the report, which recommends cutting district staffers and compressing the teachers' pay scale, is "about expansion." The goal is to put more money into the classrooms, he said, and allow the district to recruit and retain good teachers. (See our story here.)

"We want the best and highest paid teachers in the state of Florida," he said. 

Superintendent Mike Grego said district staffers worked on the report with volunteers from the business community. The idea today was to hear the report and presentation. Board members will have a chance to discuss the recommendations in greater depth at a later workshop, possibly in August.

District staffers also will provide a response, detailing which of the recommendations are possible and which are not. This is the second Savings for Classrooms report. 

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Imagine School at Land O'Lakes renews expansion request

A Pasco County charter school that had its request to increase enrollment by 15 percent pulled from School Board consideration a month ago is now asking the board to approve a 20 percent expansion instead.

Imagine School at Land O'Lakes, which opened in 2008 with 397 students, has proposed a maximum enrollment of 704 students for the coming year and 728 afterward, as part of its request for a 15-year contract renewal.

The K-8 school had a rough time early, starting off in a leased business center and netting mediocre academic results. It began turning things around after a management change, along with a move to a standalone school building across the street from Sunlake High (the lease for which has drawn some scrutiny). The school earned A grades from the state in 2011 and 2012, but has not yet been designated high performing.

The absence of that high performing label prompted superintendent Kurt Browning to question the 15 percent enrollment increase, particularly because the school's contract also was about to expire. His staff is now recommending approval of a lengthy new contract and the higher student numbers. …

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FAMU Marching 100 band suspension lifted

Members of the FAMU Marching 100 pose for pictures after interim President Larry Robinson announces band's suspension is lifted.

Tia Mitchell

Members of the FAMU Marching 100 pose for pictures after interim President Larry Robinson announces band's suspension is lifted.

Florida A&M University's acclaimed Marching 100 band will return after an 19 month suspension following the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

But when the band will return and what it will look like have not been determined.

"Considering all of the measures we have put in place, I believe that this constitutes what I've been saying for the past several months: the right conditions to lift the suspension of the Marching 100," interim President Larry Robinson said during a press conference this morning attended by over 100 students and FAMU supporters.

Before announcing the band would be allowed to return, Robinson talked about all the changes that had taken place at FAMU since Champion's death after the Orlando Classic football game in November 2011. That includes training for students and staff, hiring new staff and an anti-hazing website where students can file reports anonymously.

"I want to remphasize that I'm taking this action based upon all the work that has been done over this last year-and-a-half to ensure that we have an even safer campus for students at this university." …

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Workshop materials added to Pinellas County Schools' website

Perhaps we should file this under "better late than never."

Back up materials for the Pinellas County School Board's work session today were added to the district's website sometime after the meeting started. Most of the items associated with the agenda were missing from the website Wednesday, making it difficult for the public to understand what the School Board planned to discuss Thursday.

The School Board doesn't vote during work sessions.

As The Gradebook noted Wednesday, state law clearly calls for public agencies to put online the agenda and supporting materials prior to meetings and workshops. District officials haven't been doing that lately, even though the materials have been distributed in advance to the School Board.

The School Board is discussing today the coming year's proposed budget, its strategic plan, and a proposal to shift its police officers to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, among other things.

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