Districts fined over class size may get reprieve
Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith has recommended slashing fines for 19 school districts that failed to meet the state's 2002 class size amendment and eliminating them altogether for another nine mostly small, rural districts.
After the statewide October student count, 35 districts and 44 charter schools faced fines, which, at about $3,000 per student, looked to reach $43 million. Several districts and charters appealed. Most of the changes were due to findings of unexpected growth and data errors. The new total would be $31.7 million. The state Board of Education and lawmakers must approve the new calculations.
District invites leaders to meeting
The Hillsborough County school district has invited all 67 of Florida's superintendents and teachers union presidents to a two-day conference this week on some of the tough changes — linking pay to student performance, mentoring new teachers and weeding out ineffective ones with tougher evaluation systems — that lawmakers have vowed to mandate. The meeting Wednesday and Thursday at the Hyatt Regency is being funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which last year awarded the district $100 million to support similar reforms.
Area districts targeted by group
Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando were among 32 school districts recently targeted to receive a complaint letter from Patriots United, a South Florida tea party group raising concerns about pro-Islamic or anti-Jewish-Christian bias in social studies textbooks. (A statewide review of social studies textbooks will start soon.) A Patriots United press release says the group wants each district to "provide a handout to the students listing the faulty excerpts" and require teachers to "provide a explanation as to why these excerpts are unacceptable." They also want state education officials to tell textbook publishers they won't be approved in the future unless "a revised edition is issued correcting these faulty excerpts."
Single-sex charters under scrutiny
School officials are recommending that charters for the district's first single-gender schools — a Franklin Academy campus for boys and one for girls — be denied partly because they are not convinced the applicant understands gender equity laws. State law allows single-gender programs, but charter school officials need to show both genders would receive the same curriculum, standards and opportunities in their respective programs.
Janssen to speak at PTA meeting
Superintendent Julie Janssen will be the speaker Thursday at the January general meeting of the Pinellas County Council PTA/PTSA. The 7 p.m. meeting at Lakewood High School, 1400 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg, is open to the public.