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Florida education news: Civics lessons, school choice, consolidation and more

A roundup of stories from around the state.
A simplified version of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution hangs prominently in Dawn Brown's classroom at Crews Lake Middle. She said she and her colleagues work daily to make civics something students can relate to, not just treating them as dry words on dusty documents. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times]
Published Feb. 25

CIVICS LESSONS: Several Florida lawmakers follow Gov. Ron DeSantis’ lead in seeking to enhance students’ civic knowledge. The latest bill is a bipartisan effort to have teens not only take a course, but participate in a community project. "The best way students learn is by doing,” House sponsor Ben Diamond explained.

SCHOOL CHOICE: A newly released statewide survey from the pro-school choice Foundation for Excellence in Education shows strong support for school vouchers. Critics have called the report biased. • The Central Florida Urban League cheers Gov. DeSantis’ proposal to eliminate a waiting list for scholarships to low-income students who want to attend private school, Florida Politics reports.

IT’S HOT IN HERE: Hillsborough County schools will not begin to see air conditioning repairs until the summer, after new sales tax revenue starts rolling in.

CONSOLIDATION: University of South Florida Tampa faculty members urge school officials not to create a strong branch campus structure as the university consolidates its three sites.

APPOINTMENTS: Gov. Ron DeSantis withdraws his predecessor’s appointees to several college and university trustee positions, Florida Politics reports. DeSantis previously pulled back appointments to the State Board of Education and other seats requiring Senate confirmation.

PANIC ATTACK: A Putnam County high school holds an unannounced active shooter drill, and some students think it’s the real thing, WJXT reports.

NOW HIRING: The St. Johns County school district seeks a head start in finding new teachers for its classrooms, WJAX reports.

ON THE BUS: A Florida lawmaker proposes cameras for school buses to record drivers who pass illegally, WFLA reports. • The Marion County School Board agrees to a 10-year, $26 million bus replacement plan, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Duval County superintendent says she won’t recommend approval for a new charter school unless it improves its diversity plan, the Florida Times-Union reports.

TURNAROUNDS: Three Manatee County schools improve their academic performance under threat of being taken over by an outside operator if they don’t do better, the Bradenton Herald reports.

STREAM SCHOOLS: A Charlotte County Catholic school adds religion to its STEAM education program, the Charlotte Sun reports.

CENTRAL OFFICE: The Martin County School Board considers buying the former Stuart News offices to create a central district headquarters, TC Palm reports.

DUAL ENROLLMENT: Bethune-Cookman University ends its dual enrollment program for Volusia County teens as a cost-cutting effort, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

SECURITY: The Volusia County school district implements student discipline changes after a week of safety and security problems at a local high school, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

INCENTIVES: A planned international boarding school for Bay County would not cost taxpayers, the Panama City News Herald reports.

$10K SPEAKER: A Palm Beach County high school faces scrutiny after paying $10,000 for a motivational speaker to address teachers, the Palm Beach Post reports.

LABOR NEWS: Brevard County teachers plan their third picket of the School Board over pay and working conditions, Florida Today reports. • The Sarasota County teachers union says a new contract for the district superintendent demonstrates the School Board’s disdain for teachers, the Herald-Tribune reports.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL: University of Central Florida former president Dale Whittaker reaches a pricey settlement for his departure, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

NAME GAME: The residents of a Manatee County community continue to push the School Board for a new name for their new school, the Herald-Tribune reports.

INVESTIGATED: An Okaloosa County school principal faces a reprimand over the way he handled a teacher investigation, though most of the complaints against the principal were deemed unfounded, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  2. Jeff Eakins and MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough's last two superintendents, were hired from inside the school system. So have all others since 1967. Times staff
    Go to the school district website before 8 a.m. Monday to state your case.
  3. Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, urges the Florida Board of Education to hold schools accountable for teaching the Holocaust and African-American history, as required by lawmakers in 1994. The board was considering a rule on the matter at its Sept. 20, 2019, meeting in Jacksonville. The Florida Channel
    School districts will have to report how they are providing the instruction required in Florida law.
  4. The Pasco County school district would rezone the Seven Oaks subdivision from the Wiregrass Ranch High feeder pattern to the Cypress Creek High feeder pattern, beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Pasco County school district
    The Seven Oaks subdivision is the primary target for rezoning.
  5. Fortify Florida is a new app that allows for anonymous reporting of suspected school threats. Florida Department of Education
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  7. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  8. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    School security and early learning get top billing in the first committee meetings of the looming 2020 session.
  9. This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The proposal is short on details, with officials saying they want to work through specifics during negotiations.
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