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Public deserves more information about public schools, board members say

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Judge Perry A. Little swears in new Hillsborough County School Board member Nadia Combs in November. Combs has joined fellow new board member Jessica Vaughn in pushing for more transparency in district actions.
Judge Perry A. Little swears in new Hillsborough County School Board member Nadia Combs in November. Combs has joined fellow new board member Jessica Vaughn in pushing for more transparency in district actions. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Feb. 26
Updated Feb. 26

Florida’s open meeting rules require school board members to hold their conversations about the public’s business in the sunshine, to avoid setting policies and rules without proper oversight and input. That rule often grates on the elected officials, who might want to talk with their colleagues between meetings but face restrictions on doing so. Two newly elected Hillsborough County board members, already frustrated with the process, decided to seek a work-around so they could air their thoughts and talk about a game plan. It happened Thursday. Read on for the story on how that went, and for more Florida education news.

The two board members held a “member to member” meeting, not to be confused with a board business session. They called on district administrators to provide more information to the board and residents about critical issues. • Board chairwoman Lynn Gray said the unusual move wasn’t necessary.

Coronavirus concerns

Graduation day is almost here. The Pasco County school district released its plan for in-person ceremonies. • South Florida schools are exploring their options, the Miami Herald reports. • The University of Florida and Florida State University are preparing in-person spring graduations, the News Service of Florida reports.

How are K-12 students learning during the pandemic? The Marion County school district will participate in a national study of the issue, WCJB reports.

Access to the internet is a key to success. The Palm Beach County school district has partnered with other local governments to extend WiFi capabilities to underserved communities, WPTV reports.

Still struggling? Monroe County schools plan to offer a “fifth quarter” over the summer, the Florida Keys Weekly reports. • A Clay County school has offered voluntary weekend classes to help students catch up, Clay Today reports.

Some universities have found greater success than others reaching students. The Florida Board of Governors is studying practices used to determine the best approach for future crises, WUFT reports.

Leon County schools will stop offering live remote classes in the fall. “I think it would be very unfair to our teachers to ask for a second year of doing that,” superintendent Rocky Hanna told the Tallahassee Democrat.

Some teachers are getting on the vaccine priority list. School bus drivers want in, too, WJXT reports.

Testing, testing

Spring testing questions continue. Some north Florida parents worry about the consequences of having their children sit for the exams when they’re probably not ready, the Pensacola News Journal reports. • Florida isn’t the only state grappling with annual assessment logistics and questions, Education Next reports.

Just more than half of 5-year-olds enter kindergarten ready. The Florida Chamber of Commerce says that’s not good enough, and calls for greater investment in early education programs, Florida Politics reports.

We’re No. 2. Florida ranked behind only Connecticut for 2020 in percentage of students earning 3 or higher on Advanced Placement exams, WTXL reports.

In other school news

‘We’re not done.’ Black students in Duval County have amped up the pressure to expand Black history lessons in their schools, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Baker Act commitments among youth have increased in central Florida. Some experts said the rise might be attributed to more children returning to in-person classes during the pandemic, the Ledger reports.

The Schools of Hope charter school effort is expanding into more counties. Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed cutting the program budget by $50 million, saying it has enough reserves, Politico Florida reports.

Coping with growth. The Orange County school district prepared to buy land in the fast-growing Lake Nona area, to build a new high school campus, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The Manatee County Commission needs a new county administrator. School Board member Scott Hopes wants the job, the Herald-Tribune reports.

She’s fired. A Miami-Dade County private school teacher was terminated amid allegations she sent nude photos of herself to former students, WSVN reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s the link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Did you know the Black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written by two Floridians, and first performed in 1900 by a choir of Jacksonville schoolchildren to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s birthday? Here’s a recent version by Alicia Keys.