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Florida education news: Preschool, civics lessons and teacher contracts

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Goodwill's BookWorks preschool literacy program strives to instill a love of reading and helps provide children books.
Published Sep. 18

EARLY EDUCATION: The state of prekindergarten and other early learning programs in Florida is on tap to get a closer look by lawmakers in the 2020 legislative session, as the House Education committee makes the topic its first order of business in pre-session meetings.

ENROLLMENT DECLINES: Several Hillsborough County elementary schools see drops in student numbers, although campuses in the southeastern part of the district continue to grow.

CAREER EDUCATION: The Pasco County school district continues to search for a career-technical education director as it aims to give higher priority to the programs.

SCHOOL ATTACK: A Polk County family has questions about how their son was brutally attacked in school, and what is being done to protect children. They say they’ve received few answers.

NO JOKE: The state Department of Juvenile Justice launches a campaign to remind students and parents that making threats against schools carries severe consequences, TC Palm reports.

CIVICS: Florida leads the nation in the resurgence of civics education, offering examples of how to make it work but also about the limitations in testing the standards, Education Week reports.

BOARD PAY: Broward and Palm Beach county school board members face a pay cut as their districts belatedly implement state law saying that member salaries may not exceed those of first-year teachers, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

SUPERINTENDENTS: The Volusia Count school district receives 15 completed applications for its superintendent vacancy, including from several local educators, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • Palm Beach County superintendent Donald Fennoy faces his first performance evaluation, the Palm Beach Post reports. • Sarasota County superintendent Todd Bowden receives an overall ‘highly effective’ rating from his board, despite strong negative marks from some members, the Herald-Tribune reports.

TAXES: The Duval County School Board joins forces with the local teachers union to sue the Jacksonville City Council to force a district sales tax referendum, which the council has blocked, the Florida Times-Union reports. A group of Duval parents filed a similar suit the day before.

NEGOTIATIONS: Brevard County teacher representatives walk out of contract talks after the district officials reject most of their pay demands, Florida Today reports.

BUDGETS: The Alachua County School Board approves a spending plan with a tax rate increase, the Gainesville Sun reports.

FUNDING: State Sen. Janet Cruz files legislation to allow school districts that do not employ guardians to use that dedicated revenue source on other security expenses, Florida Politics reports. • State Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. refiles legislation to give senior citizens a break on local school taxes, Florida Politics reports.

OVERSIGHT: An organization that helps people with disabilities find jobs faces continued scrutiny by the state Department of Education, which has demanded changes in the group amid allegations of misuse of funding, the News Service of Florida reports.

LET THE MUSIC PLAY: Citrus High School’s new band director finds ways to nearly double student participation, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

REBUILDING: The Bay County school district breaks ground for a new gym at Jinks Middle School, which became a symbol of the devastation from Hurricane Michael, the Panama City News Herald reports.

CONCURRENCY: A member of the Orange County Charter Review Commission proposes a charter amendment to require new schools if an existing campus is chronically overcrowded, Florida Politics reports.

TODAY: House Higher Education Appropriations, 3 p.m. On the agenda: Budget priorities. • House PreK-12 Innovation, 3 p.m. On the agenda: Health concerns for student athletes.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  1. First-year Cox Elementary School teacher Kevin Knibbs, 33, of Dade City, answers questions about the components of time: hours, minutes, seconds, to his third-grade class on Monday, September 30, 2019, at the school in Date City. From left are students Angel Young, 8, Arlene Luna, 8, and Jahkia Gray, 8. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. First-year Cox Elementary School teacher Kevin Knibbs, 33, of Dade City, walks with students Angel Young, 8, left, and Kaivion Williams, 9, right, while en route to his third-grade class on Sept. 30 at the school in Date City. Knibbs decided to become an educator after working as a school custodian. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Kevin Knibbs never thought about working with students — until he started interacting with them.
  3. Former Pasco County Corrections Officer Wendy Miller, 57 runs towards gunfire with instructor Chris Squitieri during active shooter drills taught by Pasco County Sheriff's Office at Charles S. Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes. These drills are put are a larger training program for the Guardian program that will staff elementary schools with trained armed guards.  LUIS SANTANA   |   Times "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The change is a reversal of a previous move by the department, which specifically excluded armed teachers from its policy.
  4. Bayonet Point Middle School teacher Cynthia Thompson wants to become Pasco County schools superintendent. Courtesy of Cynthia Thompson
    Cynthia Thompson is a graduation enhancement instructor at Bayonet Point Middle School.
  5. Yesterday• Gradebook
    Hillsborough High School Senior Anthony Allen with principal Gary Brady, Principal U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine Sullivan, and schools superintendent Jeff Eakins. MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff
    Hillsborough accepts its share of a federal grant.
  6. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    Steve Hegarty spent 10 years as Hillsborough schools public information officer before taking the police department post.
  7. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins, left, looks on while school board chair Tammy Shamburger speaks on newly raised concerns of a undiscovered cemetery for indigent African Americans that may be within the vicinity of King High School in Tampa, Florida on Friday, October 18, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Joanne Glenn, Pasco eSchool principal, addresses the eSchool faculty on opening day of teacher preplanning week in 2018. Pasco eSchool is launching its first online dual-enrollment courses in conjunction with Pasco-Hernando State College in the second semester.  GAIL DIEDERICH | Special to the Times
    Students will have access to two sections of two courses — microapplications and public speaking.
  9. Challenger K-8 School students, from left, Jeremy Gonzalez, 13, Jackson Hoyt, 12, Benjamin Harper, 12, and Gianni Labdar, 12, finish meals consisting of fresh salads, quesadillas and nachos during a lunch service on Oct. 15 at the school in Spring Hill during the county's Fresh from Florida Plate Day event. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Starting a farm-to-school initiative has been more complicated than district officials expected.
  10. The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for the school's consolidation Thursday morning. Unlike the first plan presented in September, it promises a high level of authority to leaders on campuses in St. Petersburg, shown here, and Sarasota. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
    Legislators who were critical of the original plan say a new approach revealed Thursday is more in line with their expectations.