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Florida education news: Teacher scores, superintendent search and Holocaust lessons

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Florida's VAM formula confuses many teachers, who call it an unfair and invalid measure of their performance. [Florida Department of Education]
Published Sep. 23

TEACHER VAM SCORES: Florida lawmakers told school districts they didn’t need to use the state’s value-added measure, or VAM, in their teacher evaluations any more. But the state still uses the rating to force teachers with less than effective results out of turnaround schools. At least one expert says the teachers have a legitimate legal challenge against the model.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The firm helping the Hillsborough County School Board identify candidates for the district’s next superintendent has conducted town halls and surveys to gather public input. The feedback so far has been meager.

REQUIRED INSTRUCTION: The Florida Board of Education adopts a new rule telling school districts to report how they provide the many lessons mandated in state law. The rule stems from concerns that a Palm Beach County high school wasn’t offering Holocaust history courses.

SCHOOL BOUNDARIES: Hundreds of Pasco County students could be reassigned to different schools, as the district prepares to redraw attendance zones in advance of a middle school getting several new buildings.

MED SCHOOL: Tampa Bay philanthropists Kiran and Pallavi Patel donate more than $200 million to fuel the opening of a Nova Southeastern University medical school branch in Pinellas County.

LOST FUNDING: The Santa Rosa County school district has to give back $700,000 in state funds after audits determine it did not provide long enough school days in 2017-18, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

APPLICATION WOES: Some Orange County high school seniors applying to college find problems with their transcripts, the result of their district’s change to a new software system, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

DUELING RALLIES: Advocates for school choice and for public schools state their cases outside the Florida Board of Education’s September meeting in Jacksonville, the Florida Times-Union reports.

HACKED: The Wakulla County school district works with its insurance provider to pay hackers a ransom to restore access to its computers systems, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

JOB PROTECTIONS: The Sarasota County superintendent proposes changes to teacher contracts that would make it easier to non-renew a teacher’s position, the Herald-Tribune reports.

CLIMATE CHANGE: South Florida students rally to demand elected officials respond to the challenges currently facing the climate, the Miami Herald reports. • School officials say a Broward County student suspended from school for passing out rally flyers was not banned from his prom, the Miami Herald reports.

MUSIC LESSONS: Several Broward County schools serving the most needy students won’t benefit from the district’s program to give musical instruments to all schools, because they don’t have music programs, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

NUMBERS GAME: Parents and teachers complain that their Polk County school will lose three teachers and an assistant principal after the school misses its enrollment target by 36 students, the Ledger reports.

LEADERSHIP: A respected Miami-Dade County private school installs its first female head of school, the Miami Herald reports.

REPORT CARDS: The Leon County school district begins a transition to online report cards, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

GRADE CHANGING: The principal and assistant principal of a Santa Rosa County high school could lose their jobs amid allegations they changed grades of the assistant’s daughter to boost her class rank, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

ANIMAL RESCUE: A Brevard County teacher’s program where students help socialize abandoned animals for possible adoption faces financial struggles and might have to end, Florida Today reports. CAREER EDUCATION: The Palm Beach School for Autism expands its hospitality and culinary arts programs, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

THREATS: The Lee County Sheriff’s Office teaches parents how they can help respond to, and prevent, active shooting threats, the Naples Daily News reports.

SCHOOL DAYS: The Palm Beach County school district considers giving students a day off for election day, the Sun-Sentinel reports.


  1. A Florida black bear (not this one) was found at a Marion County school and removed. CARLTON WARD JR  |  Carlton Ward Jr
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Adjunct faculty at St. Petersburg College voted to unionize Tuesday, joining thousands of other adjuncts across Florida who are fighting for better working conditions and pay. [Times]
    The employees are the seventh group in Florida to join Service Employees International Union in recent yeas as it pushes for investment in the state’s higher education institutions.
  3. The University of South Florida ranked ahead of UCF, FIU and FAU in the U.S. News & World Report's Global University Rankings. [USF handout]
    The University of Florida finished 105th, while USF came in at 310. Harvard led the world.
  4. Workers begin construction in 2010 on what would become Winding Waters K-8. That was the last new public school built in Hernando County, which faces capacity strains as officials ask for impact fee increases to keep up with growth. HERNANDO TODAY PHOTO BY HAYLEY M  |  Hernando Today
    The district first would add classrooms at three existing schools, but could need four new schools by 2039.
  5. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session. The caucus held a news conference on Oct. 22, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The caucus announced its 2020 goals for justice, housing and other key issues, as well, with members saying they will stick together to pursue them.
  6. Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    PreK-12 Innovation chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo expects legislation requiring some ‘simple things.’
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.