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Florida education news: Superintendent searches, testing vendors and the end of winter break

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Ryan Ray of the Hillsborough County School District's superintendent search firm scores a mock matrix of ice cream flavors to prepare School Board members for January, when they will chose among superintendent candidates.
Ryan Ray of the Hillsborough County School District's superintendent search firm scores a mock matrix of ice cream flavors to prepare School Board members for January, when they will chose among superintendent candidates. [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times staff ]
Published Jan. 7, 2020

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCHES: Fifty-one hopefuls applied to lead the Hillsborough County school district — Florida’s third largest system and the seventh biggest in the nation. Now comes the time to whittle down the list. The School Board expects to narrow the field to a handful of semifinalists today, with a goal of naming the next superintendent in two weeks. • Escambia County voters decided to stop electing their superintendent, and now their School Board is preparing to choose its first-ever appointed leader, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. • Most Florida school districts still elect their superintendents, though. And in many, it’s time for another campaign. In Santa Rosa County, a third candidate has filed to seek the post in 2020, the Navarre Press reports. • Leon County superintendent Rocky Hanna has announced his reelection bid, WXTL reports.

TESTING: Six years ago, American Institutes for Research was the surprise pick to create and administer Florida’s annual testing program in language arts and math. Now AIR has taken over social studies and science assessments, too, after having survived a rocky start.

SICK SCHOOLS: About 800 Pinellas County preschool students will have an extra week without classes. Their Head Start sites have to clean up mold discovered during checks made over the holiday break.

TEACHER PAY: Florida Legislature watchers expect the press to improve teacher pay to dominate education debate in the 2020 session that begins Jan. 14, TC Palm reports. Florida teachers plan to make their voices heard during the process, starting with a Jan. 13 rally that thousands intend to attend, Capitol News Service reports. That same day, the Senate Education Committee will take up legislation to advance Gov. Ron DeSantis’ minimum teacher pay plan, the News Service of Florida reports.

CURBING THE BAKER ACT: The number of children detained under Florida’s Baker Act has increased over recent years, despite the original intent of the 1970s-era law. Some lawmakers want to take a step back. Rep. Jennifer Webb has filed legislation to change the requirements for the system, Florida Politics reports.

LEARNING ENGLISH: The percentage of Latino students in the nation’s public schools grew to 26 percent over 15 years, with a resulting rise in English language learners. The way to best instruct those children remains the subject of dispute, USA Today reports.

ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT: New Volusia County superintendent Scott Fritz sets closing his district’s achievement gap as his priority for 2020, and puts forth a detailed plan he says will better benefit students, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Winter break ends mid-week for Brevard County students, who return to classes on a Wednesday. Some parents don’t like the setup, Florida Today reports.

MENTAL HEALTH: The Bay County school district prepares to hire 33 additional social workers after receiving $2 million in grant funding. The goal is to place one in each school, WMBB reports.

SUE YOU: Two married former Sarasota County school administrators file suit against the district, alleging they were fired as retaliation after speaking out about an employee they viewed as potentially dangerous, the Herald-Tribune reports.

PRINCIPAL REMOVED: A Volusia County elementary school principal loses his post amid allegations that he treated his staff poorly, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. Principal Shantell Adkins initially received a letter of warning, but the district’s new superintendent had other ideas.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup