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Florida education news: School closing, preschool mold woes and Ron DeSantis’ latest on education

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Twins Olivia Simmons, left, and Sophia Simmons, 5, collect apple juice on Monday, August 12, 2019, before the start of classes during Pasco County's first day of school at Hudson Elementary School in Hudson. The school will close at the end of the year. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ["DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Twins Olivia Simmons, left, and Sophia Simmons, 5, collect apple juice on Monday, August 12, 2019, before the start of classes during Pasco County's first day of school at Hudson Elementary School in Hudson. The school will close at the end of the year. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ["DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TIMES" | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jan. 15

GOING, GOING, GONE: Pasco County’s Hudson Elementary School has struggled for more than a decade to yield positive student outcomes. It’s had several principals, multiple teacher turnovers, various instructional approaches. Little moved the needle for very long. Facing another state-mandated change, the School Board decided to close the school altogether and merge it with another, where it will offer an entirely different approach including added social and community services. The change begins in the fall. • The board wanted to avoid facing a situation like this one from Marion County, where school district officials learned that if Evergreen Elementary does not attain a C grade this year, the state will require it to drop its outside operator and contract with a proven charter school company instead, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

STILL CLOSED: Inspectors discovered mold problems in 11 Pinellas County Head Start centers over winter break. Six of them remain shuttered while eradication efforts continue. Parents have needed to find alternative childcare in the meantime.

STATE OF THE STATE: In a 30 minute speech to open the legislative session, Gov. Ron DeSantis offers plenty of thoughts about education in Florida and his proposals to improve it. More from Florida Politics.

SCHOOL LEADERSHIP: Three Hillsborough County schools get new principals.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: The Hillsborough County School Board continues to receive correspondence lobbying on behalf of (or against) certain superintendent applicants.

SCHOOL CHOICE: Pasco County families will have 10 days to apply for elementary school choice offerings for 2020-21.

TIME TO TAX: Okaloosa County School Board members agree to ask voters to approve a local sales tax rate increase to support school construction and capital needs, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

STUDENT ASSIGNMENT: The Lee County School Board approves $280,000 to hire an outside company that will redraw elementary school attendance zones so more students can attend closer to home, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

READING LESSONS: The Manatee County school district announces its ‘Big Plan’ to improve reading proficiency at 10 elementary schools serving mostly low-income communities, the Bradenton Herald reports. Two schools will pilot the initiative, and if it works, it will expand to eight others.

NEW DIGS: The Washington County School Board unveils its new, larger meeting chambers, the Washington County News reports.

‘TOP OF THE WORLD’: A Gainesville High School senior overcomes dyslexia to earn a ‘Top of the World’ score on the Cambridge AICE English language exam, WCJB reports.

SUPER SUB: Duval County schools superintendent Diana Greene took over a classroom as teachers headed to Tallahassee to rally for better pay and working conditions, the Florida Times-Union reports. • Why did teachers feel compelled to take to the streets? Several offered their rationale to Florida Today.

WANT TO BE A SUBSTITUTE TEACHER? It’s now easier to do so in Manatee County, where the School Board lowered its criteria as schools struggle to fill their classrooms, the Herald-Tribune reports.

DESEGREGATION: The Indian River County school district develops a plan that could end its 53-year-old federal desegregation order within three years, TC Palm reports. Key among the requirements: more African-American teachers and staff, and a reduction in the student achievement gap.

DEVELOPMENT PLANS: The Miami-Dade County school district looks into downsizing its downtown headquarters to help finance new schools and affordable housing for teachers and the elderly, the Miami Herald reports. Officials have been debating such ideas since 2017.

AUDIT REPORT: An annual audit turns up billing errors that cost Lee County’s Fort Myers Technical Center $76,000, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

FIGHTING BACK: The Bay County school district finds success in court defending itself against ‘baseless’ lawsuits, the Panama City News Herald reports. It has netted about $267,000 in judgments to cover attorney fees.

GUNS ON CAMPUS: A Putnam County 12-year-old faces two felony charges after bringing a loaded gun to school, WJXT reports.

ON LEAVE: The Manatee County School Board places its attorney on paid administrative leave amid allegations he made inappropriate sexual comments, the Herald-Tribune reports.

TODAY: House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations, 9:30 a.m. (HB 37, school bus safety) • House Health Quality, 9:30 a.m. (HB 485, athletic trainers) • House Higher Education Appropriations, 3:30 p.m. • House PreK-12 Innovation, 3:30 p.m. (HB 953, charter schools) • Revenue Estimating Conference: General Revenue Forecast; Outlooks for General Revenue and Educational Enhancement and Tobacco Settlement Trust Funds, 9 a.m.

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  1. State Rep. Wyman Duggan, a Jacksonville Republican, presents his bill to create a "do not hire" list for any school employee who has been terminated, or resigned in lieu of termination, from employment as a result of sexual misconduct with a student. [The Florida Channel]
    The measure would apply to district, charter and private schools.
  2. Students grieve at Pine Trails Park, near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., one month to the day since 17 students and staff were shot dead there, March 14, 2018. [SAUL MARTINEZ  |  New York Times]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Addison Davis, the superintendent of Clay County District Schools, was chosen Tuesday as the new Hillsborough County school superintendent. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The School Board’s vote is unanimous for Davis, who calls himself “an accelerator.”
  4. In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File) [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
    But this year’s bill may provoke fewer fireworks than the bitter debates seen in the past two sessions.
  5. Rep. Anthony Sabatini presents his bill to create school board term limits to the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Jan. 21, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    The idea would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber before it could appear on the ballot.
  6. Left to Right: Ryan Petty and Andrew Pollack talk about the death of their daughters during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland before a meeting in the Capitol in Tallahassee. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times] [Scott Keeler]
    Ryan Petty replaces Andrew Pollack, both Parkland parents. Pollack recently moved to Oregon.
  7. Pat Hall of the League of Women Voters speaks with Addison Davis, a finalist for Hillsborough Schools Superintendent, on Jan. 16 at Rampello K-8 School in Tampa. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff]
    In a last-minute push, members of the League of Women Voters want the School Board to explore Addison Davis’ possible ties to Charter Schools USA.
  8. Michael Maine is the Hernando County School District senior recruiter. [Hernando County School District]
    The district has on average 39 teacher openings.
  9. Carrie Wilson, a counselor at Challenger K-8 school, was named the 2020 teacher of the year for the Hernando County School District. [Hernando County School District]
  10. Children participate in a sorting exercise during activities in a pre-K  class in Tampa.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.