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Florida education news: Teacher pay, Veterans Day and a call to end active shooter drills

A roundup of stories from around the state.
This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter. The video was produced this summer for third- through fifth-grade students ahead of the state-mandated active shooter drills to take place during the 2018-19 school year. On Monday, after parent protests, the district announced it no longer planned to show the videos to elementary school students. [Pinellas County Schools]
This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter. The video was produced this summer for third- through fifth-grade students ahead of the state-mandated active shooter drills to take place during the 2018-19 school year. On Monday, after parent protests, the district announced it no longer planned to show the videos to elementary school students. [Pinellas County Schools]
Published Feb. 12
Updated Feb. 13

TEACHER PAY: Florida school districts have started assessing exactly how the various teacher pay raise plans would affect their staffs, as they aim to inform the Legislature’s initiative. Pasco County leaders, for instance, found that the Senate plan would cover nearly 900 more teachers than the House’s proposal. The Florida Education Association, meanwhile, keeps up the drumbeat that the state already has a large classroom vacancy problem that can’t be solved by pay raises alone.

ATTENDANCE ZONES: Families in northwestern Pasco County get their first look at proposed new school boundary maps that would shift hundreds of students as one campus closes. They have two months to offer input to the district.

STOP THE DRILLS: The nation’s two largest teacher unions call for an end to overly-realistic active shooter drills in schools, saying there’s little proof these make schools safer while they do create trauma for many students, the Washington Post reports. Many states including Florida have mandated such activities after the 2018 Parkland school shooting. The Broward Teachers Union joined the call, asking its local school board to change its approach to such drills, WPLG reports.

SCHOLARSHIP DISCRIMINATION: The two progressive Florida Democrats who have fought to end what they see as discrimination against LGBTQ youth in the state’s tax credit scholarship program plan to take their battle to the House floor, where they want to amend their ideas to the annual education budget, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

VETERANS DAY: The Indian River County school district regularly has canceled classes for Veterans Day, as a way to honor those who have served. But some people have suggested using the day to teach students about the importance of the holiday, rather than having them sit home and play video games, TC Palm reports. The pushback has been swift.

ON LEAVE: The Polk County school district’s chief academic officer remains suspended from his post amid an investigation that he made harassing and threatening comments to the local teacher union president, the Ledger reports.

NIMBY: The Santa Rosa County school district has several new schools planned to help keep up with rising student enrollment. Many neighbors to the proposed sites aren’t too thrilled, WEAR reports.

ENOUGH ALREADY: The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office asks people to stop sharing a school fight video on social media, as a courtesy to the victim, WJXT reports.

SUE YOU: A Miami-Dade County family threatens to sue the school district after their daughter is hurt on campus by other students pulling a prank called “jump challenge,” WPLG reports. The family says the school system should have done more to warn people about the potential dangers of the social media-inspired challenge.

VAPING: Leon County schools aim to curtail rising use of vaping by students, but not with suspensions, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

MERGER PLANS: Florida Polytechnic University leaders say they will fight a proposal to merge the school with the University of Florida, the Ledger reports. Some influential state lawmakers also announce their opposition to the idea, which additionally would merge New College with Florida State, the Herald-Tribune reports. Others say they’re willing to think about it. NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: The Broward County school district’s massive school renovation project could last much longer than expected, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

STUDENT LIFE: The Daytona Beach News-Journal begins a four-part series on what it’s like to be a student in high school these days, from the perspective of teens preparing a school theater production.

HELPING HANDS: The regular presence of adult mentors in classrooms helps students improve at a long-struggling Marion County elementary school, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

COUNTING HEADS: The Leon County school district will promote participation in the upcoming census, so it can get a better handle on who is in the schools, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH: An advisory committee offers nine names to the Flagler County School Board for added consideration to be the district’s next superintendent, Flagler Live reports.

BAD ACTS: A Palm Beach County teacher who was recently arrested on accusations of injuring a student had faced similar allegations before, the Palm Beach Post reports.

TODAY: Florida Board of Education, 9 a.m., Tallahassee (new standards adoption) • House Education, 10 a.m. (HB 883, do not hire list; HB 953, alternate charter authorizer) • House Health and Human Services, 10 a.m. (HB 1083, Student Mental Health Procedures) • Senate Rules, 4 p.m. (SB 290 school bus safety)

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup

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  1. Chicken and vegetable dumplings with soy sauce were offered to students to test during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste-testing, Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at Pinellas Technical College. Twenty-eight new food items were tested and rated.  Some will be added to next year's school menus.
  2. Patrick Suiters, 10, left, and Gabriel Stanford, 9, both fourth-graders at San Jose Elementary School in Dunedin, fill out a survey after tasting falafel tots and nuggets during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste test at Pinellas Technical College. About 120 students tasted and rated 28 new food items that could be added to school breakfast and lunch menus next year.
  3. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
  4. The Pinellas County school system is offering driver education camps to hundreds of students like this one over the summer. The program will be held over two sessions at nine high school campuses across the county.
  5. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020.
  6. Incoming Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis (center), School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) and the other board members pose as Davis signs his contract with the district on Tuesday night. The board unanimously approved the contract beforehand.
  7. Jarvis Delon West was arrested on child neglect charges after he didn't report an employee at AMI Kids who slammed a boy to the ground, according to police.
  8. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  9. Prekindergarten students at James B. Sanderlin IB World School in St. Petersburg, show the peace sign during an assembly in 2012. New state data show children in prekindergarten are better prepared for kindergarten than those who don't attend.
  10. Leon County fifth-grader Ingrid Hanley asks the Senate Education Committee not to adopt legislation that would get tougher on D-rated schools, during a Feb. 17, 2020, session.
  11. Nadia King, 6, is smiles for a photo. The special-needs student was taken from school Feb. 4 and placed in a mental health facility under Florida's Baker Act, and now her mother and a team of attorneys are asking why.
  12. The Voluntary Prekindergarten room is one feature of the new Bardmoor Branch of the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. The location also includes a child-care center and Preschool Academy.
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