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Florida education news: Standards, mergers and life after that school threat arrest

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Florida lawmakers are considering changes to the state grant that helps students who attend private colleges and universities such as Eckerd College, whose 2005 commencement is shown here.
Florida lawmakers are considering changes to the state grant that helps students who attend private colleges and universities such as Eckerd College, whose 2005 commencement is shown here.
Published Feb. 13

SIMPLY THE ‘BEST’: Florida education department leaders said they’d create the nation’s best K-12 academic standards to replace the ones they contended were too closely tied to the Common Core. The Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST) won unanimous approval from the State Board of Education, amid praise for the changes and the process to get there. Still, questions of whether the state truly eradicated the CCSS lingered. More from Florida Phoenix, Orlando Sentinel.

COLLEGE MERGER: Despite fervent opposition and heavy criticism, a bill to merge two of Florida’s smallest universities into two of the largest advanced out of its first Florida House committee. Desired changes to the state’s scholarship program appeared to do the trick for otherwise opposed lawmakers — at least for now. More from GateHouse.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: The Florida Board of Education approves requested turnaround plan amendments for four Tampa Bay area schools. The move gives Lakewood Elementary in Pinellas and Foster and Oak Park elementaries in Hillsborough an extra year under their current initiatives to show improvement. For Pasco’s Hudson Elementary, it means closure at the end of the spring.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? The Pasco County School Board gets dozens of recommendations for the name of its next new high school. The one with the most submitted support is for a former high school student who died of a rare disease in 2014.

SUICIDE WATCH: The Hernando County school district unveils new methods to help students who have suicidal thoughts.

FLEX TIME: Osceola County school district leaders are asking students what they think about a proposal that would allow them to begin classes as late as 3 p.m., WFTV reports.

RED INK: Citrus County school district budget planners worry that the Legislature’s proposed education spending plan includes small changes to retirement benefits that could lead to big shortfalls, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

SOLAR SCHOOLS: The Manatee County School Board offers its support for a bill that would make it easier to install and use solar energy in new school construction, the Herald-Tribune reports.

AFTER THE THREAT: Some southwest Florida parents say their children have worse behavior problems as a result of their punishment for making school threats, which is now considered a felony, WINK reports.

SCHOLARSHIP BATTLE: Two Democrats in the Florida House back off their plans to amend the education budget with language banning discrimination in the state’s tax credit scholarship program, saying a negotiated settlement might be in the works, Florida Politics reports.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: A retiring Manatee County school principal files papers to run for School Board. The controversial incumbent has not yet announced whether he will seek reelection, the Bradenton Herald reports.

WHO’S IN CHARGE? The Clay County School Board takes steps to appoint an interim superintendent after Addison Davis officially resigns, Clay Today reports. Board members make clear they understand the governor has the authority to name the district chief executive, which remains an elected post. But they want to be sure someone is running the show until the governor acts. Gov. Ron DeSantis says he anticipates naming a successor by the end of February, WJXT reports.

GETTING THERE: The Martin County school district will consider eliminating courtesy bus routes for students who live closer than 2 miles from school, TC Palm reports.

SCHOOL DAYS: The Miami-Dade School Board approves a new 2020-21 student calendar with a later start date than initially proposed, the Miami Herald reports. The district would begin classes two weeks later than most others in the state.

TAX TIME? The Lee County School Board ponders asking voters to approve a property tax rate increase to help pay teacher raises, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

TODAY: Senate Education Appropriations, 10 a.m. • House floor, 1:30 p.m. (On third reading: HB 5001 Appropriations, HB 5003 Appropriations implementing, HB 5101 Education Appropriations) • Senate floor, 2 p.m. (On third reading: SB 2500 Appropriations, SB 2502 Appropriations implementing)

ICYMI: Yesterday’s Florida education news roundup


  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.