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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco County school district puts two charter schools on notice

The Pasco County School Board has told warned two charter schools to improve.

Times (2017)

The Pasco County School Board has told warned two charter schools to improve.

The Pasco County school district this week notified two troubled charter schools that they have just weeks to work out problems district officials have identified.

One of those schools, Florida Virtual Academy of Pasco, could face closure if it cannot comply.

Florida Virtual Academy (which is not associated with Florida Virtual School) faces a nine-page laundry list of contract violations from the district. Those include poor academic performance, lacking accreditation, late or missing financial reports, and a a constantly fluctuating governing board.

Superintendent Kurt Browning gave the school until Nov. 16 to correct the deficiencies. Failure to do so can lead to the termination or non-renewal of the charter contract, Browning wrote.

Read the district's letter to Florida Virtual Academy for more details.

Pasco MYcroSchool faces a different situation. Its leaders planned to open with 250 students, but had fewer than a dozen on the first day of classes. By Oct. 2, the school's enrollment was up to 37.

The district paid MYcroSchool state funds for two months before students arrived, though, based on the 250-student projection. …

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Canterbury board 'works to regain trust' as head of school to depart

Canterbury School of Florida's graduating class of 2010 walks towards St. Peter's Episcopal Church before their ceremony in downtown St. Petersburg. Their head of school, Mac Hall, will not return to the school next year.

Times files

Canterbury School of Florida's graduating class of 2010 walks towards St. Peter's Episcopal Church before their ceremony in downtown St. Petersburg. Their head of school, Mac Hall, will not return to the school next year.

Mac Hall, the head of school for Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg, will leave his role of 13 years at the end of the school year.

Canterbury spokeswoman Heather Lambie confirmed in an email Thursday that Hall's contract will expire at the end of the school year and will not be renewed.

"It has been decided that we are going to have a change in the Head of School at that time," she wrote.

"Change like this is never easy, particularly when everyone is so fond of the Head of School, as we are of Mac," Lambie added. "While it's common that not everyone will agree with a big decision like this, the Board is doing its job and working to move the school forward based on long-term strategic plans."

The announcement comes days after Canterbury sent "A Message from the Board of Trustees" in an email Tuesday to families and alumni. The email obtained by the Times does not specifically mention the decision not to renew Hall, but alludes to a contentious town hall meeting held Monday night. …

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Florida lawmaker renews push for alternative paths to high school graduation

Times (2014)

Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Citrus County Republican, has filed legislation for the second straight year aiming to ease the path to a high school diploma for Florida students who aren't necessarily headed to college.

With HB 311, Massullo again aims to establish "alternative pathways" to a standard diploma for the teens who have completed their course credits but fell short on the state's mandated tests for Algebra I and 10th grade language arts.

The legislation, which is expected to be filed in the Senate by Sen. Bill Montford, would allow students to satisfy their graduation requirements by earning an industry-recognized certification that includes passing of related assessments, or demonstrating their mastery of the materials with a portfolio of school work.

Massullo removed sections from his similar bill of 2017 that would have let students replace their state test results with concordant SAT or ACT scores. The Florida Department of Education recently hired a firm to analyze whether those tests are properly aligned with the state's academic standards. …

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Florida education news: Free speech, Schools of Hope, student voices and more

Troopers prepare for Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency for Alachua County ahead of the event.

Will Vragovic | Times

Troopers prepare for Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency for Alachua County ahead of the event.

FREE SPEECH: The University of Florida reluctantly hosts white nationalist activist Richard Spencer for a rally officials are encouraging students to ignore. Campus president Kent Fuchs, who tried to prevent the activity from taking place, talks about his views of free speech, student safety and other concerns. Some background, and a live blog if you want to follow the day's goings-on.

SCHOOLS OF HOPE: Eleven Florida schools with persistently low test scores receive grants through the state's new "Schools of Hope" system. More from the Florida Times-Union, Palm Beach Post.

STUDENT VOICES: Select Pasco County high school students attend the district's new Student Congress to explore issues such as why teens drop out of school. "I think it's a different way to communicate to the students, instead of just the employees of the school district making the decisions," Hudson High junior Kaitlyn Wilke said.

SUPERINTENDENTS: Pinellas County superintendent Mike Grego gets another rave review from his board members. • Sarasota County superintendent Todd Bowden speaks with business leaders about school grades and a planned tax referendum, the Herald-Tribune reports. …

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Eleven Florida turnaround schools awarded 'Schools of Hope' grants

Florida Board of Education chairwoman Marva Johnson said she would like to see more Schools of Hope grants awarded to struggling district schools such as Robles Elementary in Tampa.

The Florida Channel

Florida Board of Education chairwoman Marva Johnson said she would like to see more Schools of Hope grants awarded to struggling district schools such as Robles Elementary in Tampa.

Eleven schools from four Florida counties will receive state "Schools of Hope" grants of up to $2,000 per student to help them implement improvement plans.

State lawmakers set aside about $52 million to support as many as 25 district schools required to turn around their low performance on state tests. The Legislature added the money to HB 7069 to offset criticism that the measure would set aside millions to establish charter schools to compete with those same struggling district schools.

Several school boards sued the Legislature this week over HB 7069, and at least one superintendent wondered whether the Hope awards would be affected by the lawsuit.

Education commissioner Pam Stewart told the Florida Board of Education that her recommendations were based solely on the 58 applications received and how well they met the criteria. Those included the provision of wraparound services, high academic and character standards, parental involvement, faculty recruitment and rewards, and professional development.  …

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Florida Board of Education continues to set computer science as a priority

Times (2011)

Citing the need to fill thousands of computer science-related jobs throughout the state, the Florida Board of Education on Wednesday reiterated its stance that the state needs to expand computer science and coding education offerings in the state's middle and high schools.

Board members noted their top legislative priority remains to get a coding bill through the Legislature that also increases teacher training for computer science/coding, including bonuses for teachers who get or already hold certification in the field. It further aims to support added resources to bring such courses to high-needs districts.

The board is seeking $15 million for the effort.

But board members have suggested that their own proposal does not go far enough.

"We need to be more aggressive," said board member Gary Chartrand, who called for every high school to offer computer coding courses by 2020. "There's no reason why we can't get there."

Chairwoman Marva Johnson, meanwhile, questioned the amount being requested. "I'm not sure if it's enough," she said. …

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Once again, Pinellas superintendent earns high marks from School Board members

Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego has once again earned high marks from School Board members on his annual evaluation.

Times files

Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego has once again earned high marks from School Board members on his annual evaluation.

Pinellas County School Board members once again gave school superintendent Mike Grego high marks on his annual evaluation, which was made public Tuesday. 

Every year, board members evaluate Grego on his performance on seven goals outlined in the district strategic plan. Board members also rate him on impact/rapport, integrity and work standards. They can also write-in comments.

Grego's best rating was a 4.86 for goal 7, which calls for providing quality technology and business services. His lowest was a three- way tie of 4.43 for Goals 1, 4 and 5, which were evaluated as a group, and goals 2 and 3. 

Veteran board members Peggy O'Shea, Carol Cook and Linda Lerner gave Grego scores of 5, or "outstanding," across every category. O'Shea has given Grego the same stellar ratings for three years in a row, Lerner for two.  …

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Let sixth graders play sports, Pasco County School Board member says

Paul R. Smith Middle School football team

Pasco County schools

Paul R. Smith Middle School football team

Pasco County middle schools offer students the chance to play competitive football, soccer, basketball, volleyball and track.

Just not sixth graders.

Unlike other area county districts, Pasco limits its middle school athletics to older students (though sixth graders are welcome to serve as team managers). School Board member Steve Luikart wants to consider changing that practice.

"We don't have any policies or procedures that are against it. We just haven't done it," Luikart told his board colleagues Tuesday evening. "It is something that I think is worthy of looking at, and getting sixth graders more involved at the middle schools they are in."

Luikart said he could not think of any negatives attached to the idea, although in the past some officials have raised concerns that the sixth graders — who often are smaller than the older students — could get hurt.

Board chairman Allen Altman said the district has considered the idea twice already during his three terms, without changes. He said he was willing to listen to the pros and cons again.

"I think it's worth looking into," board member Alison Crumbley added. …

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Florida education news: Start times, scholarships, school choice and more

Times file

START TIMES: Hillsborough County schools get new bell schedules for 2018-19, with high schools starting an hour later than in the past. Officials said the move is necessary to save money and ensure that all children arrive at school on time. The current schedule has not given bus drivers enough time to complete all their routes.

TRANSFORMATION: Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning prepares to move ahead with plans to turn Ridgewood High School into a vocational-technical magnet.  

STUDENT VOICES: A Springstead High senior is selected to represent students on the Hernando County School Board.

SCHOOL SAFETY: Two Pasco County students are arrested on separate charges involving weapons at school.

CONSTITUTION REVISION: The Florida Constitution Revision Commission advances only six of more than 2,000 public proposals after months of encouraging participation, the Times-Herald Tallahassee Bureau reports. More from the News Service of Florida. …

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Pinellas makes last-ditch plea to legislators to fix HB7069

Pinellas County school district officials on Monday sent another letter asking local legislators to review their proposed changes to the controversial education bill known as House Bill 7069. Pinellas was one of 13 school districts to officially sue the Florida Department of Education on Tuesday over the controversial bill.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Pinellas County school district officials on Monday sent another letter asking local legislators to review their proposed changes to the controversial education bill known as House Bill 7069. Pinellas was one of 13 school districts to officially sue the Florida Department of Education on Tuesday over the controversial bill.

The same day 13 Florida school boards officially filed a lawsuit against the state, Pinellas, as one of the suit's plaintiffs, made a last-ditch effort to local legislators to right what they believe are the wrongs in House Bill 7069.

Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego emailed a letter Monday to the Pinellas legislative delegation asking them to consider the reasons behind their objections to the controversial education bill. He attached documents with alternative solutions to 7069 and a copy of how the statutes should be rewritten. 

"We hope the proposed solutions can guide conversations and the current committee work of our state legislature," Grego wrote, adding that he welcomes "discussion of these solutions and coordination of a joint effort to advance these changes."

The letters were sent via email to Reps. Ben Diamond, Chris Latvala, Chris Sprowls, James Grant, Kathleen Peters, Larry Ahern, Wengay Newton and Sens. Darryl Rouson, Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala.  …

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Pinellas, Hillsborough to join forces

Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins (center) and Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego discuss a new partnership between the two districts at a Pinellas County School Board workshop Tuesday in Largo.

COLLEEN WRIGHT | Times

Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins (center) and Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego discuss a new partnership between the two districts at a Pinellas County School Board workshop Tuesday in Largo.

What is this, a crossover episode?

Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins did make an appearance at the Pinellas County School Board workshop Tuesday in a first public move to establish an official partnerships between the two districts.

Together, the districts will share ideas and practices on three areas: early childhood, college and career connections and high school graduation rates. They'll discuss how to deepen professional relations and create support systems among administrators.

"The business community deserves that we work and sit together for the betterment of the region," said Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego.

Personnel from both districts will attend meetings, which will be sponsored by the United Way Suncoast and facilitated by Melissa Erickson, the executive director of the Alliance for Public Schools. The directors of high school education, career and technical education and early learning from both districts have already had meetings. …

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Florida Department of Education explores testing questions

Times file

Following a legislative mandate, the Florida Department of Education has hired an independent contractor to determine whether the SAT or ACT tests could replace the state 10th-grade language arts Florida Standards Assessment and Algebra I end-of-course exam.

Lawmakers included the requirement in HB 7069, after two years hearing some educators advocate using the national assessments that many students already take to get into college.

The department announced it has contracted with California-based Assessment Solutions Group for the evaluation. ASG in turn has subcontracted with the Wisconsin Center for Education Products & Services, associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison; the The Center for Assessment and Accountability Research and Design, associated with the University of Kansas; and the National Center for Education Outcomes, associated with the University of Minnesota.

The work is expected to be done in time for commissioner Pam Stewart to make a recommendation by a Jan. 1 deadline. Stewart has consistently indicated that she would be open to substituting the state tests with national ones as long as the national tests meet state academic standards. …

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Florida school districts file formal challenge to constitutionality of HB 7069

Gov. Rick Scott held a signing ceremony for HB 7069 in June at an Orlando private school. Several school districts are now challenging the law in court.

The Florida Channel

Gov. Rick Scott held a signing ceremony for HB 7069 in June at an Orlando private school. Several school districts are now challenging the law in court.

Just to get it on the record here, thirteen Florida school boards including Pinellas County filed suit Monday in Leon County court, challenging the constitutionality of several provisions within the law created by HB 7069.

The lawsuit comes as no surprise. 

Speculation ran rampant that such a legal battle would emerge from almost the moment after the Legislature voted in the measure. Gov. Rick Scott's signature of the bill into law fueled the debate.

Broward County was the first to jump in, back in early July. Several others followed suit, while just as notably some school boards voted not to participate, calling the effort futile.

The complaint focuses on a couple of key sections of the state constitution — Article VII (Finance and Taxation) Sections 1 and 9, and Article IX (Education) sections 1 and 4. …

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Florida education news: Constitution changes, #HB7069, school security and more

Miami Herald (2017)

NEW RULES: Once every 20 years, Florida convenes a commission to examine whether the state constitution needs amending. Education — Article IX — can play a pivotal role, and this time around the subject appears to be coming into focus for possible change. Members of the public already have submitted their proposals, and the commission has begun discussing where it wants to go next. Voters will get the final say, with approval harder to come by than before.

STUDENT DISCIPLINE: Hillsborough County schools see a dramatic decrease in expulsions.

HB 7069: Thirteen Florida school districts file suit to challenge the constitutionality of HB 7069, which creates a new category of charter schools and forces districts to share their tax revenue with charters, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The Palm Beach County School Board already had filed a complaint separately. More from WLRN.

SECURITY: Gov. Rick Scott calls for an additional $1 million to help protect Florida's private Jewish schools, the Palm Beach Post reports.

LABOR NEWS: The Brevard County school district presents its "best and final" pay proposal during negotiations, Space Coast Daily reports. …

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Expulsion cases are down, but not as much in New Tampa

Freedom High School led Hillsborough County this year in expulsion and change of placement cases, with 23.

TIMES FILES

Freedom High School led Hillsborough County this year in expulsion and change of placement cases, with 23.

Expulsion and change of placement cases dropped dramatically in Hillsborough County this past year, to a total of 244.

That's down from 508 in 2015-16 and 500 for 2014-15. And it is s steep drop from a decade ago, when the district removed as many as 1,000 students, mostly from its middle and high schools.

A detailed report from the school district shows that African American students account for more than half the cases (124) even though they make up 21 percent of the student population. The proportions are fairly consistent with past years even though the total numbers have fallen across the board.

A big change, under new district policies on discipline, is in the rate of expulsion cases in middle schools. A decade ago, in 2007, the numbers were McLane: 51, Eisenhower: 35, and Madison: 30. This year they are McLane: 3, Eisenhower: 5, and Madison: 5. For the last two years, district leaders have emphasized counseling, mentoring and social-emotional learning programs to address behavioral issues before they escalate. Expulsion cases are limited to specific offenses such as sexual battery, possession of a weapon, threat to the life of another student, and drug possession with intent to sell.

Two exceptions in a sea of mostly lower numbers were in New Tampa's two high schools. Freedom High had 23 expulsion and change of placement cases, nearly 10 percent of the entire district. Wharton High came in second place with 17.

New this year in the report is a school-by-school count of 58 students who have shown "continually disruptive behavior." That's what is represented in the sixth, unlabelled spreadsheet page. 

Those 58 students are not included in the expulsion and change of placement statistics, as their offenses do not rise to the level that would allow an expulsion hearing. They can remain in their schools or, in some cases, be moved to an alternative site.

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