READY? Tampa area schools have plans in place to deal with emergencies like the tornado that hit Moore, Okla.
PTA THEFT: The treasurer of the Weightman Middle School PTA is arrested on charges that she stole more than $5,000 from the organization.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: Hillsborough's food services department asks students to taste test possible new options for school cafeteria menus.
CHARTER DEBATE: Manatee district officials don't throw their full support behind a parent-led effort to convert a magnet school to charter status, the Bradenton Herald reports. • A Miami-Dade village will reconsider its rejection of a charter school application, the Miami Herald reports.
BUDGET CUTS: Citrus leaders explore budget cutting options including elimination of middle school sports, the Citrus County Chronicle reports. • Manatee's superintendent tries to make sure parents get enough information about his budget balancing efforts, the Bradenton Herald reports.
SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Brevard School Board officials defend their criteria for closing schools to city officials who suggest they should have more say in the process, Florida Today reports. …Full Story
The Pinellas County School District is getting ready to open the new Lew Williams Center for Early Learning in the 2013/14 school year.
The center, which will target children ages 1 to 4, is to open at pTEC St. Petersburg. The School Board approved Tuesday a new job description for an administrator - executive program manager - to oversee the center's daily operations. That job will need to be filled soon. District officials are submitting an application to the Department of Health in Pinellas County for a license to open. (The health department oversees childcare centers.) And renovations at pTEC St. Petersburg are expected to start June 1 and finish in mid-August.
The Lew Williams Project, as the district calls it, is an early childhood initiative named for board member Lew Williams who died unexpectedly in 2011. Williams, who owned a daycare, was passionate about early childhood education. …Full Story
St. Petersburg College is moving forward with plans to offer a $10,000 degree, the higher-ed version of a unicorn frolicking in the Fountain of Youth.
SPC was one of 23 state colleges in January to accept Gov. Rick Scott's "$10,000 Degree Challenge." Immediately questions arose as to how a college could slash the price tag without sacrificing the degree's quality.
At its board of trustees meeting Tuesday, SPC laid it bare: They're targeting students who are coming to SPC with credits already, and are willing to come to class fall, spring and summer semesters to crank out the work.
The college has identified 271 eligible high school seniors, and planned to send out invitations to a June 11 information and registration session yesterday afternoon. The college hopes for an initial class of 30 to 60 students, though may be able to accommodate more if interest is high.
To be eligible, students must enter with 12 to 15 accelerated credits (Advanced Placement, dual enrollment, etc). They must be full-time, continuously enrolled students who receive a "C" or better in all their classes. …Full Story
Repeating criticisms of his district's school choice options as lacking, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning on Tuesday announced he would create a high-level task force to explore adding more education alternatives for students and parents.
The group will look at "magnets, K-8's, 9-14's — different options we need to provide" for families within the school system, Browning said.
The task force "will be working very hard over the next six to eight months," he told the School Board, with a plan of bringing recommendations to the board by January. The goal, he continued, was to have new options in place for the 2014-15 academic year.
Browning lamented that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $1.5 million that would have helped the district create a STEM magnet school. But he said that rejection would not stand in the way of improving and adding to the choices that Pasco children deserve.
Thousands of Pasco children already attend charter schools, use home schools and take virtual courses. What suggestions would you offer the task force as it considers school choice ideas for Pasco?Full Story
DONE DEAL: The Hernando County School Board approves a contract for its new superintendent, Lori Romano.
MONEY ISSUES: Pasco district leaders reconsider whether to use nonrecurring funds to cover ongoing expenses. • Flagler paraprofessionals defend their positions against proposed budget cuts, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.
TIME TO TALK: Approved by the governor, money for raises to Florida teachers now must be negotiated locally, WTSP reports. • Alachua school employees win a raise and a bonus in negotiations, the Gainesville Sun reports.
CLEANING HOUSE: The Broward School Board approves cutting half the staff of its troubled facilities department, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
WAKE UP: A Broward teacher is suspended two days without pay for sleeping on the job, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
MUSICAL CHAIRS: Marion's new superintendent shuffles principals at more than a quarter of the district's schools, the Ocala Star Banner reports. • Miami-Dade plans to shake up its administrative staff, the Miami Herald reports.
COMING AT YOU: The Florida Department of Education plans a massive public information effort in support of the Common Core, State Impact Florida reports. …Full Story
At the same time Gov. Rick Scott prepared to sign Florida's 2014 budget, he delivered to school district superintendents some details on how to implement one of his top priorities in the budget -- raises for teachers.
In a lengthy Q&A document, the governor laid out that the raises are indeed salary increases and not one-time bonuses. The money must be used for raises and not other purposes, according to the guidelines, and the pay hikes "may" be based on performance.
School districts must send the state their plans for how they intend to allocate the funds, with the money to follow soon after -- as early as July if the district plan is submitted.
Read on for the full Q&A. …Full Story
Kelly King is the new principal of Steinbrenner High School.
The Hillsborough County School Board appointed King, now assistant principal for curriculum at Steinbrenner, to replace Brenda Grasso. Grasso was promoted recently to area director.
King joined the school district in 2001.Full Story
Officer Dan Carvin, a long-time school resource officer at Tyrone Middle School, will be honored by the Pinellas County School Board tonight for his dedication and service.
Carvin, who is a St. Petersburg police officer, has served at Tyrone Middle for 18 years. He has been selected as the district's School Resource Office of the Year. The School Board will celebrate his accomplishments during its 5:30 p.m. meeting at the district offices, 301 4th St, Largo.
Carvin was praised for his "persistence in counseling both students and parents" and his "relentless commitment to turn students around."Full Story
Gradebook received this request from the media director at Sligh Middle Magnet School, a long-struggling school in a lower-income neighborhood in north Tampa.Full Story
The director, Joshua Newhouse, is trying to raise funds through a website to enhance the book collection at his school. They hope to raise $3,000 by May 30 and have made little progress so far.
"Our students are so hungry for good books, and thirsty for knowledge that it is very frustrating that too often we do not always have the books they want, whether it is poetry, popular biographies, urban realistic fiction, animal books, graphic novels and manga, and especially frustrating given our student body, books by strong African-American authors and featuring strong African-American characters. Many of our students' homes do not contain many or any books and there is no local neighborhood library or bookstore for them to be able to easily get to. The school media center needs to be a haven for them to find books to connect with, to improve their achievement, and to create life-long readers."
They are working with an organization called Follett Library Resources. Donations are tax-deductible.
You'll find more information here.
Word spread quickly last week that Zephyrhills High School principal Andy Frelick planned to cut Spanish classes and offer French instead. Spanish would be available only as an online course.
People were not happy.
An online petition sprang up, quickly netting more than 250 e-signatures. And superintendent Kurt Browning started getting several emails. They were unanimous in their opposition to the idea.
"I'm going into high school next year, and in order to get into a good college/graduate you have to take two consecutive years of a foreign language," student Brendan Brill wrote. "In Florida, Spanish is a popular language and I'm not gonna have any use really for French. So I would take Spanish, but I wouldn't do it online because I wouldn't learn anything. I'd most likely end up getting lazy and just google translating all of it." …Full Story
PROM TIME: A River Ridge High School junior's prom experience ends in acrimony and upset, a far cry from the fun time she had hoped for.
IN THE RUNNING: A former Hernando Education Foundation director will seek a seat on the county School Board.
VETOES: Gov. Rick Scott strikes several education items from the 2014 budget. His actions show a lack of long-term vision, the Times editorializes. More on education-related vetoes from the Naples Daily News, Florida Times-Union, Ocala Star-Banner, Panama City News Herald, State Impact Florida.
BUDGET CUTTING: Manatee officials plan to lay off 282 employees, implement and spending and hiring freeze, and take other steps to balance their budget, the Bradenton Herald reports. More from the Herald-Tribune. • The Broward district looks into privatizing construction services, the Miami Herald reports. • Volusia leaders explore outsourcing groundskeeping, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.
RISING COSTS: Florida school districts will have to absorb the cost of dual enrollment courses previously paid for by state colleges, the Sun-Sentinel reports. …Full Story
After promising to improve its merit pay plan for teachers, the Pinellas County School District is poised to roll out a pilot plan at seven schools. The plan could solve one of the biggest complaints about merit pay - that many teachers were evaluated based on students they never taught.
Under the proposal, teachers would be evaluated based on student growth and instructional practice, both worth 50 percent. Student growth will be based on the FCAT for teachers with FCAT-tested subjects and on unit assessment scores for teachers who don't have applicable state tests. Instructional practice will include three components - professional evaluations, "deliberate practice," and "planning, reflecting and professionalism."
Deliberate practice will be based on observation of an early and then a later unit. Planning, reflecting and professionalism will be based on elements of the Marzano evaluation.
For teachers who have both FCAT and non-FCAT subjects, there will be a weight assigned based on the number of classes. In the first year, teachers also can choose between the state VAM score and their calculated student growth score, if one is better than the other. …Full Story
Plans to create a STEM magnet program in Pasco schools took a setback Monday when Gov. Rick Scott took his veto pen to the proposed 2014 state budget.
Scott killed $368 million in spending projects, including $1.5 million that Sen. John Legg had placed in the spending plan to create the Pasco program. District officials were optimistic after the Florida Tax Watch didn't include the amount in its annual "turkey" list, but they remained wary nonetheless.
Superintendent Kurt Browning, a former member of Scott's administration, expressed his disappointment with the governor's decision.
"We remain convinced that a science, technology, engineering, and math magnet academy is needed in Pasco County Public Schools, and we plan to continue our pursuit of a viable source of funding to get it started," Browning said in a released statement.
He also thanked Legg, House speaker Will Weatherford and others in the Pasco legislative delegation for supporting the effort. Legg, who said in a message that he was unhappy with the veto, has said in the past that the STEM initiative is one of his priorities to get funded while in the Senate.Full Story
St. Petersburg College is holding a job fair next Thursday to hire more adjunct professors — day, evening, online — academic and technical disciplines — positions filled as early as this fall. How exactly did SPC find itself in the market for part-time professors?
This is phase II of an ugly little snafu.
In March, SPC's adjuncts got an email that their hours were being cut (and in some cases, halved) because the college could not afford to give them healthcare, as required by the Affordable Care Act if they worked for 30 hours or more a week.
Bill Law, the president of SPC, told The Gradebook that he planned to hire more adjunct professors. Basically, there'd be more people with fewer hours producing the same amount of classes for students.
Of course, SPC's existing adjuncts were not happy about seeing their hours and paychecks slashed. "It's just a really ugly choice," Law said. "It's one of the worst choices I've had to face in my time as president." Law put the cost of healthcare for each additional employee at $8,000. …Full Story
In many schools around the country, once the state testing period ends, teachers and students slow down their pace and relax. The homework often ends, and the curriculum — having already been tested — segues into a combination of review and a look ahead to the next year's expectations.
In some places, though, testing continues. Not to evaluate student abilities or teacher performance, but to fine-tune the questions for future exams. Test experts say it's an important part of the process, to avoid misleading, poorly written or just plain dumb items that shouldn't be on high-stakes tests.
In New York City, a growing number of parents are protesting the use of their children as test guinea pigs, and they're getting support from some high profile politicians, the NY Times reports. Parents are boycotting the testing days, and some principals are just sending back the tests unopened.
“We’re seeing the early glimmers of a bigger fight,” Frederick M. Hess, an education scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told the NY Times. “The real question is if states can keep those concerns isolated.” …Full Story