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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida education news: #HB7069 lawsuits, budgets, teacher's union tussle and more

The Pinellas County School Board meets in August 2015 at district headquarters in Largo.

DIRK SHADD | Times

The Pinellas County School Board meets in August 2015 at district headquarters in Largo.

#HB7069 LAWSUIT: The tally of Florida school boards taking legal action against the state has risen to five. On Tuesday three school boards from Bay, Lee and Volusia counties voted to join the lawsuit with Broward and St. Lucie school boards that challenges the controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. The Miami-Dade School Board and Polk County School Board could be next to join, too. Pinellas County School Board's attorney David Koperski on Tuesday evening said those school boards have pooled $95,000 together, which may be enough to cover legal expenses. Pinellas is expected to make a decision on whether to join the lawsuit by August 15.

SURVEY: Two years after Hernando school district leaders suggested an employee-based evaluation of Superintendent Lori Romano, the results - showing feedback both positive and not so - are now public. Some responses praised the superintendent's firmly set vision to get the district to an "A'' rating and her ability to present well to the public. Meanwhile, others called for her resignation, criticizing her lack of transparency and communication skills, and calling her administration style "fear-based." …

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Following the Money: Report on district's financial woes blames everyone but the district

Since the Hillsborough County schools' budget crisis erupted two years ago, members of the public and even the School Board have spotlighted extravagant spending practices in the large district.

These include a no-bid, $324,000 yearly contract with a local Cable television group. They include grant-funded programs that are sustained, at district expense, after the grants run out. Case in point: The final months of teaching reforms under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which ultimately paid $80 million instead of the $100 million that had been announced.

They include busing children to dozens of magnet schools that, in some cases, are low-performing and do little to promote racial integration. They include operating 20 schools that are a half to a third empty instead of consolidating some and selling the real estate. …

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Florida education news: #HB7069 lawsuit, school board speakers, audits and more

Citizens fill a Pinellas County School Board meeting in 2016.

Times files

Citizens fill a Pinellas County School Board meeting in 2016.

#HB7069: Lee County could be the next school system to join in a legal challenge against the state for approving an education bill that many school boards claim is unconstitutional. ...The decision will come up today as part of the consent agenda at the 6 p.m. action meeting. The lawsuit "would seek a declaratory judgment that the bill is unconstitutional, and a court order enjoining its enforcement." Because the district would be joining other school districts in the fight, the legal fees would be shared by all the plaintiffs. This could cost Lee County $25,000, the Fort Myers News-Press reports.

SILENCE: Palm Beach County public school officials would be barred from discouraging people from speaking at public school board meetings under a new policy to be considered this week. The proposal comes five months after The Palm Beach Post reported that two school district administrators pressured students and a parent to cancel plans to speak out at a board meeting about a controversy at Lake Worth High School, the Palm Beach Post reports. …

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Florida education news: #HB7069, 'Robin Hood' funding, the search for teachers and more

Over 600 new Hillsborough County teachers listen to superintendent Jeff Eakins during an orientation in July 2016.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Over 600 new Hillsborough County teachers listen to superintendent Jeff Eakins during an orientation in July 2016.

WHAT NEXT? Every year, new state laws hit the books that have to be implemented once they take effect. But House Bill 7069 isn’t your average new law. The sweeping, 274-page, $419 million measure that reforms Florida’s public K-12 schools spans dozens of changes in statute — some of which are complex and take effect at different times over the course of the next few years. So, what goes into implementing something like that? The Florida Department of Education doesn’t want to answer questions about it and hasn’t offered much detail publicly three weeks after HB 7069 became law on July 1, the Herald/Times Bureau reports.

'ROBIN HOOD' The Lake, Osceola and Seminole school districts have lost out on a total of $133 million in state funding to wealthier districts in the past 13 years. The reshuffling of money is part of Florida’s education finance system — and some officials are sick of it. “This is backwards Robin Hood — you’re robbing from the average and the poor to give to the wealthy,” said Volusia County School Board member Melody Johnson, whose district is losing $10 million for the upcoming school year. “I call it theft, the Orlando Sentinel reports. …

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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017

Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.

Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in suing: at least Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee, Duval, Palm Beach, Alachua, Miami-Dade, Volusia, Bay and Lee. However Pinellas' superintendent and legal counsel predict it'll take about a month for any lawsuit to be officially filed.

Catch up on the week's highlights below. You can keep up with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to jsolochek@tampabay.com.

 

Pinellas teachers get schooled over summer break, Colleen Wright …

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Pinellas superintendent, School Board pen letter to legislative delegation for help against 'unjust' funds for charter schools

Pinellas County School Board Superintendent Michael Grego during a School Board meeting on August 25, 2015 at the School Administration Building, 301 Fourth Street SW in Largo.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Pinellas County School Board Superintendent Michael Grego during a School Board meeting on August 25, 2015 at the School Administration Building, 301 Fourth Street SW in Largo.

Thanks to a recent change in state law, the Pinellas County school district will have to shell out $25 million over five years  -- more funding per student than any other large district in the state -- for charter school construction and maintenance projects.

That's why district officials are seeking help from local legislators to "lessen the inequity."

New provisions set forth by House Bill 7069, which may soon be the focus of a legal battle between several school boards and the state, now require school districts to share locally levied millage funds with charter schools in the district. Those are the local dollars budgeted for construction and maintenance projects.

How much funding each school district must allocate for charter schools is based on how much debt each school district has and how many students are enrolled in charter schools, not by school facility needs as the law previously dictated. School districts with more debt may pay less than districts with little debt. …

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Florida education news: jobs, desegregation, lawsuits and more

Third-grade teacher Rachel Lachiusa, 23, left, gets help from Kali Davis, whose job it was to mentor first-year teachers in St. Petersburg.

LARA CERRI | Times

Third-grade teacher Rachel Lachiusa, 23, left, gets help from Kali Davis, whose job it was to mentor first-year teachers in St. Petersburg.

RESOURCES: A job created last year to coach and mentor first-year teachers in struggling schools, which was funded by the Pinellas County school district and the teacher's union, is being eliminated. Kali Davis, the educator who filled that role, is headed back to a school-based site partially because of personal reasons and because it's hard to quantify how effective she was in retaining teachers.

DESEGREGATION: Indian River County School Board members on Thursday discussed the federal desegregation order for the first time of the new school year. The board took no action on the order, which has loomed over the School District since 1967, but met in private with legal counsel. The district was ordered to make a "significant effort" to hire minority teachers in proportion to the student population: 20 percent to 40 percent of new and replacement hires should be minority candidates until the student-to-teacher ratio is proportionate. The NAACP has argued the district has not met the order’s criteria, but board members believe enough progress has been made toward the desegregation requirements that they should be absolved from some facets of the court order, TCPalm reports. …

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New job for Pinellas mentor to first-year teachers

Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg. Davis' year-round job has shifted from coaching first-year teachers at six struggling schools to an instructional coach at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg. Davis' year-round job has shifted from coaching first-year teachers at six struggling schools to an instructional coach at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo.

Remember Kali Davis, a Pinellas school district teacher whose job last year was to mentor and coach 26 first-year teachers in six of the district's lowest-performing schools?

She's still around (she spent this summer training rookie teachers on classroom management), but she'll no longer be known as an "Early Career Educator Support & PCS/PCTA Liaison," a position that was funded by the school district and the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

Davis will be an instructional coach at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo beginning this fall. The position she held last year has been eliminated because it was hard to quantify how effective her role was through teacher retention and for personal reasons.

She said PCTA hopes to instead use resources to help teachers by hosting year-round trainings.

“We really want to focus our efforts on places where we are supporting the most amount of people,” Davis said.

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Florida education news: lawsuits, trans rights, recess and more

Ya'riah Ellison, 6, of Tampa, works on a pop art self portrait at the Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa on Friday, July 14, 2017. On Thursday, July 20th, a new pop art exhibition will open in which children will be able to create self portraits in a variety of ways including screen printing, pointillism and pop art methods

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Ya'riah Ellison, 6, of Tampa, works on a pop art self portrait at the Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa on Friday, July 14, 2017. On Thursday, July 20th, a new pop art exhibition will open in which children will be able to create self portraits in a variety of ways including screen printing, pointillism and pop art methods

ANOTHER ONE: Palm Beach County may be the next School Board to pick a legal fight with the state over the controversial HB 7069, but they may do it alone. Board members Wednesday seemed conflicted about whether to participate with other school boards, like Broward and St. Lucie counties, in a joint lawsuit or sue on their own, but they left no doubt about their intentions to challenge HB 7069 in court. More from the Palm Beach Post and Sun Sentinel. The Duval County School Board is also seeking legal advice before they proceed with joining the lawsuit, the Florida Times-Union reports.

TRANS RIGHTS: Supporters of the Nease High School transgender student who recently filed a federal discrimination suit against the St. Johns County School District for the right to use the boys’ bathroom spoke out at a school board meeting Tuesday, the St. Augustine Record reports.

RECESS: Lake County is already ahead of the curve (and the new law) in mandating recess for elementary schools.  In 2014, former Lake County Superintendent Susan Moxley mandated Lake’s elementary schools provide 60 minutes of recess per week, the Daily Commercial reports. …

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New principals for Hillsborough

Johnny Bush was appointed the Principal of Plant High School on Tuesday.

Hillsborough County Public Schools Twitter

Johnny Bush was appointed the Principal of Plant High School on Tuesday.

The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved a group of principal appointments.

Effective Monday, they are:

- Johnny Bush, a senior executive officer of professional standards, has been tapped to lead Plant High. He replaces Robert Nelson, who was appointed as an area principal coach. Bush has worked in Hillsborough school district since 1997.

- Orestes Mendez, an assistant principal at Lee Elementary, was appointed as principal of Colson Elementary. He replaces Wendy Harrison, who was tapped to be an area principal coach. Mendez has worked in the district since 2002.

- Gloria Waite, a principal on special assignment, was appointed as principal of Clair Mel Elementary.

- Jennifer Davis, an assistant principal of South County Career Center, was promoted to principal of the center. She replaces Tibor Kovacs, who retired. Davis has worked in the district since 2004.

- Mickey Boddie, an assistant principal at Hillsborough High, has been appointed the Principal of North Tampa EPIC3 Center. He replaces Cornelius Bobo who was transferred to be principal of Brandon EPIC3 Center. Boddie has worked for the district since 2001.

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Florida education news: HB 7069 lawsuit, delayed budget, teachers and more

Justin Black, entering his third year teaching physical education at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, gives summer students a math lesson under the watchful eye of Kali Davis, a Springboard to Success training director.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Justin Black, entering his third year teaching physical education at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, gives summer students a math lesson under the watchful eye of Kali Davis, a Springboard to Success training director.

#HB7069: The Pinellas County School Board hashed out the details of what it would take to join Broward and St. Lucie counties in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of controversial education bill HB 7069. Pinellas isn’t the only School Board contemplating that decision. Alachua County School Board members largely supported the lawsuit in a meeting Tuesday, though one member suggested the board should hold off on joining the lawsuit to focus on the coming school year, the Gainesville Sun reports. Sarasota County also may make a decision to jump in, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports.

TEACHERS: Rookie teachers in Pinellas County see an opportunity in heading back to school over the summer. It’s their chance to fine-tune their classroom management skills on students enrolled in a summer program and get real-time coaching from professionals.

BUDGET: The Polk County School Board expected to get a look Tuesday at the 2017-18 tentative budget, but numbers from the Florida Department of Education weren’t in, the Lakeland Ledger reports. Pinellas County, dealing with the same issue, voted to delay its first public hearing on the budget. …

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Pinellas School Board hashes out the details about joining lawsuit against HB 7069

Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego raised the topic of potential suing the Florida Legislature over the controversial education bill HB 7069.

Times files

Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego raised the topic of potential suing the Florida Legislature over the controversial education bill HB 7069.

It was the end of a long workshop, and Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego had something to say about HB 7069, the controversial education bill loathed by many school districts.

Grego said he had spoken to Broward superintendent Robert Runcie. It was Runcie's district that was the first to file a lawsuit against the Florida Legislature for passing a law they felt gave charter schools an unfair advantage.

"I thanked him for being out there and being bold," Grego said. "It takes guts, it really does."

St. Lucie County has since joined the lawsuit. Manatee and Palm Beach counties are considering it, and so is Pinellas.

School Board attorney David Koperski laid out the details: There would most likely be a single lawsuit with many school boards as plaintiffs. The legal issues are the same for all school districts, and they would need a litigator with statewide experience.

Koperski said attorneys from Broward, St. Lucie and Palm Beach school boards are interviewing attorneys from two law firms with that experience. Broward said it could spend up to $25,000 on the suit, and St. Lucie offered $10,000. …

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Florida education news: closing schools, paychecks, appeals and more

Sixth grade teacher Elizabeth Lindenberg, Pinellas Park Middle School, teaches a group of students preparing for fifth grade at Woodlawn Elementary School, St. Petersburg, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 during a session of the Summer Bridge Program. The students were studying nonverbal communication skills. The program was started three years ago by Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Grego to prevent student learning loss, especially in low income areas.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Sixth grade teacher Elizabeth Lindenberg, Pinellas Park Middle School, teaches a group of students preparing for fifth grade at Woodlawn Elementary School, St. Petersburg, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 during a session of the Summer Bridge Program. The students were studying nonverbal communication skills. The program was started three years ago by Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Grego to prevent student learning loss, especially in low income areas.

CAMP: Pinellas County students enrolled in Summer Bridge, a district-sponsored summer program to curb learning loss over the summer, are also going on field trips to a local bird sanctuary. Officials say its a way to offer unique summer learning opportunities to students who have fewer means, WUSF reports.

LIMBO: Palm Beach County School Board members are expected to vote Wednesday to shut down Odyssey Middle School next year, officially pulling the plug on the half-empty school just 16 years after opening it and possibly lease it to a charter school. The school’s enrollment has fallen by half in little more than a decade. If approved Wednesday, it would be the county’s first closing of a traditional public school in more than a quarter-century, the Palm Beach Post reports.

CLOSED: The Florida Board of Education Monday declined a North Florida charter school’s bid to remain open another school year. Adam Miller, the state’s school choice director, presented data showing Orange Park Performing Arts Academy in Clay County generally performed “significantly lower” than similar schools. Its lowest-performing students did especially poorly, redefineED reports. …

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Florida education news: State Board of Ed meeting today, awards, opt out and more

The State Board of Education meets today for a 9 a.m. workshop and 2 p.m. board meeting.

The Florida Channel

The State Board of Education meets today for a 9 a.m. workshop and 2 p.m. board meeting.

The State Board of Education meets today for a 9 a.m. workshop, which will include talking shop about the potential 2018-19 budget, followed by a 2 p.m. board meeting. Follow along here. The board may soon have a new member: Gov. Rick Scott's appointment of Tallahassee lawyer Ben Gibson was announced late Friday. To catch up on the latest on this and other education news stories from around Florida, be sure to regularly visit the Tampa Bay Times Gradebook. Join our daily Facebook conversation to share your views. And be sure to share this roundup with your friends and colleagues. Colleen

CONGRATS: The Florida Department of Education awarded Pasco Teacher of the Year Robert Patterson with the newly established Dr. Brian Dassler Outstanding Teacher/Leader award on Friday. Also recognized was Pinellas' Countryside High school with a Family and Community Involvement Award for its career center and college and career fair. …

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ICYMI: Florida education news in revew, week of July 9, 2017

Tammy Jerkins, a Lake County high school math teacher, was named the 2018 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year on Thursday night in Orlando.

Florida Department of Education Twitter

Tammy Jerkins, a Lake County high school math teacher, was named the 2018 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year on Thursday night in Orlando.

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