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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas to host bilingual panel to help Hurricane Maria evacuees

Patients, from left, Kofi Boateng, Francis Massicott and Joselle Connor await evacuation at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix on Tuesday (9/26/17) in the wake of two category 5 hurricanes back-to-back in just 12 days, with the most recent one, Hurricane Maria, making landfall in St. Croix last Tuesday at 2 a.m. Seven Aeromedical Evacuation members worked with 3 critical care air transport team members, 1 medical attendant and 5 flight crew members to complete the mission using a C-130 airplane out of MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Patients, from left, Kofi Boateng, Francis Massicott and Joselle Connor await evacuation at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix on Tuesday (9/26/17) in the wake of two category 5 hurricanes back-to-back in just 12 days, with the most recent one, Hurricane Maria, making landfall in St. Croix last Tuesday at 2 a.m. Seven Aeromedical Evacuation members worked with 3 critical care air transport team members, 1 medical attendant and 5 flight crew members to complete the mission using a C-130 airplane out of MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa.

Pinellas County government is hosting a bilingual panel Thursday featuring community organizations providing help for local Hurricane Maria evacuees.

The informational panel in English and Spanish will begin at 9:30 a.m. at St. Petersburg College's Clearwater campus, 2465 Drew St. Participating agencies include Hispanic Outreach Center, the Pinellas County school district, the Supervisor of Elections, the Salvation Army and RCS Food Bank.

As of Friday afternoon, 104 students have disclosed to the school district that they have relocated from Puerto Rico, according to district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf.

Officials from the district's student assignment office will assist families with registering their child for school, and a student services representative will provide support to families are in need due to the storm. 

In addition to the panel, relocation clinics will take place Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Hispanic Outreach Center, 612 Franklin St. in Clearwater.

For information about the event, visit www.pinellascounty.org or call the county at 727-464-4600.

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Should Florida school board members have term limits?

Linda Lerner is serving a record seventh four-year term on the Pinellas County School Board. Her term ends in 2018.

Times (2015)

Linda Lerner is serving a record seventh four-year term on the Pinellas County School Board. Her term ends in 2018.

Current Florida law limits the length of service for lawmakers, governors and even State Board of Education members.

School Board members face no such restrictions. But Erika Donalds, a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, thinks they should.

Donalds, who sits on the Collier County School Board, has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow board members to serve no longer than eight consecutive years. That length would include the amount of time a member would have served on a board if they resign early, as well.

Donalds, who also has filed a proposal to end board member pay, has argued that school board service should not be a career. New ideas need to cycle through districts to keep them fresh, she has suggested.

At the same time, though, such a change would eliminate some of the historical knowledge that some board members bring to the table and often share with newer colleagues who join. The Pinellas County School Board, for example, would never again have a seven-term veteran and a first-termer working together as it has now.

If approved by the Constitution Revision Commission, the proposal still would require voter support. …

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Canterbury board resigns, replaced by four new members following decision not to renew head of school

At least 13 board members on Canterbury School of Florida's board of trustees have resigned or agree to resign following a controversial decision not to renew its head of school of 13 years, Mac Hall. Four new members have since been appointed and just one ex-officio member will stay on, according to an email obtained by the Times.

Times files

At least 13 board members on Canterbury School of Florida's board of trustees have resigned or agree to resign following a controversial decision not to renew its head of school of 13 years, Mac Hall. Four new members have since been appointed and just one ex-officio member will stay on, according to an email obtained by the Times.

Nearly two weeks after the board of trustees at Canterbury School of Florida in St. Petersburg decided to not renew the contract for their head of school of 13 years, all board members will resign and be replaced by four new members.

An email obtained by the Times was sent out to families on Saturday informing Canterbury families of the board's shakeup. The email comes after a contentious town hall meeting held at the school Oct. 16 regarding Mac Hall's departure as head of school at the end of the school year.

Hall on Monday afternoon sent out a farewell email titled "Another Canterbury letter." In it, he counts his blessings, thanks families for their support and calls for a time for healing.

"It is no secret that we, as a school, have experienced a very stressful time recently," he wrote. "It has been a time in which emotions have run high and conflict has saddened and confused us all." …

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Florida education news: Gifted education, turnarounds, superintendents and more

Scott Keeler | Times

GIFTED EDUCATION: In Pinellas County schools, as elsewhere, most children in gifted programs are disproportionately white and wealthier. To broaden the diversity, the Pinellas district has begun testing all second graders to determine whether they qualify for gifted services.

TURNAROUNDS: Seven struggling Hillsborough County schools will partner with an outside consultant on improvement planning. • The Polk County school district grapples with new law requiring additional improvement plans for six schools, the Ledger reports.

LEADERSHIP: A Constitution Revision Commission member proposes ending Florida's practice of electing school superintendents.

SOCIAL MEDIA: A 13-year-old Pasco County student is arrested on accusations she used social media to threaten three local schools. • A parent's inaccurate claims about a Palm Beach County charter school go viral, causing major headaches for the school, the Palm Beach Post reports. 

TEACHER TESTING: A Florida administrative judge rules against teacher claims that the state's certification exams are flawed, ABC Action News reports. …

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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Oct. 22, 2017

With lawmakers in committee weeks, and the Constitution Revision Commission in full swing, Florida is hopping with education policy debates. But there's just something about Marlene Sokol's story about some sophomores who gave up their cell phones for a day as part of a class lesson that speaks to everyone, whether in school or out. Could you do it? Catch up on this story and other highlights of the week's Florida education news 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.

With classrooms to spare in urban areas, Hillsborough wants to fill empty space with preschool kids, Marlene Sokol
"Hundreds of low-income children could have access to quality preschool next year under a plan now under development in the Hillsborough County School District." …

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For seven struggling schools, Hillsborough selects the least disruptive turnaround option

Booker T. Washington Elementary is one of seven Hillsborough schools ordered to submit turnaround options in case they do not earn at least a C grade this school year.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Booker T. Washington Elementary is one of seven Hillsborough schools ordered to submit turnaround options in case they do not earn at least a C grade this school year.

TAMPA - Faced with four possible back-up plans for seven D and F schools, the Hillsborough County School District chose the least disruptive for all seven: Partnership with an outside consulting firm.

That means that if Potter, Booker T. Washington, Sheehy, Foster, Oak Park, Mort elementary or Memorial Middle School don't improve to at least a C this year, the district will call for assistance -- but will remain in charge.

Potter and Washington have F grades while the other five have D's.

The state, under House Bill 7069, ordered up these contingency plans for all schools in that predicament. Other, more drastic options included closing the schools or turning them over to charter companies,

Citing assistance it's getting from volunteer groups and corporations, the district put out a statement saying improvement is under way.

"We believe our schools will receive an A, B or C at the end of this year, but the state is requiring us to choose an option just in case," the statement said. "This option provides the most flexibility in supporting our schools with outside experts, while maintaining our public school district as full partners in the process."

 …

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Pinellas school board member (and mother of a high schooler) pledges to sign petition for later start times

Pinellas School Board member Eileen Long, a mother to a high school and middle school student, says she will sign a petition to move high school start times up from 7:05 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The online petition has generated nearly 1,900 signatures.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Pinellas School Board member Eileen Long, a mother to a high school and middle school student, says she will sign a petition to move high school start times up from 7:05 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The online petition has generated nearly 1,900 signatures.

The new online petition pleads with the Pinellas County School Board and superintendent Mike Grego to change the high school start time from 7:05 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., just like neighboring Hillsborough County.

It says scores would improve, graduation rates would climb and fewer teens would fall asleep behind the wheel. It offers links referring people to research. And it argues that if Hillsborough can do it starting next August, why can’t Pinellas?

In just five days, the petition, posted on change.org and shared on Facebook, has amassed more 2,000 signatures. School Board member Eileen Long, the mother of a junior at Palm Harbor University High and a soon-to-be Dunedin High freshman, pledged on Friday to join them.

“I want to do what’s right for my kids, too, and their friends and their parents,” Long said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hillsborough high schools move to 8:30 a.m. start time, elementary schools to go earlier

The petition was started by Melissa Gallivan, the mother of three students, one at Palm Harbor University High, one Dunedin High and one at Palm Harbor Middle. …

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Should Florida's school superintendents be elected or appointed?

Kurt Browning celebrated his 2012 election victory to become Pasco County superintendent. Pasco is the nation's largest district to have an elected superintendent.

Times (2012)

Kurt Browning celebrated his 2012 election victory to become Pasco County superintendent. Pasco is the nation's largest district to have an elected superintendent.

When it comes to selecting school district superintendents, Florida stands apart from most of the nation by allowing voters to choose.

Forty-four of the state's 67 districts have elected superintendents, with most of the large, urban systems opting for a school board-appointed leader instead. To put that in context, only Alabama and Mississippi also have elected superintendents, and Mississippi recently passed a law ending that practice.

The issue often becomes passionate and political, with local Florida electorates frequently choosing to stick with their elected leaders when things are running smoothly, but advocating for change when their districts face troubles. Martin County voters, who have defeated change four times in 30 years, will again consider the question in 2018.

Before that referendum takes place, though, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission will debate whether to put a permanent end to the elected superintendent position.

Commissioner Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member, has proposed amending the constitution so all superintendents are appointed by their boards, effective November 2020.  …

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Are Florida school board members paid too much?

Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds has proposed ending school board member salaries statewide.

Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds has proposed ending school board member salaries statewide.

In most school districts around the nation, school board members do not get paid.

That's not the case in Florida. And Collier County board member Erika Donalds wants to put a change to that, using her post on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to push the issue.

With the deadline for member-sponsored amendments arriving Tuesday, Donalds has proposed asking voters to end salaries for Florida's school board members. The board members would still be eligible for per diem and travel reimbursements under her plan.

"We need people who are doing it for the right reasons, not to make it a career," Donalds said. "Being a school board member is not a full time position."

She noted that people serving on the State Board of Education and the university system Board of Governors volunteer without compensation.

"They do that because they care about that mission and their cause, and they are willing to give up their time," Donalds said, suggesting that the removal of a salary should not limit the scope of people able to participate on school boards. …

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Florida education news: School choice, improvement plans, rezonings and more

Times (2012)

SCHOOL CHOICE: The time for Tampa Bay area families to begin exploring schooling options for 2018-19 has arrived, as choice application windows open in the coming weeks and months. The options continue to grow, with expansion of charter schools, magnets, scholarship programs and more. Find more information about School Search opportunities here.

TURNAROUND PLANS: Seven Hillsborough County schools need to submit contingency improvement plans in case their test scores do not rise.

COLLEGE COSTS: Florida State University waives application fees for students who cannot afford them.

PUBLIC SHELTERS: Florida lawmakers discuss the use of charter schools as emergency hurricane shelters, as the state is poised to pay for more charters to rise.

CLASSROOM SUPPORT: Dozens of Manatee County teachers win grants from the local education foundation to help pay for things their school budgets couldn't cover, the Bradenton Herald reports.

REZONING: Some Palm Beach County parents protest proposed changes to their middle school attendance boundaries, the Sun-Sentinel reports. 

LABOR NEWS: St. Johns County teachers reach a tentative contract agreement with the district, the St. Augustine Record reports. …

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Have financial need? Tell FSU, and your application fee will be waived

Florida State University's campus

LARA CERRI | Times (2004)

Florida State University's campus

With an eye toward increased access for underrepresented students, Florida State University is waiving its $30 application fee for prospective students who tell the university they have financial need.

In the past, FSU hopefuls had to jump a few hurdles to get the fee waived. They had to go to their guidance counselor and request paperwork. They had to make sure they tracked down all of the right signatures and materials, then send them by mail or fax to FSU.

Now FSU will take needy students at their word.

“We have a responsibility to increase access for first-generation and underrepresented students in our university community,” said admissions director Hege Ferguson in a news release. “We feel obligated to remove as many barriers as possible to the admissions process, which reduces anxiety and increases participation.”

The school will also begin letting prospective students self-report SAT and ACT scores, making FSU the first school in the state to offer that option.

Normally, students have to pay testing companies to send scores to universities. But FSU will only require official scores once students start the enrollment process -- saving money for many others. …

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Florida lawmaker wants information about charter schools' use as hurricane shelters

Rep. Chris Latvala (right) offers his view on why charter schools don't serve as hurricane shelters during an appropriations subcommittee session.

The Florida Channel

Rep. Chris Latvala (right) offers his view on why charter schools don't serve as hurricane shelters during an appropriations subcommittee session.

The issues of charter schools and hurricane shelters converged this week in the Florida House, as lawmakers continued to review the costs associated with each rolling into the next budget cycle.

Rep. Wengay Newton, a St. Petersburg Democrat, connected the two items during a PreK-12 Appropriations discussion on HB 7069. As the subcommittee received information about Schools of Hope, a new multimillion-dollar plan to expand charter schools into communities where district schools repeatedly earn low test scores, Newton asked if any of the money would be spent to ensure residents have safe shelters in emergencies.

"If we're going to start building new buildings and put children in them with tax dollars, will they be a resource in a time of need that we can use for shelters, and will they be built to hurricane standards?" Newton asked.

During Hurricane Irma, people who criticize spending tax revenue on charter schools pointed out that few Florida charters -- primarily those converted from district school status -- served as shelters.

Previous coverage: Why weren't charter schools used as shelters during Hurricane Irma? …

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Jimmy Lodato makes fourth run at local office by joining race for Hernando County School Board

Jimmy Lodato has announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat of the Hernando County School Board.

Times file

Jimmy Lodato has announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat of the Hernando County School Board.

After three failed attempts at election to the Hernando County Board of Commissioners, Jimmy Lodato has joined the 2018 race for School Board.

Qualifying isn’t until June, but Lodato, 75, filed for the District 3 seat this week. That spot will be vacated by board Chairwoman Beth Narverud, who has filed to run against incumbent Wayne Dukes and political newcomer Christopher Toohey for the District 2 seat of the County Commission.

Each time Lodato, a Tampa-born man who has lived in Hernando County since 1999, ran for County Commission (2012, 2014 and 2016), school issues were at the forefront of his campaign.

Leading up to the 2016 race, he told the Tampa Bay Times he wanted to build a better relationship between county government and the school district. He suggested the school system, with the support of county leaders, partner with local businesses to create training programs to prepare students to enter the workforce.

Lodato in 2015 was one of the voices behind the successful effort to revive the county’s half-cent sales tax for school capital improvement projects. The initiative passed by an overwhelming margin. …

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School board members coalition sets its legislative agenda

Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler is president of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members.

Sarasota County school district

Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler is president of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members.

As the Florida School Boards Association convenes to debate its legislative priorities, the more conservative breakaway Florida Coalition of School Board Members has released its own agenda for the 2018 session.

The two groups have in the past differed on key issues, particularly relating to school choice. The coalition sprouted to life after the FSBA sued the state to challenge tax credit scholarships, a program that the coalition members supported.

Though small, the coalition has wielded influence through connections. One of its members is Martin School Board member Rebecca Negron, wife of Senate President Joe Negron. Another is Collier School Board member Erika Donalds, wife of state Rep. Byron Donalds, a rising star in House Republican ranks.

This year, the coalition's goals include the expansion of choice options through the Hope Scholarship proposal put forth by Rep. Donalds and the House leadership. The idea is to grant private school scholarships to students who say they are bullied and feel unsafe in their schools.

It further wants to study transportation costs for universal school choice, and to require notification to families for school choice options. …

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Florida education news: Recess, turnaround schools, math tests and more

PLAY TIME: Florida parents won a hard fought battle this past spring to secure 20 minutes of daily recess for their children in district elementary schools. Now one district, claiming the mandate cuts into instructional time, is seeking to eliminate a state requirement that schools also provide 30 minutes of daily physical education. The Florida School Boards Association will consider Thursday whether to include the proposal in its 2018 legislative platform.

TURNAROUNDS: A plan to convert Pasco County's Ridgewood High into a magnet technical school is coming under increased scrutiny by School Board members as parents raise concerns and questions. • The Duval County school district prepares turnaround plans for three struggling schools, the Florida Times-Union reports.

MATH TESTS: Florida high school students face different treatment over their Algebra II end-of-course exam results after lawmakers delete the test as a state requirement, TC Palm reports.

ENGLISH ONLY: Florida is among several states seeking an exemption from federal rules that mandate offering state assessments in multiple languages, Education Week reports. …

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