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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Planning continues for Ridgewood High School transformation

Several key Pasco County school district officials gathered Monday to hash over School Board member questions and concerns regarding a possible conversion of Ridgewood High into a technical-career education school.

They decided they need to meet again in a week with more staff, to consider added issues that arose.

"We still have so many parts we need to make sure are thought through," Ridgewood principal Chris Dunning said.

He mentioned a variety of details, ranging from student class ranks to possible attendance zones.

The plan is to update School Board members as soon as possible, to determine whether to move ahead with changes for 2018-19.

"If we don't get a feel that there is majority support from the board, we obviously won't move forward," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

There's little time to waste, though, in case the board chooses to continue with the plan, she added.

Several board members said they were eagerly awaiting the administration's update. They generally agreed with the concept of creating a curriculum that gets students more actively involved in their education, with a focus on hands-on technical skills that have strong academic focus. …

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Florida education news: Makeup days, graduation honors, sex education and more

School classrooms are back up and running after Hurricane Irma. Districts are now setting makeup schedules for time missed.

Times (2017)

School classrooms are back up and running after Hurricane Irma. Districts are now setting makeup schedules for time missed.

MAKEUP DAYS: Hillsborough County schools will eliminate four early release days to meet minimum state time per course, after missing seven days because of Hurricane Irma. • Indian River County schools are exploring canceling three vacation days, TC Palm reports. • Brevard County schools will not need to make up any missed days, Florida Today reports. • Lake County schools cancel one day off and eliminate several early release days, the Daily Commercial reports. • Collier County students return to school after 2-1/2 weeks off, the Naples Daily News reports.

VALS AND SALS: The Pasco County school district establishes new guidelines for reviewing and announcing top high school graduates.

HB 7069: Florida education officials and some lawmakers continue to argue that the Legislature acted inappropriately in adopting its massive education conforming bill in the spring, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

SEX EDUCATION: An abstinence-only organization will lead Santa Rosa County's sex education curriculum for the next four years, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. …

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Top graduation honors won't be final until March 12 for Pasco County high schools

Months after a contentious rollout of Fivay High School's 2017 valedictorian and salutatorian, Pasco County school district officials have set forth strict class ranking procedures aimed at avoiding a similar mess.

The message to high school leaders, sent Sept. 22, details a month-long review of grade-point averages that culminates in an official mid March reveal.

"It is important that during the school year when administration and school counselors meet with students to discuss their GPA and class rank, that students understand the class rank is unofficial until it is announced on March 12th," Teaching and Learning supervisor Samantha Del Valle wrote in her memo. "Schools should follow FERPA guidelines when discussing GPA and class rank information. This information should never be shared with other students, parents or media outlets."

The student privacy issue emerged last March, when it became evident within the walls of Fivay High that its Top 10 list included some inaccuracies. Two students vying for the top spot had received differing advice on which courses would count, and each thought they had earned the valedictorian spot. …

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Hillsborough will not add extra days for storm

Public school students in Hillsborough County do not have to come to school for additional days to make up for time missed in Hurricane Irma, the district announced Monday.

Instead, four early release Mondays will be converted to full days, beginning Oct. 23. The other full-day Mondays will be on Oct. 30, Nov. 6 and Nov. 13. On those dates, students will remain in class a full day instead of being dismissed an hour early for teacher planning time. 

Those four additional hours are enough to satisfy state requirements, even though school was closed for seven days before and after the storm. That's because Hillsborough's school days are longer than required by the state.

The district polled the community on the best way to make up the lost time, and reports that 78 percent of respondents preferred the early release option. 

Different schedule adjustments will be made at 37 elementary schools that provide extra reading time because of low performance on the Florida Standards Assessments. …

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Pasco schools director of instruction sent to assistant principal post

Rayann Mitchell

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Rayann Mitchell

Rayann Mitchell, the Pasco County school district's director of Teaching and Learning, has taken a reassignment as assistant principal at West Zephyrhills Elementary School.

Mitchell had been in her post since April 2016. During her time leading the department, she had dealt with some controversial issues, such as how to change grading models. 

Superintendent Kurt Browning said the transfer to West Zephyrhills came by mutual agreement. 

"It was the right fit for her. She was eager to take the position because of the need to move West Zephyrhills Elementary," Browning said.

The school is Pasco's sole remaining D-rated elementary in the state's grading system. It got a new principal in the spring, and is involved in a turnaround effort.

With the personnel change, Browning said, the Teaching and Learning department could face an overhaul, as well.

"We needed to think about changing things in OTL," he said. "I wanted a little more focused approach to meeting the needs of schools."

He said the leadership team is exploring the models of highly effective districts throughout Florida, focusing particularly on Seminole County. …

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Update: USF business program acknowledges $5 million in support from Vinik family

Tampa Bay Lightning owner and chairman Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, in 2010.

Brian Blanco | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning owner and chairman Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, in 2010.

The University of South Florida on Tuesday named a business program for the Vinik family.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, along with his wife, Penny, and the team, helped launch USF’s dual-degree, sports-centric graduate program in 2012. 

It will now be called the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management program.

USF officials said the renaming comes amid Jeff and Penny Vinik’s generous and ongoing support, which they said totals $5 million.

The program takes Muma College of Business students through the fundamentals, such as management, marketing and accounting, with a focus on the sport and entertainment industry.

The university said in a news release that the Viniks’ support emphasizes job readiness, faculty development and relationships with local business leaders.

The Viniks, as well as USF System President Judy Genshaft, Muma Dean Moez Limayem and USF Foundation CEO Joel Momberg were on hand for the announcement. …

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Florida education news: Shelter duty, charter schools, teacher pay and more

First year principal Michael Vasallo, right, got called into hurricane shelter duty one month into his job.

Colleen Wright | Times

First year principal Michael Vasallo, right, got called into hurricane shelter duty one month into his job.

ON THE JOB TRAINING: Michael Vasallo learns how to run an evacuation shelter on his 21st day as principal of Dunedin Highland Middle School.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: A new Hillsborough County charter school opens inside a shopping mall. • The Duval County School Board begins hearing improvement plans from struggling charter schools, the Florida Times-Union reports. • A Duval County charter school principal returns to work after a suspension over controversial social media comments, WJXT reports.

LABOR NEWS: Hillsborough County teachers and district officials are about $50 million apart in contract talks.

HB 7069: State Jim Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, defends HB 7069 and says if he ran his business with the attitude district schools have taken toward charters, he would fail, the Herald-Tribune reports. • The Collier County School Board will discuss joining a lawsuit challenging the legislation, the Naples Daily News reports.

COMING BACK: Former Louisiana school officials offer Florida educators advice on how to reestablish community after returning from a major storm, the Naples Daily News reports.  …

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Sunshine in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County School Board and its committees will gather this week in these meetings, which are open to the public under the state sunshine law

Tuesday, 10:30 a.m.-noon - Finance Committee, Staff Conference Room 283, 901 E. Kennedy Blvd. This committee includes board members Susan Valdes, Melissa Snively and Tamara Shamburger, and chief business officer Gretchen Saunders.

Tuesday, 1 p.m. - Teaching and Learning Committee, Board Conference Room 223. Committee includes Lynn Gray, April Griffin, Tamara Shamburger and chief academic officer Deborah Cook.

Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. - School Board Recognition Meeting, School Board Auditorium.

Tuesday, 6-7:30 p.m. - Bell Schedule Community Meeting, Jefferson High School, 4401 Cypress St.

Thursday, 9-11 a.m. - School Board Workshop on House Bill 7069, Board Auditorium. This is one of two parts, dealing with the mechanics of the sweeping state education law.

Thursday, 1-3 p.m. - School Board Workshop on House Bill 7069, Auditorium. This is part two, which will focus on whether the Hillsborough district should join others who have announced plans to sue the state.

 

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ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Sept. 17, 2017

President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Success Act into law in 2015.

President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Success Act into law in 2015.

Florida was one of the first states to implement a test-based accountability system, and government leaders still supports its efforts wholeheartedly. When they filed their federal Every Student Succeeds Act plan this week, they made that clear, proposing a model that doesn't change the status quo much and doesn't always meet the federal rules. Catch up on this story and other highlights of the week's Florida education news below.

A little more on Florida's ESSA plan, Jeffrey S. Solochek
"After Florida submitted its ESSA plan late Wednesday, it quickly became clear that the waivers the state Department of Education planned to seek were no longer there. A closer read of the final version, though, reveals that while the state did not request any formal waiver of the rules, its plan to work around those rules still exists. The ideas are instead woven into the general application."
DOCUMENT: Florida's Every Student Succeeds Act Plan …

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Back in bargaining, Hillsborough school district and its teachers are $50 million apart

The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association and the Hillsborough County School District returned to bargaining Friday for the 2017-18 school year.

MARLENE SOKOL | Times

The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association and the Hillsborough County School District returned to bargaining Friday for the 2017-18 school year.

It started off nice and friendly. Gretchen Saunders, chief business officer for the Hillsborough County Public Schools, passed candy around the room. Negotiators for the district and the teachers' union commended one another for their good work during Hurricane Irma. The union thanked the district for paying everybody a week early. The district praised the teachers for pitching in to help everyone from Lee Elementary School, which burned in a fire, move into its temporary home at Lockhart Elementary. 

Then talk turned to money and it went downhill.

District leaders said at this point, they can't agree to give the teachers much of what they want, including scheduled pay raises that they say will add up to $17 million with benefits. Too many uncertainties exist because of House Bill 7069 and Hurricane Irma, they said. In addition, Hillsborough could get an influx of students from Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. They estimated the teachers' requests would add up to $84.5 million -- a figure the union disputes. …

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Only one Hernando County school needs schedule adjustment after Irma

Challenger K-8 School served as a Hernando County shelter during Hurricane Irma. Students returned to classes Monday, and won't need to make up any missed time.

Challenger K-8 School served as a Hernando County shelter during Hurricane Irma. Students returned to classes Monday, and won't need to make up any missed time.

Hernando County public school students missed seven days of classes because of Hurricane Irma.

With the exception of those attending one school, they won't need to make up any of that time away.

District officials announced Friday that the schools' master calendars included enough minutes going forward to meet the state's rules for instructional time. Education commissioner Pam Stewart eased the mandate Tuesday, waiving two days (or 10 hours) of the 180-day requirement.

Related coverage: Education commissioner Pam Stewart offers Florida schools two days for Irma

That was enough for all Hernando County schools except Moton Elementary, which faces additional reading requirements after landing on the state's 300 Lowest Performing Elementary Schools list.

"District leaders are working closely with that school administration to make necessary adjustments to their schedule," Hernando schools spokeswoman Karen Jordan said in a news release. …

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Florida lawmaker again proposes ending third grade retention law

A Florida lawmaker wants to stop mandatory retention of third graders who do not pass the state's reading test.

Times (2010)

A Florida lawmaker wants to stop mandatory retention of third graders who do not pass the state's reading test.

A court challenge of Florida's third-grade retention law may have failed, but that isn't stopping one state House member from continuing his effort to rewrite the rules.

Rep. John Cortes, a Kissimmee Democrat with no education committee assignments, has refiled legislation seeking to end the practice of holding back third graders who don't earn a passing score on the state reading test or receive a good cause exemption. His effort last year did not get a hearing in its first committee of reference.

HB 161, submitted this week, still leaves room for having students with reading deficiencies repeat the grade. But it would remove all references of "mandatory retention" from the law, leaving more room for teacher discretion.

Cortes could not be reached for comment.

His proposal comes as some families who sued over the law have said they are contemplating whether to refile the case in local county courts. No action has been taken yet.

Florida has held back third graders who do not pass the state reading test for more than 15 years. Its practice has become a model, with 14 other states implementing similar rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Betsy DeVos rescinds Obama-era rules on campus sexual assault

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

New York Times

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said over and over again that sexual assault on campus is an issue she wants to get right.

On Friday, her department rolled back Obama-era guidance and released new steps that will “treat all students fairly,” DeVos said, as schools investigate and adjudicate thorny cases of sexual misconduct on campus.

The new guidance allows schools to use a "clear and convicincing" standard of evidence, and allows students to pursue mediation rather than an investigation. It also lifts a fixed time frame for conducting investigations and stresses that both parties should be able to use advisors, evidence and cross-examination in an equitable way. It will also let schools decide which appeals they want to hear. They are allowed to hear appeals only from the accused, and not accusers, if they so choose.

"Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug,” she said in a news release. “But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes." …

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Florida education news: Makeup days, accountability, charter schools and more

With students back in school after Hurricane Irma, schools across Florida begin scheduling makeup days for missed classroom time.

Times (2017)

With students back in school after Hurricane Irma, schools across Florida begin scheduling makeup days for missed classroom time.

MAKEUP DAYS: The Pasco County school district alters the daily schedule of 11 schools to make up teaching time missed because of Hurricane Irma, avoiding the need to cancel vacation days. • The Collier County school district, which missed more time from the storm, will consider converting five non-student days to class days, the Naples Daily News reports. • Lee County school officials are looking at adding six days of classes to the calendar, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • Polk County schools cancel early release days to account for the missed time, the Ledger reports.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Despite not asking for waivers, the Florida Department of Education hasn't changed its intentions in its Every Student Succeeds Act plan. More from The 74.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Indian River County school district agrees to pay its local charter schools $2.5 million in tax revenue after a court rules the district short-changed the charters, TC Palm reports.

PRIORITIES: The Duval County School Board asks for more money to support teacher salaries in its legislative agenda, the Florida Times-Union reports. …

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11 Pasco County schools get schedule changes to make up missed time from Irma

Pasco County teachers welcomed back their students on Monday, after six days off for Hurricane Irma.

Jeffrey S. Solochek

Pasco County teachers welcomed back their students on Monday, after six days off for Hurricane Irma.

First, the good news. Pasco County families won't see their Thanksgiving break shortened to make up time missed from school during Hurricane Irma. 

Nov. 20-21 had been on the school district calendar as potential hurricane makeup dates.

In fact, the district won't be canceling any planned days off at all. Still, some but not all schools must add extra time into their schedules, even after the Florida Department of Education waived two of the required 180 days of instructional time for 2017-18.

Those 11 schools will adjust their bell schedules for the remainder of the academic year to meet the mandated student contact time. Some will shorten their passing periods between classes, while some will shorten the time students have for lunch. Others will change their start or end times, none except Marchman Technical College by more than five minutes.

The changes, which take effect Monday, are: …

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