Deer Park Elementary principal Margie Polen and assistant principal Billie Sass show a revised behavior guidance chart to parents who had concerns about the school's new program. "What would be better if we don't use the word anarchy?" Polen asked.
About 50 Deer Park Elementary parents filled the Pasco County school's media center Tuesday evening for a 90-minute session reviewing a plan to improve student behavior.
The newly introduced model had generated controversy over its use of the word "anarchy" to describe unacceptable actions, and the term "conform to peer pressure" as a positive attribute akin to cooperation. Much of the concern, though, turned out to be connected to the way the system was rolled out — charts without context or explanation — rather than the actual system itself.
And once the group got through principal Margie Polen's review, developer Marvin Marshall's Skype presentation and some questions and answers, even the most ardent early detractors who brought the issues to the fore in social media said they were mostly satisfied.
"The delivery to the parents wasn't the best way," said Charity Hendry, whose child is in kindergarten. "I do feel a lot better learning the system." …
Hillsborough County School District leaders acknowledged Tuesday that experience matters when it comes to leading a high-needs school.
Proposed revisions to their policy on Elevate schools call for those principals to have at least two years experience.
"Your first year as a principal, everything is new still," Superintendent Jeff Eakins told the School Board at a workshop. "Your second year, everything starts to click because you're not worried about the new things that were happening in the first year. You now start to develop a rhythm."
More than two years would also be good, he said, but "we wouldn't want to go anywhere below that."
The policy, if approved when the board votes later in the year, marks a departure from past practice.
The district's seven Elevate schools, chosen for attention because of high poverty and chronic academic struggle, were led largely by first-time principals.
School board members could face term limits under a bill recently filed in the Florida Senate.
Two lawmakers have filed bills that could alter the way Florida's school boards operate in the future.
One could potentially expand their powers. The other would likely decrease them.
The first measure [SB 192] would codify in law that two or more members of a school board or other elected body may meet privately, and without any public notice, if no official acts or public business are to occur. It also would allow multiple members of the same board to participate in "fact-finding exercises or excursions," or to meet with lawmakers, to learn about public business, again as long as no formal action takes place or is contemplated.
Those excursions would require advance notification.
This is the original chart that upset parents with wording such as "anarchy" and "conform to peer pressure" without any context.
Leaders of a Pasco County elementary school that has come under criticism for its new behavior plan have offered an alternative model that sticks to its goals while also better considering younger children who might not understand the original terminology.
Deer Park Elementary principal Margie Polen has begun circulating a new classroom poster explaining the characteristics that students should — and should not — model in school. Unlike the first one, which to some parents seemed to equate cooperation with conforming to peer pressure, the latest iteration removes the conformity language and uses smiling emojis to note positive behavior like "cooperation" and frowning ones to label "bossing."
Notably, the A term "anarchy" in the initial poster that first went up without explanation is gone, with a crying emoji and a blank space for a new A word that has yet to be determined.
Windsor Preparatory Academy in St. Petersburg could be home to Pinellas Academy of Math and Science's St. Petersburg campus. The Pinellas County school district received a charter school application from that school's leadership this fall to open in 2018.
Following a two-year dry spell, the Pinellas County school district has received two new applications to open charter schools in St. Petersburg.
Lighthouse Academies, a charter school chain with 16 schools in three states, submitted an application to open an elementary school in the 33705 zip code in south St. Petersburg. Former Pinellas County School Board member Glen Gilzean sits on the charter's national board.
Pinellas' charter school director Rick Wolfe said the school has not applied to be a "School of Hope," a charter school allowed by the Legislature to set up shop near a struggling public school to give parents an alternative option.
Pinellas Academy of Math and Science in Largo is looking to open a St. Petersburg campus for Kindergarten through eighth grade students. Wolfe said school officials are eyeing the property once home to Windsor Preparatory Academy in St. Petersburg.
Both applicants have signed waivers allowing the charter school office more time to review their applications. If approved, both schools could open in fall 2018.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
The morning bus ramp at Lennard High School. In 2015-16, 183 Lennard students got courtesy busing from homes less than two miles from the school. The Hillsborough school district cut back those rides this year.
There's a constant push-pull in the world of Florida school transportation.
Everyone wants all children to get to and from school safely. Yet the money to pay for all those buses to carry all those kids isn't nearly enough.
The state funds only a percentage of the total cost that districts pay to transport students, and has in law made clear that anyone living closer than 2 miles from campus isn't eligible without proof of a hazardous walking route. Even then, secondary students are not required to receive what they call "courtesy" bus rides — presumably they're old and smart enough to walk the distance, regardless.
More than 8,000 students — nearly 40 percent of Hernando County’s enrollment — skipped school today after the district last week told kids they could stay home for the solar eclipse.
Perhaps in preparation for the large number of absences, some teachers in the district used the days leading up to the rare phenomenon as an educational opportunity, some even documenting their hands-on lessons on Twitter.
Pine Grove Elementary assistant principal Nicholas Pagano tweeted on Friday photos of fourth grade teacher Glenda Shea’s darkened classroom, where students used flashlights and a small globe to simulate an eclipse. That same day, he shared more photos of student drawings depicting views of the eclipse from Earth.
There were, of course, eclipse-related activities on Monday, too.
Michael Maine, principal at Spring Hill Elementary, tweeted out a video showing how teacher Traci Athanason’s fourth grade class celebrated “The Great American Eclipse.” The song Walking on Sunshine played over a stream of photos of students wearing the special glasses used to view the eclipse. …
"My hope is to get that up and open by 2019," Browning said of the school, which would rise on Old Pasco Road alongside Cypress Creek High, which currently is serving as both middle and high school.
The School Board already has approved an architect for the project, potentially trimming the amount of time needed to ready the school by about six months. The site work to prepare the land was completed, as well, during construction of Cypress Creek.
Browning, who came under fire for his handling of the changes, said certain aspects of the next rezoning appear settled. The children currently assigned to Cypress Creek would not be moved, he said, and the bulk of crowding relief would come from John Long Middle. …
Florida school district leaders fought during the 2017 legislative session for permission to increase their local tax rate for capital project funding, anticipating they would have to share with charter schools, knowing they had more projects than revenue, understanding the state's portion had been low for years.
Late last week, superintendents learned exactly what their piece of the $50 million Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) allocation would be. For some of the larger districts, it might get them close to paying for a new classroom wing. In the smaller ones, it might not even pay for air conditioning repairs.
Now they have to submit a request for authorization to encumber the money. If the work isn't under contract by the end of January 2020, the money can revert back to state coffers. Few districts anticipate anything like that happening.
With the reopening of schools came all sorts of school related stories -- busted air conditioning, behavior expectation battles, enrollment projection errors and more. 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 email@example.com.
Mor than half of the Florida traditional public schools eligible to vie for newly minted "Schools of Hope" grants submitted applications by Tuesday's deadline, the Florida Department of Education reported.
The program was a late add-on to a House proposal that set aside millions of dollars to support the creation of new charter schools to serve communities where traditional schools have consistently performed poorly on state tests. Aiming to gain support in the Senate, where support for HB 7069 was shaky, bill writers added a provision to give $2,000 per student in added funding to up to 25 schools required to submit turnaround plans to the state.
"I'll be real honest with you," Browning said Friday. "I flipped out when I saw it."
The superintendent shook his head in dismay as he considered the use of words like "anarchy" and "peer pressure" without any context to help parents understand Deer Park Elementary's goals. The timing was incredibly poor, he observed, given national current events that have generated heated debate over what it means to live in a democracy.
"I have directed that all those posters be taken down in the school, I'll say until ... I want the parent meeting to occur, and then we will assess where we are," he said. "What I am troubled about is, it was just done with little or no communication to parents. If we had, the likelihood of success would have been greater."
Browning contended the underlying effort to encourage positive behavior is "solid." The language, in context with all the other materials, makes sense, he said. …
National events hit Florida hard this week, as the white nationalist group at the center of violent protests in Virginia worked to cement plans for a rally in Tally. University of Florida officials said they won't have it on their campus, and now a potential legal battle over First Amendment rights is brewing. Higher education reporter Claire McNeill offers her insights on the situation after a week of coverage. Then, after our podcast with Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend aired, Florida House Republican leadership asked for the chance to offer an opposing view. Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., chairman of PreK-12 Appropriations, speaks with reporter Jeff Solochek on Townsend's views that Florida's education system needs a reboot, and offers some thoughts about the pending HB 7069 lawsuit, the coming legislative session, and more.
Gradebook features education articles and insights on schools in Florida, focusing on Tampa Bay area schools. What's the latest from the Florida Department of Education? How are state tests being used to compare Florida schools? What's going on in Tampa Bay schools? Get an insider's view from the Times education reporting team.