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Gradebook

Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Teacher bargaining begins in Hillsborough

Superintendent Jeff Eakins greeting teachers at a training event in 2015

TIMES FILES

Superintendent Jeff Eakins greeting teachers at a training event in 2015

Negotiating will begin Thursday for nearly 20,000 workers represented by the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

And it could get interesting.

Teachers have been saying, loudly and on social media, that they expect nothing less than the pay plan the district rolled out as it implemented the 2009 Gates Foundation reforms. That pay plan, which took effect in 2013, calls for $4,000 raises every three years to teachers who are graded at least satisfactory, which is almost always the case.

No one has announced any intention to back away from that system.

But, in remarks here and there, Superintendente Jeff Eakins and members of the School Board have said Hillsborough teachers out-earn teachers in neighboring counties after a decade or more of experience. They've also voiced concerns about the budget, and the term "freeze salaries" has made its way into conversations.

The union will likely argue that Hillsborough's teachers work hard under often difficult conditions, that it's in the best interest of students to pay teachers a professional wage, and that there are other places where the district could cut costs instead. …

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Florida issues school grades: F's down, A's and B's up

Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart

Florida Department of Education

Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart

Florida's school grades showed marked improvement in 2016-17, according to the results released Wednesday morning.

The number of F schools fell by 61 percent, to 43, with 79 percent of schools earning F a year ago increasing by at least one grade level. The percentage of Florida's schools receiving an A or B hit 57 percent, or 1,834, up from 46 percent a year ago.

Among notable results in the Tampa Bay area, Melrose Elementary in Pinellas County -- the state's lowest performing school three years ago -- earned a C. Two Pasco County schools that received F's a year ago, Calusa and Hudson elementary schools, improved to C's as well.

The grading system uses 11 criteria, including learning gains and proficiency levels. It is essentially unchanged from a year ago. …

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Raises in doubt for Pasco County school employees, superintendent says

Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning says the district might not be able to offer raises in 2017-18.

Times (2016)

Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning says the district might not be able to offer raises in 2017-18.

In crafting a budget plan for the new fiscal year, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning is sounding a much different message than in years past.

He's not talking about increasing salaries, though he says he would like to.

"The first blush is, there's not a lot of hope of having the dollars to provide raises this year," Browning told the Gradebook. 

After accounting for growth and rising price tags for insurance, retirement benefits, utilities and other fixed costs, he said, "We don't have any money." The district finance team is still looking for ways to bring spending in line with anticipated revenue, with a gap of about $750,000 remaining.

Browning noted that the Legislature approved $1,200 one-time bonuses for teachers earning a "highly effective" evaluation rating, and up to $800 for those deemed "effective." Lawmakers also continued the Best and Brightest bonus, based on college entry test scores and evaluations, of up to $6,000, a reduction from the past two years.

Principals also can receive Best and Brightest, too, based on how many teachers they have on faculty earning the award. …

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Florida education news: Athletic trainers, signing bonuses, student vaccinations and more

Times (2013)

SAFETY FIRST: Pasco County school district leaders decide to retain high school athletic trainers, which had been slated for elimination, amid pleas from parents, students and teachers. "I'm going to find (the money) and we're going to make it work," superintendent Kurt Browning said. "I think it's important."

SCHOOL LEADERSHIP: New principals are named for some Hillsborough and Pinellas county schools.

VACANCY: Two Florida Board of Education seats remain unfilled six months after they came open.

NOW HIRING: The Manatee School for the Arts charter school offers big signing bonuses to teachers deemed "high impact" by the state, the Bradenton Herald reports. • The St. Johns County school district is struggling to find bus drivers, the St. Augustine Record reports. • The Citrus County school district imposes a temporary hiring freeze, the Citrus County Chronicle reports.

COLLEGE CUTS: Florida's state colleges face a budget reduction, and leaders anticipate a year of "stagnation," the News Service of Florida reports. • Broward College plans to increase class sizes and cut vacant jobs to cope, the Sun-Sentinel reports. …

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Pasco County high schools will have athletic trainers, superintendent says

Times (2010)

With concerns mounting that student-athletes won't get proper treatment if injured, Pasco County school district leaders have decided to pay for athletic trainers at all high school sports events in 2017-18.

The move could add about $125,000 to the district's anticipated funding shortfall, which was listed at $627,855 on June 20, the most recent estimate available. But superintendent Kurt Browning said Tuesday that the expense is worth it.

"We are going to fund athletic trainers," he said. "I'm going to find (the money) and we're going to make it work. I think it's important."

Browning has assigned district athletic director Matt Wicks to work with a different provider to bring the trainers to the schools. The district had worked with Florida Hospital, which paid for the service until canceling its contract at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

Parents got word of the loss, and recently began a campaign to reinstate the trainer program. Browning initially told each writer that he was looking for a way to pay for the service, but the tight budget would make it tough. …

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A new principal in Sulphur Springs K-8

Chantel Angeletti from Chicago is the new principal of Sulphur Springs K-8 School.

LINKEDIN

Chantel Angeletti from Chicago is the new principal of Sulphur Springs K-8 School.

Who will fill Julie Scardino's shoes at Sulphur Springs K-8 School?

The Hillsborough district went all the way to Chicago to replace her.

Chantel Angeletti comes from Byrne Elementary School, where she has worked since 2015.

Before that she worked as a lead teacher, instructional support leader and assistant principal at schools in Chicago.

Scardino is now the principal of Egypt Lake Elementary

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Principal changes in Pinellas

The Pinellas County School Board approved a couple principal changes at its meeting Tuesday.

Anthony Francois, assistant principal at John Hopkins Middle School, will become principal of Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School, effective Saturday. He has worked in the school district since 2010. Kristina Bauman, principal of Bay Vista Fundamental Elementary, will take over Sandy Lane Elementary. The change also is effective Saturday.

The superintendent makes personnel recommendations. School board members can only vote against the moves for "good cause," such as if the person is unqualified.

 

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Two Florida Board of Education seats remain open after six months

Former Florida Board of Education vice chairman John Padget attended his final board meeting in December 2016.

Associated Press

Former Florida Board of Education vice chairman John Padget attended his final board meeting in December 2016.

Between bill signings and economic development trips, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made time for appointments to a variety of government posts from chief finance officer to boxing commissioner.

While declaring the importance of a "world-class education," Scott nonetheless has not named anyone to fill two open seats on the Florida Board of Education.

The board -- which faces important pending decisions such as setting rules for charter school appeals and approving new concordant scores for state tests -- has met since January without former member John Padget, whose second term expired and was not eligible for a third. Member Michael Olenick's first term also ended in December, but he continues to serve until replaced or reappointed.

A spokeswoman for Scott's office said the governor continues to accept applications for the positions, but has set no time frame for making a choice.

The board next meets July 17 in Tallahassee.

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Florida education news: School budgets, hiring freeze, new schools and more

Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7069 earlier in June, and on Monday added seven more education-related bills to Florida law.

The Florida Channel

Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7069 earlier in June, and on Monday added seven more education-related bills to Florida law.

IN THE BOOKS: Gov. Rick Scott signs a new Florida Education Funding Program and several other education-related bills into Florida law. This year's new education laws promise to loom large over 2018 political campaigns.

NOW HIRING: The Hillsborough County school district ends its hiring freeze for classroom teachers.

NEW SCHOOLS: The Pasco County School Board gets its first look at the district's two newest schools, which open in August.

IN COURT: The judge assigned to hear former football coach Joe Kinnan's case against the Manatee County school district recuses himself, the Bradenton Herald reports.

ADDED SUPPORT: The Urban League works to get more Liberty City parents involved in their children's education, the Miami Herald reports.

PLANNING TIME: The Brevard County school district will keep Wednesdays for early release days this year, but consider Fridays in the future, Florida Today reports.

BACK TO WORK: Florida Senate Education chairwoman Dorothy Hukill says she's done with cancer treatment and ready to return for the next legislative session, the News Service of Florida reports. …

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Gov. Rick Scott signs several education bills into Florida law

Gov. Rick Scott

File photo

Gov. Rick Scott

Just days before the deadline, Gov. Rick Scott signed seven education bills into Florida law on Monday. They included the Florida Education Finance Program that boosted per student funding by $100 after a contentious special session, the expansion of the state's Gardiner and tax credit scholarships that assist students attending private schools, and a revision of rules for how parents and other county residents can challenge public school instructional materials.

The bills are: HB 3A (FEFP), HB 15 (school choice), HB 989 (instructional materials), HB 1109 (private school student participation in public school extracurriculars), HB 781 (school grades), HB 1239 (school bus safety), and HB 899 (transitional education programs).

Scott issued a statement touting the increased funding:  …

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Robert E. Lee Elementary Take II

This gentleman did not speak at the last Hillsborough County School Board meeting, just observed as others debated the suitability of Robert E. Lee as a name for an elementary school.

MARLENE SOKOL | Times

This gentleman did not speak at the last Hillsborough County School Board meeting, just observed as others debated the suitability of Robert E. Lee as a name for an elementary school.

Near the end of Tuesday's 3 p.m. School Board meeting, there could be another discussion of Robert E. Lee Elementary, a predominantly African American school in Tampa Heights that is named for a Civil War Confederate general.

The school renaming issue is on the agenda as an information item. The applicable district policies - including the one that makes renaming a school an 18-month process -- are here.

Other than that, it's a fairly short agenda. A new principal will be named for Sulphur Springs K-8 school to replace Julie Scardino, who was transferred to Egypt Lake Elementary. 

The Times will live-tweet.

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Pasco County school district unveils two newest schools

Bexley Elementary principal Vicki Wolin shows where students will collaborate in open space between classrooms.

Jeffrey S. Solochek

Bexley Elementary principal Vicki Wolin shows where students will collaborate in open space between classrooms.

Pasco County School Board members got a sneak peek Monday at the district's two newest schools — Bexley Elementary School in Odessa and Cypress Creek Middle-High School in Wesley Chapel.

Throughout the tour, officials stressed their ability to create durable, high-quality buildings frugally.

Bexley Elementary, the county's biggest elementary school in terms of capacity, is budgeted at $25 million. Cypress Creek Middle-High, built with tilt-wall construction, hurricane hardened, and prepared for an adjacent middle school, is budgeted at $61 million.

"We've kind of been bused about these Taj Mahals we're building," superintendent Kurt Browning said, taking a jab at lawmakers' suggestions that school districts are spending too much money on construction at the expense of education. "It's amazing what a coat of paint will do." …

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Gibson, what it means so far

In response to questions asked at last week's Hillsborough County School Board budget workshop, the administsration issued this report on what it has done so far to implement recommendations from the Gibson Consulting Group.

The three reports covered a lot of ground, and some areas show more progress than others.

Hillsborough has tackled many of the issues outlined in Phase I of the report. Dozens of clerical jobs were moved from the downtown headquarters to the schools. Work is beginning to adjust the hours of custodial workers. "Courtesy busing" within two miles of the schools is being cut back, beginning this year with middle and high schools. Bell schedules will change in 2018 with the goal of allowing each bus to serve three schools.

That's the good news.

Some recommendations to cut costs in transportation are hard to implement because of work rules negotiated with their union; and driver shortages, which drive overtime costs up. "Outside experts" are providing advice on how to modernize the payroll and accounting systems. …

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Teacher hiring freeze is lifted in Hillsborough

Teachers, come work in Hillsborough County!

A teacher hiring freeze, imposed eary this month so the district could take stock of which vacancies it needed to fill, has been lifted, effective Tuesday, Superintendent Jeff Eakins said Monday.

But that only goes for classroom vacancies. Vacancies outside the classroom are still frozen. And bus driver hiring never stopped.

About 500 jobs are affected by Monday's decision. "We want to ensure we are focusing on the classroom and that our students have the best teachers in front of them on the first day of school," Eakins said.

A total of 1,000 jobs had been frozen in recent weeks. At a board workshop last week, Eakins said in that time officials identified 100 that could be eliminated for good. The largest numbers of the teaching jobs were in special education, at high-poverty schools, or both.

Classes resume on Aug. 10. 

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Parent demand mounts for athletic trainers at Pasco County schools

Pasco County parents are trying to get athletic trainers returned to area high schools.

Times file photo

Pasco County parents are trying to get athletic trainers returned to area high schools.

Ever since word hit in May that Pasco County high schools would lose their athletic trainers, parents have agitated to keep the service intact.

Several cited individual stories about teens who were protected from aggravated injuries, and assisted when hurt, to illustrate the value of the trainers.

"I don't think we have a choice in this matter," Land O'Lakes Touchdown Club president Rick Geiger wrote to superintendent Kurt Browning. "God forbid, a student athlete suffers a catastrophic injury at a school athletic event or even worse. With all the concerns over safety, providing the best care for our students and our comment that student safety is first and foremost the priority for the District, how can this situation remain unresolved?"

His was one of dozens of emails sent to district leaders in the past two weeks, as part of a targeted campaign to influence the budget conversation.

Browning has responded to as many as possible, alerting the parents that the district received the services for free and that the provider ended the agreement.

"We are trying to find the funds to pick up these trainers," he wrote. "It is an extremely tight budget year." …

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