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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Here's what 'physical activity' looks like in your Pinellas school

On Tuesday, we reported the results from a Pinellas County school district survey of how schools managed their "physical activity" time.

The survey found 85 percent of schools spend the majority of that time outside, 41 percent of schools give additional recess time outside of the mandatory health block, and 53 percent of schools say their physical activity time is unstructured.

A number of you asked for the details broken down by school. Here they are.

According to district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf, the survey was completed by school-based staff.

We apologize for the duplicate blog posts. We experienced technical difficulties uploading the link to the survey results.

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Teachers are moving in Hillsborough County

The Hillsborough County School District has filled more than half its 200 teacher vacancies through a "redeployment" of nonclassroom teachers.

The redeployment, a key component in the district's drive to save $130 million in yearly spending, affected subject coaches, resource teachers, even some assistant principals.

As of Friday, spokeswoman Tanya Arja said there have been 130 transfers, and only 80 vacancies remain.

The district's human resources department has been working with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association to work out the reassignments. Some happened during a transfer period in November. Others will use a process known as the "pool," in which employees are given a list of available jobs.

We checked back with Jeannette Teeden and Michelle Scolaro, a reading coach and student success coach who the Times profiled in November at Durant High School. Both said they enjoyed their jobs but would not mind returning to the classroom. And that's exactly what happened to Scolaro, who will become a teacher again on Jan. 2. …

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Never too early

Fresh from the James-Gray recount, the first of the 2018 candidates for the Hillsborough County School Board have filed their papers.

Randy Toler and Bill Person are both are seeking the District 6 at-large seat now held by April Griffin.

This is the third School Board run for Toler, who got 11 percent in an eight-way primary for the District 7 seat in August.

Person, who is running for the second time, came much closer in this year's bid, finishing a little more than one percentage point behind incumbent Susan Valdes.

Toler, who works in the technology sector, is one of the founders of the U.S. Green Party. Person is a retired school district teacher, principal and administrator.

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Three charter schools set sights on Hillsborough

Three more charter schools are up for approval in Hillsborough County, backed by names that are familiar in charter school circles.

The Collaboratory, a planned K-8 school that would serve central Tampa with an emphasis on math, technology and the arts, has Trey Traviesa and Suzanne Legg on its founding board.

Traviesa, now a consultant, is a former state lawmaker who became a proponent of charter schools. Legg is the wife of former legislator John Legg. She and her husband were co-founders of Dayspring Academy for the Education and the Arts, a successful charter school venture in Pasco County. In fact, the Tampa school will be a replication of Dayspring.

The school will open with 162 students, with a seven-year enrollment goal of 546, according to the application that comes up for approval at Tuesday's School Board meeting. …

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Rezoning committee changes course on east Pasco County middle, high school boundaries

To cheers and jeers, an advisory committee of Pasco County parents and school district officials changed direction Friday on a proposal for revised Wesley Chapel-area middle and high school attendance zone boundaries.

The Meadow Pointe subdivision, which originally had been slated to move out of Wiregrass Ranch High and John Long Middle, would remain in place under the latest recommendation. The Seven Oaks subdivision instead would be rezoned into Wesley Chapel High and Weightman Middle.

Together, the neighborhoods make up the bulk of the enrollment for Wiregrass Ranch and John Long, which have long been crowded well beyond their capacity. To ease that crowding, relocating one of the two was considered a key component.

Residents from both fought hard to keep their kids in the schools, making arguments about community integrity, traffic congestion and other potential factors. In the end, though, the decision boiled down to numbers and proximity to the campuses. …

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Sen. Latvala takes issue with bill to revoke Florida in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students

Without mentioning any names, or even the issue at hand, Florida Sen. Jack Latvala took a clear swipe Thursday at a newly minted Senate colleague who filed legislation to undo a university tuition measure that Latvala worked hard to broker two years ago.

Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, proposed a bill Wednesday to void a law granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students who graduate from Florida high schools. Latvala initially had little to say about the proposal, which he hadn't yet read.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Bill would revoke Florida law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition rates

A day later, in a room filled with school board members from across the state, Latvala let loose. He made his comments in response to the question of what might be his biggest non-financial challenge in the 2017 session.

That challenge, Latvala said, will be coming to grips with the largest freshman group of senators in memory — 20 in all, 17 of whom came from the Florida House with their own set of protocols and behaviors that differ from the more collegial Senate. …

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Florida education news: School funding, bus rides, discipline and more

IN THE SENATE: Key Florida senators declare themselves strong backers of public education, speak of need to streamline testing, improve teacher pay and equalize accountability for all schools that receive tax dollars.

FREE RIDERS: The Hillsborough County school district considers ending "courtesy" bus rides for nearly 7,500 students who live closer than 2 miles from their schools. 

DISCIPLINE DISCRIMINATION: The U.S. Department of Education will investigate allegations that Pinellas County schools disproportionately discipline black and disabled students. • A similar investigation is started for Bay County schools, the Panama City News Herald reports.

PRIORITIES: The Central Florida Public School Boards Coalition sets its legislative agenda for the coming session, the Bradenton Herald reports. • Northeast Florida educators discuss challenges they face as lawmakers prepare to return, Florida Politics reports. More from the Florida Times-Union.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Two Duval charter schools will close this winter for lack of enrollment, the Florida Times-Union reports. …

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USF president Genshaft awarded $168,875 performance bonus

TAMPA — USF System President Judy Genshaft will take home $168,875 of a potential $175,000 performance stipend, university trustees decided Thursday, bringing her pay for the year to $795,275.

“I would tell you I think we’ve had one of the best years on record,” chairman Brian Lamb told the board. “And I would tell you we wouldn’t be where we are without our president.”

Thursday’s board meeting was full of praise for Genshaft’s leadership in the 2015-2016 year. Lamb ticked off achievements such as a public-private partnership that will bring a massive housing village to campus, as well as progress on USF’s path to preeminence.

Each year, Genshaft’s performance stipend comes down to a discussion among trustees. The board’s governance committee allots 70 percent of the stipend, and the board chairman allots the remaining 30 percent.

Last month, after a long discussion about Genshaft’s progress on predetermined goals, the governance committee decided to award 95 percent of the portion they control. Their motion passed at the full meeting Thursday. …

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Florida school report cards fall short in key areas, report shows

Florida long has provided online report cards of the state's public schools for parents and others to study.

But its model falls short in several areas, according to a newly released review of similar report cards from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Data Quality Campaign's Show Me the Data, Florida is among 18 states to require three or more clicks through websites to find the report card information, making navigation more complicated than it needs to be. 

Florida also is among 45 states to make its information available in English only, despite its heavy population of speakers of Spanish and other languages, the review shows. Florida also is one of the majority of states to not include all the information required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. (Only Nevada, Washington, Iowa and Virginia met that mark.)

On the positive side, Florida's system had among the most up-to-date data available.

The federal government has made it a priority to get information about schools to parents in an easy to understand and accessible manner.  …

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Florida education news: In-state tuition, dual enrollment, performing arts and more

TUITION: A conservative state senator files legislation to end in-state college and university tuition for undocumented immigrant students who attended high school in Florida.

COLLEGE BOUND: Pasco County's Dayspring Academy charter school launches a "structured dual enrollment" program aimed to get all its high school students a degree.

PERFORMING ARTS: A Hernando County elementary school offers special interest clubs to give its primarily low-income students added experiences in areas such as drama and photography.

UNFOCUSED: USF's Global Initiatives think tank closes down amid financial and operational problems.

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY: Most Marion County school buses have seat belts but many students don't use them, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • Brevard school bus drivers face retraining after one leaves a 3-year-old at the wrong stop, WFTV reports. • The Santa Rosa school district needs more bus drivers, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

GUNS ON CAMPUS: A teen is arrested for bringing a loaded gun to her Miami-Dade middle school, the Miami Herald reports. …

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Recess bill could face tough scrutiny in Florida House

After being one of only two Florida House members to oppose it last session, Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca said he's open to considering a renewed effort to mandate recess time at Florida's public elementary schools.

But he indicated the proposal could still face some potentially tough scrutiny in 2017.

"I will take a look at it," Bileca told the Herald/Times. "The areas I had difficulty with were not changed (last session), so we'll need to see what's changed."

Although he's only one vote in the 120-member House, Bileca's opinion matters greatly because, as chairman of the Education Committee for the upcoming term, he has the power to influence the outcome of a wide range of education policy matters -- including this popular, parent-driven proposal.

Among Bileca's powers as chairman is deciding which bills are taken up by his committee. Failing to get a hearing is a frequent way bills die in session -- and it's how the recess measure stalled last spring in the Senate.

MORE: "Florida will again consider mandatory recess" …

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Proposals keep coming in east Pasco school rezoning effort

Despite its unanimous vote for a new set of east Pasco middle and high school attendance boundaries, an advisory committee to the School Board plans to revisit its decision this week with several added proposals in hand.

District planning director Chris Williams has sent committee members documents from several community groups advocating positions other than the one the panel adopted. Those include suggestions from families living in Meadow Pointe III, a joint proposal from the Seven Oaks and Union Park subdivisions, a plan from Meadow Pointe IV residents, and ideas from the Double Branch Elementary feeder pattern.

Members also received information about an Florida Department of Transportation review of area traffic, as well as notes from Tuesday's town hall meeting about the rezoning.

"I have sent them all to the committee for the committee's review," Williams said. …

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Raise proposal for non-union workers heads to Pasco School Board

In a break with longstanding tradition, the Pasco County school district administration has asked the School Board to approve raises for workers not covered by collective bargaining before reaching a contract settlement with the rest of the staff.

The proposal for pay increases up to 2.65 percent -- the same amount offered across the table to the United Employees of Pasco -- goes to the board on Tuesday. It would affect about 10 percent of district workers, including all administrators but the superintendent's inner circle.

In past years, the district has held off on offering raises to non-represented employees until negotiations were concluded. Several current and former USEP members urged the board to continue that practice this year.

"The announcement has divided this district into haves and have nots," Cox Elementary teacher Nancy Richie told the board recently.

Retired teacher Beverly Ledbetter called the idea "divisive and harmful." …

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Florida education news: Recess, bullies, bats and more

PLAY TIME: Florida lawmakers again will consider a proposal to mandate daily recess at elementary schools.

BULLYING: Students at Pasco Middle School take a stand against bullying.

FINANCIAL LITERACY: All Manatee County high school seniors will take a course in real-world budgeting, the Bradenton Herald reports.

GOING BATTY: An Alachua elementary school studies the bats that have taken up residence on campus, the Gainesville Sun reports.

IN COURT: A former Brevard school maintenance worker sues the district over allegations he was subject to racial discrimination, Florida Today reports. • A judge orders the Flagler school district to turn over the prekindergarten records of students involved in a lawsuit, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

BAD ACTS: A Duval high school's band director resigns amid accusations of inappropriate comments to students, the Florida Times-Union reports.

HIGHER ED: The Florida Higher Education Coordinating Council aims to increase the percentage of working-age Floridians with degrees, the News Service of Florida reports. • Florida university students petition to preserve the rights of undocumented immigrants, Politico Florida reports. …

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Half of Pinellas elementary schools have unstructured recess, school district survey finds

The Pinellas County school district this year required all elementary schools to schedule 20 minutes of "health" -- or "physical activity" -- as it's been called, on days without physical education. 

Whether that time was "structured" with indoor activities such as Go Noodle, or "unstructured" -- recess in the traditional sense of the word with free, outdoor play -- was left up to each school. The school district's division of teaching and learning services, headed by associate superintendent Pam Moore, followed up by conducting a survey of how schools do physical activity.

The survey found 85 percent of schools spend the majority of that time outside, 41 percent of schools give additional recess time outside of the mandatory health block, and 53 percent of schools say their physical activity time is unstructured.

Those numbers fall short of what "recess moms" have advocated for. Perhaps state Sen. Anitere Flores could be their champion. The Miami Republican filed a bill today that would require district school boards to provide 20 consecutive minutes of daily free-play recess for elementary school students starting in 2017.

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