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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

New job for Pinellas mentor to first-year teachers

Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg. Davis' year-round job has shifted from coaching first-year teachers at six struggling schools to an instructional coach at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg. Davis' year-round job has shifted from coaching first-year teachers at six struggling schools to an instructional coach at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo.

Remember Kali Davis, a Pinellas school district teacher whose job last year was to mentor and coach 26 first-year teachers in six of the district's lowest-performing schools?

She's still around (she spent this summer training rookie teachers on classroom management), but she'll no longer be known as an "Early Career Educator Support & PCS/PCTA Liaison," a position that was funded by the school district and the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

Davis will be an instructional coach at Ridgecrest Elementary in Largo beginning this fall. The position she held last year has been eliminated because it was hard to quantify how effective her role was through teacher retention and for personal reasons.

She said PCTA hopes to instead use resources to help teachers by hosting year-round trainings.

“We really want to focus our efforts on places where we are supporting the most amount of people,” Davis said.

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Florida education news: lawsuits, trans rights, recess and more

Ya'riah Ellison, 6, of Tampa, works on a pop art self portrait at the Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa on Friday, July 14, 2017. On Thursday, July 20th, a new pop art exhibition will open in which children will be able to create self portraits in a variety of ways including screen printing, pointillism and pop art methods

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Ya'riah Ellison, 6, of Tampa, works on a pop art self portrait at the Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa on Friday, July 14, 2017. On Thursday, July 20th, a new pop art exhibition will open in which children will be able to create self portraits in a variety of ways including screen printing, pointillism and pop art methods

ANOTHER ONE: Palm Beach County may be the next School Board to pick a legal fight with the state over the controversial HB 7069, but they may do it alone. Board members Wednesday seemed conflicted about whether to participate with other school boards, like Broward and St. Lucie counties, in a joint lawsuit or sue on their own, but they left no doubt about their intentions to challenge HB 7069 in court. More from the Palm Beach Post and Sun Sentinel. The Duval County School Board is also seeking legal advice before they proceed with joining the lawsuit, the Florida Times-Union reports.

TRANS RIGHTS: Supporters of the Nease High School transgender student who recently filed a federal discrimination suit against the St. Johns County School District for the right to use the boys’ bathroom spoke out at a school board meeting Tuesday, the St. Augustine Record reports.

RECESS: Lake County is already ahead of the curve (and the new law) in mandating recess for elementary schools.  In 2014, former Lake County Superintendent Susan Moxley mandated Lake’s elementary schools provide 60 minutes of recess per week, the Daily Commercial reports. …

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New principals for Hillsborough

Johnny Bush was appointed the Principal of Plant High School on Tuesday.

Hillsborough County Public Schools Twitter

Johnny Bush was appointed the Principal of Plant High School on Tuesday.

The Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday approved a group of principal appointments.

Effective Monday, they are:

- Johnny Bush, a senior executive officer of professional standards, has been tapped to lead Plant High. He replaces Robert Nelson, who was appointed as an area principal coach. Bush has worked in Hillsborough school district since 1997.

- Orestes Mendez, an assistant principal at Lee Elementary, was appointed as principal of Colson Elementary. He replaces Wendy Harrison, who was tapped to be an area principal coach. Mendez has worked in the district since 2002.

- Gloria Waite, a principal on special assignment, was appointed as principal of Clair Mel Elementary.

- Jennifer Davis, an assistant principal of South County Career Center, was promoted to principal of the center. She replaces Tibor Kovacs, who retired. Davis has worked in the district since 2004.

- Mickey Boddie, an assistant principal at Hillsborough High, has been appointed the Principal of North Tampa EPIC3 Center. He replaces Cornelius Bobo who was transferred to be principal of Brandon EPIC3 Center. Boddie has worked for the district since 2001.

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Florida education news: HB 7069 lawsuit, delayed budget, teachers and more

Justin Black, entering his third year teaching physical education at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, gives summer students a math lesson under the watchful eye of Kali Davis, a Springboard to Success training director.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Justin Black, entering his third year teaching physical education at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, gives summer students a math lesson under the watchful eye of Kali Davis, a Springboard to Success training director.

#HB7069: The Pinellas County School Board hashed out the details of what it would take to join Broward and St. Lucie counties in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of controversial education bill HB 7069. Pinellas isn’t the only School Board contemplating that decision. Alachua County School Board members largely supported the lawsuit in a meeting Tuesday, though one member suggested the board should hold off on joining the lawsuit to focus on the coming school year, the Gainesville Sun reports. Sarasota County also may make a decision to jump in, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports.

TEACHERS: Rookie teachers in Pinellas County see an opportunity in heading back to school over the summer. It’s their chance to fine-tune their classroom management skills on students enrolled in a summer program and get real-time coaching from professionals.

BUDGET: The Polk County School Board expected to get a look Tuesday at the 2017-18 tentative budget, but numbers from the Florida Department of Education weren’t in, the Lakeland Ledger reports. Pinellas County, dealing with the same issue, voted to delay its first public hearing on the budget. …

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Pinellas School Board hashes out the details about joining lawsuit against HB 7069

Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego raised the topic of potential suing the Florida Legislature over the controversial education bill HB 7069.

Times files

Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego raised the topic of potential suing the Florida Legislature over the controversial education bill HB 7069.

It was the end of a long workshop, and Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego had something to say about HB 7069, the controversial education bill loathed by many school districts.

Grego said he had spoken to Broward superintendent Robert Runcie. It was Runcie's district that was the first to file a lawsuit against the Florida Legislature for passing a law they felt gave charter schools an unfair advantage.

"I thanked him for being out there and being bold," Grego said. "It takes guts, it really does."

St. Lucie County has since joined the lawsuit. Manatee and Palm Beach counties are considering it, and so is Pinellas.

School Board attorney David Koperski laid out the details: There would most likely be a single lawsuit with many school boards as plaintiffs. The legal issues are the same for all school districts, and they would need a litigator with statewide experience.

Koperski said attorneys from Broward, St. Lucie and Palm Beach school boards are interviewing attorneys from two law firms with that experience. Broward said it could spend up to $25,000 on the suit, and St. Lucie offered $10,000. …

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Florida education news: closing schools, paychecks, appeals and more

Sixth grade teacher Elizabeth Lindenberg, Pinellas Park Middle School, teaches a group of students preparing for fifth grade at Woodlawn Elementary School, St. Petersburg, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 during a session of the Summer Bridge Program. The students were studying nonverbal communication skills. The program was started three years ago by Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Grego to prevent student learning loss, especially in low income areas.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Sixth grade teacher Elizabeth Lindenberg, Pinellas Park Middle School, teaches a group of students preparing for fifth grade at Woodlawn Elementary School, St. Petersburg, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 during a session of the Summer Bridge Program. The students were studying nonverbal communication skills. The program was started three years ago by Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Grego to prevent student learning loss, especially in low income areas.

CAMP: Pinellas County students enrolled in Summer Bridge, a district-sponsored summer program to curb learning loss over the summer, are also going on field trips to a local bird sanctuary. Officials say its a way to offer unique summer learning opportunities to students who have fewer means, WUSF reports.

LIMBO: Palm Beach County School Board members are expected to vote Wednesday to shut down Odyssey Middle School next year, officially pulling the plug on the half-empty school just 16 years after opening it and possibly lease it to a charter school. The school’s enrollment has fallen by half in little more than a decade. If approved Wednesday, it would be the county’s first closing of a traditional public school in more than a quarter-century, the Palm Beach Post reports.

CLOSED: The Florida Board of Education Monday declined a North Florida charter school’s bid to remain open another school year. Adam Miller, the state’s school choice director, presented data showing Orange Park Performing Arts Academy in Clay County generally performed “significantly lower” than similar schools. Its lowest-performing students did especially poorly, redefineED reports. …

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Florida education news: State Board of Ed meeting today, awards, opt out and more

The State Board of Education meets today for a 9 a.m. workshop and 2 p.m. board meeting.

The Florida Channel

The State Board of Education meets today for a 9 a.m. workshop and 2 p.m. board meeting.

The State Board of Education meets today for a 9 a.m. workshop, which will include talking shop about the potential 2018-19 budget, followed by a 2 p.m. board meeting. Follow along here. The board may soon have a new member: Gov. Rick Scott's appointment of Tallahassee lawyer Ben Gibson was announced late Friday. To catch up on the latest on this and other education news stories from around Florida, be sure to regularly visit the Tampa Bay Times Gradebook. Join our daily Facebook conversation to share your views. And be sure to share this roundup with your friends and colleagues. Colleen

CONGRATS: The Florida Department of Education awarded Pasco Teacher of the Year Robert Patterson with the newly established Dr. Brian Dassler Outstanding Teacher/Leader award on Friday. Also recognized was Pinellas' Countryside High school with a Family and Community Involvement Award for its career center and college and career fair. …

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ICYMI: Florida education news in revew, week of July 9, 2017

Tammy Jerkins, a Lake County high school math teacher, was named the 2018 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year on Thursday night in Orlando.

Florida Department of Education Twitter

Tammy Jerkins, a Lake County high school math teacher, was named the 2018 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year on Thursday night in Orlando.

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More DOE awards for Pasco teacher, Countryside High

Robert Patterson, a fifth grade teacher at Veterans Elementary in Wesley Chapel, was honored with the Dr. Brian Dassler Outstanding Teacher/Leader award by the Florida Department of Education. Patterson also won Pasco Teacher of the Year in January.

Jeffrey S. Solochek

Robert Patterson, a fifth grade teacher at Veterans Elementary in Wesley Chapel, was honored with the Dr. Brian Dassler Outstanding Teacher/Leader award by the Florida Department of Education. Patterson also won Pasco Teacher of the Year in January.

Even after the Florida Teacher of the Year was announced Thursday night, the Florida Department of Education is not done giving out accolades to outstanding teachers and schools.

The DOE announced Friday that Pasco Teacher of the Year Robert Patterson was awarded the newly established Dr. Brian Dassler Outstanding Teacher/Leader award, which was created after Dassler, the DOE deputy chancellor of educator quality who died suddenly March.

Patterson, a fifth grade teacher at Veterans Elementary in Wesley Chapel, was recognized for his "strong relationships with his students and fostered a culture of learning and sharing without judgment." According to a press release, Patterson was described as "a natural leader... integral in the creation of the school’s Professional Learning Communities, which bring together teams of educators to analyze instruction and outcomes and develop strategies to help struggling students." Read more about him here.

Pinellas' Countryside High school was also recognized by DOE with a Family and Community Involvement Award for its career center and college and career fair. …

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Gradebook podcast: Why is Hillsborough County teacher Ryan Haczynski blogging?

Ryan Haczynski

Ryan Haczynski

Many public school teachers in Florida don't speak out on issues that affect them, saying they fear retribution for their comments. Not so Ryan Haczynski. The International Baccalaureate teacher at Strawberry Crest High School started a new blog and podcast over the summer to talk Florida education, and to encourage activism among his peers. H, as his students call him, spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about the forces that drove him to get vocal.

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Florida education news: Teacher of the Year, job changes, IB diplomas and more

Tammy Jerkins, a Lake County high school math teacher, was named the 2018 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year on Thursday night in Orlando.

Florida Department of Education Twitter

Tammy Jerkins, a Lake County high school math teacher, was named the 2018 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year on Thursday night in Orlando.

WINNER: Florida's best educators gathered Thursday night to recognize the 2018 Teacher of the Year. Tammy Jerkins, a high school math teacher from Lake County, received the top honor and a $25,000 check, among other prizes. Read the Orlando Sentinel and the Daily Commercial's coverage on Jerkins here and here.

NEW JOB: Ray Bonti, a veteran Pasco county school and district administrator, announced this week he will lead the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators, an advocacy group for the county's school and district level leaders.

DIPLOMAS: St. Petersburg High became home to the first graduating class with International Baccalaureate diplomas in the state 30 years ago, but the IB class of 2017 just broke a school record: 97 percent received their IB diplomas, the highest pass rate in Pinellas.

LICENSE LOST: A Miami-Dade School Board member lost his license to teach in Florida on Thursday after legal controversies in New Jersey followed him to Florida, the Miami Herald reports. …

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Lake County math teacher named Florida Teacher of the Year

Tammy Jerkins, a Lake County high school math teacher, was named the 2018 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year on Thursday night in Orlando.

Florida Department of Education Twitter

Tammy Jerkins, a Lake County high school math teacher, was named the 2018 Macy's/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year on Thursday night in Orlando.

A high school math teacher from Lake County took home the top educator award in the state Thursday night.

Tammy Jerkins from Leesburg High was named the 2018 Macy's/Department of Education Teacher of the Year at a ceremony in Orlando. Her prize included a $25,000 check, a $1,000 wardrobe, a $1,000 check for her school and an all-expense paid trip for four to New York City to attend this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Congratulations to Tammy Jerkins, our 2018 FL Teacher of the Year! @lakeschools @jacketmathlady #FL73STRONG #FLedu pic.twitter.com/YUEqIV26Ri

Gov. Rick Scott and his wife, first lady Ann Scott, announced Jerkins as the winner. Jerkins thanked the governor and first lady, education commissioner Pat Stewart and chancellor Hershel Lyons.

"They are leading our state to increase student achievement and close the achievement gap," Jerkins said.

After a few personal shout-outs, Jerkins said, "I have to recognize our support systems because great teachers have great support systems." …

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Incumbent Pasco School Board member declares reelection bid

Cynthia Armstrong first won a seat on the Pasco County School Board in 2010.

Times (2010)

Cynthia Armstrong first won a seat on the Pasco County School Board in 2010.

Cynthia Armstrong, first elected to the Pasco School Board in 2010, has filed papers with the Pasco Supervisor of Elections to seek a third term representing the southwest corner of the county.

Armstrong, a real estate agent and former teacher, said she intends to pay the filing fee to qualify for the ballot, and not collect petition signatures. She said that way she can spend more time talking to residents about issues the school district faces.

The biggest challenge, Armstrong said, is planning and preparing for enrollment growth. The district has asked the County Commission to approve a school impact fee increase, and has projected the need for at least four new schools over the coming five years.

In addition to that issue, she said, the district must continue to improve its student achievement, as it saw test scores rise this spring. 

"I also really want to focus on expanding magnet schools and career academies, so we offer more options to students," Armstrong said.

One potential challenger has filed papers to run against Armstrong. County newcomer Meghan Hamer said she wants to focus on bullying prevention. …

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St. Petersburg High IB students set record-high diploma rate

The International Baccalaureate Class of 2017 at St. Petersburg High School poses recently at the school's Stewart Field. It's the 30th year since St. Petersburg High became Florida's first IB school, and this class shattered its school record with 97 percent of students earning an IB diploma.

Times files

The International Baccalaureate Class of 2017 at St. Petersburg High School poses recently at the school's Stewart Field. It's the 30th year since St. Petersburg High became Florida's first IB school, and this class shattered its school record with 97 percent of students earning an IB diploma.

Thirty years after graduating the first public school class with International Baccalaureate diplomas in the state, St. Petersburg High's IB class of 2017 reached another milestone.

The Pinellas County school district reported that 111 students -- 97 percent of the IB class -- earned their diplomas. It's a record-high for the school and the highest rate in the district for the 2016-17 school year.

At Largo High, just two years after it graduated its inaugural IB class, 39 students -- 93 percent of the class -- earned diplomas, and 84 percent of IB students earned diplomas at Palm Harbor University High. District-wide, 92 percent of students earned a diploma.

"They’re smart, but they work really hard and they’re really dedicated," said St. Petersburg High assistant principal Susan Farias. "The teachers do a fantastic job preparing them for these exams."

In May, St. Petersburg High invited the inaugural IB class from 1987 to the commencement ceremony for the class of 2017. Nineteen students from that class and four original IB teachers attended the event.

"We’ve never had a graduated class come back and meet the students, so that was special for this year," Farias said. …

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Former Pasco schools administrator takes education post in Hillsborough County

Some people just can't get enough of public education. And Ray Bonti appears to be one of them.

Bonti, a veteran Pasco County school and district administrator, announced this week he will lead the Hillsborough Association of School Administrators, an advocacy group for the county's school and district level leaders. He did it quietly, by setting up a Twitter account using his new executive director title.

A day later, the school district put out a formal statement.

Bonti, who lives in northern Hillsborough County, worked 28 years in Pasco County schools, first as a teacher and later as a school assistant principal and principal. He announced his first retirement from Wiregrass Ranch High School, which he opened as principal, in 2013, saying he wanted to become an education consultant.

Before he could leave, though, the district's new administration convinced Bonti to stick around as assistant superintendent, overseeing operations such as athletics, transportation and school maintenance. He was a go-to guy for superintendent Kurt Browning until Bonti's next retirement in spring 2016, this time to "go off and enjoy life." …

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