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HB 373 State continues to take away local control

HB 373 State continues to take away local control

Worsens teacher shortage

bof_teacher_shortageRecently the Chronicle Editorial Board referred to our past state legislature as “hypocrites”, and they did with good reason. They shared, “…Florida Legislature is constantly complaining that the federal government — was always trying to tell them what to do.” The Editorial Board then went on to say, “the same members of the Florida Legislature turn around and do exactly what they accuse the federal government of doing. State government is constantly trying to tell local government how to do their business.”  (Read the editorial: http://www.chronicleonline.com/content/tallahassee-hypocrites-strike-again)

highstakestestingThis legislative session one of the bills that continues to remove local control and interferes with the retaining of and attracting of competent teachers is HB 373 (companion bill SB 856), the bill if passed would, “Prohibits district school board from awarding annual contract for instructional personnel under certain circumstances; prohibits district school board from altering or limiting its authority to award or not award annual contract; provides applicability.”

2075994011-teacherblameOver the last decade the state legislature in Florida and state legislatures around the country have passed law after law that has caused fewer and fewer individuals to be interested in becoming teachers and have also caused those that are teachers to leave the profession.  In fact, the Orlando Sentinel reported this week, “40 percent of teachers leaving Florida’s public schools [will leave the profession] within five years after starting”.

In 2011, the Florida Legislature passed and was signed into law SB 736 that among many things, tied teachers’ salaries to student’s grades and test scores. It also required all school districts to adopt new salary schedules with new state requirements.

teachersSB 736, also took away the freedom that local districts and bargaining units had to locally negotiate equitable agreements. Under the SB 736 laws all new teachers hired after July 1, 2012 would no longer have “continuing contract”. Meaning if you were doing a good job there was no guarantee that you couldn’t be fired (or non-renewed) at the end of every school year without cause. For those that felt called to the noble profession of teaching continuing contract was an important benefit for the limited salary an individual could earn compared to that of working outside of the teaching profession.

SB 736, took away continuing contract way from newly hired teachers. It is interesting to know that SB 736 only took away continuing contract for teachers, in fact no other law in Florida for any other professions has takes away continuing contract.  Public school teachers were and continue to be targeted in this way.

Following the period after SB 736 passed into law districts and bargaining units in order to retain good teachers understood that some type of continuing contract offering was essential, and so districts added language to contracts to help give limited assurances to teachers that if they had met their annual expectations and had received at least an effective rating on their annual evaluation that they would be retained for the coming school year. The fear was that some in the legislature that had targeted the teaching profession when they passed SB 736 would try and pass new laws to stop districts from doing this.  Enter 2017 and HB 373.

Florida’s teaching shortage is not likely to improve anytime soon.  It will get worse before it will get better. Bills like HB 373 will only serve to make matters worse and continue to have Tallahassee control more of our local government’s decisions.

I urge you to contact your legislators and ask them not to support HB 373 and SB 856, as these bills only makes the matters of our teacher shortage worse for our schools and students.

Commissioners Restore School Impact Fees

Commissioners Restore School Impact Fees

THANK YOU COMMISSIONERS!!! 4-to-1 vote for students and school

Citrus_CountyAt Tuesday’s, March 14th, 2017, Citrus County Commission’s Special Board Meeting on Impact fees restoration, Commissioners heard from county departments, community stakeholders and Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel and Citrus Schools Chief Finance Officer Ken Blocker.

After Superintendent Himmel and Mr. Blocker spoke with publicly Commissioners, the commissioners voted 4-to-1 to support restoring school impact fees. I want to especially thank Chairman Commissioner Scott Carnahan, Commissioner Ron Kitchen, Commissioner Jeff Kinnard, and Commissioner Brian Coleman for not only their vote of support of properly funding school capital, increasing infrastructure, but also for their research and knowledge of the school capital funding needs and limitations.

Students, parents, teachers, staff and schools were given a clear positive message from the BOCC today. Please, when you have an opportunity, reach out to these commissioners and thank them for their support.

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Superintendent Sam Himmel to Children and Youth Cabinet

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Superintendent Sam Himmel to Children and Youth Cabinet

10988431_1035888276424575_4525348296823138042_oSuperintendent of Citrus County Schools, Sandra “Sam” Himmel is a child and student advocate.  Throughout her career as a teacher, school board member and superintendent, it is always apparent that kids are at the center of Sam’s focus. It is no surprise that on Friday Florida Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Sam Himmel to the Children and Youth Cabinet.

The Governor’s web site shares that the Cabinets mission is, “to ensure that the public policy of Florida relating to children and youth promotes interdepartmental collaboration and program implementation in order for services designed for children and youth to be planned, managed and delivered in a holistic and integrated manner to improve the self-sufficiency, safety, economic stability, health and quality of life of all children and youth in Florida.”

The Cabinet is charged with promoting and implementing collaboration, creativity, increased efficiency, information sharing and improved service delivery between and within state agencies and organizations.

Himmel will join and impressive group of Cabinet members including: Florida Department of Education, Commissioner Pam Stewart; Florida Senator, Sen. Eleanor Sobel; Surgeon General & Secretary Department of Health, Dr. Celeste Philip, MD, MPH; Florida Supreme Court, Justice Barbara Pariente, Esquire; Florida House of Representative, Rep. Gayle Harrell; Department of Juvenile Justice, Secretary Christina K. Daly; Department of Children and Families, Secretary Mike Carroll; and Agency for Health Care Administration, Secretary Elizabeth Dudek. (a full list of Cabinet members can be seen at: http://www.flgov.com/cyc-members/)

New Recess Bill marches through state legislature

New Recess Bill marches through state legislature

Please stop blaming local School Boards, legislation created the problem

youth playing soccerFor the last several legislative sessions, groups of parents around the state have asked state legislators to pass new laws to mandate “unrestricted recess time” for elementary students.  It was just a few years back that the state legislature passed laws that mandated “structured physical activity time” for every elementary student.

This 2017 Florida legislative session, elementary recess continues to be an issue with these parents. This year, Senator Anitere Flores sponsored SB 78: ‘Public School Recess’.

SB 78 would add the following language to Florida law:

Each district school board shall provide at least 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day.”

The Tampa Bay Times has reported that the bill’s sponsor Sen. Flores stated, “Sometimes the Legislature has to step in” when local control of schools gets out of control.

I am a supporter of “free play” recess time.  But what is frustrating about this issue is that local school boards, districts and schools did not create this problem.  It was the legislature that passed laws to tell local school boards, districts and schools that we couldn’t have the age old “free play” recess time but must have “structured physical activity time” for elementary students.

In Citrus County Schools our administrators have tried to apply common sense and balance to these laws. Our elementary schools typically provide recess “free play” time for students daily except for the one week out of four or five when students have on the “wheel” Physical Education class.  The “wheel” as it is often referred to in schools is a rotating period of the day when students have for a week music, P.E., art, media and technology. Then the next week students rotate to a different area.  This permits our students to be exposed to these essential areas of learning.

What educational leaders and teachers have struggled with is how to meet all the other educational mandates and required minutes in current law while also providing opportunities for students to have recess and/or physical activity time.  This is what prompted Senator Bill Montford the ranking democrat on the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K-12 Education and who is a former Leon County Schools Superintendent to speak out today and say that he backs the recess bill, but warns, “something has got to go” when schools add 20 minutes of recess without adding more time in the day.

Sadly, both what caused this issue, and what is being proposed is the result of state legislators overreaching into legislating our local classrooms.  These are decisions that need to be left to local teachers, principals and school districts to decide and not state governments.  Respectfully, instead of creating another new educational law, why not repeal existing ones?

WTC Nursing Program is Top Ranked

WTC Nursing Program is Top Ranked

Congratulations to WTC on being one of the TOP LPN Programs in Florida!

WTC-1On Tuesday Withlacoochee Technical College received news from Bryce Hall, president of PracticalNursing.org WTC was ranked 3rd in the state for their LPN nursing training program.  Hall said, “On behalf of our team, I am pleased to inform you that Withlacoochee Technical College’s nursing program has been ranked as one of the top 30 LPN programs in the state of Florida!”

Miami & Dade County’s Jersey College was ranked 1st and Winter Parks Herzing University was ranked 2nd.  Hall went on to share about how programs are selected, “LPN programs were assessed on several factors which represent how well a program supports students towards licensure and beyond. For example, we analyzed past and present NCLEX-PN “pass-rates” – weighted by year. You can learn more about the methodology used here: http://www.practicalnursing.org/lvn-lpn-ranking-methodology

Let’s congratulations to the entire LPN and WTC teams on this exciting accomplishment!

Follow this link for a full list of programs: http://www.practicalnursing.org/lvn-programs/florida

Tech Geeks’ Meeting

Tech Geeks’ Meeting

Educational Technology Council

Tina Hacky, the Media Technology Specialist at Citrus Springs Elementary School shared about the Ozobot, a robot for teaching students to program.

Tina Hackey, the Media Technology Specialist at Citrus Springs Elementary School shared about the Ozobot, a robot for teaching students to program.

On Thursday, I attended our quarterly school district’s Educational Technology Council meeting, which brings together school base technology specialist and technicians. This is always an important opportunity for these team members to come together.  These technology experts are on the front lines of our curriculum, digital assessments, technology initiatives and state mandates.

In today’s classrooms nearly every aspect of teaching and learning uses technology. From the overhead projectors, cameras, to the teacher’s computer, to the student’s iPads, to the many many different software and apps. Our technology specialist and technicians play a critical and essential role in making everything work and helping developers curriculum solutions for the classroom.

These are such dedicated individuals that are having to manage a massive growing and challenging necessary infrastructure. They are often having to use creative means to stay ahead of issues. While they cannot continue to do so, these individuals have had to manage massive increases in hardware and have done these implementations with their existing resources saving the district thousands of dollars and making learning more engaging and relevant.

Director of Instructional Technology, Dr. Mike Geddes shared about our district's growing network bandwidth requirements.

Director of Instructional Technology, Dr. Mike Geddes shared about our district’s growing network bandwidth requirements.

Director of Instructional Technology, Dr. Mike Geddes shared about our district’s growing network bandwidth requirements. Network bandwidth needs of our schools and district have increased from 100MB in 2011 to 2000MB in 2017 and we are headed to 5000MB within just a short time. What is driving this? Textbook adoption is required to be digital, along with our supplemental, enrichment and intervention curriculums is increasing bandwidth usage. The current cost of this bandwidth is approximately $40,000 a month, but thankfully 80% of that cost is paid for not out of our school’s general fund but through rebates through E-Rate. E-Rate is the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, which is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission.

At the meeting ‘techs’ have the opportunity to share their knowledge, tricks and tools with one another. District Technology Specialist, Matt Biggs shared about a learning and programming tool/toy called “Sphero SPRK+” which students can program the “Sphero” ball to move as the students’ learn coding to program the ball’s paths. Tina Hackey, the Media Technology Specialist at Citrus Springs Elementary School shared about another exciting robot for students to program, the Ozobot. We are seeing these tools in our schools in MakerSpace areas. Rachel Drummond, the Technology Specialist from Inverness Middle School shared about Google Translate to communicate with now English speaking students. Google Translate app allows you to have your mobile device camera in real-time look at text on a sign or paper and translate it as they are looking at it. This tool is assisting students to learn while they are learning their new language, and it is helping teachers and students to better communicate and build relationships.

This is always an informative meeting and I walk away grateful that my own children are in a school district that have these dedicated and technology committed individuals. They are bettering students to have the knowledge and experience to be more successful in their individual future college and careers.