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21st November 2022
Ed. Dept. publishes Stronger Connections grant program draft
The U.S. Department of Education has published a draft FAQ in regard to the $1bn Stronger Connections grant program, which will be distributed through Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Schools should take a comprehensive approach to the prevention of violence that includes not only improved safety measures but meets students’ physical, social, emotional, mental health and academic needs, the document asserts. Recommended activities under the grant, which is part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, include reducing exclusionary discipline, hiring behavior specialists, and implementing anti-bullying practices. The guidance also suggests that if a school community decides to employ school resource officers, it should have a comprehensive process for hiring, training and program evaluation. The 36-page draft document details allowable activities for supporting student mental wellness, helping pre-schoolers, meeting the individual needs of students with disabilities, and responding to incidents of hate, as well as for purchasing and using security equipment like surveillance cameras and metal detectors. Other factors to be considered in awarding grants include the need for mental health staff. The Education Department is accepting feedback on the FAQ document, which when final will be non-regulatory guidance, through December 19.
Lee County Schools estimates $230m Hurricane Ian damage
The latest Hurricane Ian damage assessment for the Lee County School District is $230m, according to district officials. The preliminary assessment, which is $80m more than the initial estimate of $150m, was created for the Florida Department of Education and is still subject to change. The district is also in the midst of working with consultants on insurance and FEMA reimbursements. The district is currently working on immediate repairs and will present plans for long-term projects in December, Michael Ramirez, the district's chief of staff, said during a school board workshop last week. The district continues to meet weekly with a group of representatives from each of the three most damaged schools — Fort Myers Beach Elementary, Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary and Sanibel School — to discuss their fate.
Florida's Purple Star Schools named
Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced that 114 schools in 10 counties across the state will be designated as Florida’s first class of Purple Star campuses in recognition of their support for the children of military families. He made the announcement when he recently visited Fort Walton Beach High School in Okaloosa County, which has the highest percentage of military child enrollment of any school district in the state. Additionally, the Department of Education will work with Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia, and Walton counties to create a first of its kind teacher leadership program at Purple Star schools to both help veterans earn their teaching certification and help other teachers learn how to best serve military families. This program will allow Purple Star schools to fill teaching positions and help qualified teachers receive their certification more quickly.
Cellphones in class should be at teachers' discretion, academic argues
Author Michael Horn, who is also co-founder of and a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, argues that blanket bans on cellphones in schools are "ill-informed and regressive." Educators on the ground should choose for themselves when and whether to allow their students to carry cellphones to class, he asserts, so they can navigate learning apps to help students progress at their own discretion.
Polk County School Board mulling land purchase decisions
What began as a Polk County Public Schools work session item in July to buy land along Lake Hatchineha Road for a school, has mushroomed into six more potential properties to choose from. The district is dealing with overcrowding at the Haines City High School and a new school would help alleviate under capacity as well as rising enrollment projections in the area. All of the properties and the process for identifying the ultimate location for a new high school in the northeastern region of the county were discussed during last week's work session. No votes were taken on a site selection, but several board members wanted the school district’s attorney to prepare a presentation on the district’s commitments in the interlocal government agreement and clarification on the impact fees associated with the site selection process.
Later school start times could help teachers too
Researchers led by Kyla Wahlstrom, a senior research fellow for education and human development at the University of Minnesota, analyzed the sleep habits and teaching of more than 1,800 teachers in a large, unnamed suburban school district as it implemented a new school schedule that delayed start times for middle and high schools. They found that high school teachers slept on average 22 minutes longer and woke on average 28 minutes later than they had before the policy change. Moreover, they showed significantly less lethargy throughout the day. Prior studies have found more than 40% of teachers get inadequate sleep on weekdays, with high school teachers getting more than 40 minutes less rest on average than other workers. Research also suggests work start times play a significant role in sleep deprivation among teachers, particularly for women, who reported more disrupted sleep and more daytime sleepiness than their male peers. A study released in September, of more than 50,000 women in the California Teachers Study, found 75% reported having trouble sleeping at least once a week, while 20% had sleep problems at least three times a week.
In praise of Brevard Public Schools’ Matt Susin
Brevard County School Board member Matt Susin’s relentless efforts have had a huge impact on safeguarding and promoting the health and wellbeing of students of all ages on the Space Coast. A dedicated philanthropist, in 2019 Susin was recognized as a Central Florida Humanitarian for his extensive efforts on behalf of the children of Brevard County. He spearheaded the first policy in Florida to make it mandatory for all student athletes to take an EKG/ECG before playing sports. Susin also received recognition as the Public Service Award/School Board Member of the Year for successfully implementing the largest jobs program in the state of Florida for high school students.
States with best personal-finance education mapped
Tennessee tops the list of U.S. states that provide the best financial education for its residents, according to a new report by OneMain Financial. More than 99% of students at public high schools in Tennessee have what’s known as “gold-access” education, attending a school where they are required to take a personal-finance course in order to graduate. New York, Utah, Alabama and Virginia followed in the rankings. Although only 2% of New York’s high-school students are in gold-access schools, 11 financial- and economic-education bills have been proposed in the state this year. In the other three states, over 97% of students are in gold-access schools. In total, elected officials had introduced 69 bills focused on financial education in 27 states this year as of late October, according to the Next Gen Personal Finance Financial Education Bill Tracker. Among those bills, 12 have been signed into law in 10 states and eight were still in progress in three states.
Volusia County resource center for troubled kids opens
The new Volusia Family Resource Center is officially open in Daytona Beach. The facility is set to help troubled young children and their families, who can better access resources in juvenile justice, mental health, substance abuse prevention and behavioral services. Partnering with the sheriff's office to help are Volusia County Schools, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Children's Home Society of Florida. Earlier this year, the county received $5.4m in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan which gave officials the green light to open and they were able to convert the building into a resource center in 90 days. “This allows for us to give one more option to families to be able to confront what at times is a harsh reality where outside forces are having more impact on our children than we can,” says Volusia County Schools spokesperson Angel Gomez.

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