Local News

New school year will usher in significant changes

Big changes for the 2014-15 school year starting Wednesday include 16 new school administrators, changes to the Code of Student Conduct and the introduction of new Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessments.

The School Board of Highlands County has new principals at seven of its 17 schools: three of the four middle schools, three elementary schools and the Kindergarten Learning Center will have a new head administrator.

The new middle school principals are: Chris Doty - Lake Placid Middle, Seth Lambert - Avon Park Middle, and Jackie Allen - Hill-Gustat Middle.

The new elementary principals are: Erica Ashley - Lake Country Elementary, Carla Ball - Avon Elementary, and Jeannie Inagawa - Cracker Trail Elementary.

Julia Burnett is the new principal at the Kindergarten Learning Center.

Also, there are nine new assistant principals: Willie Hills - Cracker Trail Elementary, Jon Spencer - Avon Elementary, Michael Halpern - Lake Placid Elementary, Sara Brooker - Lake Country Elementary, Cheryl Vermilye - Hill-Gustat Middle, Jessica Thayer - Avon Park Middle, Jennifer Sanchez - Lake Placid Middle, Candice Dean - Avon Park High and Kim Ervin - Sebring High.

Today, the school board will consider proposed changes to the Code of Student Conduct, made in response to new state requirements.

Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger noted that one change was prompted by an incident in which a student was suspended from school for fashioning a toaster pastry into the shape of a gun.

An 8-year-old Maryland boy took bites from a Pop-Tart so that it resembled a gun last year. The Florida legislature approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed the so-called “Pop-Tart” bill.

The addition to the code of conduct states that simulating a firearm or weapon while playing, or wearing clothing or accessories that depict a firearm or weapon are not grounds for disciplinary action or referral to the criminal justice or juvenile justice system.

In another code change, under “prohibited conduct,” there is additional language for the definition of possession of alcoholic beverages, drugs and tobacco.

The existing code defines possession as, “use, being under the influence, procurement, purchase, delivery, distributions, transfer, sale.”

Hollinger noted the addition of, “caught in the act of, using, admits to use or is discovered to have used in the course of investigation.”

The legislature has also canceled biometric pilot programs, which involved handprint and fingerprint recognition technology to check students at cafeteria lunch lines and media centers, among other places, he said.

Also, the definition of hazing has been rewritten and will expand from high school to encompass grades six through 12.

Math and English language arts curriculum in the 2014-15 school year will be based on The Florida Standards in grades K-12, which will necessitate the new state assessments.

Except for students who need to retake it, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test will no longer be administered.

The first administration of the FCAT replacement, the Florida Standards Assessments, will occur in spring of 2015 with the English language arts

(ELA) and mathematics assessments.

The guidelines for promotion and graduation will remain largely the same, according to the Florida Department of Education. Students entering third-grade in 2014-15, who have only been taught using the Florida Standards since kindergarten, will be required to achieve a certain score on the third-grade English language arts assessment in order to meet promotion requirements.

Students entering 10th-grade and/or taking Algebra 1 in 2014-2015 will be required to achieve a certain score on the respective 10th-grade English language arts and the Algebra 1 assessments in order to meet graduation requirements.


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