2018 FL Amendments PDF

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Defending Manatee Schools against FCSBM lies (again)

For background: Elizabeth Djinis’ coverage (Sarasota HT) of yesterday’s meeting is here.
From: Charlie Kennedy
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2018 6:33 AM

Mrs. Ziegler,

At yesterday’s Tri-County School Board meeting of the Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee County School Boards, I asked you why you would make a public accusation against Manatee Schools in your role as President of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members.    I reminded our Board colleagues that not only did the Florida Department of Education find those allegations unfounded, but noted the practices employed with middle school students, in regards to the Civics EOC exam, was beneficial to the students.   Honestly, all I was seeking was an apology from you, our neighboring county’s school board chairwoman, for an unfair accusation.

However, instead of a simple mea culpa, you instead chose to compound the false accusations by lying to everyone in the room – including our Board colleagues, Superintendents, staff and assembled media.  Specifically, your defense of your actions in saying “Manatee County wasn’t named in the press release” is proven false by your own press release of Tuesday, June 26.

As you can see below, Manatee County was named in the subject line and body of the press release.

We, as board members, are role models for the students we serve.  In leading those students, and our school districts, we must hold ourselves, and each other, to the highest ethical standards.   Further, in our role as Board members, we should not only be held to account for our failures, but also rise to defend our employees and students from false accusations.   For all of these reasons, I speak again to defend Manatee Schools.

Charlie Kennedy
School Board of Manatee County

———- Forwarded message ———
From: MVP S&P Media Alerts <info@mvpstrategy.com>
Date: Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 10:51 AM
Subject: Testing Irregularities Cause Florida Coalition of School Board Members calls for investigation of school grade inflation in Duval, Manatee, and Polk Counties, pause of school grades release


Denise —

For immediate release

Contact: Bridget Ziegler



June 26, 2018

Tallahassee, Florida

After uncovering troubling signs of school grade inflation in multiple school districts, the Florida Coalition of School Board Members is calling on the state Department of Education to delay the release of A-F grades for middle schools in certain counties, including Duval, to allow time for a complete investigation of test results.

Several school districts made dramatic improvements in their passing rates on middle-school civics tests – a significant component in the state’s school grading formula. A closer look at the DOE’s data shows those districts also saw dramatic declines in the number of students who took the tests.

Duval County middle schools had a 66 percent civics pass-rate last year, which ranked 34 out of Florida’s 50 largest school districts. The district vaulted to no. 2 this year with an 84 percent passing rate.  But while 8,649 students were tested in civics in 2017, only 5,739 were tested in 2018.  That participation drop is likely the major source of the district’s gains. Similar patterns appear in Polk and Manatee Counties.

The shifts were most noticeable in schools that serve large numbers of low-income children of color. For example, at Duval’s Matthew Gilbert Middle, where 100% of the students are economically disadvantaged and 95% are students of color, the civics pass rate increased 48 percentage points, to 95 percent. That passing rate is in the top 10 percent of schools in the state, and higher than any in St. Johns, Nassau and Clay Counties. But only 44 students took the test this year, compared to 144 the previous year.

Matthew Gilbert is a persistently low-performing school – meaning it’s earned more than three consecutive letter grades of a D or lower. The extra 48 points it could receive due to its higher civics passing rate substantially increase its chances of receiving a C grade. That would bring tens of thousands of dollars in school recognition funding, political acclaim for district leaders, and reprieve from the state’s new Schools of Hope law. FSCBM did not find similar patterns of manipulation in Clay, St. Johns, or Nassau counties.

“A-F grades are designed to give parents clear, transparent measures of school performance,” said Duval County School Board member Scott Shine. “If schools game the system, they are essentially lying to parents about the performance of their children’s schools.”

“We passed Schools of Hope to eliminate failure factories in the state of Florida and ensure every child in this state has access to a world-class education,” said Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “We want to see schools make genuine improvements in teaching and learning. I am concerned some districts are inflating their results.”

The attached spreadsheet shows how some persistently low-performing middle schools benefit from fewer students taking their civics tests, how this drove apparent performance increases, and how pass rates and the number of tested students changed year-over-year in all the schools. It also shows that in the identified schools, a significantly lower percentage of students took the state civics tests than took the seventh-grade English test. Statewide, however, those percentages were nearly identical.

State civics testing data from 2018 are available here, and from 2017 are available here.


50 Largest Districts 2017 vs 2018 scores 

Top gains 2018

Duval Scores

Duval Year Over Year 

Manatee Year Over Year

Tampa Area Scores

Polk County Year Over Year

MVP Strategy and Policy, LLC · 601 21st St, #300, Vero Beach, FL 32960, United States

Created with NationBuilder, software for leaders.

Sarasota HT questionnaire

Describe how and when the School Board should conduct its search for Diana Greene’s permanent replacement as superintendent.

In order to attract the best candidates, we need to unite as a board and put past/current disagreements behind us.   After the August elections, we will have a better idea of what the board will look like for the next two years.   At that point, we should enlist the help of the Florida School Boards Association and a large community focus group in the search for the best candidates.  By November, the new board will be seated and we can begin the process of vetting prospective candidates.    Manatee Schools is in year six of our amazing recovery from nearly being taken over by the state.  We need a new Superintendent with a strong background in Florida education finance and law who can successfully navigate the treacherous terrain of education in the hands of the current Florida legislature.

Did you vote in the 2018 referendum for the 1-mill, local-option property tax in Manatee County? If so, how did you vote and why?

Yes.  I not only voted for it, but I was also one of the three Board votes that made it happen on March 20, 2018.   I voted YES because we, as a community, should value our teachers and public education.    With our neighboring counties having the same 1-mill in place, and using it to supplement teacher pay, it was necessary to remain competitive for teachers and staff in the midst of a statewide and national shortage.

Assess the school district’s efforts to recruit and retain high-quality teachers.  See above

Cite three priorities you would have as a board member.

(not including Supt search)    Continued financial stability, improving credit ratings and fund balance reserves.     Improving Board unity and the school district’s public image.    Ensuring oversight and proper use of 1 mill referendum funds for a 2022 re-approval.   

Describe your approach to judging whether the district should approve charter-school applications.

Very simple.   For-profit charter schools, that serve their shareholders before students, have no place in public education.

Do you support or oppose the use of public dollars and/or tax credits to fund tuition at private schools.   Oppose, adamantly.

Evaluate the school district’s budget and budgeting process.

As demonstrated by the past six years of recovery, rising reserves and improving audits (internal, external and the state of FL), I have complete confidence in our district’s budgeting and finance departments, including CFO Heather Jenkins and her team.

What, if anything, should the district do to assist pupils who score a 1, 2 or 3 on the third-grade English Language Arts FSA test?

The best thing we can do for struggling early learners is to deploy wrap-around services into their neighborhood schools.   Many students lack of academic achievement can be traced back to issues of their home/neighborhood – poverty, addiction, abuse, lack of health care, etc.   Our best intervention would be in the 0-5 years for child development, partnering in any way we can, with the agencies and non-profits that serve kids that age.

Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the district’s provision of music and art courses and opportunities to students?  I

’m mostly satisfied.  Manatee Schools have multiple outlets for artistic expression and exploration.   Unfortunately, due to the high-stakes testing regime inflicted upon us by the Florida legislature, arts education is the first thing to go in the pursuit of better school grades.  If it’s not a tested subject in the school grade formula, it isn’t important.   And that is a shame on the Florida legislature.

In your view, what should be the purview of the Citizens Financial Advisory Committee?

It should be what was promised to the voters.   A citizens committee to oversee the disbursement of 1 mill referendum funds.   However, since I made the motion in June to return the scope of the committee’s work to its original intention, the gadflies are buzzing about cover-ups.   There’s a very simple solution in the middle.   Specific budget/finance oversight requests brought to the school board by a majority vote of the CFAC, and approved by a majority vote of the School Board, will be honored.  The CFAC will have the power to delve into those requests.   I presented this idea at last week’s meeting of the CFAC.

Manatee Chamber of Commerce Q’s

  1. What is your top priority for the district as a candidate for School Board and how should this priority be achieved?Right now, our top priority is finding a top quality Superintendent to continue the positive legacy of recovery we achieved under previous leaders, Rick Mills and, especially, Diana Greene.  In order to attract the best candidates, we need to unite as a board and put past/current disagreements behind us.   We should enlist the help of the Florida School Boards Association in the search for the best candidates.   Manatee Schools is in year six of our amazing recovery from nearly being taken over by the state.  We need a new Superintendent with a strong background in Florida education finance and law who can successfully navigate the treacherous terrain of education in the hands of the current Florida legislature.


  1. What is the biggest opportunity that, if embraced by the district, would lead to an improvement in student achievement?Moving high school start times back to 8:30am at the earliest.  Years of research has shown that the adolescent brain goes through significant changes around 13 years old.   This physical changes manifests in some of the habits we see in teenagers, including a change in sleep cycles.   Years of peer-reviewed research has shown the academic, and health, benefits to teenage students by pushing their school start times back.


  1. What is the greatest strength you would bring to the School Board if elected?I’m a consensus builder with a calm, low-profile attitude in the Board room and school district functions.   I’m willing to listen to varying viewpoints and willing to allow all viewpoints to be heard.  I’ve been our board chair in the past, and despite some hot button issues, we never devolved into the infighting and bickering we’ve seen in 2018.


  1. How can we ensure our Pre-K through 12 school district programs and curriculum meet the needs of our business community in preparing students to successfully enter the workforce?There are two ways – one internal, one external.   Internally, we need to focus on early education as the foundation for success for a k-12 student career.  Due to the high-stakes testing regime imposed upon by the State, we tend to put our best teachers in 3rd grade and above (the tested grades).    We should be putting our best teachers in K-2.   Externally, we need to listen to the needs of the business community.  What specific skills do you need in future employees?  What specialized skills can we offer at MTC to help our local economy?   Basically, what can we do better to prepare these students for careers – in addition to college?


  1. What role should local businesses play in supporting our schools to ensure students are graduating with the skills necessary for successful employment?By continuing the strong partnerships already in place between local businesses and their neighbored schools and by continuing successful programs of the Chamber that bring volunteers into our schools (Project Teach, Big Bank Theory, Literacy Day) to see for themselves the great stories happening every day within our walls. 


  1. What are three questions that you would ask a candidate for district superintendent? What would you hope to learn about the candidate from the responses?With the absurd demands of the State’s testing requirements, would you be willing to reduce the amount of our own in-district benchmark testing?   I hope the answer would be YES.

    What communications/training would you suggest for building a customer-service orientated culture among school district teachers and staff?

    What suggestions would you make to the Board for approval, and of the community for buy-in, to ensure that the school district is an A by 2020?


Bradenton Herald questionnaire

What is your background (family, job, hobbies)? I grew up in Pittsburgh, but first moved to Bradenton in 2004 when I started teaching at Manatee High School. I have also been a teacher at YouthBuild Charter School in Washington, DC and the Pendleton School at IMG Academies. When elected in 2014, I was a teacher of 11th and 12th grade History and Government at Manatee High School.  I have a B.S. degree in Political Science and a Masters degree in Education.

What are the school district issues you feel are most important? In the short term, the search for a new Superintendent and resolving the dissension that has dominated the board this year. In the long term, stability and oversight of school finances (referendum funds for our employees and half-cent sales tax for buildings), continuing to move Manatee Schools toward being an A-rated school district, attraction and retention of quality employees in a statewide and nationwide teacher shortage and improving health outcomes for our employees and students..

What would be your priority to increase school security? Continued partnerships with local governments in Manatee County, in addition to advocating with the Legislature to left the burden of their underfunded mandate which left us with only one choice we can afford – school guardians.

What qualities would you seek in a new school superintendent? First and foremost, we need a person with deep knowledge of Florida school law and finance. With the constantly evolving and increasing demands placed on public education by the FL legislature, while at the same they funnel public dollars to unaccountable private and for-profit charters, our new Superintendent must have years of experience in Florida schools.

What do you hope to accomplish if elected/re-elected? Bring unity back to the Board which has been fractured this year. Continue to advocate for our employee health clinic, and school based student health clinics, with a partnership of local physicians and medical professionals. I will also continue to advocate, as I have done during my first term, that we reduce the amount of district-based testing, study moving school start times to benefit adolescent health and education outcomes, study the possibility of full-year school (as a choice, not mandatory) and, finally, to expand and promote our career and technical education opportunities for students and post-grads.

Why are you the best candidate? I have tried to be a consensus builder and problem solver during my time on the Board. I have been available and responsive to anyone who has reached out to me, across any medium. After four years on the Board, I have knowledge, through personal experience, of the challenges we are facing going forward and have overcome in the past. I believe I have the experience, in the classroom and now Board room, the right temperament, and a track record of being part of a team that has seen our school district begin to recover from financial dark days.

The Bradenton Times – profile

Thanks to Dennis Maley for providing his readers with coverage of my campaign and the School Board races this summer.  (Click here to read the article)

TBT 2018 06 03




Grumpy Cat Approved

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