Polk school officials to meet with parents about struggling middle schools

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Polk County school officials are scheduled to meet with parents Thursday about plans to fend off the closures of five middle schools.

School officials said they want to reassure parents they are doing everything possible to turnaround the schools’ performances.

Today’s meeting times and locations:

  • Boone Middle, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., 225 S. 22nd Street, Haines City
  • Denison Middle, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., 400 Ave. A SE, Winter Haven
  • Kathleen Middle, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., 3627 Kathleen Pines Ave., Lakeland
  • Lake Alfred-Addair Middle, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., 925 N. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Alfred
  • Westwood Middle, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., 3520 Ave. J NW, Winter Haven
  • BN9 Education resources

The Florida Board of Education is threatening to shut down the middle schools over failing grades.

Earlier this week, the district presented plans to the state for keeping the troubled schools open. The struggling schools are Kathleen, Denison, Westwood, Shelley S. Boone and Lake Alfred-Addair.

The schools have had D or F grades issued from the state for the past three years.

More than 13,000 students are assigned to those schools and during the summer, the school district accepted an unspecified number of parent requests to move their children to different schools.

District officials said at least $ 1 million in funding and resources is being infused into the schools to address poor attendance, school atmosphere, underperforming teachers and, in some cases, replacing school leaders.

"We have reallocated funding to make sure we are supporting our teachers," said Regional Asst. Superintendent Tony Bellamy. "As I said before, the additional time that we have created for them to have planning and support them. So there is a big investment we have committed to."

Polk school officials won’t know for another month if the state accepts the turnaround plan for the schools.

Until then, school officials say the turnaround plans at the five schools will continue.

Bay News 9 – news

August 18, 2016 |

Parents suing over Florida’s FSA reading retention law

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A group of parents across Florida, including some in the Bay area and Central Florida, have filed a lawsuit challenging part of the state’s reading retention law for third grade students.

  • Parents suing school boards over "illegal requirement to take state tests"
  • Parents say their children are proficient readers and had them opt out of the test
  • Asking for damages resulting from their students not being promoted to fourth grade

The lawsuit targets standardized testing, specifically the reading portion of the Florida Standards Assessments for third graders.

The 14 parents filing the lawsuit say their children are proficient readers and had their children opt out of the test, which is allowed under Florida law. The state, however, later told them their children would be held back over not taking the test.  

Pasco and Hernando counties are two of the seven districts being sued, along with the Florida Department of Eduction and the State Board of Education.

The lawsuit says because of the policy: "a third-grader who takes the standardized tests and scores poorly…. can still be promoted. Yet, an outstanding student who regularly produces proficient school work in the classroom for which they receive passing grades will be retained simply for not taking a standardized test that they are permitted to opt out of."

There is a student portfolio exemption in the case of students who opt out of the FSA but that requires teachers to collect school work throughout the year and submit that to the principal for review.         

The problem last year, according to the parents, is that it allegedly took the state until the end of the school year to even determine what an acceptable portfolio was.  

The state board is not commenting on the lawsuit.

Parents are asking for damages resulting from their students not being promoted to fourth grade. It is not clear if a judge could force the board of education to promote the students to fourth grade once the lawsuit is decided.


Bay News 9 – news

August 11, 2016 |

Orthopedic surgeon warns parents about the signs of Scoliosis

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A Lakeland orthopedic surgeon is making a special effort to get the word out about scoliosis in children this month.

  • June is Scoliosis Awareness Month
  • Dr. Okafor: Too many parents unaware of warning signs

Dr. Chukwuka Okafor with the Spine Institute of Central Florida says too many parents are unaware of the warning signs of the disorder.

"The shoulders are not even, the pelvis or the hips are not even, you may notice some difference in the gap between the arms and the torso," said Dr. Okafor.

Okafor said he performed the first ever pediatric scoliosis correction in Polk County in 2010, when he worked on Stephanie Ackloo. Ackloo was 15 years old at the time, and describes her life now as "beautiful."

“I don’t have any pain," said Ackloo. "I don’t have nothing at all anymore.”  

Ackloo was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was five years old. She wore a brace for much of her childhood and was unable to dance and have fun like other children.

She said another doctor told her she was destined to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

“It was very painful. I would not be able to walk a far distance,” said Ackloo.

Then she met Dr. Okafor, who recommended surgery because her curvature was at 55 degrees. Okafor said there are several treatment options depending on how much growth the child has remaining and the angle of curvature of their spine.

However, when someone’s curvature is greater than 40 degrees, he recommends scoliosis correction surgery.

Okafor said scoliosis often runs in the family, so it wasn’t a surprise when Stephanie’s little sister, Emma Ackloo, had the disorder too. She had scoliosis correction surgery in July of 2015, and said she feels a lot better.

“It was definitely worth it because if I did not get the surgery, I’d probably be suffering right now," said Emma. "I could’ve got worse every single day to the point where I couldn’t hold it anymore."

Both sisters admit that recovering from the surgery was long and painful. But they look forward to the rest of their lives, knowing they can do anything and their spine will not hold them back.

Okafor urges parents to take their kids to the doctor’s office if they believe their children might be showing warning signs. Left untreated, he said scoliosis can get progressively worse, and down the road lead to daily disabling pain and heart and lung problems.

Bay News 9 – local-news

June 20, 2016 |
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