Florida schools roundup: Stewart resigns, superintendent choice and more

Stewart resigns: Pam Stewart, Florida’s education commissioner, submits her resignation effective Jan. 8 as rumors swirl around Tallahassee that former House Speaker Richard Corcoran is Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ choice to replace her. Stewart has been education commissioner since 2013. She announced last year that she would retire when Gov. Rick Scott left office. But two months ago, the Florida Board of Education asked her to stay another year and she agreed. Tuesday, in her resignation letter, Stewart wrote: “There has never been a better time to be a student in Florida, which makes it a good time to hand over the reins so that someone can take our students to the next level of opportunity and success.” News Service of FloridaOrlando SentinelGradebook. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix.

Superintendent selection: Manatee County School Board members are interested in erasing the word interim from the title of Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. They say they’ve been impressed with how Saunders has handled several crises since stepping in for the departed Diana Greene, and will draft a contract extension for her that they hope to vote on Dec. 11. Bradenton HeraldSarasota Herald-Tribune.

Broward consultant apologizes: A public relations consultant for the Broward County School District has apologized for calling critics of the district over the Parkland school shooting as “crazies” and a reporter “skanky.” Sara Brady, who was paid nearly $75,000 to advise the district after the shootings that killed 17 on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, made the comments in July while speaking to public relations officials. Sun-Sentinel.

Ex-board members hired: Duval County School District Superintendent Diana Greene has hired two former school board members for administrative jobs. Paula Wright and Rebecca Couch left the board last month after eight years in office. Wright is one of three coordinators for the district’s struggling schools, and Couch is helping recruit teachers. Another former board member, Scott Shine, called the hirings “a colossal conflict of interest.” Florida Times-Union.

Charters want a cut: The Florida Charter School Alliance wants a commitment from the Miami-Dade County School District to share some of the proceeds from money generated by a voter-approved property tax hike. The measure is expected to raise about $232 million a year that will be used for teacher raises and school security. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has only said he’d give “increased consideration” to sharing some money with charter schools. Miami Herald.

Charter school strike: Florida is home to one of the largest charter schools movements in the country, with almost 300,000 students attending more than 650 schools. So the news of the nation’s first charter school strike in Chicago, over pay, class sizes and working conditions, is being closely watched in Florida even though teacher strikes are illegal in the state. Florida Phoenix. Chalkbeat.

Educators honored: Five finalists are chosen for the Orange County School District teacher of the year award. They are: Kelly Decker, Dream Lake Elementary; Justin MacDonald, Shingle Creek Elementary; Caela Paioff, Colonial High; Melissa Pappas, Brookshire Elementary; and Amy Swederski, Freedom High. The winner will be announced Jan. 24. Orlando Sentinel. Four finalists are chosen for the Manatee County School District teacher of the year. They are: Richard Daenell, Lee Middle; Stephanie Davis, Sea Breeze Elementary; Debra Hartline, Braden River High; and Diane Stead, Freedom Elementary. Finalists for support employee of the year are Angelie Graham, School Support Center; Amanda Keeney, Myakka Elementary; Valerie Meridan, Johnson-Wakeland K-8; and Robert Rice, Tara Elementary. The winners will be named March 6. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Seven Florida teachers received Governor’s Shine Awards for their contributions to education. Florida Department of Education.

Schools closing protest: Parents, teachers and staff members urge the Pasco County School to disregard the recommendation of the administration to close Hudson and Mittye P. Locke elementary schools. The closings are part of a reorganization proposal for schools on the west side of the county. Gradebook.

New school site: Alachua County School Board members choose a site in southwest Gainesville for a new elementary school. The 18-acre property, on Southwest 122nd Street in the Oakmont neighborhood, was the second choice of a school advisory committee. But the first choice is under contract. Gainesville Sun.

Live-streaming meetings: New Pasco County School Board member Megan Harding is proposing that board meetings be live-streamed or televised. Other board members ask administrators to research the idea so it can be discussed at a future meeting. Gradebook.

Special education teachers: Federal education officials say the reported number of special education teachers in Florida and other states are faulty, sometimes wildly so. Florida, for example, was reported to have 22,254 special education in teachers in the 2005-2006 school year, but only 6,178 last year, and no one can account for the discrepancy. Education Week.

Charter school battle: The former treasurer of the Mason Classical Academy in Naples makes more allegations against school officials, including destruction and falsification of public records, illegal board meetings and conflict of interest. The Collier County School District is investigating, and school officials say they are considering legal action against the ex-treasurer, Joe Baird. Naples Daily News.

Personnel moves: Two Pinellas County School District administrators are trading jobs. Carlmon Jones, manager of teacher recruitment, will replace Dallas Jackson as principal of John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg, and Jackson takes Jones’ place. Gradebook. Five principals are appointed in Hillsborough County: Scott Valdez at Bailey Elementary, Jarrod Haneline at Jackson Elementary, Peter Megara at Progress Village Middle Magnet, James Goode at Erwin Technical College and Paul Gansemer at Aparicio-Levy Technical College. Gradebook. Ralph Maurer is the new headmaster at the Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach. Palm Beach Post.

Ex-principal sentenced: The former principal at North Miami’s Adult Education Center is sentenced to six years in prison for illegal compensation, official misconduct and grand theft. Prosecutors say Jean Ridore, 44, hired employees who didn’t have to show up for work in return for a slice of their earnings, which amounted to more than $200,000 by the time he was arrested three years ago. Miami Herald.

Attempted abductions: Twice in the past two weeks, Escambia County residents have reported that an older man has tried to lure students into his car as they walk to or from school or a bus stop, according to Sheriff David Morgan. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: Let’s put safety at elementary schools in its proper order: Start with prevention and intervention and rely on real professionals, not school safety assistants, to handle weapons. Florida Times-Union. Sick of reading about scandals at taxpayer-funded voucher schools? So were residents of Arizona. So, after legislators there planned another voucher expansion, Arizonans went to the polls – and stopped them dead in their tracks. Floridians should take note. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. Escambia County’s educational staff and students will be best served if we all do our very best to support the transition to an appointed superintendent. If we don’t work together on a good transition, the ones who lose are the children and the community as a whole. Quint Studer, Pensacola News Journal. An IBM-backed initiative to offer tuition-free technical training to students as young as high school freshmen offers promise for Collier County. Brent Batten, Naples Daily News. Leon County teachers make a difference. They make readers and writers, leaders and life-long learners. But what they don’t make is enough money. Jacob Asbell, Tallahassee Democrat.

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BY NextSteps staff