Anti-Semitism bill, security in schools, state with 2 spelling bee finalists and more

Anti-Semitism bill: From Israel, Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill that bans anti-Semitic speech in the state’s K-12 public schools and universities. H.B. 741 adds religion to race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, marital status or disability as protected classes when it comes to discrimination against students and employees. Statements considered anti-Semitic under the bill include “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations” about Jews or “the power of Jews as a collective,” such as “the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.” News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Florida Society of News Editors.

Security in schools: State Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and Rep. Randy Fine, R-Melbourne Beach, agree that a single point of access is a key to security in schools. The lawmakers were part of the delegation that traveled to Israel with Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet. They met with security officials and visited an Israeli school, and also discuss in a Q&A what they learned about how the Israelis deal with weapons and bomb shelters at schools, and mental health services for students. Florida Society of News Editors. The Nassau County School Board will discuss arming teachers at a workshop meeting June 13. Superintendent Kathy Burns has previously said she’s opposed. WJAX.

National spelling bee: Two Florida students are among the 50 finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md. They are Simone Kaplan, a 13-year-old 7th-grader at St. Bonaventure Catholic School in Davie; and Dhyana Mishra, a 14-year-old 8th-grader at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in West Melbourne. Finalists were determined by points accumulated on written spelling and vocabulary exam tests the students took, combined with the points for correctly spelling words. The finals are today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on ESPN2, and 8:30-10:30 p.m. on ESPN. Miami Herald. Florida Today. Orlando Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Uncertified teachers: More than a quarter of the teachers at the six Renaissance Charter Schools in Palm Beach County were substitutes last year, and at least 20 percent of those schools’ teachers were not certified by the state, according to an analysis. At one school, near Lantana, more than a third of teachers were not certified. The Renaissance schools are managed by Charter Schools USA, which blames the lack of certified teachers  on a nationwide shortage. Company officials say their goal is to have certified teachers in every classroom. Palm Beach Post.

Superintendent’s hearing: Marcus Chambers, who was appointed superintendent of the Okaloosa County School District after Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Mary Beth Jackson, testified for more than two hours Wednesday in the final day of a hearing before a Senate special master considering Jackson’s appeal. Chambers denied accusations by Jackson’s attorney that he was to blame for a child abuse scandal cited by DeSantis as justification for removing Jackson, and declined to say whether he thought Jackson should be removed or reinstated. Jackson also testified, and denied being informed of allegations that special education students were being abused. Senate special master Dudley Goodlette is expected to make a recommendation to senators in a few weeks whether to remove or reinstate Jackson. Northwest Florida Daily News. News Service of Florida.

District’s software issues: New Manatee County School District chief technology officer Scott Hansen tell the school board that while there are still things to be done with the troubled business software system that was delivered late and well over budget, many of the issues have been worked out. “Thank you so very, very much for calming everybody down,” said board member James Golden. “I don’t feel the sense of urgency, immediacy, emergency that I’ve been feeling literally since I got here.” Bradenton Herald.

School rezoned: The Marion County School Board rezones the boundaries for Dr. N.H. Jones Elementary School in west Ocala to allow more neighborhood students to attend. The magnet school, located in a predominately black neighborhood, is home to academically talented students and is consistently ranked among the top 10 elementary schools in the state. About 62 children who live in the revised school boundaries now will be eligible to attend over the next two years. “This is a historic move for Ocala and Dr. N.H. Jones,” said board vice chair Eric Cummings. Ocala Star-Banner.

More on reading results: More school districts are reporting the results of 3rd-graders on the Florida Standards Assessments reading test scores. Statewide, 58 percent of 3rd-graders scored at a Level 3 or higher, which is considered at or above grade level and 1 percentage point higher than in 2018, but 20 percent score at Level 1 and face retention. Florida Department of Education. Pensacola News Journal. WMBB. Brevard Times. Lakeland Ledger.

Charter school contracts: The Pasco County School Board will consider requests from two charter schools for changes in their contracts. Superintendent Kurt Browning is recommending the board approve a 10-year extension for the Learning Lodge Academy, an elementary school, and deny a request from the Imagine School of Land O’Lakes to increase maximum enrollment from the current 863 to 950. Gradebook.

Transfers being reviewed: Several recent reassignments of Indian River County school administrators are on hold for further review. Interim Superintendent Susan Moxley said she needs more time to “trust and verify” the transfers that were made by former superintendent Mark Rendell. TCPalm.

Personnel moves: Christina Stanley, the principal at Fivay High School in Pasco County, is named the new principal at Zephyrhills High School. She replaces Angie Stone, who is retiring. Gradebook.

Superintendent finalist: Wanda Creel, the chief academic officer for the Lee County School District, is one of five finalists for the job of superintendent of the Collierville (Tenn.) School District. Daily Memphian.

Gator visits school: A custodian found an 8-foot alligator in a hallway at Palm View Elementary School in Palmetto just before school started Wednesday. The area was cordoned off and the alligator was removed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission trapper. Bradenton Herald.

Complaint against officials: A former Lee County School Board member has filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics against current member Melisa Giovannelli. Jane Kuckel, who was lasted elected to the board in 2016 but did not seek re-election in 2018, alleges that Giovannelli has leaked confidential records, overstepped her role by recording an employee’s misconduct accusations and hindered school district investigations. Fort Myers News-Press. The Sarasota County School District’s chief operating officer is under investigation for allegedly sending threatening text messages to his administrative assistant after she complained about him sexually harassing her. Jeff Maultsby’s actions will be investigated by an outside firm. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Body identified: Police in Miami Gardens confirm that a body found floating in a city canal is Kameela Russell, 41, a test administrator at Miami Norland Senior High School who disappeared two weeks ago. The death is being treated as a homicide. Miami Herald.

Students arrested: Three Hendry County students are arrested on gun charges after a 16-year-old boy is found with a gun at Clewiston High School. Two other boys, 15 and 13, are charged with trying to sell a stolen weapon. WINK.

Teacher’s remark questioned: Officials at Rutherford High School in Bay County are investigating a teacher who wrote “Wtf is this? absolutely no credit” across the top of a student’s homework assignment. Principal Coy Pilson declined to name the teacher, but said she understood she made a mistake and was apologetic. WJHG. Panama City News Herald.

More charges for ex-aide: A former Polk County school bus attendant has been re-arrested and accused of child abuse and abusing a disabled adult. Juanita Tappin had been arrested May 9 and charged with six counts of abuse on disabled adults and special needs children. Tappin was suspended from her job without pay on May 15, and the school board will vote June 18 on firing her. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: The Pinellas County School Board took the prudent approach last year when it rejected arming school staff and hired trained school safety officers who carry guns at elementary schools. It should not waver now just because Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has changed his mind about who should be carrying guns in schools. Tampa Bay Times. By refusing to arm teachers, the Polk County School District is ignoring research showing that schools with armed teachers are remarkably safer than those that don’t. Lakeland Ledger. Mark Rendell had a great last day as Indian River County schools superintendent. Not because he was free from a novice school board’s politics and tabloid media rhetoric that painted him as an awful superintendent. Instead, he received word that the percentage of county 3rd-graders reading at or above grade level hit the highest level since 2012. Laurence Reisman, TCPalm. Thousands of children in our state are already on a failure track because they are falling dangerously behind in reading, and a drastic intervention is necessary. Joe Henderson, Tampa Bay Times. Perhaps instead of sending the Jacksonville City Council a request to place a half-cent sales tax on the ballot for voters to decide, the Duval County School Board should have just served up an invoice for several million dollars in unpaid taxes, with interest, it should have gotten if the council hadn’t exempted the the city-owned utility from paying property taxes. Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union.

Student enrichment: Fourth-graders at Pine Island Elementary School raise money to buy an artificial reef under a dock at the Monroe Canal Marina in Lee County. Pine Island Eagle. The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine receives an endowment gift of $250,000 from the Lastinger Family Foundation in honor of Dr. Thomas M. Zavelson, a member of the school’s board of trustees. St. Augustine Record. Valedictorians, salutatorians and other top students are honored in Hernando and Gulf school districts. Tampa Bay Times. Port St. Joe Star.

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BY NextSteps staff