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House approves school board term limits, school safety bills, college consolidation and more

School board term limits: The Florida House has approved a resolution that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November asking voters to limit local county school board members to eight consecutive years in office. The resolution needed 60 percent support from representatives, and received 67 percent in a 79-39 vote. In the Senate, the joint resolution’s next stop is in the Rules Committee. If it clears that, and receives the support of 60 percent of senators, it will go to voters, who will also have to approve it with 60 percent support for it to go into effect. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Florida Politics.

School safety bills: Bills that would update Florida’s school safety laws are now ready for votes by the full Senate and House. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved S.B. 7040 after making some minor changes. Among the provisions of the bill: Requiring state sheriffs to review and approve all background results before guardian applicants can be trained, and train them; requiring school districts to report alternative disciplinary actions of students to law enforcement officials; requiring districts to make plans to quickly reunite students and school workers with their families after an emergency, and expanding and diversifying the school safety commission. The House version of the bill, H.B. 7065, was approved last week in its final committee hearing. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. A citizens focus group lists $5 million for school security as its top priority if Charlotte County voters approve the renewal of a 1-cent sales tax surcharge this November. Charlotte Sun.

College consolidation: Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he is open to a controversial plan to merge two small universities into larger ones if it can save money for the state. H.B. 7087 would fold New College into Florida State University and Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida, though DeSantis wondered if the University of South Florida would be a better fit with New College. DeSantis’ remarks came after Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said: “The merger is one opportunity that could exist that needs to be discussed.” The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said it could save the state “tens of millions of dollars” that could be used for other education programs, water projects or health-care services. Leaders and students of New College and Florida Poly and some legislators have harshly criticized the proposal, which goes before the House Appropriations Committee next Tuesday. News Service of Florida. Politico FloridaFlorida Politics. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTSP. Bradenton Herald. Even if the mergers are approved by the Legislature, the accreditation process by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges could take a year or more. Politico Florida.

Sales tax hike idea dropped: Marion County School Board members have backed off seeking a 1-cent increase in the sales tax for security upgrades after the county commission announced this week that it would ask voters to renew its 1-cent sales tax to pay for roads, public safety equipment and infrastructure. Members from both agencies said they had concerns about competing tax proposals. Board members didn’t rule out reconsidering the request in the future. Ocala Star-Banner.

District ends ties: The Pinellas County School District is ending its relationship with AMIkids, a school for at-risk boys between the ages of 11 and 15, after one of its workers seriously injured a 12-year-old this month by body-slamming him to the floor. After today, students who attend AMIkids will be moved to one of two other nearby programs. A spokesperson for AMIkids said it was suspending its operations in Pinellas. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Discipline reconsidered: The Broward County School Board has rejected Superintendent Robert Runcie’s recommendations for suspensions of two employees, calling them too light. Runcie wanted a five-day suspension for Mark Montimurro, 48, a social studies teacher at Coral Glades High in Coral Springs, for making “students and female colleagues feel uncomfortable, particularly in a one-on-one setting,” and three days for Jenarayan Singh, 60, a maintenance worker at Cooper City Elementary who was accused of giving unwanted gifts and starting non-work related conversations with students and employees. In both cases, a district committee recommended 10-day suspensions, and board chair Donna Korn said she thought those were too light. Sun Sentinel.

Child abuse reporting: The Senate Rules Committee has approved a bill that would expand the responsibilities for reporting suspected child abuse and strengthen the penalties for schools and early education providers who fail to report known and suspected abuse of minors to the Child Abuse Hotline. S.B. 7000 has drawn some opposition from home-schooling advocates who contend that parents are already required to report abuse. WFSU.

School names: East Bay K-8 School was the first choice by county residents who took part in an online survey to name a new public school in Navarre. The name comes from the body of water near the school. Members of the Santa Rosa County School Board are expected to make the final choice soon Pensacola News Journal. Collier County school officials are asking residents to suggest names for two new elementary schools in Golden Gate. Naples Daily News.

Zoning changes: Two town hall meetings will be held in St. Johns County next week to discuss proposed changes in school attendance boundaries for a new high school that opens in the fall of 2021. Schools that would be affected by the proposed changes are Allen D. Nease High, Bartram Trail High, Creekside High, Liberty Pines Academy, Mill Creek Academy, Pacetti Bay Middle and Switzerland Point Middle. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT.

Charter school proposed: The On Top of the World charitable trust has applied to open a charter school in a planned family community near the Ocala Regional Sportsplex. The school, which would be named the Ina A. Colen Academy, is projected to open as a K-6 school with 214 students in the fall of 2022. A 7th grade would be added in 2023, and an 8th grade in 2024. By the fall of 2026, officials project 862 K-8 students. Ocala Star-Banner. An official ground-breaking ceremony was held for the Pinecrest Academy Tavares charter school, which opens in the fall as a K-6 school with about 425 students. It’ll expand to K-8 gradually, and projects an maximum enrollment of 900 within five years. Daily Commercial.

Personnel moves: Kevin LeVine has been named acting principal at Harrison School for the Arts in Lakeland. He replaces Daryl Ward, who retired and has taken a job in Southeastern’s College of Arts and Media. Lakeland Ledger.

School board elections: Laura Zorc, the chair of the Indian River County School Board, has announced she is running for re-election to her District 3 seat this year. She’s being challenged by Peggy Jones, a former principal in the district. In District 5, former Indian River Shores mayor Brian Barefoot has entered the race. The incumbent, Tiffany Justice, has yet to say if she’s running for another term. TCPalm.

Teacher troubles: A Palm Beach County middle teacher has been suspended for 10 days after a school district investigation concluded she put hand sanitizer into the mouth of a student as punishment for misbehaving. Six students said that Guyette Duhart, a science teacher at Polo Park Middle School in Wellington, put the sanitizer in the boy’s mouth. Duhart claimed she put it near his mouth when he grabbed the bottle and put it in his own mouth. She’s appealing the suspension. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. A Yulee Middle School teacher and coach who was the subject of a complaint by a female student that prompted investigations by the Nassau County School District and sheriff’s office has resigned. WJAX. WJXT. A paraprofessional and coach at Sneads High School in Jackson County has been put on leave while an investigation is ongoing into his behavior. School officials would not disclose the nature of the investigation. WMBB.

School bus aide sentenced: A Polk County school bus aide who was convicted of hitting a 12-year-old epileptic student during a ride home from the Doris Sanders Learning Center in Lakeland in 2017 has been sentenced to three years of probation. A jury found Brenda Nelson, 68, guilty of child abuse. Lakeland Ledger.

School threats: A 10-year-old Manatee County student was taken into custody after threatening to go into Blackburn Elementary School in Palmetto “with a gun and light the place up.” Bradenton Herald. A man riding near a school on a dirt bike with a rifle strapped to his back caused a lockdown Thursday at South Dade Senior High School. Christian Edinger, 23, was arrested and charged with improperly exhibiting a firearm and interfering with an educational institution. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. A Volusia County high school student has been arrested after police said he made a false threat against DeLand High School, leading to a lockdown lasting more than two hours. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Opinions on schools: Alachua County students and families deserve a 21st century education, and that includes high quality dual language education. Maria Coady, Gainesville Sun. Florida’s standing in the AP universe is powered by its nation-leading performance in social science courses. The state is just average in the rate at which students take and pass AP math and science subjects. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

Student enrichment: The Sassy Cows for Savvy Kids pairs students with special needs from Pepin Academies in Hillsborough County with students in the agriculture program at Riverview High School to care for calves through the school year and take them to the state fair. Agriculture teacher Karen Hamilton said “it’s rewarding to see (the students from Pepin) do things they might not think they can do otherwise.” Tampa Bay Times. More than 1,000 volunteers and sponsors will beautify Norton Elementary School in Gainesville this weekend with new landscaping and murals in the hallways. Since 2008, the organization known as Project Makeover has chosen one Alachua County elementary school a year to be transformed. Gainesville Sun. The Beverly Shores Elementary Partnership, a group of members from four local churches, has donated more than 90 handmade curtains to help improve the Leesburg school’s appearance. Daily Commercial. Four teams of Brevard County students compete with their products in the JA Business Blastoff Challenge on Saturday at the Florida Institute of Technology. The winner of the Shark Tank-like competition wins cash, free consultations with a patent attorney and scholarships to Florida Tech worth tens of thousands of dollars. Florida Today. In five years, the Rotary Club in Lakewood Ranch has donated 67,000 books to students at Tittle I schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks has been named a National Magnet School of Excellence by the Magnet Schools of America, and it and seven other Marion County schools have been designated as National Magnet Schools of Distinction. Ocala Star-Banner. Bonita Springs Elementary School has been named a “blue zone” school after stressing healthier diets and lifestyle habits for its students. WINK.

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BY NextSteps staff