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State and Broward agree on phased-in reopening plan, teacher pay proposal and more

Around the state: Broward’s school board members and the state have compromised on a staggered reopening of schools that starts Oct. 9 and concludes Oct. 15, the minimum salary for an Orange County teacher would be boosted to $47,500 under a district proposal, the FDLE has filed no criminal charges against the former general counsel for the Florida Virtual School, teachers said many Miami-Dade County schools aren’t ready to reopen Monday, two districts consider easing some restrictions put in place when the pandemic began, and Martin County’s new superintendent will be paid $170,000 a year on a three-year contract. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: District officials are rushing to prepare schools for the return of some students Monday. Of particular concern are a shortage of personal protection equipment, a lack of spacing between desks in classrooms, the district’s ability to successfully contact trace, and having proper ventilation in classrooms. Teachers union officials contend that some schools are not ready to reopen. Miami Herald. WPLG.

Broward: School board members and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have agreed to a compromise that moves up the reopening of schools to students, but not quite as much as the state demanded last week. Thursday, the board unanimously voted to begin a phased-in reopening Oct. 9 that will conclude Oct. 15. The first students back Oct. 9 will be those in pre-K, kindergarten, and 1st and 2nd grades, and students with special needs. Students in the 3rd through 6th and 9th grades return Oct. 13, and everyone else Oct. 15. Board members expressed anger at having to change course, and Patricia Good said, “This is extortion by the Department of Education, there’s no two ways about it.” DOE spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said in an email: “The Commissioner will approve the dates Broward voted on … but he does not support it.” Last week the school board approved a phased-in approach starting Oct. 14 and concluding Oct. 21. But Corcoran responded with a demand to reopen Oct. 5 or risk losing state funding. Superintendent Robert Runcie told the board that “sometimes you have to lose to win.” Now the school district has to assess its teaching ranks. A recent survey indicated that about a third of teachers don’t plan to return to classrooms. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WLRN. WSVN. WFOR. Politico Florida.

Orange: District officials are offering to make the minimum teacher pay $47,500 a year, meeting the state goal proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but veteran teachers who are already the minimum or more would get raises of $530. The offer was made during a contract negotiation session this week with union officials, who contend veteran teachers could and should get higher raises if the district dipped into its reserves or cut into retirement packages for highly paid administrators. Negotiations continue Oct. 8. Orlando Sentinel. An investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has ended with no criminal charges filed against former Florida Virtual School general counsel Frank Kruppenbacher. He had been accused of falsifying documents, including his own performance evaluation so he could get a raise, as well as his time logs, and backdating a copy of his contract for the media to show he was paid $39,000 a year less than he was actually making. Kruppenbacher, who left the FLVS board in 2018, denied the charges, and the FDLE had no comment. Orlando Sentinel.

Duval: Only 5 percent of the 211 U.S. schools named for Confederate officials have been renamed since June, according to an analysis. Two of those schools are in Florida: Orange County’s Stonewall Jackson Middle School is now named after baseball Hall-of-Famer and humanitarian Roberto Clemente, and J.J. Finley Elementary School in Alachua County is now Carolyn Beatrice Parker Elementary. Parker was a former teacher and the first black woman known to receive a postgraduate degree in physics. At least 11 other U.S. school districts have started the renaming process, including Duval County, which has six schools named after Confederate figures. Education Week.

Lee: School board members may decide Tuesday whether to recognize October as LGBT History Month. The resolution is being pushed by the Southwest Florida Pride organization. “It’s just really important for LGBTQ young kids to know that they’re acceptable, and in their schools this is especially important, because that’s where they spend most of their time,” said Jason Boeckman, a board member of the organization. WFTX.

Polk: A bilingual pre-K through 8th grade Montessori charter school is on schedule to open in August 2021. The school approved the plan for the Mi Escuela Montessori School earlier this year, and this month signed a contract with Kelly De La Cruz, the school founder and board president. The school will focus on teaching English speakers Spanish, and help Spanish-only speakers learn English. The board embraced the concept. “It’s probably the best intended charter school we’ve seen here – certainly in my time on the board,” said Billy Townsend. “It’s what charter schools were intended to be.” Lakeland Ledger. Actor Mark Wahlberg has donate 1.3 million disposable face masks to schools in Lakeland and around the country. WFLA.

Pasco: The candidates for the district’s superintendent’s job, incumbent Kurt Browning and challenger Cynthia Thompson, talk about online learning and their plans if elected. WTSP.

Collier: High school students in Collier County public schools who are using using flexible, at-home learning will have to return to classrooms Jan. 20, district officials have announced. Fulltime virtual school students aren’t affected, and students in lower grades who are using E-Collier Learning from home can continue to do so. WINK. WBBH.

Sarasota: A former district teachers aide has been arrested and accused of committing workers compensation fraud. Deputies said Rev. Louis Anderson, who helped disabled children at Laurel Nokomis School, received $16,604.63 in lost wages when he said he was pushed into a door during a struggle with a student who attacked him. But Anderson, who is also the head of the Charlotte County NAACP, misrepresented himself and denied having a prior injury, according to the state’s investigation into his claim. WWSB.

Marion: A task force will be formed to find ways to help teachers deal with the technology problems they’re having with online instruction, said Superintendent Diane Gullett. Some teachers said they spend half their time troubleshooting technology instead of teaching. Ocala Star-Banner. A paraprofessional for the school district has been arrested and is accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old. Deputies said Fredrick Lamar Hamilton, 31, had assaulted the boy for the past six years. The boy was not a student of Hamilton’s at Liberty Middle School. WPEC. WCJB.

Leon: The state’s coronavirus dashboard released Tuesday is missing more than half the cases reported by county schools, colleges and universities. Thirteen K-12 schools have reported confirmed cases that were not on the state’s report. “It’s not even close,” said assistant superintendent Alan Cox. The same problem is showing up at other districts around the state. Tallahassee Democrat. Capitol News Service. WBBH. More than 100 postcards written by students from Astoria Park Elementary School in Tallahassee will be flown into space sometime this school year aboard a rocket owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. After the 11-minute flight, the postcards will be returned to students with a “Flown to Space” stamp. Tallahassee Democrat.

Escambia: School officials said they will consider easing the restrictions to allow volunteers and mentors back on campuses. “If the numbers stay as they are, I think there is a real possibility to find a way to ease up on some of that,” said Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. “I don’t think we will ever get back to whatever people consider normal is, but I don’t think we have to be as locked down as we are if the numbers stay.” WKRG.

Clay: School officials are promoting a half-cent sales tax hike on the Nov. 3 ballot as the way to repair and replace aging schools and eliminate the 900 portables classrooms now being used. If approved, the tax would continue for 30 years. WJXT.

Bay: The former principal at the Bay Haven Charter Academy has become the fourth woman in the past three years to settle out of court after suing the school for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation and more. Jamie Vickers claimed the school’s chief education officer, Larry Bolinger, inappropriately touched her several times in 2018. She received $250,000 in the settlement. Three other women also have settled suits against the school for a combined total of $600,000. Another lawsuit is pending. WJHG.

Martin: A three-year contract has been approved for newly named school Superintendent John Millay. School board members agreed to pay Millay, the district’s first appointed superintendent, $170,000 a year with a $10,000 stipend for moving costs and temporary housing. He begins work Nov. 17, replacing the retiring Laurie Gaylord. TCPalm. WPTV.

Indian River: School officials are surveying parents and teachers about the possibility of relaxing the district’s safety precautions against the coronavirus as more students transition from remote learning to attending in-person. School board members will review the results of the survey Tuesday before deciding on a course of action, said Superintendent David Moore. He said the goal “is to get kids back in brick and mortar schools where we can provide highest level of support.” Teachers union president Jennifer Freeland praised the effort to get input, but said that teachers will oppose any reduction of coronavirus protections now in place. TCPalm.

Walton: Ninety-three percent of the district’s students are now learning in-person, said Superintendent Russell Hughes. That’s up from 70 percent at the beginning of the school year. WMBB.

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BY NextSteps staff