Corcoran applies at FSU, Hillsborough gets federal aid, book pulled, dress codes, face masks and more

Corcoran applies to FSU: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has reportedly confirmed that he’s submitted an application to be considered for the president’s job at Florida State University. The 56-year-old Corcoran is a former Florida House speaker who was appointed in December 2018 by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace the retiring Pam Stewart as education commissioner. The current FSU president, John Thrasher, took the job in 2014 and announced his retirement last September but agreed to stay on until a replacement was found. Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp has also applied to succeed Thrasher, and FSU vice president and athletics director David Coburn said he’s likely to apply. The school’s search committee meets Tuesday to discuss candidates. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Hillsborough County School Board chair Lynn Gray says the district has received $101 million in federal coronavirus aid that could help with its financial crisis, a book about a police officer shooting and killing a 12-year-old black boy and then lying about it is removed as a reading assignment for some Broward 5th-graders, Pasco school officials acknowledge that the district’s dress code targets girls and plan to make changes, more school districts are announcing that their face mask mandates will soon become optional, and a state attorney decides that a Hendry County principal violated no laws when she paddled a 6-year-old student. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: An elementary school has yanked a work of fiction from its 5th-grade curriculum that tells the story of a 12-year-old black boy with a toy gun being shot and killed by a Chicago police officer who then lies about the incident at trial. Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes, was used in a 5th-grade class at a Coral Springs elementary school even though it had not been through the standard review and was not approved for use. “Currently, assignments and readings are on hold until further notice,” said school board member Lori Alhadeff. “The timing of whether (or whether not) to implement this subject matter must include parents and ultimately be a decision by the parents of each student. I do not feel Ghost Boys is appropriate for 5th-graders.” Sun Sentinel. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: School board chair Lynn Gray indicated over the weekend that the district has received the $101 million in federal coronavirus relief aid it has been expecting. The board meets Tuesday to detail how the money will be spent, and also to finalize a plan how to get its reserves up to 2 percent of revenues and close its budget deficit. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered the district to submit a financial recovery plan by May 12 or risk having the state take over the district’s finances. Tampa Bay Times. A parent has lodged a complaint with the state’s Office of Inspector General alleging that Superintendent Addison Davis has misused public money, specifically noting a $3.7 million contract awarded to a software company that employs his brother. The district has 30 days to respond to the allegations in writing, and the school board has hired the Tallahassee law firm of Sniffen and Spellman to represent it. Amy Canfield, a mother of two, said she decided to file the complaint “when 108 teachers were cut and the primary focus seemed to be fine arts and (physical education), which is not going to lead to well-rounded children.” Tampa Bay Times. Alberto Rivera Claudio, a Spanish teacher at Bloomingdale High School, has been arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with a student under the age of 18 between November 2019 and December 2020. Tampa Bay Times. Associated Press.

Duval: Five students at the Jacksonville Classical Academy charter school and the driver were taken to a hospital for treatment after their school bus was involved in an accident Friday morning in downtown Jacksonville. The driver of the car was also hospitalized. WJXT. WTLV. WJAX.

Pasco: School officials said they are planning to take a closer look at the district’s dress code for students. Many students and parents feel the current codes are biased against girls and need to be revised. “We’re not in the 1950s anymore,” said Lori McCandrew, who has two daughters at Land O’Lakes High School.  Board member Colleen Beaudoin concurs. She said girls feel body-shamed by administrators who target the clothes they wear, and lose learning time when they have to change to meet arbitrary standards. Superintendent Kurt Browning agreed that much of the dress code seems to be directed at girls, and that an update is needed. “We’ve got to ensure that our dress code keeps up with the times,” he said. Tampa Bay Times. A Chasco Elementary School teacher has been arrested and accused of abusing an 8-year-old student. Deputies said Danielle Barton, 41, grabbed the student by the arm when he wouldn’t stop smacking his lips, dragged him into another classroom and threw him to the ground. The child slid 5 to 7 feet on his chest and into a cabinet head-first. District officials said Barton has been placed on administrative leave. WFLA.

Brevard: Personal information about as many as 10,000 people was potentially exposed by someone who hacked into the email accounts of 12 school district employees, according to a letter from the school board to the people who might have been affected. The email accounts contained some Social Security numbers and other information collected from students and adults. Florida Today. Stephanie Soliven, the district’s assistant superintendent for secondary leading and learning, is one of three finalists for the superintendent’s job with the Denver Public Schools. A decision is expected next month. KUSA. Impact fees on residential construction in the county do not cover the effects of such construction, such as schools and roads to schools, acknowledged a member of the board of directors of the Home Builders & Contractors Association of Brevard. Florida Today. What are impact fees, how are they used and how would they change if Gov. DeSantis signs a bill recently passed by the Legislature? Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee, Sarasota: Introduction of the state’s new academic standards, called B.E.S.T. (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking), will begin this fall in Manatee and Sarasota kindergartens, 1st and 2nd grades. The state is phasing in the new standards over the next two years to replace the Common Core, but Manatee and Sarasota have chosen to focus on language arts next year before expanding to all grades for the 2022-2023 academic year. The standards emphasize phonics, which breaks words into the individual sets of letters and the sounds they represent. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. When students at Woodland Middle School in North Port were told less than an hour before a Friday performance of The Little Mermaid that they’d have to perform in masks, their mothers intervened by going on stage and giving their blessing to defy district policy and go maskless. The mothers pointed to the disparity in allowing athletes to compete without masks but requiring them for performing arts productions. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Lake: School psychologist Clinton Sims of Clermont has been ordered by the state to stop seeing female patients after allegedly having sex with a former student he counseled, a 15-year-old from Montverde Academy. The Florida Department of Health’s emergency order read, in part, “Dr. Sims’ blatant disregard for the laws and rules regulating his profession indicates that this behavior is likely to continue.” News Service of Florida.

Marion: While face masks will continue to be required in schools until the end of the academic year, they are now optional during outside activities like physical education, outdoor sports, graduations and other activities where social distancing can be maintained. Once the school year is over, the school board will decide on COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-2022 academic year. Ocala Star-Banner.

Santa Rosa: A Chinese-American member of the district’s school board was heckled at last week’s meeting by people who were protesting the district’s mask mandate. Wei Ueberschaer was called a communist and one man shouted, “This is Santa Rosa County, not China” during a meeting where board members eased the mask mandate to make it optional. Ueberschaer, a former teacher who has been on the board since 2018, said, “It is a small percentage of my community that feels emboldened enough to conflate this virus with a race.” Superintendent Karen Barber said those kinds of remarks are “not representative of our community and will not be tolerated.” Washington Post.

Indian River: Face masks will very likely be optional for students when the next school year begins in August, Superintendent David Moore announced Friday. “Our intention is to provide a mask-optional environment as we open up school next year,” Moore said. “At some point, if not at the opening, which is our goal, we will be mask-optional as we go into next school year.” WPTV.

Hendry: A principal who was recently caught on video paddling a 6-year-old student in front of her mother committed no crime, according to a memo released Friday by the Office of the State Attorney’s Office for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit. Melissa Carter paddled the girl after she caused $50 in damage to a computer. Florida is one of 19 states where corporal punishment is permitted, though it is against district policy. School officials are continuing their investigation. WINK. WFTX. WFLA. WBBH.

Monroe: District officials are investigating allegations of racism by at least two students at the Sugarloaf School. Jwanna Powell reported that her 13-year-old daughter has been the subject of repeated racial slurs. “We have zero tolerance for bullying and harassment in our schools,” said Superintendent Theresa Axford, who did not dispute Powell’s account of the incident. “We are going to investigate, use disciplinary procedures and protect the victim going forward,” Axford said. “The social workers are developing a plan right now.” Florida Keys Weekly. Miami Herald.

Colleges and universities: Florida State University students and employees won’t be required to wear masks indoors when the summer semester begins today. WTXL. The University of Miami said it intends to rename a parking structure and rehearsal hall as part of “our ongoing pursuit of racial justice.” Miami Herald.

FTCS graduation rates: Almost 95 percent of students receiving Florida Tax Credit Scholarships graduated from high school during the 2019-2020 school year, according to a Step Up For Students report based on data from the Florida Department of Education. It’s the second-highest rate since SUFS began tracking the records in 2015. Catholic schools had a highest graduation rate of 99.1 percent, while non-denominational schools had the lowest with 91.9 percent. Asian students’ matriculation rate was 98.1 percent, while white students graduated at a rate of 96.4 percent, multiracial students at 96.2 percent, Hispanic students at 94.4 percent and black students at 93.5 percent. SUFS, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarship. redefinED.

Around the nation: One consequence of the pandemic has been an increase in the number of public school students switching to private schools. In-person learning, smaller classes and a growth in financial aid are driving the change. “I am seeing unprecedented interest from the public-school community seeking entrance into private schools,” said Emily Glickman, president of Abacus Guide Educational Consulting in New York. CNBC.

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BY NextSteps staff