FSU president chosen, DOH reprimanded, charter school investigated, yearbook issues and more

New FSU president chosen: Richard D. McCullough, 62, a vice provost for research at Harvard University, was the unanimous choice of the Florida State University Board of Trustees on Monday to succeed John Thrasher as president of FSU. The other finalists were Robert Blouin, vice chancellor and provost of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Dr. Giovanni Piedimonte, a practicing physician and the vice president of research at Tulane University. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran made the short list of nine, but was eliminated when the search committee pared the list to the three finalists. The process was marked by charges of undue influence by an accreditation agency and a trustee contending that the selection of the finalists was unfair and not transparent, accusations that the search committee denied. The Florida Board of Governors must confirm the selection at its meeting June 23. Associated Press. News Service of Florida. Tallahassee Democrat. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. WJHG. Florida Politics. Capitol News Service. WFSU. WTXL.

DOH reprimanded: The Florida Department of Health must do a better job of making COVID-19 information available to the public, the national Public Health Accreditation Board has ruled in reprimanding the agency after a six-month investigation. A complaint was filed with the board in October by a Broward County parent trying to find out how many COVID cases had been recorded at his 14-year-old son’s school, the University School in Davie. The school couldn’t answer him, and neither could county or state health officials. The parent, John Silver, said the reprimand wasn’t enough. “I think probation (would have been) appropriate. The FDOH was supposed to have an independent obligation to communicate accurately with citizens. It sets a dangerous precedent, makes FDOH data unreliable for researchers, and puts the public at risk.”

Around the state: A second Orange County charter school is under investigation for allegedly exaggerating the services some special-needs students need in order to receive more funding from the state, St. Johns’ school superintendent apologizes for the alteration of high school yearbook photos while an Escambia high school yearbook editor is suspended for five days for doing the same thing, the Manatee and Sarasota school districts are having trouble finding teachers for summer school, face masks become optional June 7 in St. Lucie County schools, U.S. students don’t do well on the annual NAEP science tests, and an Okaloosa County students completes 2,340 days of perfect school attendance. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: A Strawberry Crest High School history teacher who was arrested last week and accused of soliciting nude photos from a detective posing as a 14-year-old boy committed suicide Thursday near his home in Plant City. Anthony Peace, 37, shot himself with a shotgun after he was released from jail on bail. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA.

Orange: A charter school is under investigation by the district after allegations that it improperly exaggerated the services needed for students with disabilities in order to receive more funding from the state. The accusation against the UCP Bailes Community Academy is the second complaint made against a charter school run by the United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida. UCP officials said they don’t believe the individual education plans required for students with disabilities were changed for “fiscal gain,” and that it’s committed to making sure its employees “act in a lawful, ethical and compliant manner.” Orlando Sentinel.

Lee, Collier: Collier school officials said summer school will be greatly expanded this year to help students regain some of the learning they lost during the pandemic. About 8,300 students have been asked to attend. Summer sessions are June 21 to July 22 at seven elementary, two middle and two high schools. Lee school officials said they hope to have 25,000 students attending summer school, up from 15,000 last year and 1,000 most years. Naples Daily News.

Volusia: School board members vote today on a name and a mascot for the newly consolidated Osceola and Ortona elementary schools. Students, parents, PTA members, members of the school advisory committee and employees were surveyed for their preferences. All chose the sea turtle for a mascot, but the results were mixed for a name among Seaside Elementary, Surfside Elementary, Beachside Elementary and Oceanside Elementary. Students from both schools will move to Osceola Elementary for the summer and the next school year while construction begins at Ortona. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee, Sarasota: Both the Manatee and Sarasota school districts are having trouble finding teachers who are willing to work in the summer programs. Many teachers want a break after a challenging pandemic year. “Initially, they were having difficulty filling positions, because as you know, it’s been a very taxing year for everyone,” said Manatee deputy superintendent of instructional services Genelle Zoratti Yost. “Many teachers are opting to take the summer off.” Sarasota is offering $1,000 bonuses to teach students with special needs, and has extended the application window for summer school. Sarasota teachers union president Pat Gardner said a year of “concurrent” teaching, where teachers instruct in-person and remote learners at the same time, has taken a toll. “They are burned out from a concurrent year, and they won’t do it,” she said. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Manatee school officials have extended the deadline two weeks for residents to suggest a new name for Lincoln Memorial Academy, from June 8 to June 22. Bradenton Herald.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: Face masks will be optional in the St. Lucie School District starting June 7 and continuing into the next school year, school board members decided Monday. The district joins Okeechobee’s and Martin’s in changing the mask mandate to optional. WPTV. TCPalm. The St. Lucie County School District is projecting it will get $212 million in funding from the state next year, about 2 percent more than it did this year. The Martin district will get $44 million, down 5 percent, and Indian River County schools will get $45.7 million, down 8.5 percent. The decline is mostly attributed to lower enrollment. TCPalm.

St. Johns: Superintendent Tim Forson said Monday there it “was never the intent” to harm or embarrass about 80 female Bartram Trail High School students by editing yearbook photos that the advisor decided violated the school dress code. He apologized, and said it won’t happen again. “We missed the mark, okay?” he said. “We will do better, we will continue to get better. The whole key to it is, do we learn from it and do we have a better product moving forward, and I can assure you we will do that.” WJAX. WJXT. WTLV. The district is considering making changes to the dress code, including the elimination of a rule that girls’ skirts must be no shorter than 4 inches above the knee and making standards the same for boys and girls. WJXT.

Escambia: The yearbook editor at Tate High School in Cantonment has been suspended for five days for altering photos of the student who allegedly fixed the vote so she could be elected homecoming queen. Samantha Guerrier said she’s shocked she was suspended because she was just following instructions from her teacher and the principal to “make sure that Emily Grover was not shown in any picture or any list in the yearbook.” So Guerrier placed a sticker of the school mascot, a horse, over Grover’s pictures. The counselor and principal gave the final approval, she said. “They looked through every page. They then called us and told us we did a great job they thought it was an A plus and they loved the yearbook.” WEAR.

Okaloosa: Laurel Wentworth was honored on her final day of school at Niceville High for never missing a day of school. That’s 2,340 days with no absences. Principal Charlie Marello said the school honors many students for their accomplishments, but, “I’m not certain that’s any more impressive than a kid who’s never missed a day of school in 13 years.” Wentworth will take her streak to the University of Florida. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Charlotte: A parent who just moved to the county from Connecticut has started an online petition to pressure the school district to make face masks optional for the 2021-2022 school year. Melissa Sullivan and her family moved to the county because, she said, “We couldn’t go about our normal lives in Connecticut. The restrictions are so fierce.” District officials plan to discuss the mask policy at the June school board meeting. WINK.

Citrus: A Lecanto High School math teacher has been arrested for allegedly sending lewd texts and images to a student, then threatening to kill her if she told anyone or didn’t delete the texts. Adam Joseph Joerre, 33, is charged with soliciting sexual conduct from a student as an authority figure. He resigned after his arrest Monday. Citrus County Chronicle.

Colleges and universities: Colleges in Manatee and Sarasota counties have announced that they’ll be returning to pre-COVID operations in the fall. Bradenton Herald. Edward Waters College of Jacksonville is starting a social justice institute with a $200,000, two-year grant from the Jacksonville-based Jessie Ball duPont Fund. The A. Philip Randolph Institute for Law, Race, Social Justice and Economic Policy is named for the civil rights activist who was once a student, and officials envision it as a place for scholars and students to “examine and exchange ideas.” Florida Times-Union.

Around the nation: Less than 25 percent of U.S. high school students and just over 33 percent of 4th- and 8th-graders scored at a basic achievement level or higher on the science test results released this week by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The trends in science mirror those reported previously in math and reading. Education Week. A new report suggests that instead of using remediation to help students recover learning losses to COVID, teachers should consider acceleration. The 74. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Instead of trying to make private schools function like public ones we should be doing the opposite: allowing public schools the freedom to teach like private ones, with parents free to choose among the schools that best match their needs and values. Patrick R. Gibbons, redefinED. A new EdChoice survey shows that 59 percent of all teachers are interested in teaching in a learning pod. Could these new school models with more fun and less bureaucracy be a way to tempt teachers who have left the profession to return? Matthew Ladner, redefinED. As a health care worker, I have seen the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic firsthand. We continue to see our younger, more vulnerable populations suffer from this disease. Therefore, while we strive for expanded testing and vaccine use, it is important to maintain mask wearing and social distancing in the Palm Beach County School District. Dr. Tiffany McCalla, Sun Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff

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