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Hillsborough avoids state takeover, Runcie walking away with $743,000, vaccines for kids 12-15, and more

Vaccines for children: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old after reviewing trials that found the shots offered “100 percent efficacy and robust antibody responses.” The shots could be available soon in schools, pharmacies, pediatricians’ offices and elsewhere. “Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said Monday. “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations.” School districts around Florida have said they will partner with local health departments to offer vaccinations as soon as they are available. Surveys suggest that only 3 in 10 parents will choose to have their children vaccinated. Associated Press. USA Today. New York Times. NPR. Market Watch. Politico. The 74.

Around the state: Federal coronavirus relief aid will be used to keep the Hillsborough County School District from having its financial operations taken over by the state, Broward school board members will vote today on a $743,000 severance package for Superintendent Robert Runcie that was agreed to Monday by Runcie and board chair Rosalind Osgood, a coalition of advocacy groups are threatening to sue the Palm Beach County School District over its use of the Baker Act to involuntarily commit students, the death of a 13-year-old student and the arrest of her 14-year-old classmate has shocked a school in St. Johns County, the Indian River County School District was surprised with the news that it might have to pay a $38,872 stormwater tax levied by Vero Beach, and Polk County School Board members will vote today on a contract for new Superintendent Frederick Heid. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Students and other children ages 4-18 can get free COVID-19 tests at six school parking lots May 12-27 between 3 and 5 p.m. Tests are being administered by the Miami Health System’s Pediatric Mobile Unit. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Miami Herald.

Broward: Indicted school Superintendent Robert Runcie will walk away from his job with a severance package of $743,000 in cash and benefits under an settlement reached Monday between his attorneys and school board chair Rosalind Osgood. That’s about $320,000 less than Runcie wanted. The school board votes on the deal today. “We want to make sure we handle this in a respectable and responsible way for Mr. Runcie as well as a way that’s going to protect the district,” said Osgood. Under the deal, Runcie will remain with the district until Aug. 9, but not as superintendent. An interim could be chosen as early as today, and Runcie will help with the transition. The district will also pay his legal fees, but would be repaid if Runcie is found guilty on the perjury charge handed down last month by a statewide grand jury. Runcie allegedly asked a grand jury witnesses for information and then lied about it. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WFOR. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: The state’s threatened financial takeover of the school district has been averted with the arrival of $101 million in federal coronavirus relief funds, Superintendent Addison Davis announced Monday. Before the aid was received, the district was about $10 million short of reaching the 2 percent benchmark of reserves required by the state. There was also good news on the employment front. Enrollment projections are up, meaning about 700 jobs will have to be cut for the next school year instead of the 1,000 the district had been expecting, and principals won’t have to take unpaid furlough days this summer. “We will now focus on the academic successes of Hillsborough County,” Davis said. “It’s been nine months that I have been focused on finances. [This] gives us an opportunity to focus on children. This is what I came to Hillsborough to do. This is what I do best.” Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WTVT. WFLA. WFTS. How did the district get into financial trouble? WFTS. Mark William Ackett, a former teacher at Bloomingdale High School who pleaded guilty to 324 counts of video voyeurism, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He secretly filmed 124 girls and an adult coworker changing in a fashion design class dressing room at the school. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WTVT.

Orange: About 37,000 students are expected to attend summer school, nearly four times what the district usually has. Programs will be held at about 180 schools, according to district spokesman Scott Howat. “This is obviously a big, a big number for us and we’re excited about it. We’re happy that our students are doing it. We’re going to try to do everything we can to make the summer exciting and fun for them.” He said the district has enough teachers to cover. WKMG.

Palm Beach: The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of other advocacy groups and attorneys are threatening to sue the district to stop it from involuntarily committing children under the state’s Baker Act. The center issued a report in March that was critical of the district for having 1,217 students committed between 2016 and 2020, including 254 elementary school students. Coalition members blame the numbers on the district’s police department, and proposed to negotiate an agreement to Baker Act alternatives and to get students better mental health services. The district declined to negotiate and defended its protocols. Palm Beach Post. A petition has been started to keep the district mandate to wear face masks in schools. WPTV.

Polk: School board members will vote today on a three-year contract for the new superintendent. Frederick Heid would be paid $255,000 a year, which is $18,000 more than current Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd makes. The contract includes paid health insurance for Heid, but not for his wife and son. “I’ll pay for it – I pay for it now,” said Heid, who has been superintendent of the Community Unit School District in Algonquin, Ill. “It’s something I’m accustomed to. It’s a fairness – you’re modeling (behavior). I’m not better than anyone else in the organization.” Lakeland Ledger. There’s only three weeks left in the school year, but school board members are being pressured to immediately end the requirement that students and employees wear face masks in schools. “The student code of conduct face covering policy requirement implemented by the PCSB should be brought to a vote and rescinded at the May 11 regular meeting,” the group No More Mask Mandate for Children said recently on Facebook. Board members are expected to discuss the mask policy at today’s workshop meeting. Lakeland Ledger.

Manatee: School board member Scott Hopes, who has been the acting county administrator since April, could get the job permanently when county commissioners meet May 25. Hopes said the agenda item could also put a timeline on his resignation from the school board. Gov. Ron DeSantis would appoint a replacement. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Lake: The district is planning to make face masks optional when summer learning programs start June 8, Superintendent Diane Kornegay said in a letter to parents. “As previously stated in the letter sent to families on April 8, masks will remain part of the safety protocols for Lake County schools for the remaining 19 days of this school year, but district leaders are planning for masks to be optional during summer programs and when the new school year begins in August,” Kornegay wrote. She said the decline in the coronavirus positivity rate was a factor that led to the decision. Daily Commercial. WKMG.

St. Johns: A body found Sunday night was identified as Tristyn Bailey, a 13-year-old who had been reported missing Sunday morning. A 14-year-old boy was taken into custody Monday and charged with second-degree murder. Grief counselors were at Patriot Oaks Academy in the community of St. Johns and a candlelight vigil was held Monday night. Tristyn was a 7th-grader at the school, and the accused boy was an 8th-grader. “We now have two families that are devastated and heartbroken,” said principal Allison Olson. St. Augustine RecordWJXT. WJAX. WTLV.

Leon: Mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics are being held at several local high schools for district students and employees. “We certainly realize there are plenty of vaccine sites all over town,” said assistant superintendent Alan Cox. “We’re trying to increase the percentage of our employees as well as get 16- and 17-year-olds vaccinated.” Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL.

Indian River: The school district would be assessed $38,872 for its schools in Vero Beach if the city council approves a new stormwater tax next month. District officials were surprised when they heard about the proposed tax. “We were caught totally flat-footed,” said district chief financial officer Ron Fagan. “That’s $30,000 out of the classroom. That’s still less money for the schools. It’s just another non-education bill we have to pay.” TCPalm.

Flagler: Assistant principal Katrina Feola of Belle Terre Elementary School has been reprimanded for authorizing the use of a “spit sock” on a 9-year-old student who was biting, spitting and kicking to avoid being removed from a vehicle in February. A “spit sock” is a mesh bag covering the head of a person who is spitting and biting. Feola told investigators she was concerned about the spread of COVID-19. Administrators said her actions did not follow the student safety plan. WESH.

Gulf: A 17-year-old Wewahitchka High School has been arrested and accused of writing a bomb threat in a boys bathroom on May 10 that led to an evacuation of the school and dismissal of students for the rest of the day. The boy said he did it as a dare. WMBB.

Jackson: Dave Galloway, the president of the teachers union, said he is retiring and making a bid for the District 5 seat on the school board. He has been president of the Jackson County Education Association since 2011. Foster Folly News.

Colleges and universities: At least 21 people have applied to replace the retiring John Thrasher as president of Florida State University. Monday, the school released an initial list of candidates. Among them are Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, former lieutenant governor Jeff Kottkamp, former education commissioner Frank Brogan, and FSU vice president and athletic director David Coburn. The search committee meets today to review the list and choose which candidates it wants to interview in person May 14-15. Tallahassee Democrat. The University of Miami will pay $22 million to settle a U.S. Department of Justice suit alleging UM ordered unnecessary lab tests and submitted false claims. WPLG.

Around the nation: The Missouri Legislature has approved a significant expansion of school choice by approving empowerment scholarship accounts, which students can use for tuition for private schools, textbooks, tutoring services and other school-related costs. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: This year has been a historic one for education freedom. Ultimately, all students, including but not limited to students with disabilities, deserve a meaningful individual education plan. Matthew Ladner, redefinED.

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BY NextSteps staff