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Hillsborough within $10M of meeting state’s demand, two more teacher of year finalists named, and more

Two more top teacher finalists: Sarah Ann Painter, a 5th-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Pinellas County, and Kari Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Fruitville Elementary in Sarasota County, have been chosen by the state Department of Education to complete the list of finalists for the 2022 Florida teacher of the year award. Other finalists announced earlier this week are Frank Garaitonandia, an art teacher at Citrus Grove Elementary in Volusia County; Jim Schmitt, a history teacher at Mandarin High School in Duval; and Brittany Brown, a language arts teacher at Wildwood Elementary School in Sumter. The teacher of the year will be announced July 22. Tampa Bay Times. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Around the state: The Hillsborough County School District is about $10 million short of meeting the state’s demand to have a plan to boost reserves to 2 percent of revenues before May 12, an 18-year-old Orange County high school student has died of complications from COVID-19, Broward’s indicted general counsel called the school board dysfunctional after it approved her $226,300 severance package, Osceola County School Board members are skeptical of switching from school resource officers to armed guardians at charter schools but will investigate the possibility, and Sarasota County School Board members approve the superintendent’s plan to reorganize the administration. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Just after receiving a severance package of $226,300 on Thursday, general counsel Barbara Myrick called the school board “dysfunctional” and said to members, “I would implore you as I leave, that you all are the parents, and because you aren’t functioning as a cohesive group, eventually those underneath you aren’t going to function.” Myrick was indicted last month by a statewide grand jury for allegedly disclosing grand jury proceedings, and offered to resign. She’ll receive $84,000 for 20 weeks of severance, $61,000 in sick time and the rest in retirement and other benefits. Superintendent Robert Runcie, who was indicted for perjury and also offered to resign, is still negotiating a deal. He’s asked for a package of more than $700,000. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WFOR.

Hillsborough: School officials continued Thursday to chip away at the district’s budget deficit with the deadline to submit a financial recovery plan to the state just five days away. If school officials can’t show the state that their reserves are at 2 percent of the district’s revenues, the state could step in to start running the district’s finances. The district is still about $10 million shy of where it needs to be to reach that 2 percent benchmark, and may have to continue cutting expenses to get there since the expected $100 million in federal coronavirus aid has not arrived. Monday, chief financial officer Romaneir Johnson said the state would be sending the federal money, perhaps by Thursday. Now Johnson is suggesting the the funds “should be received by June 30.” Superintendent Addison Davis said the state would accept recovery plans with and without the use of federal relief funds. The board meets again Tuesday. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS. WUSF.

Orange: Health officials in Orange County said one of the most recent COVID-related deaths was an 18-year-old Freedom High School student who had underlying conditions. The girl died April 29. “This particular case, the youngest person that we now have who has recently died, highlights the urgency of individuals, for all of us, even those in the younger age groups, to get vaccinated and to stay on guard and continue our pandemic precautions,” said epidemiologist Alvina Chu of the health department. “So we know that there can be severe consequences for those who have underlying health conditions. We do know that young persons can still pass away. And we do know that the COVID-19 vaccines that we have are excellent at preventing severe hospitalization and death.” WKMG. WFTV.

Palm Beach, St. Lucie: Charter schools in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties run by Charter Schools USA will offer virtual learning in the next academic year. Company officials said they want families to have flexibility. “Before COVID is sort of the old normal,” said Charter Schools USA CEO Jon Hage. “Post-COVID is the new normal. The new normal can be better than it was before.” WPTV.

Duval: Voting ends today on the proposed renaming of four Duval schools named for Confederate figures or historical figures who marginalized native populations. Students, faculty, advisory council and PTA members, alumni and members of the communities in the school zones are voting on Robert E. Lee, Andrew Jackson and Jean Ribault high schools and Jean Ribault Middle School. Voting had already ended for five other schools. The results are expected later this month, with the school board making the final decisions on the names in June. Florida Times-Union. WTLV.

Polk: Three Polk high school seniors are among 1,000 U.S. students to win National Merit Scholarships. Vraj Patel and Tess Landreth of Bartow High’s International Baccalaureate school and Nadia Shahin of All Saints Academy were chosen for their academic record, their school’s curriculum and grading system, their PSAT and SAT test scores, recommendation letter, student activities and leadership skills, and an essay. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: District officials are beginning to collect input from students, parents and other members of the Dunbar community on what they want in a rebuilt Franklin Park Elementary School. The nearly full rebuild begins late next year and is expected to be completed in 2024. Construction will be paid for with the extra half-cent sales tax. Many people want the new school to have a special academic program to draw students, and to honor its past. Franklin began as a school for black students and became a middle school when it was integrated in 1970. Fort Myers News-Press. The district is looking to hire hundreds of teachers, especially for special education, math and reading. WFTX.

Osceola: Most school board members are opposed to replacing school resource officers with armed guardians at almost all of the district’s charter schools, but agreed to explore the possibility after local law enforcement agencies said they’re struggling with staffing shortages. “We’re responsible for our entire communities, and we’re pulling resources to staff this and it can grow very quickly that we can’t keep up with it. Now we have to say we have to reassess,” said Jeff O’Dell, Kissimmee’s police chief. Board member Terry Castillo said she wanted to hear from the charter schools before moving forward. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. Spectrum News 13.

Volusia: A cafeteria worker at Ormond Beach Middle School was honored Thursday by the school district, No Kid Hungry and the Florida Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness for saving a co-worker who began choking. Kaneshia Stokes successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver. Ormond Beach Observer.

Sarasota: A reorganization of the school district administration was approved this week by the school board. The Pupil Support Services Department is being split in two, with one division focusing on students with disabilities and the other on health and wellness. Eight positions are being added, but there will be savings as veteran employees retire and are being replaced by people who are younger and lower-paid, and federal grants are used to hire staff for special education jobs. Superintendent Brennan Asplen said the additions are necessary because some departments are understaffed. “I get it. More administrators, there is always a question around that,” said Asplen. “I will tell you that if you look at other districts you are going to find a lot more administrators in their org charts.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Columbia: A Lake City Middle School teacher has been charged with child abuse without causing great bodily harm for an incident at the school Jan. 19. Deputies said Denise Nash kicked an 8th-grade autistic student in the back outside the cafeteria. She was fired. WJXT. WJAX.

Monroe: Questions about a project to build 20 apartments for school employees adjacent to the Sugarloaf School outnumbered answers at a recent school board meeting, so board members have directed the developers to get more information. The intent of the development was to build “affordable” housing for teachers and other employees. But in a recent update, the developers said the rents for the units will range from $1,700 to $2,900 a month, which board members called a “minuscule” difference from market rates. “Are we building affordable housing or are we just building housing?” asked board member Andy Griffiths. “This is a big disappointment.” And because there are income limits, board members pointed out, a two-teacher household earns too much to qualify to live there. Florida Keys Weekly.

Jefferson: For the fourth time, the school board has rejected an application from the Somerset Academy charter school company to start a virtual school. This time, the board came to an agreement on the reasons for the rejection, which must be submitted to the state as justification. Board members cited the poor quality of Internet service, the need for students to attend classes in-person to learn more effectively, and the inability of many parents who work during the day to oversee their children’s education. Jefferson County Journal.

Colleges and universities: Foundations of the Florida Chamber and Florida Prepaid are creating a program to provide money for college for high school graduates from low-income areas. The chamber will provide $10 million from Florida businesses, with Florida Prepaid matching that. Florida Politics. A bill is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Congress this month that would direct money to help the country’s 100-plus historically black colleges and universities renovate and build new campus facilities. McClatchy.

Around the nation: President Biden has met his goal of having most U.S. elementary and middle schools open for in-person instruction within his 100 days in office. A survey by the U.S. Department of Education found that 54 percent of those schools were offering fulltime classroom learning for students who wanted it. That’s up from 46 percent in January. But the survey also showed that almost 4 in 10 students are still taking all their classes remotely, and another 2 in 10 were splitting time between remote and in-person learning. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: It took months of bad press, community effort and outside pressure. But the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and school board finally came to the right decision by ending a program that gave the sheriff’s office access to private student information. Tampa Bay Times. A defined middle school theater program in Orange County schools would legitimize the arts as an honest-to-goodness class and would bridge the arts gap between elementary and high school performances. Genie Lindberg, Orlando Sentinel. Working-class families will also benefit from the bill that expands school choice. Malka Kownat-Rhodes, Florida Politics. The legislation banning transgender children from playing sports is harming children and wasting taxpayer dollars so legislators can score points with their conservative base on measures that certainly will be struck down as unconstitutional. Orlando Gonzalez, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff