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Proposed DOE rule targets ‘indoctrination’ by teachers, mask protests continue, and more

Rule targets ‘indoctrination’: The Florida Department of Education is proposing a rule that would forbid teachers from expressing their personal views to “indoctrinate” their students. “We’re passing a rule this coming month that says, for the 185,000 teachers, you can’t indoctrinate students on stuff that’s not based on our standards,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said at an event this month at Hillsdale College, a private conservative school in Michigan. The DOE rule calls for teachers to “efficiently and faithfully” teach to the state’s new learning standards and “not share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students.” Lessons must be “factual and objective” and can’t “suppress or distort significant historical events,” and teachers “may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” The state Board of Education will consider the rule at its June 10 meeting. Politico Florida.

Around the state: Masks continue to be in the news, with some school districts announcing impending changes and protesters continuing to demand an immediate end to mandates, Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy is resurrecting his plan to replace a deputy and reorganize his administration, the Duval County high school teacher who was removed from her classroom because she refused to take down a Black Lives Matter flag has filed a whistleblower complaint, school board members evaluate the retiring Lee County superintendent, and the chair of an Osceola school task force called Tuesday’s workshop meeting “a waste of time” because the school board talked more about replacing SROs with armed guardians than about the findings of the task force on how to revise the duties of SROs. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Face masks are now optional for outdoors school events where social distancing can be maintained, district officials decided Tuesday after a meeting of the medical and public health experts task force. Masks will continue to be required in schools at least through the end of the academic year, though no decision has been made about masks being required for summer school. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he is “reasonably comfortable and confident we can announce a voluntary masking approach” when schools resume in the fall. Miami Herald. WTVJ. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.

Broward: More than 60 people protested the school district’s face mask requirement before Tuesday’s school board meeting. Chanting “unmask the children,” the protesters called the mask mandate child abuse and said masks were suffocating their children. Many of the protesters are aligned with the group Florida First, which has railed against mask policies throughout the state and plans to again at today’s Miami-Dade board meeting. Board members are still considering a mask policy for the summer and 2021-2022 academic year. “The district will evaluate the new [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations and continue to work closely with federal and local health experts for guidance on current and future school safety protocols,” said a statement from chief communications officer Kathy Koch. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: About 50 people protested the district’s continued requirement than students and employees wear face masks at school, and about 30 spoke against the mandate during Tuesday’s school board meeting. Board members did not vote on the issue. WTSP. WFLA. WFTS. Bay News 9. District officials are proposing to continue outsourcing management of substitute teachers to Kelly Educational Staffing, but at least one school board member wants the district to consider bringing the service back in house. “We did it before,” Karen Perez said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I felt that we can do it again. And I think we owe it to this district, to the teachers, and frankly to our students.” The district pays about $15 million a year to Kelly, and district officials said the service provides better coverage and is a good source for recruiting teachers. No decision was made. Tampa Bay Times. A bilingual charter school for autistic children is opening in August in the Iglesia Tampa Bay church in Tampa. The Tampa Bay Autism Center is the idea of Adelene Soto, who felt there was lack of resources in the Hispanic community. Bay News 9. Seven schools will get new principals July 1. One of the educators is the state’s assistant principal of the year, Zemenaye Harris, who will leave Booker T. Washington Elementary to become principal of Lopez Elementary. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: A year after the school board turned down Superintendent Donald’s Fennoy’s plan to replace his deputy and reorganize his administration, Fennoy is trying again. He wants to move deputy superintendent Keith Oswald into a job as chief of equity and wellness and replace him with Ed Tierney, who is now the district’s chief of staff. The reorganization would eliminate six jobs and create six more, and would save an estimated $23,000 a year. A year ago, the board objected to removing Oswald during the pandemic and the county’s Coalition for Black Student Achievement also denounced the move, calling Oswald a longtime advocate for students of color. The board is expected to vote on the proposal today. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Amy Donofrio, the Lee High School teacher who was reassigned from her classroom because she wouldn’t remove a Black Lives Matter flag, filed a whistleblower complaint with the state last month against the school district. Her complaint said she was removed after she objected to “discriminatory practices” by the school district, and accuses school officials of “gross mismanagement” in dealing with race-related issues. WJCT. Today, the school district will begin counting votes for and against renaming nine schools that carry the names of Confederate officials or historical figures who mistreated native Americans. Results could be announced later this week. WJXT.

Lee: Superintendent Greg Adkins’ performance was rated as unsatisfactory by two school board members in his final evaluation. Betsy Vaughn and Melisa Giovanelli were most critical of Adkins’ performance during the 2020-2021 school year, which was marked by ongoing pandemic issues, disputes about masks, LGBTQ issues, and school board member Gwynetta Gittens asking the governor to investigate the district for waste and fraud. Adkins is retiring June 30. WINK. Trafalgar Middle School agriscience teacher Al Piotter is one of 10 U.S. educators chosen for the “Exceptional Teacher of the Year” award by the National Liberty Museum. One of his latest projects was starting a vegetable garden tended by students and volunteers that has provided 32 tons of food for the school cafeteria and a local soup kitchen. WFTX.

Osceola: A school board workshop meeting that was meant to consider a task force’s findings on how to redefine the role of school resource officers instead was dominated by a discussion about replacing the SROs with armed guardians. The meeting was “a waste of time,” said Steven Montiero, the chair of the task force. “Looking at the agenda and seeing what’s supposed to be covered, it took you guys 40 minutes to get to the findings. And yet, not one finding has been addressed that the SRO committee actually talked about.” Orlando Sentinel.

Sarasota: A majority of school board members signaled support at Tuesday’s workshop meeting for leaving the face mask mandate in place for now because they were worried a change with just three weeks left in the school year would be disruptive. An official vote will be taken at next week’s meeting. Board member Bridget Ziegler, who supports an immediate end to the rule, said if the board votes against making mask optional at that meeting, she’ll push Superintendent Brennan Asplen to draft a policy setting July 1 as the date when masks will become optional. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: A new charter school for children in military families that will offer dual-enrollment is opening in August on Pensacola State College’s Warrington campus. The school was conceived by PSC and Naval Air Station Pensacola leaders for 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders. Gulf Power Foundation provided $100,000 to help launch the school. WEAR. WKRG. A 30-year-old man was arrested and accused of trying to kidnap an 11-year-old girl from her bus stop Tuesday. The girl was able to fight off Jared Stanga, deputies said. He fled the scene but later arrested at a house. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Okaloosa: School resource officer Tori Mason is one of four Floridians chosen as a CGI Celebrating Strength Hero. Mason, who works at Niceville High School, was honored as one of the “everyday heroes going above and beyond to help others.” During the 2018-2019 school year, when she was working at Plew Elementary School, Mason helped raise money to pay an electric bill for a student’s family. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Colleges and universities: Masks will no longer be required on the University of Florida campus, and the university will resume normal, pre-COVID operations starting June 28. Miami Herald. Gainesville Sun. WFOR. A proposal is under consideration at Florida Atlantic University that would transfer the authority to grant tenure from the school president to its board of trustees. Faculty members are worried that an academic decision could become a political one. Sun Sentinel. Today, the University of South Florida faculty senate is scheduled to vote on a resolution to keep a 769-acre nature preserve north of the campus free from development. Monday is the deadline for developers to submit their proposals . Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee Community College has been chosen as one of the top 10 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute. Tallahassee Democrat. WTXL. Indian River State College will resume in-person classes in the fall. TCPalm. A federal judge overseeing a class-action lawsuit is urging the U.S. Department of Education to pick up the pace of approving claims for loan forgiveness filed by defrauded students. Politico.

Opinions on schools: We must support the federal Charter Schools Program because it provides the resources to build more charter schools so marginalized families will have equitable access and funding for programs that meet their children’s individual needs. It will fuel the innovation that is necessary to adapt public education to the changing landscape. Keith Jacobs, redefinED. Nothing is worse for democracy than kids growing up ignorant and intolerant. The best available evidence shows choice programs yield better outcomes for academics, civic participation and exposure to diversity. John Legg, Tampa Bay Times. We know a lot more about the teacher labor market than what anecdotes and national data tell us. It’s my hope that we will use that information to have a more nuanced conversation about teacher staffing and come up with more effective solutions to the real problems that do exist. Dan Goldhaber, The 74. Richard Corcoran won’t be the next president of Florida State University. If you’re an FSU student, professor or alumni, go ahead and breathe that sigh of relief. You just dodged a bullet fired from the culture-war front. If you work at a public school in Florida, or send a child to one, you’re still stuck with an education ideologue. Orlando Sentinel. A new search engine called Project Nickel gives parents access to data on per-student spending in U.S. public schools. Dan Lips, redefinED. All youth are not created equal, but should be given unequivocal opportunities to participate on and off our schools’ courts and ballfields. Rev. Gene Hall, Tallahassee Democrat.

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BY NextSteps staff


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