DeSantis removes Alachua school board member over residency issue, education bills, bonuses and more

Education bills await signing: Gov. Ron DeSantis has already signed several significant education bills into law, such as expanding school choice, banning transgender females from competing in high school and college women’s sports, and putting limits on how often schools can raise impact fees and by how much. But at least nine more are awaiting his signature or have not yet been sent to him for his consideration. Among them: Two bills (S.B. 146 and H.B. 5) revising the civics curriculum, one expanding and defining the specific rights of parents to guide their children’s education and health care, another that could allow persons with concealed carry permits to have guns in churches with schools on their property, and a bill that restricts the use of restraints and seclusion against students with special needs. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Around the state: An Alachua school board member who lives in one district but was elected to represent another has been removed from office by Gov. DeSantis, Pinellas school board members approved $1,000 bonuses for about 7,000 employees who were left out of the state’s program, the Orange school board indicated it will make face masks in schools optional in the fall, an ethics complaint against a Lee school board member is dismissed, a federal judge rules in favor of three Key West police officers who arrested and tried to handcuff an 8-year-old boy at a Monroe County school in 2018, the state reports that only 24 percent of students 12 to 19 have received vaccinations against the coronavirus, and an ordinance written by four Miami-Dade middle school students to help alleviate town flooding has been tentatively approved by the Miami Lakes Town Council. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: An ordinance proposed by four Miami Lakes Middle School students to reduce flooding in the town and their school was tentatively adopted this week by the Miami Lakes Town Council. Maurits Acosta, Jocelyn Hernandez, Gabriella Vega and Lucia Bring, all 13 or 14, suggested limiting the amount of impervious material built onto residential properties in town. The legislation was developed as a project in Lisa Deyarza’s legal studies classroom. The council takes a second vote July 13. Miami Herald. Rachel Autler, the principal at Hialeah Gardens Elementary School, has been named the district’s principal of the year by the Dade Association of School Administrators. Miami Laker.

Orange: After a heated three-hour workshop meeting Thursday, school board members signaled their support for making face masks optional for the 2021-2022 school year. The final vote is scheduled July 13, and Aug. 2 would be the first day that masks would become optional in schools if the proposal is approved. The first day of school is Aug. 10. The meeting was temporarily halted twice, once when some members of the audience refused to put on masks and again when some who oppose face masks objected loudly to a request to keep masks mandatory for elementary children because there is no vaccine for students under 12. WKMG. Orlando Sentinel. WESH.

Palm Beach: A former paraprofessional and football coach at William T. Dwyer High School has been arrested and is accused of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and lewd or lascivious battery. Authorities allege that Reginald Stanley was 32 and the student 14 when a sexual relationship began in 1998. She told her story to school police in 2019, but they declared the case “unfounded due to a lack of evidence.” The case was reopened a month later, and an arrest was made in May. Two experts in child sex cases called the initial investigation by school police “shockingly poor.” Palm Beach Post.

Duval: More than 20,000 students have enrolled in summer learning programs, district officials announced. “That number tells us that they want to get back to some level of a normal summer,” said Superintendent Diana Greene. Offered this year are the new Summer Rise program, which helps students prepare for the next grade level, and the Extended School Year services for students with special needs. Florida Times-Union. Vaccination clinics for anyone over the age of 12 will be opened at five high schools through the end of July. Greene said the plan is to keep the vaccine sites open when schools resume in the fall, and eventually offer shots at every district school. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: Matt Norman announced in his Facebook page that he was “super excited” to become the chaplain of the Haines City High School football team. But district and school officials said there is no such position because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that adult-led prayer in public schools and at public school events is unconstitutional. District spokesman Jason Geary said Norman had expressed interest in being a volunteer with the team, and has been told that he cannot lead students in prayer. “Students may engage in prayer, so long as it is student-initiated, and students must not be forced to participate,” Geary said. “In addition, employees or representatives of the school district must not lead or participate in prayer.” Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: School board members voted to use $7.3 million of federal coronavirus relief aid to give $1,000 bonuses to about 7,000 non-classroom teachers, support personnel and all other full-time staff who were not covered by the $1,000 bonuses for teachers and principals approved by the Legislature. Board chair Carol Cook said, “They all deserve it,” and hoped the checks could go out before classes resume in August. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: The Florida Commission on Ethics has found no probable cause to continue investigating a 2019 complaint filed against school board member Melissa Giovannelli by a former board member. Jane Kuckel, who was elected to a school board seat four times, accused Giovannelli of leaking confidential district information related to an investigation and misusing her role as a board member by meeting with a district employee without the consent of the board. Giovannelli did not rule out filing a lawsuit against Kuckel, who could not be reached for comment. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. An estimated 25,000 students will attend summer school, according to district officials. Students have until June 28 to sign up. WINK. The district and Florida’s Summer BreakSpot program will partner to feed students 18 and under at 75 locations between June 21 and July 28. WINK.

Marion: School Superintendent Diane Gullett has reorganized the school administrative team that adds, for the first time since 2017, a chief academic officer. Margarete Talbert-Irving, an executive area director for the Orange County School District since the 2018-2019 school year, will fill that job and become the highest-ranking person of color in the district since 2012, when Diana Greene was the deputy superintendent of instruction. Greene is now the superintendent for the Duval County School District. The other major change was the appointment of Mark Vianello, who had been the district’s only deputy superintendent, as deputy superintendent of support services. Ocala Star-Banner.

Alachua: Diyonne McGraw, the school board member who lives in one district but represents another, has been removed from office by an executive order from Gov. DeSantis, who will appoint her replacement. “Due to Diyonne McGraw’s failure to maintain the residence required of her by law, a vacancy exists on the Alachua County School Board, District 2, which I shall fill in compliance with the law,” DeSantis’ order reads. McGraw is the target of a lawsuit challenging her standing. Earlier this week, a judge said McGraw could continue to vote while the issue of her residency is being resolved, but added that she thought the suit had a strong likelihood of succeeding. “I think it played out as well as it possibly could have for my clients. I think they feel very vindicated. It was always a matter of doing what was right and following the law,” said Jeff Childers, attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit. Gainesville Sun. Florida Politics. WUFT.

Santa Rosa: John Viveiros, a teacher at Avalon Middle School in Milton and coach for the Pace High School baseball team, has died, school officials announced this week. No cause of death was given. WEAR.

Martin: Ed Curtin, the president of the Mercyhurst Preparatory School in Erie, Pa., has been hired to be the founding leader of a new Catholic career and technical junior/senior high school in Stuart. The school opens in the fall of 2022 on the property of St. Joseph Parish. Erie Times-News.

Monroe: A federal judge has ruled in favor of three Key West police officers who arrested and tried to handcuff an 8-year-old boy after he attacked a teacher at Gerald Adams Elementary School in December 2018. The boy’s mother sued the police department, the school district and the city, claiming the arrest and the officers’ actions violated the student’s constitutional rights. Florida Keys Weekly.

Gadsden: Gadsden County High School’s student newspaper, the Gazette, has won first place honors nationally from the American Scholastic Press Association. The paper stood out for its coverage of school and national affairs, and because it had to switch to digital publication because of the pandemic and a lack of funding. WFSU.

Washington: All school supplies for the 2021-2022 school year will be provided free for students, school officials have announced. Students will receive the supplies when they return to their schools in August. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: Florida State University’s trustees have approved a five-year, $700,000-a-year contract for incoming president Richard McCullough. He takes over from the retiring John Thrasher on Aug. 16. Trustees also approved a record $2.172 billion operating budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. WCTV. Google has donate $5 million to Florida A&M University to help the school boost minority representation in the tech industry. WFSU. WTXL. The chair of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee is proposing to make an $80 million scholarship program permanent for students at Florida A&M and 18 other historically black schools that were created in 1890 as land grant colleges. Florida Phoenix.

Vaccinating students: The latest state data said that only 24 percent of students 12 to 19 have received vaccinations against the coronavirus. With a shortened summer break, time is already running out for students to get fully vaccinated before the first day of the next school year. Many districts are making plans to provide easier access to shots. WUSF.

Migrants’ COVID stories: The COVID-19 pandemic took an especially harsh toll on migrant students and their families. Some of them share how they got through it, and the sacrifices they had to make. USA Today Florida Network.

Around the nation: As expected, President Biden signed the bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday. The celebration of the end of slavery will be observed every June 19. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: With a return to normalcy after the pandemic, nearly three out of four fathers surveyed worry that they won’t be able to maintain the same level of involvement in their child’s education. Meaningful involvement will take a little more effort this fall, but I hope dads — and moms — will remember the fulfillment they got by having more access to their children’s education this past year. Mark Wood, redefinED. Far from an innocent distraction, H.B. 529 is symptomatic of an underlying skepticism about secular institutions, and whether they can (or should) be preserved for the public good. Landron Frim, Fort Myers News-Press. The potential of losing millions of young people from schools could consign an important part of the next generation to the margins of the economy. Ken Smith, Gainesville Sun. An infusion of federal dollars will give Alachua County schools a rare opportunity to make meaningful and lasting improvements that will benefit all students. Alachua school Superintendent Carlee Simon, Gainesville Sun. School takes up a massive portion of students’ lives, and yet, students have very little input in schools. Myles Fisher, Gainesville Sun. The proper place for political punishment is at the polls, in those brutal primaries, not at a county party’s caucus. If Palm Beach County voters don’t like what the school board majority did, they’ll soon enough get a chance to say so with their votes. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat.

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BY NextSteps staff