DeSantis warns GOP school board members, sex ed, face masks, ‘redshirt’ kindergartners and more

DeSantis on school boards: Gov. Ron DeSantis promised to turn his “political apparatus” against Republican school board members or candidates who disagree with his educational reforms. “We’re not going to support any Republican candidate for school board who supports critical race theory in all 67 counties or supports mandatory masking of school children,” DeSantis said on Fox News over the weekend. “Local elections matter. We are going to get the Florida political apparatus involved so we can make sure there’s not a single school board member who supports critical race theory.” Thursday, the state Board of Education will consider a rule proposed by the Department of Education to ban teachers from defining American history as “something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Teachers also will be forbidden to “share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.” Florida Politics.

Bills signed into laws: A bill that would require school districts to inform parents about sex education and sexually transmitted diseases curriculum and instructional materials was signed into law late last week by Gov. DeSantis. Parents will be given the chance to opt their children out of those discussions. The bill also requires sex ed materials to be approved yearly by school boards, and for districts to notify parents when those meetings are being held. The law takes effect July 1. Florida Politics. DeSantis also signed a bill that would restrict how much impact fees can be increased annually by school boards and other local government bodies. Impact fees, which are collected to offset the effects of growth, may now be raised only once every four years, and no more than 50 percent, retroactive to Jan. 1. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Schools can earn Purple Star Campus status by adopting policies that help students with parents in the military, under another bill signed by the governor Friday. DeSantis said the program is needed because military families move so often, making it hard for their children to get comfortable in schools. Associated Press. WJCT. Florida Times-Union. Florida Politics.

‘Red-shirt’ kindergartners: Parents who kept their preschool children home in the past year because of the epidemic are expected to send them back to school in the fall, adding tens of thousands of students to kindergartens around the state. “Parents who were going to put their children in kindergarten this school year, may have chosen to just wait a year,” said Florida School Boards Association executive director Andrea Messina. “They’re calling them redshirt kindergartners. I don’t know if you have heard that term, and so what we’re expecting is that in the fall we’re going to see a much larger kindergarten class than we would have seen.” The Legislature has set aside $400 million-plus for districts that see a surge. Capitol News Service.

Around the state: Face masks are optional in Hillsborough County schools starting today, Palm Beach County’s school superintendent forms a private consulting company, four Palm Beach County School Board members are censured by the county Democratic party for voting to remove the phrase “white advantage” from the district’s proposed equity statement, all Brevard school employees will get a $1,000 bonus from the district, south Florida schools are very deliberately not calling their summer programs summer school because of the stigma, a school board member in Marion County resigns after moving out of her district, and five finalists have been named for the state’s school-related employee of the year award. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward, south Florida: South Florida school districts are expanding their summer learning programs but also are taking special care to avoid calling them summer schools because they think that name carries a stigma. So in Miami-Dade it’s called the 305 Summer Adventure, in Broward it’s the Summer Experience and in Palm Beach County it’s being called Summer Acceleration Academies. The goal of each is to have a blend of summer school and summer camp. “We are trying to bring joy into the experience,” said Dan Gohl, chief academic officer in Broward. “We believe you can have joy and real deep thinking and learning at the same time.” Sun Sentinel. The 17-year-old class president of Fort Lauderdale High School has announced his candidacy for an at-large seat on the Broward County School Board. Raymond Adderly III will challenge incumbent Donna Korn for Seat 8. He said his passion for politics began when he was 7 and saw his father killed in a home invasion. Florida Politics.

Hillsborough: District officials said Friday that they are making face masks optional in schools, starting today. “Vaccination has proven to be highly effective in preventing infection, allowing for the relaxation of the mitigation efforts that were needed over the past year,” said county health department director Dr. Douglas Holt. The district also announced it was ending its hybrid remote learning program, called eLearning. “It is time students receive accelerated instruction in front of high-quality educators while also having full access to mental health supports at our schools,” said Superintendent Addison Davis. Students who want to continue remote learning can enroll in Hillsborough Virtual K-12. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WFTS. WTVT. The school district is hosting vaccination clinics for students 12 and older Friday and Saturday at seven schools. No appointments are needed. WTSP. WFLA.

Palm Beach: Superintendent Donald Fennoy has formed a private consulting business and said he may take on clients later this year even as he continues with his duties for the school district. His contract with the school board allows him to work as a consultant, but requires that he notify the board in advance of taking on jobs. Fennoy’s relationship with the board has deteriorated in the past year. He survived one attempt to have him fired, and received a poor evaluation of some members upset with his handling of face masks, use of the Baker Act on students and the drafting of a controversial equity statement that initially included the phrase “white advantage.” Palm Beach Post. The county’s Democratic party voted to censure the four Democrats on the school board for voting to remove the phrase “white advantage” from a proposed equity statement. The party’s executive committee declared that the vote of the board members “runs counter to our Democratic values.” The censure was aimed at Marcia Andrews, Frank Barbieri, Karen Brill and Barbara McQuinn, though they were not named. Barbieri and McQuinn responded by saying they were leaving the party. Palm Beach Post. A drinking water advisory was lifted Friday for 20 district schools and residents of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and South Palm Beach. The advisory was issued May 28 after elevated levels of a toxin produced by cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, were discovered in water samples from the East Lobe of Clear Lake and at a treatment plant. Palm Beach Post.

Polk: A job fair ad was pulled off the school district’s Facebook page after teachers called it inaccurate and insensitive. The ad read, in part: “Have a bachelor’s degree and looking for a job starting out at $45,172? OH, and you only work 10 months out of the year? Become a teacher!” District teachers complained that the ad was “insulting to our profession” because it understated all the steps it takes to become a teacher in Florida, and continue to be one. Lakeland Ledger. Kamryn Cribbs and Logan Duncan will be honored Tuesday at the Polk County School Board meeting for their perfect attendance from kindergarten through their senior year. WFLA.

Pinellas: A school that began in 2013 offering sailing adventures to foster children as a mentoring program has expanded into the SailFuture Academy in St. Petersburg. Founders Hunter Thompson and Michael Long said the private school will continue to have sailing trips, but also offer project-based maritime, construction and culinary arts courses and life skills training for such things as leasing an apartment and opening a bank account. redefinED.

Lee: The five finalists for the interim superintendent’s job will be interviewed by the school board today and Tuesday, with board members scheduled to vote on their choice at Tuesday night’s meeting. The finalists to take over temporarily from the retiring Greg Adkins are Wayne Alexander, Vickie Cartwright, Jason Nault, Kenneth Savage and Leonard Fitts. WFTX. Ann Knight, an educator in the Lee County School District for 40 years and a longtime member of the Fort Myers City Council, has died at the age of 89. Fort Myers News-Press. WFTX. Seven county students have been awarded National Merit Program Scholarships. Carlos Torres-Cobian and Brian Robinson from Estero High School were both awarded National Merit $2,500 Scholarships. Five other students were recognized as College Sponsored Merit Scholarship winners and will receive between $500 and $2,000. Lee County School District.

Brevard: All school district employees will receive bonuses of $1,000 as “recognition payment for their unwavering commitment to making school year 2020-21 a success,” the school board announced last week. The money will be included in the payroll this summer. The bonuses are separate from the $1,000 bonuses most Florida public school teachers and principals are receiving from the state. Florida Today. WKMG.

Volusia: After 15 years of helping Orange City Elementary School students get to school safely, crossing guard Robert Frew is retiring at the age of 92. The school threw him a retirement parade last week and declared June 4 “Robert Frew Day.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. WOFL.

Marion: School board member Beth McCall has resigned because she’s moved into a different district than the one she was elected to represent. McCall said she moved from District 1 to District 2 in April to be closer to family and to meet the medical needs of her husband. “My decision was based on what was best for my family,” she wrote. “After working with the school board attorney and others to determine if there were options available for me to finish my term, the statute is clear.” Her replacement will be appointed by Gov. DeSantis. Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie: The school district is partnering with Florida Community Health and CDR-Health to offer vaccinations against COVID-19 at several schools this week, starting today, for students 12 and older. Appointments are not needed. WPEC. WPTV.

Alachua: Superintendent Carlee Simon is shelving her plan to rezone the district’s schools for at least a year and maybe longer. She said she has decided to concentrate on reorganizing the administration so the district is ready to efficiently spend the $90 million it is expecting to get as part of the federal coronavirus stimulus bill. District spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said the federal funding changed the district’s priorities. “That is really a game-changer for us and that’s something that we are going to need to be tackling, really, until the money runs out by September of 2023,” she said. Gainesville Sun. A group of county parents is alleging that school board member Diyonne McGraw lives in District 4 instead of District 2, which she represents on the board, and that she should resign. The group is pointing to her sworn candidate’s oath that she lives at an address in District 4. McGraw said she can prove she lives in District 2 and has no intention of resigning. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa: The school district’s proposal to spend $3.25 million to buy land for two future schools was approved last week by the school board. About $2.5 million is for property in the south part of the county for a new high school. The rest is for land just northwest of Milton where a K-8 school is planned. Board members also approved $23.6 million for a K-8 school being built in Pace. It’s expected to be open in the fall of 2023. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay: As many as 4,000 students are expected to attend the four-week summer school program this year. “The middle school and the high school, they’re focusing on a lot of things, but basically it’s making up units or credits that the students failed,” said assistant superintendent Denise Kelley. “The elementary (program) is based on students who still show a deficient in a large number of students because of the hurricane (Michael) and the pandemic.” Panama City News Herald.

Okeechobee: The school district will receive $66.8 million from the state budget to help build a new high school in Okeechobee, district officials said. The school board meets Tuesday to hear an update from the architect. South Central Florida Life.

Jackson: Twenty-eight Marianna High School seniors were barred from their graduation ceremony Friday after allegedly vandalizing the high school Thursday night. They hung paper strips from the ceilings and walls and put some on floors, and spread a mixture of baby oil and dish detergent on floors. School officials said it took custodians five hours to clean up the mess. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: A University of North Florida archeology professor and his students said they have found ancient artifacts from the lost 16th-century village of Sarabay. “No doubt we have a 16th-century Mocama community,” said the professor Keith Ashley, of the find recently uncovered on Big Talbot Island just northeast of Jacksonville. Florida Times-Union. Stetson University in DeLand is offering one-year tuition scholarships in a drawing to two students who have proof of vaccination. WMFE. Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College are due to receive millions of dollars from the 2021-2022 state budget. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. Florida Polytechnic University is moving ahead with building its second academic building and first research center on campus after confirming it will receive $40 million from the state budget. Bay News 9.

Average teacher salaries: The average teacher in the 67 Florida county school districts made $51,166.57 in the school year just completed and the median pay was $47,800, according to statewide data released by the Florida Department of Education. Sarasota County teachers made the most with an average of $61,640.21, while teachers in Gadsden County were the lowest paid at an average of $40,382.67. Alachua County had the highest median, at $60,365.78, while Gadsden was also the lowest in median at $38,981.25. The report shows that Florida has 176,549 teachers. Miami-Dade had the most with 19,538, while Jefferson had 41. WFLA.

Transgender ban lawsuit: The LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said it will soon file a lawsuit against the new Florida law than bans transgender females from participating in high school and college women’s sports. The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” goes into effect July 1. WINK.

Top school-related employees: Five finalists have been announced by the Florida Department of Education for the school-related employee of the year award. They are Richard Godfrey of Citrus County, James A. Henry Jr., of the Florida State University schools, April Dempsey of Lake County, Hernan Avila of Palm Beach County, and Tue Tran of Pinellas County. Florida Department of Education. Citrus County Chronicle. Pinellas County School District. Lake County School District.

Varsity restrictions: A proposal to limit high school varsity athletics to students in grades 9-12 will be considered by the Florida High School Athletic Association. The change would be phased in, with 7th- and 8th-graders still allowed to play varsity in the 2021-2022 school year, but by the 2023-2024 school year all middle schoolers would be barred from varsity competition. Fort Myers News-Press.

Around the nation: About 81 percent of black parents and 76 percent of Hispanic parents of K-12 students support vouchers that give them educational choice, according to a survey by EdChoice. White support was about 71 percent. redefinED. Thirty-three U.S. school districts have eliminated their police departments and others have pared theirs down in the year since George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. About 1.65 million students attend those districts. Education Week. Another side effect of COVID-19 is likely to be record enrollment of U.S. students in summer school. Associated Press. The Biden administration is asking for input from citizens about school discipline before it finalizes new policies on campus safety designed to reduce disparities. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Our kids may not need to learn history through the prism of critical race theory — we’ll leave that up to teachers who know better than us or Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran how to educate children — but they do need to learn critical thinking. Forcing teachers to teach our children through red-white-and-blue tinted glasses serves no one. Sun Sentinel. We’ve all heard of fake news. Florida has become a land of fake crises. The latest is Gov. DeSantis’ push for a new rule to keep teachers from “indoctrinating kids with fad-ish ideologies.” Translation: teaching history that includes what black Americans have been up against. Palm Beach Post. The debate over critical race theory is distracting from the racism in Florida’s schools. Perhaps that is the goal of Gov. DeSantis. Lauren Costantino, Miami Herald. Through a combination of choice, competition and innovation, chartering has bettered the academic and life outcomes of K-12 students, thereby reducing inequality, widening opportunity, strengthening parents and enhancing civil society. Chester E. Finn Jr. and Bruno V. Manno, The 74. The governor and Republicans spent all that energy to create a bill banning transgender females from competing in high school and college women’s sports — and make such a spectacle of the signing — that would have had zero impact on high school and collegiate athletics in the state of Florida in recent years. Tom D’Angelo, Palm Beach Post. Teachers are burning out with inadequate funding, a lack of support and state mandates. Anthony Colucci, Florida Today.

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BY NextSteps staff