Superintendent search reset, Duval teacher with COVID dies, continuing yearbook issues and more

Around the state: Broward school board members decide to reopen the search for an interim superintendent to outside candidates after rejecting all 13 internal applicants, a Duval County teacher has died of complications from the coronavirus, the St. John County school dress code committee’s meeting Thursday was postponed after news organizations were told they couldn’t attend, a state legislator wants the Palm Beach County Democratic Party to censure three board members who voted to remove the phrase “white advantage” from a district equity statement, Martin County school officials are expecting a decline of almost 3 percent in enrollment when school resumes in August, Jackson County officials said they are getting $35 million from the state and are going ahead with plans to build a K-8 school, and the state Board of Education will vote next week on a rule that could affect how history is taught in schools. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Dissatisfied with the internal field of candidates for the interim superintendent’s job, school board members rejected them all and decided to reopen the search to out-of-district applicants. Only 13 district employees applied for the job, and only one was from the cabinet of Superintendent Robert Runcie, who has been indicted for perjury and is resigning. The board was told it didn’t have time to write a new job description and get someone hired before Runcie’s last day Aug. 10, so it will use the existing job description for the superintendent’s job. Applications will be accepted from June 7-21. Candidates will be screened by July 6, and a pared-down list of finalists will be presented to the board July 20. Interviews are July 28 and the board expects to hire the interim Aug. 4. If no candidate wins the approval of the board majority, board members will simply appoint an internal candidate. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel.

Palm Beach: A Democratic state representative is asking the Palm Beach County Democratic Party to “censure and condemn” three school board members who voted to remove the words “white advantage” from a statement declaring the district’s commitment to equity. State Rep. Omari Hardy, D-Lake Worth Beach, is targeting registered Democrats Marcia Andrews, Frank Barbieri and Karen Brill for voting “with the racist mob rather than listening to the multi-racial coalition that urged them to leave the equity statement unchanged.” Another board member, Barbara McQuinn, was not named because Hardy mistakenly thought she wasn’t a registered Democrat. Palm Beach Post. Construction has begun on the district’s first new school since Seminole Ridge High School was completed in 2005. Ground was broken Thursday for the $103 million high school, which the district hopes to open by the fall of 2023. The school is being called OOO until it’s given a name. Palm Beach Post. WPTV.

Duval: Levis Dasher, 57, who taught music and directed the band at Westview K-8, died May 23 at a Jacksonville hospital of complications from the coronavirus. He had been admitted to the hospital in April with COVID-related respiratory symptoms, and died 55 days later. School psychologists and social workers were brought in to counsel students and Dasher’s colleagues. WJXT. Just days after the school board voted to rename six schools that honor Confederate figures, donations were rolling in to help the district pay for the switch. The cost will be about $825,000, and more than $80,000 has already been donated to go along with $316,000 of in-kind contributions. The costs include signs, school letterheads, middle and high school gym floors, sports equipment, team uniforms and a new mascot for Lee High School. The district plans to direct $200,000 toward the cost from its beverage contracts. WJXT.

Polk: The district is partnering with the health department to make vaccination shots available for students 12 and older and their families, starting Saturday and again June 19 at district schools. The shots are free and appointments are not necessary. Pfizer vaccinations are available for everyone over 12 years old, and Modern and Johnson & Johnson shots will be for adults only. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: School officials said that a high school junior was able to hack into the district computer network in March and knock out Internet service to every county school because the provider, Charter-Spectrum, “failed to maintain” its denial-of-service protection even though the district had been paying the contracted amount for the service. Charter-Spectrum credited the district $23,000, and spokesman Joe Durkin said it worked with the district to “put measures in place to help prevent future Internet service disruptions related to (denial-of-service) attacks.” WFLA. Pfizer vaccinations will be offered at three high schools in June and July to all students 12 and older, district officials have announced. Shots will be given by appointment only from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Largo High on June 22 and July 13, at Gibbs High on June 23 and July 14, and at Pinellas Park High on June 24 and July 15. St. Pete Catalyst. WTSP. Several Seminole Middle School students have been suspended after a tussle over Pride rainbow flags during an outdoor lunch. A group of students tried to grab the flags from another group, and one of the students who tried to hold onto a flag was thrown to the ground, stomped and doused with water. Principal Michael Moss said the school will adopt a new bullying prevention plan in the fall. Tampa Bay Times.

Volusia, Flagler: The school year is coming to an end in Flagler and Volusia counties, and the districts’ superintendents said it was a year unrecognizable from others that tested the resilience of students and teachers. “It’s a cliche at this point to say ‘unprecedented events,’ but it’s true,” said Volusia  Superintendent Scott Fritz. Flagler Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt agreed, adding that the constant shifts added to the challenge. “Usually we have an educational season, the start of the school year,” she explained. “This year was almost re-establishing routines daily because the conditions were changing.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee: Newly named county administrator Scott Hopes resigned his school board seat this week. Gov. Ron DeSantis will appoint a replacement, but his office has not said when that will happen. Hopes was hired as the acting county administrator in early April, and had the word “acting” dropped from the title in late May. Bradenton Herald. WWSB.

St. Johns: A scheduled meeting of the district’s newly formed dress code committee Thursday was canceled after news organizations were told the meeting  would not be open to the public. Spokeswoman Christina Langston said the district is considering the format and venue and whether meetings should be open. Langston said because the committee was not appointed by the school board and is simply an advisory committee, it is not legally required to be open to the public. The committee consists of four district-level employees, three principals, two deans, a licensed mental health counselor, two parents and three students. It was formed after a yearbook adviser digitally added clothes to Bartram Trail High School yearbook photos of 83 female students she decided were in violation of the dress code, and will consider recommending changes to the code. A vote on the code of conduct has been removed from the June 8 school board meeting agenda. WJXT. WTLV. The district turned down an offer from the beauty products company Dove to have the Bartram Trail High yearbook reprinted with the original photos of students. Langston said the school is sticking with the printer, Herff Jones, which offered to reprint corrected versions of the book free to any student who requested it. Some parents say they’re unhappy with the district’s decision. St. Augustine Record. WJXT.

Sarasota: Zoltan Kerestely, the vice principal of administration at North Port High School, has been appointed as the principal of Venice High School. He begins at the end of this school year. Charlotte Sun.

Escambia: The therapeutic day school for students with severe emotional disabilities is moving and getting new services and a new name. The School Day Support program will become Hope Horizons when it moves from the Baptist Hospital to its new home in the Judy Andrews Center. Renovations will cost about $500,000 and are expected to be finished this month. The district said the move will save about $400,000 a year. Capacity will be three to four times what it was at the hospital, and the new facility will have outdoor space for an expanded physical education program and science lessons such as plant experiments and gardening. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay: The school district and the dining service Chartwells will continue to partner to offer free meals throughout the summer to district students. The meals are free and will be handed out between 11:30 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday at Deer Point, Cedar Grove, Lynn Haven, Hutchison Beach and Patronis elementary schools. Panama City News Herald.

Martin: The school district is expected to have 16,240 students for the next school year, a decline of about 460 students, according to projections. Schools spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo said nearly 70 percent of the 460 are expected to be high school students who may have decided they like remote learning and will leave the district to stick with it. TCPalm.

Charlotte: Deputies are asking for help from the community to find a skateboarder who caused about $3,500 in damages at a Catholic school. Charlotte Sun. WBBH.

Monroe: The school district is looking to hire 120 teachers for the next school year. District spokeswoman Amber Archer Acevedo said the turnover is due more to people leaving the Keys than leaving the district. Acevedo said starting teacher pay of $48,400 a year is the highest in the state. She said substitutes are also needed. Florida Keys Weekly.

Jackson: The school district will receive $35 million from the state to help build a K-8 school that will combine students from the Grand Ridge School and Sneads Elementary. Superintendent Steve Benton said the total cost of the school will be about $42 million. Construction is scheduled to begin in January, and completed by the spring of 2024. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: The Florida A&M University School of Nursing has been put on probation by the state’s Board on Nursing because of its low first-time passing rates. But the school retained its accreditation for another two years. Tallahassee Democrat. Eight proposals have been submitted for a 769-acre forest preserve just north of the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus. Seven are bidding to develop the property with apartments, hotels and restaurants, with one also suggesting placing a 30,000-seat football stadium on the property. One bid, from county commissioners, proposes to permanently preserve the land. WUSF. The University of North Florida is offering a summer camp for high school students who want to explore racial equity, social justice and activist issues. Florida Times-Union.

DeSantis defends transgender ban: At a press conference Thursday, Gov. DeSantis again defended his decision to sign a measure banning transgender females from competing in women’s high school and college sports on the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month. “So what we did with the girls’ sports bill was we’re standing up against discriminating against our women athletes,” he said. “Because the fact of the matter is, if you force them to participate against biological males, that’s fundamentally unfair, that’s not a level playing field. I think standing up against discrimination of our women athletes, I think that’s the right thing to do this month, next month, and any month.” Florida Politics.

New history standards: Next Thursday, the Florida Board of Education is expected to vote on a new rule that would govern the way history is taught in the state’s K-12 schools. The proposed rules states that 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.” It would also prohibit teachers from sharing “their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” that is inconsistent with the standards. Gov. DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the rule is intended to stop the teaching of “critical race theory,” which contends that racism is embedded within American society and institutions. The Department of Education said the rule is “straightforward and populated by widely accepted universal principles of the Socratic method and quality educational processes,” but critics contend the rule could lead to “inferior” history instruction. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: About 51 percent of U.S. parents want their children to return to school fulltime next year, but 56 percent would like to have a choice between in-person and remote learning, according to a poll of 1,006 public school parents conducted by the National Parents Union. When asked what schools should be prioritizing, 82 percent said computers and high-speed Internet service and 81 percent said services and support for students with disabilities. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: Critical race theory and the 1619 Project are overt and unequivocal repudiations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a color-blind society, and completely antithetical to that noble pursuit. Michael Zais, Orlando Sentinel. A casual observer of Florida’s education scene might expect that graduates of the state’s eight collegiate high schools associated with institutions in the Florida College System would be superbly prepared to take on math-intensive STEM majors at the state’s public universities. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the experience I’ve had in my own FSU physics classroom. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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BY NextSteps staff