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Palm Beach County superintendent resigning, new academic standards, educator bonuses and more

New academic standards: A sweeping overhaul of the state’s academic standards is being considered today by the Florida Board of Education. The proposed changes include new guidelines for teaching civics and government courses, and about the Holocaust. State priorities include teaching students “a sense of civic pride” and how to “participate regularly in all levels of government.” Students would be required to “study primary source documents to understand the philosophical underpinnings of the American Republic and the root cause of American exceptionalism,” and also “compare the success of the United States and the success or failure of other nations’ governing philosophies to evaluate their past, present and likely future effects.” If the new standards are approved, they probably won’t be integrated into school courses until the 2023-2024 academic year, said Jacob Olivia, chancellor of the department’s Division of Public Schools. “Once we get new standards, then we revise courses to reflect those standards, then we’re going to look at getting textbooks to be aligned with those standards and professional development for our teachers,” Oliva said. News Service of Florida.

Civics and educator bonuses: At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the state’s $106 million civics education initiative is in the final stages of planning, and that teachers who complete training and get the “Florida civic seal of excellence” will each receive $3,000 bonuses sometime during the 2021-2022 school year. He also said a dispute with the federal government over the appropriate use of coronavirus relief funds has been resolved and he expects $1,000 bonuses to be distributed to 180,000 teachers and principals next month. Neither he nor a spokeswoman explained how the issue was resolved. Orlando Sentinel. Politico Florida. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Politics. WTSP. WKMG.

Around the state: Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy announces that he is resigning effective Oct. 11, Orange and Sarasota school boards vote to make face masks optional in the fall, the work cell phone of former Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie being seized by the FDLE as part of the investigation into the perjury charge handed down against him by a statewide grand jury, Lee County special education teacher and track coach Guy Thomas has died at the age of 51 of complications from COVID-19, the body of Miami-Dade teacher Betty Guerra is pulled from the rubble of a collapsed condo in Surfside, the St. Johns County School District has contracted with the sheriff to have a sworn officer in every county school, and the state Department of Education said there’s a critical shortage of science teachers in the state. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Betty Guerra, a math teacher at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School in west Miami-Dade County, was among the victims of the condominium collapse in Surfside. She was 52. One of her students said “she was happy all the time and it made you happy just to be around her.” The death toll is now up to 95, and officials now say as few as five bodies are still to be recovered. Miami Herald.

Broward: The work cell phone of former superintendent Robert Runcie has been seized by the state as part of the investigation into the perjury charge handed down against him by a statewide grand jury. A judge issued a search warrant for the phone on June 30 after reviewing an affidavit filed by an FDLE agent that detailed why the grand jury indicted Runcie on April 14. Runcie has pleaded not guilty. Runcie will work for the district until next month, but is no longer the superintendent. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: Melanie Hill Anderson has been appointed as principal at Tampa Heights Elementary, a magnet school. She starts July 26. Anderson has previously been the principal at Potter and Bing elementaries. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: Face masks will be optional when schools reopen in August, the school board decided Tuesday. Board members voted 7-1 in favor of the change, but said they might reconsider their position if coronavirus cases continue to rise. The new policy also includes a “safety net” the superintendent can use if “government entities” require face masks again. “I worry about the delta variant, and I worry about what happens in the next four weeks,” board chair Teresa Jacobs said. She called the vote a “very, very tough decision.” Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH. Spectrum News 13. Mobile vaccination clinics will be held this week at four county high schools for students over the age of 12 as well as the general public, on a walkup basis only. WKMG.

Palm Beach: School Superintendent Donald Fennoy announced Tuesday that he is resigning, effective Oct. 11. He’s been in the job three years after two years as the district’s chief operating officer. He gave no reason for his decision, and did not say if he was leaving for another job. Fennoy has had a bumpy ride since 2020, drawing criticism from the school board, principals and the teachers union for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his leadership. “I am incredibly proud of the work that we have accomplished as a team over the last five years in our mutual and ongoing commitment to ensuring academic excellence for our students,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “The past 15 months, in particular, have presented challenges, but because of our resilient and dedicated staff, we have turned challenges into opportunities for growth.” Board members will discuss Fennoy’s departure and the process for replacing him at today’s meeting. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC. Students and teachers at Lake Worth High School are taking part in a pilot program, in collaboration with EcoRise and AT&T, to study climate issues and how they will affect different areas of the community. WPTV.

Duval: School board members have approved a $1.2 million contract with a consultant to recruit students to return to public schools. About 30,000 students have left district schools to attend charter or private schools or are being home-schooled. District officials said convincing just 2,000 of them to return would boost their funding from the state by $14.8 million. The one-year contract was awarded to Tennessee-based Caissa Public Strategy. Just the News. School board members are taking about changing the process for renaming schools, including setting a maximum of three schools being considered at a time and requiring new names to be in place for three years before they can be reconsidered. WJXT. Twenty-two district principals are being reassigned for the next school year. Among them are Tangia Anderson, principal at Greenfield Elementary, who is being promoted to a federal programs supervisor position, and Denise Hall, who is leaving as principal of Baldwin Middle Senior High to become the district’s executive director of secondary schools. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: Traffic problems in the neighborhoods around Lakeland Christian School prompted a community meeting this week, which yielded several suggested solutions. Among them: Installing a traffic light that operates only during school hours, reverse on-campus traffic flow, staggering start and dismissal times at the school, adding sidewalks, and increasing police presence. City officials said they will consider the suggestions and follow up with a second meeting to offer recommendations. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: District officials are fine-tuning their plans for the 2021-2022 academic year. Changes being made include giving laptops to all students in grades 3-10 and WiFi hotspots to students with inadequate Internet service, continued use of the Canvas Learning Management system to integrate all digital resources, expanded mental health services, free meals for all students, expanding the voluntary pre-K program, and improved safety and security programs. WFTS.

Lee: Guy Thomas, a special education teacher and widely respected track coach at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, has died at the age of 51 of complications from COVID-19 after being hospitalized for a month. He was 51. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WBBH.

Volusia: Better communication is one of the five areas of focus in the district’s new strategic plan. Improvements in the past year include hiring a manager for the district’s social media, installing a new customer service system to get answers to posted questions more quickly, and launching a campaign promoting the social media platforms. This comes at a time when the district’s biggest Facebook group is transitioning from public to private as a way to filter out fake messages. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A former Volusia school principal who was demoted is suing the school district for discrimination. Willie Williams alleges that he was demoted from Westside Elementary because of his race, and was turned down for nine other roles in favor of less qualified white applicants. The district denies the allegations. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

St. Johns: The school district has reached an agreement with the sheriff’s office to place a sworn resource officer in each of its 46 schools this fall. The decision means the school guardian program is being dissolved. Last year 10 schools had guardians, who are not sworn law enforcement officers. Sheriff Robert Hardwick said the agreement improves security at schools and also develops relationships between officers and students. “It’s a good time for us to start that relationship at a young age,” he said. “So, with every single school, we keep that continuity with the children actually knowing that a deputy sheriff in this uniform is a friend.” WJXT.

Sarasota: Face masks will be optional for students and employees this fall in district schools, the school board decided unanimously on Tuesday. Many parents who spoke out at the meeting urged the board not to follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommended that anyone over the age of 2 who has not been vaccinated wear a mask indoors. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun. The school district’s annual equity report shows greater participation in advanced classes in the past five years, and a narrowing of the gap between white and minority students. The number of white students enrolled in at least one advanced class jumped from 66 percent to 76 percent between 2010 and 2015, while black students increased participation from 31 percent to 57 percent and Hispanic students went from 49 percent to 69 percent. Advanced classes include honors, Advanced Placement, Advanced International Certificate of Education, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment courses. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: Officials from the school district, Warrington Middle School and its consultant said at a community meeting this week that parental involvement is critical to improving academic performance at the struggling school. If Warrington doesn’t receive a C grade from the state for the 2021-2022 academic year, the school could be closed or turned into a charter school. The final community meeting is July 19, and today school officials are presenting their turnaround plan to the state Board of Education for approval. Pensacola News Journal.

Bay: School board members have approved an updated school dress code that includes a ban on ripped jeans, graphic t-shirts, v-neck t-shirts, and slides or slippers. The code was put together by 12 district principals, and approved on a 4-1 vote. WJHG. WMBB.

Alachua: The University of Florida Health Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute is offering free physicals to all students who plan to participate in school sports during the upcoming school year. The exams are offered on a walk-in basis. Gainesville Sun.

Martin: School board members said at Tuesday’s meeting that they needed the answers to several questions before they can decide whether to reinstate the Indiantown bus depot. Among them: How many buses are needed to evacuate a school in an emergency, how long it would take for a bus to arrive at a school during an emergency, how often do such emergencies happen, how many drivers would be needed, and what are the costs of the district’s options. Several years ago, the district relocated the bus depot from Indiantown to Stuart, which is about a 30-minute drive away. Some advocates for reinstating the depot in Indiantown argue the Stuart location is a public safety issue. TCPalm.

Charlotte: Vacation is over for hundreds of district students who attend school year-round. Sallie Jones, Peace River and East Elementary are the county’s three year-around schools that reopened for students Tuesday. For these students, summer lasts five weeks, but they get longer breaks in the fall, spring and at Thanksgiving. WINK.

Colleges and universities: Gov. DeSantis is recommending that Wayne Young, Andrew Shaw and Michael Bell be appointed to the Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees. Young is vice president of environmental services for the Jacksonville Electric Authority, Shaw is a neurosurgeon, and Bell is vice president of public affairs at Rayonier Inc. The Florida Senate has to confirm the appointments. WJXT.

Science teacher shortage: There’s a “critical” shortage of science teachers in the state, according to a report from the Department of Education. General science was ranked first among nine areas of teacher shortages. Physical sciences ranked third, and earth and space seventh. Other areas of instruction with shortages are reading, math and education for students with special needs. Florida Phoenix.

Gender reading gap: A state task force is being assembled to investigate why boys consistently lag behind girls in reading, and what can be done about it. In the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in Florida, girls in both 4th and 8th grades scored 9 points higher than boys, and a 2018 international study showed boys lagging behind girls in reading in 40 countries. Experts cite stereotypes, social pressure and socioeconomics for the gap. This week, Gov. DeSantis appointed two members of the task force, both parents of boys. The Florida Senate and House will each appoint five more. Florida Phoenix.

Around the nation: U.S. schools are getting $129 billion from the federal stimulus package, but rules on how the money can be spent mean that many urgent needs cannot be addressed. New York Times. Nearly 93 percent of the families in the Louisiana Scholarship Program say they are happy with the academic progress their children are making, according to a survey by the Louisiana Federation for Children. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: A micro-school in North Las Vegas designed to tackle pandemic learning loss and funded by the city posted remarkable learning gains in its first year by emphasizing academics using a personalized learning model that combined strengths of world-class digital learning tools with those of a rich, in-person learning experience. Don Soifer, redefinED. Holocaust education must not be placed on the altar of critical race theory or used as a mere tool to teach the perils of xenophobia. David Paterson and Laurie Cardoza-Moore, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff