Pinellas’ Sarah Ann Painter is Florida’s teacher of the year, DeSantis says no face mask mandates, and more

Teacher of the year named: Sarah Ann Painter, a 5th-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Pinellas County, has been chosen by the Florida Department of Education as the state’s teacher of the year. Painter receives $20,000 from the state, can present a two-year scholarship to the student of her choice, and will serve as an ambassador for a year to create public awareness for teachers and recruit future teachers. Painter, who has taught 18 years, thanked her husband and six children “who have sacrificed alongside me for the greater good of the students.” Pinellas Superintendent Michael Grego called Painter a “teacher leader,” and said, “Her message of finding joy has resonated deeply with her students, families and colleagues and her mantra of ‘we can do hard things’ set the tone for her school community.” The other finalists were: Kari Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Fruitville Elementary in Sarasota County; Frank Garaitonandia, an art teacher at Citrus Grove Elementary in Volusia; Jim Schmitt, a history teacher at Mandarin High in Duval; and Brittany Brown, a language arts teacher at Wildwood Elementary in Sumter. Florida Department of Education. Tampa Bay Times.

DeSantis says no mask mandates: As spiking coronavirus rates are causing some Florida school districts to waver on making face masks optional in classrooms this fall, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that there will be no mandatory face mask mandates or lockdowns. If the federal government or a school district tries to impose a mask mandate, DeSantis said, he would convene a special session of the Legislature to outlaw it. “There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level, imposing compulsory masks on kids,” DeSantis said. “We’re not doing that in Florida, OK? We need our kids to breathe. We need our kids to be able to be kids.” President Biden’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said it “would be greatly concerning” if Florida banned mask mandates since all children under 12 remain unvaccinated. News Service of Florida. Miami Herald. WPTV. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. WMFE. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. The U.S. surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, said that the rise in coronavirus rates in Florida is “alarming.” The number of new cases in the state has jumped from about 10,000 a week in mid-June to more than 45,000 a week by mid-July. McClatchy.

Around the state: A former Orange County school administrator has been chosen as the interim superintendent for the Broward County School District, contract negotiations between Orange County teachers and the school district have broken down over the raises offered by the district, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office will supply school resource officers for the district, Manatee and Sarasota school boards approve tentative billion-dollar budgets, Marion’s school board makes face masks optional for the coming school year, and Lake Worth Beach city commissioners have appointed an education task force to investigate problems in the city’s schools. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School board members have chosen a former Orange County school administrator as the district’s interim superintendent. Vickie Cartwright, whose most recent job was superintendent of schools in Oshkosh, Wis., was selected in a 5-4 vote over the only other candidate, Robert Schiller. “I’m feeling very grateful. I’m so humbled for the opportunity to work alongside some wonderful individuals,” Cartwright said at Thursday’s board meeting. “This is just an exciting time for me. Coming to Florida is important to me.” Cartwright, 50, will replace Robert Runcie, whose last day is Aug. 10. Runcie resigned after being indicted on a charge of perjury by a statewide grand jury. Cartwright meets Monday with board chair Rosalind Osgood to negotiate a contract. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WFOR. WTVJ.

Orange: Contract negotiations between the school district and the teachers union have broken down over raises. The district has offered teachers with “effective” evaluations $100 raises and a $25 cost of living increase. Teachers with “highly effective” ratings would get $150 raises and the $25 cost-of-living increase. “It was just so shocking,” said union president Wendy Doromal, who thinks most teachers should get raises of $3,000. Jim Preusser, the district’s top negotiator, said the union’s proposal would drain the district’s reserve fund in two years and lead to jobs and program cuts. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Lake Worth Beach commissioners have appointed an 18-member educational task force to look into problems in the city’s schools and recommend solutions to the commission. The idea was proposed by Commissioner Kim Stokes, who said the schools’ problems are usually associated with the large number of immigrants in the city – 39 percent of the total population – and low-income earners. Palm Beach Post.

Lee: The sheriff’s office will supply school resource officers for the district, taking over for the Fort Myers Police Department because it no longer wants to provide the service. Police officials told the district and the sheriff’s department about its decision Wednesday, but did not offer a reason. The district shares the costs, which are estimated at about $100,000 per SRO, with law enforcement agencies. WINK. WZVN. W.A. “Dub” Kendrick, who taught, coached and led the athletic department at Fort Myers High School for 31 years, has died at the age of 95. He was inducted into the Fort Myers Track and Field Club Hall of Fame, and the Fort Myers High School track and field house carries his name. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: School officials said they can’t find enough people to fill all 66 openings for school bus drivers, but did find about 50 and said that’s enough drivers to keep the buses running when schools open in August. District spokesman Russell Bruhn also said the district has found enough substitute teachers so that “we are probably better position right now than we were during the heart of the school year last year.” Florida Today.

Manatee: School board members gave their tentative approval this week to a budget of $1.05 billion, which is about $174 million nigher than last year’s. The millage rate would decline slightly, but would still generate more money because of rising property values and growth. A public hearing on the budget is set July 27. Bradenton Herald.

Sarasota: A tentative budget of nearly $1.09 billion was approved by the school board this week. That’s about $188 million higher than last year’s budget. The millage rate was lowered by taxes collected with increase because of higher property values. A public hearing is July 27, and the board is expected to take a final vote in September. Charlotte Sun.

Marion: Face masks will be optional for students, employees and parents for the 2021-2022 school year, the school board decided this week. “Face coverings can be worn by any student, staff member, or campus visitor/volunteer who feels it necessary to do so,” the district announced. “Social distancing will be observed as much as possible, along with regular hand washing, daily disinfecting of high-touch and flat-surface areas, and use of water bottle refill stations, among other safety precautions.” The board also voted to allow full capacity at athletic and arts events. WKMG.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: The debate over critical race theory has been long and loud in Indian River County, but not so much in St. Lucie and Martin counties. Some local officials say the difference seems to be rooted in Indian River County’s conservatism and growing parental advocacy movement. Others say the fight just hasn’t gotten into school politics yet in St. Lucie and Martin, but that it’s coming. TCPalm.

Leon: The final week of a summer camp at Conley Elementary School has been canceled because of positive COVID-19 tests among students. Tallahassee Democrat. All Leon students will eat for free at schools this fall, according to district officials. WTXL.

Alachua: The district is partnering with the health department to send about 30 more nurses into schools to help slow the spread of the coronavirus this academic year. “The additional nurses will be taking on most of the COVID-related tasks at schools, including contact tracing, testing, vaccination support and education,” according to the district’s announcement. “During the last school year, much of that work had to be done by school administrators and other staff members.” WUFT. A former teacher at Santa Fe High School has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for unlawful sexual activity with certain minors. Christopher Salamone, 36, was arrested in June 2020 after an investigation into allegations that he had been having sex with a 16-year-old student. Gainesville Sun.

Santa Rosa: District officials said they are researching the state’s school guardian program by meeting with law enforcement agencies and talking with districts that have guardians. “We’re really trying to triangulate, if you will, and get as much information as we can,” said Superintendent Karen Barber. She has said the district has no immediate plans to begin a guardian program, despite pressure from some city and county officials to do so. Pensacola News Journal.

Choice’s boost for public schools: A recently updated report of a 2020 study that concluded public school student performance improved along with the growth of state scholarship programs for lower-income students in private schools has reaffirmed those results. redefinED.

Books for students: Gov. DeSantis has ceremoniously signed a bill that will have books delivered free every month by the state to struggling students so they can improve their reading skills. H.B. 3 set aside $200 million for the program, with some of the money coming from corporate donations. WFLA. Florida Politics. TCPalm.

Around the nation: Data gathered from 38 states and the District of Columbia show that a huge number of prospective elementary school teachers fail their licensing exam on the first try. And 29 percent of all teacher preparation programs reported that less than half passed the licensing exam on their first try. The 74.

Opinions on schools: This year marks the 30th anniversary of passage of the nation’s first charter school law. Matthew Ladner, redefinED. Our local colleges would be wise to to keep open minds about whether they’re loosening their COVID protocols too quickly and too extensively. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff