Around the state: Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has told the Brevard and Leon school districts they are now in compliance with state rules on face masks, Brevard school board member Jennifer Jenkins has asked a court for an injunction against a state legislator she claims is “cyberstalking” her, a new state rule has had an impact on some students with special needs, Lee County’s school board won’t share revenues from an extra half-cent sales tax with the struggling Cape Coral charter school system, Broward’s school board chairwoman is resigning her position to run for the state Senate, principals of the year are named in Lake and Clay counties, three finalists are chosen for the Sarasota County teacher of the year award, and a teacher in Taylor County has been fired for using corporal punishment against a student. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Broward: Rosalind Osgood, chairwoman of the school board and a member since 2012, is expected to submit her resignation today to run for a seat in the state Senate. The resignation takes effect March 8. Gov. Ron DeSantis will appoint a replacement for her District 5 seat to serve the rest of Osgood’s term, until November 2022. Sun Sentinel. WFOR.
Palm Beach: A Cuban immigrant’s dream to start a student symphony orchestra has become a reality. Thirty students from 15 county schools signed up to participate in the North Palm Beach Youth Symphony Orchestra, and director Victor Fernandez has had them rehearsing for 10 weeks to prepare for their first concert Monday. Fernandez, who teaches elementary music at Beacon Cove Intermediate School in Jupiter, said the strings symphony orchestra “gives (students) a place to belong.” Palm Beach Post. A Palm Beach County 2nd-grader has been suspended for 36 days so far this school year and been assigned to in-school discipline because she won’t wear a mask to school. Her mother said her daughter “has been steadfast in her unwavering decision to not back down to tyranny and lunacy vowing to do everything she can for every child going through these lawless mandates.” The Free Press.
Lee: Cape Coral’s struggling charter school system won’t be getting any money from the extra half-cent sales tax for schools approved by Lee County voters in 2018. School board members voted 5-2 this week against sharing the revenues from the tax, which has generated more than $163 million. School officials noted that if they agreed to share the money with Cape Coral’s charter schools, 22 other charter schools could also be eligible for a share. Fort Myers News-Press. School board members decided this week to consider redistricting maps already drawn by the county rather than prepare their own. The map will set school board district boundaries used in electing board members. A final decision is expected Dec. 7. Fort Myers News-Press. A 6-year-old student brought a loaded gun to Mirror Lakes Elementary School in Lehigh Acres on Thursday. The boy had picked up a bag on his car seat as he was being driven to the school bus stop. His father, Jeffrey Braxton Crocker, 41, was arrested and faces charges of failure to store a firearm in a secure location and child neglect. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. WBBH.
Brevard: School board member Jennifer Jenkins has asked a court to issue an injunction against state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, for “cyberstalking” her and leading a “campaign of harassment on social media … inciting followers to harass and threaten me.” She’s asking the court to forbid Fine from publishing Jenkins’ name or “any insinuation of person” on social media and from coming within 500 feet of her school office. Fine called the request “dangerous” and “un-American” and said Jenkins should resign if she couldn’t take “legitimate criticism.” The court hearing is today. Florida Today. Two weeks after the district began allowing parents to opt-out of the face mask requirement for students, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has declared that it is now in compliance with the state’s rules banning face mask mandates. Corcoran made the announcement Wednesday on Twitter, writing. “I’d like to sincerely thank @leonschools and @brevardschools for reversing their mandatory mask policies by empowering parents. Let’s keep working together to provide students a world-class education.” Florida Today. Politico Florida. WKMG. A former physical education teacher at Viera High School has pleaded guilty to his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Kenneth John Reda, 54, was arrested July 7 and charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, disorderly conduct inside the U.S. Capitol and making violent entry to the U.S. Capitol Building. He resigned Aug. 13. Reda will be sentenced Feb. 9. He faces up to six months in prison. WKMG.
Volusia: The district’s retired chief academic officer has lost her teaching license for her role in administering “placebo” Advanced Placement tests to 400 unsuspecting students at Mainland High School in 2019. The Florida Department of Education has revoked the license of Teresa Marcks for failing “to protect the health safety and welfare of students.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Lake: Mike Randolph, the principal at Leesburg High School, has been named the school district’s principal of the year, and Stacia Werner of Beverly Shores Elementary has been chosen as the assistant principal of the year. Both are now in the running for state honors. Daily Commercial.
Sarasota: Three finalists have been chosen for the district’s teacher of the year award. They are: Shannon Haddad, a speech-language pathologist at Ashton Elementary School; Jennifer Jaso, a social studies and critical thinking teacher at Sarasota Middle; and Loridia Urquiza, a Spanish and AICE teacher at Booker High. A winner will be announced Dec. 9. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Clay: Jennifer Collins, the principal at Fleming Island Elementary School, has been named the school district’s principal of the year. She’s been a principal 12 years: seven in Duval County and the last five at Fleming. Clay Today. The county’s new school will be named Spring Park Elementary, school board members decided at Thursday’s meeting. The mascot will be an owl. The school is scheduled to open in August 2023 with up to 862 students. WJXT.
Leon: The school district is now in compliance with the state’s rules banning face mask mandates for students, Education Commissioner Corcoran said this week. Last week, Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna removed a requirement that asymptomatic students who were exposed to someone with the virus had to wear a mask if they chose not to quarantine for seven days, which was the final hurdle to being declared compliant. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV.
Alachua: School officials said they have been told by the U.S. Department of Education that the state cannot place additional requirements on a school district in order to receive federal COVID-19 relief funding. The district expects to receive $61 million to address learning loss, with $2 million going to charter schools. Gainesville Sun.
Flagler: School bus drivers are getting a raise from $13.58 an hour to $15 as the district tries to address a shortage of drivers. The district has 62 buses but only 55 drivers, and would like to add 32 more. All other support workers will get a pay raise of 66 cents an hour. Flagler Live.
Taylor: A teacher at the Taylor County Primary School has been fired for using corporal punishment against a student, which is a violation of district policy. Robin Walker was suspended without pay on Oct. 28, and fired by the school board this week. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said it is conducting a criminal investigation. WCTV.
Colleges and universities: Members of the Florida Board of Governors are preparing to ask legislative leaders for up to $800 million to start working on a backlogged list of infrastructure repairs. Politico Florida. Florida faculty members said they’re concerned about rules being proposed by higher education leaders that would make it easier for veteran, tenured professors to be fired. Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough Community College is developing a four-year bachelor’s program in nursing, the school’s first four-year program. It’s scheduled to begin next fall. Tampa Bay Times. WFTS. The contract of University of West Florida president Martha Saunders has been extended by a year, through the end of 2022. Pensacola News Journal. Brian Lamb, the global head of diversity and inclusion at JPMorgan Chase & Co., has been unanimously chosen to serve a two-year term as the chair of the state’s Board of Governors. He was appointed to the board in 2019. Eric Silagy, CEO of Florida Power & Light Co., was named the vice chair. Politico Florida.
New rule affects disabled: A new state rule adopted by the Board of Education last summer is having a negative effect on some students with special needs, contend parents of those students and educators. Because the state was over the cap for the percentage of students eligible for alternative testing necessary for graduation under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, a new rule was drafted to redefine the threshhold of what it means to have a “most significant cognitive disability” and add guidelines for getting access to services. The effect was the removal of some academic services for those students. Some lawmakers said they are considering legislation to address the fallout. Tampa Bay Times.
In the Legislature: Bills have been filed that would repeal the law passed earlier this year requiring colleges to conduct annual surveys to measure “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” on campuses. S.B. 810 was filed by state Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, and H.B. 6077 was filed by state Rep. Yvonne Hinson, D-Gainesville. Florida Politics. Students would learn about the history of the state’s African-American cemeteries as part of black history instruction under a bill proposed by state Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce. Florida Politics. Members of the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee are looking into options to expand electronic and open-source textbooks as a way of holding down costs for students. Florida Politics.
Opinions on schools: The University of Florida is looking less like a premier institution of higher learning and more like a pawn for political power brokers in Tallahassee. It’s time to ditch the Gator and start rooting for the Lapdogs. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. The University of Florida has damaged its reputation for academic freedom, free speech and common sense by refusing to allow three professors to testify in a court case against the state’s new election law. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. Manatee County voters should be applauded for ignoring the white-hot noise that surrounded the school district’s 1-mill referendum and for making the enlightened decision to renew it. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.