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$25M settlement for Parkland victims, ethics complaint, unauthorized vaccination, and more

Around the state: The Broward County School District has agreed to pay more than $25 million to the families of students and employees murdered or wounded in the 2018 Parkland school shooting, University of Florida officials say they will investigate allegations that pressure was applied to college researchers to destroy COVID-19 data they had collected, an ethics complaint has been filed against a Broward school board member and a district administrator, a report concludes that the Miami-Dade County School District’s commitment to switch to 100 percent clean energy by 2030 is virtually impossible, Hillsborough school board members squabble over redistricting for school board seats, a private company apologizes for vaccinating a Palm Beach County kindergartner against the flu without her mother’s permission, and the Lee, Manatee and Alachua school districts honor top teachers and administrators. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The school district’s bold prediction earlier this year to switch to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030 is virtually impossible, concludes a preliminary report from the district’s clean energy task force. Florida Power & Light, which provides all the district’s power, has made no commitment to switch to 100 percent clean power and the district doesn’t have the financial resources to make the switch on its own, the report said. Installing enough solar panels to meet the district’s needs would cost at least $500 million, and the district would still have to cut energy use by 25 percent. And the cost for batteries to store just half the power collected from the solar panels would be about $95 billion. “Neither option is currently a viable path given FPL’s investments in natural gas, the current technologies, high cost of battery storage and the high maintenance costs of essentially managing its own utility,” the report concluded. Miami Herald.

Broward: Families of the 17 students and employees killed in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will each receive more than $1 million as part of a settlement with the school district. Students and employees who were wounded will be paid between $22,688 to $776,904 each. The district’s total payout will be $25 million. A separate settlement will pay $1.25 million to Anthony Borges, who was critically injured and will need lifetime care. The settlement is expected to be approved by the school board Tuesday. Sun Sentinel. WSVN. A complaint has been filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics that accuses school board member Donna Korn and director of student activities and athletics Shawn Cerra of misconduct. The complaint alleges that both have vacationed several times at the Naples home of Chuck Puleri, whose company has long distributed Herff Jones caps and gowns to graduating district students. Amy Shield of Parkland, who belongs to a Facebook group known as the Concerned Citizens of Broward, filed the complaint. She said Korn and Cerra “chose to benefit their friend and his business over the interests of Broward students and their families.” Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: A discussion Friday about which school board redistricting map should be adopted turned into a squabble about who is best qualified to be an advocate for Hispanic students. District 2 board member Stacy Hahn, a Republican, is proposing a map that keeps her own district mostly intact but makes District 1 more heavily Hispanic and, she says, virtually guarantees a Hispanic member of the board. District 1 representative Nadia Combs objects to that map because it takes her home out of her district. She also said that because she’s an immigrant she is well-suited to represent Hispanics. Hahn disagreed, saying, “With all due respect, that is short-sighted and that’s me being kind.” Meanwhile, Karen Perez, who is Hispanic and supported by Democrats, submitted her own map that that removes several Republican-leaning neighborhoods from Hahn’s district. Dec. 16 is the next scheduled discussion of redistricting. Tampa Bay Times. Twenty-two current and former students at Blake High School in Tampa charge that they gave been sexually assaulted or harassed over the past five years, but the school district has done little to make them feel they’re being protected. Experts in federal law said their stories raise questions about the district’s system for keeping children safe. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: School board member Vicki-Elaine Felder is hosting a community meeting tonight at Carver Middle School to talk about the safety of students in the community around the school and others. At least 14 students in Orange and Seminole counties were arrested last week after making threats against schools, and a shooting was reported near Carver. WFTV.

Palm Beach: The private health company Health Hero Florida has apologized for vaccinating a 5-year-old kindergartner at North Grade Elementary in Lake Worth last Thursday without her mother’s permission. “Health Hero Florida deeply regrets an incident that occurred on Dec. 9 where staff members unintentionally administered a flu shot to a student who had not received parental consent to participate in our flu vaccination program,” read a statement from the company. “The … staff members involved in this incident have been suspended pending further review.” WPEC.

Duval, northeast Florida: Ground was broken Friday on a performing arts center on the campus of Fort Caroline Middle School of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jacksonville. It will be the second for middle school students in the district. WJXT. Threats against schools continue to plague districts in the northeast Florida counties of Duval, Clay and Columbia. One school, Landmark Middle School in Duval, announced that the school is starting screenings and bag checks. WJXT.

Polk: About 2,000 Polk children under the age of 18 were involuntarily committed for evaluation under the Baker Act in 2018-2019. That’s double the number from 2009-2010, according to the Baker Act Reporting Center at the University of South Florida. Nearly 7,000 children between the ages of 9 and 17 are considered seriously emotionally disturbed, the local think tank Polk Vision reportsLakeland Ledger.

Lee: Allison Kerner, an English and Language Arts teacher at Harns Marsh Middle School, has been named the school district’s teacher of the year. She wins a $2,000 prize package and is now eligible for the state’s teacher of the year award. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WBBH.

Seminole: A Seminole High School student was arrested Friday after school security officers reportedly found him in possession of a gun on campus. “I am very proud of our students for following our campus expectation of seeing something, saying something, and doing something,” said principal Jordan Rodriguez. WFTV. WESH.

St. Johns: School board members have approved new districts that align with the county commission’s. The new boundaries, which define the districts that school board candidates must live within to be eligible to run, will be in place for the next 10 years. WJXT.

Marion: Five finalists have been chosen for the school district’s teacher of the year award. They are: Beth Abel, who teaches 6th-grade exceptional student education language arts at Lake Weir Middle School; Leah Bender, an English literature and composition teacher at West Port High; Jennifer Bourque, who teaches language arts, math, science and social studies to autistic students at Harbour View Elementary; Joanne Houghton, a 7th-grade social studies and civics teacher at the Fort McCoy School; and Hannah Whitston, who teaches K-5 music at Madison Street Academy. The winner will be chosen Jan. 15. The district’s rookie teacher of the year was also named Friday. It’s Melinda Kimball, who teaches agriculture at the Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks. WCJB. Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie: Coronavirus cases are declining in the school district and officials are using federal COVID-19 relief aid to provide academic help, especially in math, to students who have fallen behind during the pandemic, Superintendent Wayne Gent said last week in an assessment of the first semester. WPTV.

Leon: A family resource center has been opened at Hartsfield Elementary School in Tallahassee. The center will hold workshops to help parents with financial literacy, applying for jobs, buying a home and more. “We need love in action, we need equity in practice, and that’s what we’re going to get with this family resource center,” said Christic Henry, school advisory council chair and community partner. Tallahassee Democrat. A chapter of the conservative advocacy group Moms for Liberty formed last month in Leon County. “We hope to engage parents, grandparents and community members in Leon County who would like to stand with us as we work to protect parental rights within our school system,” said Sharyn Kerwin, chair of the local chapter. Tallahassee Democrat.

Okaloosa: Students at Liza Jackson Preparatory School in Fort Walton Beach recently participated in an international  interactive playground virtual exercise challenge through the school’s Lu interactive playground. The Lu uses a computer to project an image on a screen that students can interact with. In one game, student throw balls against the screen to knock down a brick wall on the screen. “They’re just so excited to know that they’re doing something here that other students around the world are also doing,” said Emily Curtis, a physical education teacher. “I just thought that was a really cool concept.” Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: Beth LeClear of Lake Forest Elementary School has been chosen as the school district’s principal of the year, and Ginger Stanford of Kanapaha Middle School is the district’s assistant principal of the year. Both were chosen by their peers. Alachua Chronicle. WCJB. A provider of after-school services said the Children’s Trust of Alachua County, which manages money from a local property tax initiative for educational before- and after-school programs for youth, is withholding funding because the provider won’t share personal information about students. Aces in Motion had been awarded a contract worth $188,443 in October. Gainesville Sun.

DeSoto: A former DeSoto High School student who was expelled last month has been arrested and accused of making threats on Snapchat against three students at the school. Deputies said the boy faces charges written threats to kill or cause bodily injury. WBBH. WWSB.

Colleges and universities: University of Florida officials said they will investigate allegations that pressure was applied to college researchers to destroy COVID-19 data they had collected. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Many University of Miami faculty members who took pay cuts during the pandemic are livid that the school has given the new football coach an $80 million contract. Miami Herald. Duval County Research and Development Authority and Jacksonville’s Skinner family have donated 192 acres to the University of North Florida. How the school will use the land is undecided. Florida Times-Union. WJCT.

Around the nation: Only about one-third of U.S. school districts are using federal coronavirus relief funds on tutoring for struggling students, even though research suggests “high-dosage tutoring” is effective, according to a recent study. The 74.

Opinions on schools: Think about everything you hate most about political campaigns. The lies. The attacks. The division. The dark money. Even the ghost candidates who haunt Florida races. That’s what party bosses on both sides of the aisle want to inject into school boards all over Florida. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. The education process has already become far too politicized for comfort in Florida, and making school board candidates declare their political leanings would just add to the discomfort. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff