DeSantis pitches ‘Stop WOKE Act’ to legislators, UF accreditation concerns, Carvalho’s exit and more

Governor’s ‘Stop WOKE Act’: Gov. Ron DeSantis continued his attack on critical race theory Wednesday, calling on the Legislature to draft and pass a bill banning schools from teaching it and businesses from using it in training. Any schools or businesses that violate the ban could be sued by parents and employees. DeSantis labeled his proposal the “Stop WOKE Act,” short for Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, and said, “In Florida, we are taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory. We won’t allow Florida tax dollars to be spent teaching kids to hate our country or to hate each other.” CRT was developed in the 1970s and contends racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions. The Florida Department of Education has already issued a rule prohibiting the teaching of CRT in schools, but DeSantis wants the ban embedded in state law. The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 11. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Miami Herald. Orlando SentinelFlorida Politics. Florida Phoenix. Daily Commercial. WKMG. WPTV. WTLV.

Accreditation concerns: The commission that determines whether universities are granted accreditation has informed University of Florida president Kent Fuchs that “there may be sufficient factual information supporting significant noncompliance with the principles of accreditation.” Accreditation is necessary to receive federal funding. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges conducted the review after three UF professors complained that the university prohibited them from testifying against the state in a lawsuit, saying doing so would not be in the best interests of the school. The president of the commission has appointed a special committee to visit UF and report back on the state of academic freedom at the school. Another commission board will review the report in June. WGFL.

Around the state: Broward schools will observe Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of the Islamic holy month Ramadan, during the next school year, Palm Beach County School District data shows crime in schools is up significantly over the 2019-2020 academic year, the human resources director for Palm Beach County school resigns after being told he was being demoted, Escambia parents and school officials are protesting the proposed opening of a homeless center a half-mile from a high school, the Lee County School District names its principal and assistant principal of the year, and what’s being called the world’s first virtual reality charter school is opening next fall in Collier County. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho hopes to leave for his new job running the Los Angeles school district within 45 to 60 days, he said Wednesday. School board members authorized board chair Perla Tabares Hantman to negotiate the terms of his departure. Carvalho also said Wednesday that his successor needs to understand the community and be able to stand up to political pressure. WPLG. Miami Herald. WFOR. WTVJ. The former Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High School in Miami is being torn down to make way for a pricey private school. The World School in based in Manhattan and also has campuses in São Paulo, Brazil, and Shenzhen, China, and is planning a campus in Silicon Valley, California. The Miami campus is expected to open in the fall of 2024. Tuition has not yet been set, but it’s expected to fall below the $62,700 at the N.Y. campus. Miami Herald.

Broward: Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of the Islamic holy month Ramadan, will be observed April 21, 2023, by the school district for the first time. School board members approved the day off as part of the 2022-2023 academic calendar. The school year begins Aug. 16, 2022, and ends June 8, 2023. Miami Herald. A 14-year student has been arrested after allegedly making social media threats against Pompano Beach Middle School. Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said the boy had the names of people who were included in the threats. Dozens of threats have been made this month against schools in both Broward and Miami-Dade. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: Tampa’s Cambridge Christian School is just one of eight in the United States to receive a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Grant for young inventors. Students are developing a marine vessel to detect the algae that causes red tide. Businesses, tourists and governments can then be warned about potential outbreaks. Representatives from the Lemelson-MIT program plan to visit the school in February to get an update on the students’ progress. WFTS.

Orange: A 19-year-old man has been arrested and accused of attempted second degree murder with a firearm and discharging a weapon on school property. Authorities said Mandrel Harper of Deltona was arrested in Volusia County on Tuesday, a day after his actions in the parking lot at East River High School, located near Bithlo in the eastern part of Orange County. No one was injured. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG.

Palm Beach: School district data shows a 600 percent increase in felony suspensions, 118 percent increase in weapons, and a 35 increase increase in threat assessments so far this school year compared to the entire 2019-2020 school year. The data is taken from reports the district has to file with the state detailing fights, guns found in schools, attacks on school employees and more. WPEC. The district’s director of human resources, Gonzalo La Cava, submitted his resignation this week after being told by Superintendent Michael Burke that he was being demoted to the principal’s job at Tradewinds Middle School in Greenacres. La Cava had been harshly criticized by teachers for failing to set up a process this fall that would allow employees with health problems to get permission to work remotely. His last day in Jan. 31. Palm Beach Post. The school board approved a one-year contract with the 24/7 online school tutoring service Paper. The service is expected to be available today. WPTV.

Polk: An 18-year-old Lake Wales High School student was arrested Wednesday after a school resource officer reportedly found a loaded handgun in his backpack. The student and five others were arrested for fighting during lunch, and officers said the gun was found in the subsequent search. WFLA. WTSP. WFTS. A math teacher at the Lake Alfred Polytech Academy magnet school was arrested earlier this month and accused of driving under the influence. Florida Highway Patrol troopers said Sheila Graham’s car was sitting on a center median on a westbound entrance ramp to I-4 when they arrived. No one was injured. The Daily Ridge.

Lee: Kelly Stedman of James Stephens Elementary School has been chosen as the Lee County School District’s principal of the year, and Estero High’s David Howdyshell was selected as the top assistant principal of the year. WFTX. WBBH.

Collier: What’s being called the world’s first virtual reality charter school is opening next fall. The Optima Classical Academy projects an initial enrollment of 1,300 students in grades 3-8, and plans to add 9th and 10th grades in the fall of 2023. Florida Politics.

Escambia: Parents and school officials are protesting the Pensacola City Council’s decision to locate a homeless center less than half a mile from Pensacola High School. Superintendent Tim Smith and school board attorney Ellen Odom have been asked by the board to research the proposal and see if there are any options to challenge the council’s decision. Pensacola News Journal.

Clay: School board members have approved a redistricting map for elections that aligns board and county commission boundaries. The numbering of the districts also changed. Clay Today.

Colleges and universities: Sawsan Ahmed, 12, became the youngest graduate in the 61-year history of Broward College on Wednesday. She earned her associate’s degree with a concentration in biological science and a 4.0 GPA. Next month she will go on to the University of Florida to study microbiology and cell science. “It was awesome. I’m so happy,” she said after the ceremony. Miami Herald. WSVN. University of North Florida researchers are working on a process to protect sand dunes. They’ve developed an environmentally friendly liquid mix that can be sprayed on dunes to help bind the sand particles together. The binding might be enough to protect sand dunes during storms, and the dunes can protect against flooding. Florida Times-Union. The University of South Florida St. Petersburg has a nearly $443 million economic impact annually on the state, according to a study compiled by a team from the school’s Muma College of Business. St. Pete Catalyst. State Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried charged Wednesday that University of Florida trustees are required by Gov. DeSantis to donate $100,000 to his campaign or they won’t be reappointed. She offered no specifics, and the executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, Helen Aguirre Ferre, called the accusation “a bald-faced lie.” Florida Politics.

Around the nation: Public school enrollment continues to decline across the United States, according to a recent survey of 600 districts in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Last year, public school enrollment dropped about 3 percent. This year’s declines are less pronounced, but still troubling to educators who worry that many students are simply dropping out. NPR. English language learners are underrepresented in gifted programs in Florida schools and others around the country, education experts say. About 10 percent of the country’s public school students are ELL, but they represent just 2.4 percent o the students in gifted programs. The 74.

Opinions on schools: Nine Miami-Dade County School Board members stand between the helm of the fourth-largest school system in the United States and opportunists, sycophants or a visionary leader. Their decision will be their legacy. They cannot allow the process to be subverted. Miami Herald. Allegations of sexual misconduct at Blake High School in Tampa warrant a hard look by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights into the way the Hillsborough County School District is treating the complaints and the students who make them. Tampa Bay Times. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is committed to recruiting and retaining 1,000 diverse male teachers by 2025. This represents an annual growth of at least 12 percent. It will take collaboration across a broad range of partners to make this vision a reality. Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, Florida Times-Union. The desire for school choice has never been greater. Transportation limitations should not be the reason why a child’s education stalls. Sean Michael Pigeon, reimaginED. I believe it is so important for parents to be able to choose where their children attend school, because all children learn differently. They have different needs, so a parent’s ability to have a say in their teaching environment is crucial to how and what they learn. Desiree Williams, reimaginED. The teacher shortage keeps growing, which means one of two things: Either this state’s leaders don’t care about the problem, or they’re simply not competent enough to fix it. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. I know the people involved in Moms for Liberty. Their hearts and motives are pure. Their ethics are solid. Their goal is admirable and essential to the success of our children and our country. They’re here to stay, and that’s a good thing. Bill Mick, Florida Today.

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BY NextSteps staff