‘Freedom’ bill clears another committee, online learning for inmates, Lee picks a leader, and more

‘Freedom’ bill advances: A bill intended to prevent classroom instruction or workplace training about issues of race or sex that would lead people to feel “guilt” or “anguish” was approved Tuesday by the Republican-dominated House State Affairs Committee. The bill was proposed after Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed to prevent the use of critical race theory in schools and workplaces. H.B. 7 needs approval from the Education & Employment Committee before it could be considered by the full House. The Senate bill, S.B. 148, is scheduled for a hearing before the Rules Committee and then could go to the full Senate for a vote. News Service of FloridaFlorida Politics. Capitol News Service.

Virtual learning for inmates: Nearly 1,200 Florida prison inmates under the age of 22 would have access to classes through the Florida Virtual School under a bill unanimously approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. S.B. 1226, filed by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would create the Florida Virtual School Justice Education Program, which would offer students courses through FLVS online and even through traditional classroom instruction. “The simple truth is we have to find a scalable solution to solve this problem,” said Brandes. Politico Florida.

Also in the Legislature: House and Senate committees approved bills (S.B. 390 and H.B. 235) to limit the use of restraints on students with disabilities. Only school resource officers, school safety officers, school guardians or security guards would be authorized to use restraints, and only on students in grades 6-12. Florida Politics. A bill allowing certain juvenile criminal records to be expunged was approved by its final House committee on Tuesday. “This great piece of workforce development legislation strikes a perfect balance between protecting public safety and affording our youthful offenders a second chance to lead a life of success,” said Christian Minor, the executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association. Politico Florida. Florida Politics. Reduced-price breakfasts would be free for students whose families are barely above the poverty level if companion bills S.B. 1656 and H.B. 1187 are approved by the Legislature. Tallahassee Democrat. School districts could decide whether teacher unions can bargain over teacher evaluations under a bill approved by the House Education & Employment Committee. Politico Florida.

Around the state: Lee County School Board members choose a Nevada educator as the district’s next superintendent, Broward drops one finalist for the superintendent’s job and adds another, Duval schools extend the requirement that adults wear face masks on campuses through Feb. 15, a new elementary school in Palm Beach County is expected to get a name today, the number of Florida students taking physics classes increased in 2021 after years of decline, Flagler’s school board again fails to agree on a resolution condemning hate speech, and a snowman shipped from Kentucky give many students in a Hillsborough County classroom their first look at snow. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: In a Q&A, Cesar Munoz, the principal of the Cristo Rey High School that opens in August, talks about growing up in a dangerous section of Chicago, his education at Cristo Rey Jesuit in that city, and his plans for the Miami high school that combines four years of rigorous college preparatory academics with four years of professional work experience. reimaginED.

Broward: School board members dropped one finalist for the superintendent’s job but added another at Tuesday’s meeting that was held over concerns that last week’s meeting could have violated the Sunshine Law. At that meeting, three finalists were chosen. Tuesday, the board dropped one finalist, Palm Beach County schools’ chief of equity and wellness Keith Oswald, for Palm Beach County Schools. Last weekend it was reported that Oswald knew that a high school principal told a parent that he couldn’t say whether the Holocaust was a factual event but failed to report it. The new finalist is Quintin Shepherd, superintendent for the Victoria Independent School District in Texas. The other finalists are Broward’s interim superintendent, Vickie Cartwright, and Michael Gaal, a former Washington, D.C., deputy chancellor. More interviews are scheduled over the next week, and the school board could make its choice at the Feb. 9 meeting. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WSVN. Palm Beach Post. WLRN.

Hillsborough: Most of the students in Robin Hughes’ special education class at South Shore Academy in Tampa had never seen snow. So Hughes called her sister in Danville, Ky., and asked her to build a small snowman and ship it to the school in an insulated container. It arrived virtually intact. Since then, Hughes has kept “Lucky” in the cafeteria freezer and takes him out twice a day for her students. “In a time when things are not normal for kids in the classroom and for adults … this little snowman has created happiness,” Hughes said. Washington Post.

Orange: The school district is the latest to lobby the state to waive the consequences of statewide testing again this year. It’s also asking the state Board of Education to delay the implementation of boosting the test scores required to qualify for high school graduation. Testing was canceled two years ago when schools closed because of the pandemic, and consequences of the testing results were also waived last year. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: The district’s newest elementary school is expected to be given a name at today’s school board meeting. The options are Lakeview Elementary, Lakeside Elementary and Blue Lake Elementary. The school sits next door to Don Estridge High Tech Middle School, and is scheduled to open in the fall. Palm Beach Post. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. Former school superintendent Donald Fennoy, who resigned last July, talks about the pandemic-related stress and political realities that caused him to reassess his life and his job. CNN.

Duval: District officials are extending the requirement that all adults wear face masks in county schools to Feb. 15. At Tuesday’s school board meeting, a group of teachers also urged the board to provide employees and students with more personal protection equipment against COVID-19, better contact tracing, and conduct a campaign promoting vaccinations. WJXT. WJAX. WJCT. WTLV.

Pinellas: NAACP leaders in St. Petersburg said changes are needed at St. Petersburg Catholic High School after a recent series of racially motivated incidents targeting black students. Racist graffiti has been scrawled in a bathroom, black students have been called slaves by classmates, a teacher carved the word “monkey” in a school door and a dean referred to black students as “hoodlums.” At a news conference Tuesday, NAACP St. Petersburg branch president Esther Matthews said, “When these things happen here it says that we have students in an environment where we have allowed racial hatred to fester unchecked. These are teachable moments.” Tampa Bay Times. WFTS.

Lee: School board members have chosen Christopher Bernier, superintendent of schools in Clark County, Nev., as the district’s new superintendent. The vote was 6-1, with board member Melissa Giovannelli favoring the other finalist, Michael Ramirez, the deputy superintendent of schools in Denver. If Bernier can agree to contract terms with the board, he will replace interim superintendent Kenneth Savage, who has been in that role since former superintendent Greg Adkins retired last June. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX. WBBH. Clark County School District.

Marion: Don Browning, appointed to the school board last August by Gov. DeSantis to replace Beth McCall, said he’s unsure if he’ll run for re-election to the District 2 seat in August’s special election. Browning is 79 and said, “I am, right now, in the middle of my brain trying to figure that out.” If he decided to run, he said, “I don’t think I would have trouble winning.” Browning has been a contrarian on the board, often clashing with his colleagues. He recently made headlines when he urged the board to remove some high-profile expenses off the consent agenda list for individual discussion, and said he has hired his own staff because the district is not giving him his fair share of time with the board’s executive assistant. He’s also critical of the district’s five-person public relations department, saying it’s a waste of money. Ocala Star-Banner.

Santa Rosa: School officials are collaborating with the StoryBook Treasures organization to improve the reading skills of  students in pre-K through 3rd grade. The program, introduced last year at one school and then expanded, incorporates a multi-day lesson plan for five books throughout the school year. Each of the books includes a “treasure” to help the students connect with the stories. Students also receive a book, tote bag and T-shirt. Pensacola News Journal.

Flagler: For the second time in three weeks, the school board has failed to adopt a resolution condemning hate speech. Board member Jill Woolbright called the proposal “a waste of our time. This is not important stuff,” and colleague Janet McDonald said any definition of hate speech would be subjective and would violate peoples’ right to free speech. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: Threats made Monday against historically black colleges and universities, including Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach and Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, continued into Tuesday, disrupting school schedules. Florida Times-Union. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Politico. Florida State University is investigating the air quality in another building a week after mold and radon concerns closed the Sandels Building. The Williams Building will remain open for now, but faculty members have the option of temporarily working remotely. Florida Politics.

Physics enrollment up: After years of decline, the number of Florida high school students taking physics increased by 5.4 percent in the fall of 2021 over the fall of 2020, according to the Florida Department of Education. Bridge to Tomorrow.

Opinions on schools: Any curriculum that ignores Florida’s racial history, from the presidential election of 1876 to the lynchings of 61 blacks in the 1900s, teachers lessons in ignorance. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff