DeSantis taps Diaz to run DOE, state releases examples in ‘problematic’ books, and more

Diaz chosen to lead DOE: State Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. has been chosen by Gov. Ron DeSantis as the state’s next education commissioner. If approved by the state Board of Education on May 11, Diaz will replace Richard Corcoran, who announced last month that he was stepping down to return to private life and spend more time with his family. Diaz, a Republican from Hialeah Gardens, has been a supporter of DeSantis’ education initiatives and an advocate of charter schools and education choice. He’s currently an administrator for Doral College, a private school that is a part of Miami-based charter school company Academica. “For my entire career I have worked to improve the education system to serve Florida’s students, parents and teachers. I am excited to get to work continuing the mission of the governor to make Florida the education state,” Diaz said in a statement Thursday. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times. Sun Sentinel. Politico Florida. reimaginED. Florida Politics.

Math text examples: Six days after the Florida Department of Education rejected 54 math textbooks because they said they didn’t meet the state’s new learning standards or because they “contained prohibited topics” such as references to critical race theory or social-emotional learning, the department offered examples of what it calls “problematic” elements in the books. One of the examples, an item about algebraic expressions called polynomials, reads, “What? Me? Racist? More than 2 million people have tested their racial prejudice using an online version of the Implicit Association Test.” It then provides mathematical models to measure bias. Another said that a goal of a lesson on number sequencing was to have “students build proficiency with social awareness as they practice with empathizing with classmates.” The goal came under the heading of social-emotional learning. “These examples do not represent an exhaustive list of input received by the department,” read a statement issued by the DOE. Sun Sentinel. Miami Herald. WEAR. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. Florida Politics. WTVJ. Washington Post.

Around the state: A federal investigation has been launched into the Hillsborough school district’s handling of sexual harassment allegations at Blake High School, a south Florida dentist is arrested and accused of having a Florida State University law professor killed eight years ago, a new law that allows out-of-state grandchildren of Florida residents to qualify for in-state college tuition and fees is so popular that many schools have filled their allotted openings and have waiting lists, Hillsdale College is dropping its affiliation with the Tallahassee Classical School over performance issues, a Lake County school student advisory committee has been so successful that it will continue next year, and a Brevard County parent has been arrested and accused of threatening to blow up her son’s school because his lunch portions were too stingy. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights plans to open an investigation into the school district’s handling of sexual harassment allegations at Blake High School. One student’s complaint was dismissed, but the agency said it would investigate her concerns and other current sexual harassment issues as part of an ongoing monitoring agreement with the district. District spokeswoman Tanya Arja said Hillsborough has complied with the monitoring agreement. “Hillsborough County Public Schools continues to work proactively to ensure all students know how to report unwanted behavior,” she said. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: A student at Varsity Lakes Middle School in Lehigh Acres has been arrested and accused of making online threats against the school on Wednesday. Deputies said the 12-year-old boy threatened to bring a gun to school the following day and warned everyone to stay home. He was arrested Thursday morning. Fort Myers News-Press. WFTX. WBBH. WINK. Ron Hoover, the athletic director and football coach at North Fort Myers High School from 1968-1986, has died at the age of 88. The school honored him in 2020 by naming its renovated fieldhouse after Hoover. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: A mother of a Cocoa High School student, who allegedly threatened to “blow up” the school in February if it didn’t feed her son better, has been arrested. Anaya Smith, 41, is charged with making a false report relating to state property and disruption of an education institution. Police said she called the school Feb. 3 and left a threatening message. She did not give her name, but the number was recorded by caller ID. Florida Today. WKMG. WOFL.

Lake: A Superintendent Student Advisory Committee that was started last fall as a pilot program was so successful that it will be continued next year, Superintendent Diane Kornegay has announced. The committee, which is made up of student body presidents from district high schools, represents the interests of students to administrators and school board members. This year the committee’s work on what it considered an outdated student dress code led to changes that were approved by the school board. Spectrum News 13.

Sarasota: A woman was escorted from a school board meeting this week after a heated exchange with board chair Jane Goodwin. “We had a person who was speaking, who was out of order,” said Goodwin. “She was talking about personal issues, abuse and making comments that weren’t true about board members.” WWSB.

Escambia: School officials say that because the state rejected their first five choices for K-5 math textbooks, it’s possible those students will not have math books when school starts in the fall. Assistant superintendent Steve Marcanio said the district has to find new selections by as early as next month “if we are going to have any chance for having products in place and providing time for teachers to train as well as having everything ready for students in August.” Pensacola News Journal. Sheriff’s deputies said they’re searching for an Escambia teacher who is wanted on charges of child abuse. Richard Jay Harris, a teacher at Oakcrest Elementary School, allegedly was struck by a student in class on Feb. 24 and retaliated by lifting the chair she was on and tilting it forward until the student fell out and hit her head on the floor. WEAR. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: Eight years after a Florida State University law professor was gunned down at his home, a Broward County dentist has been arrested and accused of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder. Wednesday, a Leon County grand jury indicted Charlie Adelson for the murder of Dan Markham, who was embroiled in a bitter divorce and custody battle with Adelson’s sister Wendi. The indictment alleges that Adelson hired two Miami men to carry out the hit. Tallahassee Democrat. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. Associated Press. Hillsdale College in Michigan has announced that it is dropping its affiliation with the Tallahassee Classical School in 60 days. Hillsdale said the school failed to make required improvements on such things as board governance, school leadership, classical instruction and student discipline. “We regret that even with additional school visits and training, the school was not able to make the recommended improvements,” Hillsdale said in a statement. Tallahassee Democrat.

Bay: Arnold High School in Panama City Beach is home to one of just three Sports Science Academies in the state. The program puts students on the path to careers as personal trainers, and students can also take courses on sports psychology and participate in sports-related research. Freshmen and sophomores will be enrolled. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: A new law that allows out-of-state grandchildren of Florida residents to qualify for in-state college tuition and fees has proven so popular that many schools have filled their allotted openings and have waiting lists. The break in costs is open to just 350 students a year. Orlando Sentinel. St. Johns County commissioners and school officials are moving ahead with plans to turn the former Hastings High School property into a site for an expansion of the First Coast Technical College’s workforce-development training programs. St. Augustine Record.

Opinions on schools: While K-12 math education in Florida is presently getting a lot of attention because of rejected textbooks, none of that attention is going to help improve the math learning of Florida’s students. The bigger problem is the shortage of qualified math teachers. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The Florida Department of Education’s decision to reject math textbooks based on the inclusion of social and emotional content flies in the face of research evidence and of common sense. Alice Davidson, Orlando Sentinel. Gov. DeSantis should focus on policies and compensation to retain good teachers, not policies that make it more difficult for our overworked, underpaid teachers to teach. Dwyer High School 9th-grader Oliver Shane, Palm Beach Post. Here are eight math word problems that Gov. DeSantis and GOP legislators might prefer in our math texts. Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat. Teachers, coaches, administrators, counselors, office staff, and even volunteers already have the right to pray while on duty and wear religious jewelry or clothing. What people of faith in government service should not do is violate their constituents’ religious freedoms by using the authority of their position to pressure students into prayer. David Williamson, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff