School tax issue, electing superintendents, more math texts approved, resolution delay, and more

Around the state: Pasco County School Board members decided Tuesday to put a school tax referendum to improve salaries on the Aug. 23 ballot, Lee County voters will be asked in November if they want to elect school superintendents, two more math textbooks have been approved by the Florida Department of Education after the publishers changed some content, Duval school board members postpone a vote on a resolution supporting the Parental Rights in Education bill after nearly 300 people sign up to speak on the topic, Sarasota school boards reversed an earlier decision to advertise a policy that would ban parents from recording individualized education plan meetings between parents and teachers, and Flagler county commissioners scrapped a proposed agreement over the timing of when development impact fees have to be paid to the school district. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Two seats on the school board are expected to be held by allies of Gov. Ron DeSantis after the November elections. In District 4, the only candidate for the seat that has been held by the retiring Perla Tabares Hantman is Roberto Alonso, who was appointed by DeSantis in 2020 to the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees. In District 5, board member Christi Fraga has announced she’s running to become mayor of Doral. She has to resign to run, but said she plans to stay on the school board through November. When she does leave, DeSantis will appoint her replacement. Miami Herald.

Orange: An Orlando pizzeria has banned anyone under 18 from entering without being accompanied by an adult because of problems it’s had with students from nearby Bishop Moore Catholic High School. “Recently, we’ve had a group of children coming over from Bishop Moore that have been so disrespectful to my staff, and I won’t have that,” said Denny Tornatore, who owns the Italian restaurant Tornatore’s. WKMG. WOFL. A 14-year-old was hit by a car while he was on his way to Corner Lake Middle School Tuesday morning. The boy was flown to a hospital, where he reportedly is alert and speaking with Florida Highway Patrol investigators. WOFL. WKMG.

Duval: School board members rescheduled a vote on a resolution supporting the Parental Rights in Education law after nearly 300 people signed up to speak for or against it. That part of the agenda took so long that the board agreed to extend the time for comments and postpone discussing and possibly voting on the resolution, offered by board member Charlotte Joyce, which “Unequivocally supports the Parental Rights in Education bill passed by the Florida Legislature and enacted into law by Governor Ron DeSantis … Disapproves the provisions of the Duval County Public Schools’ LGBTQ+ Support Guide set forth in this resolution and the similar provisions therein; and … Thanks Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their leadership in defending parents’ rights to exercise authority over their children and to teach their children their values, morals, and beliefs.” WTLV. WJAX. WJXT. The interim principal of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts has been named to the job on a permanent basis. Tina Wilson was one of 16 candidates for the job who were selected after a national search. WTLV.

Palm Beach: Students from the Seminole Ridge High School construction academy have completed their ninth home in the past 11 years for Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County, and turned over the keys to Belle Glade resident Mattie Moore and her 16-year-old granddaughter. The students typically work on one house a year, but this one took longer because of the pandemic. Palm Beach Post.

Pinellas: Jaime Manfra became an education pioneer in 2012 when she started a learning pod in Clearwater that has now become a micro-school of 44 students in grades K-12. Her Service Learning Micro-school is all about flexibility, diversity, community service. “Service is love in action, it’s virtue in action,” Manfra said. Students “need concrete ways of applying kindness.” Now she’s helping others start their own schools. Manfra said if she can do it, anybody can. reimaginED.

Polk: Three more books that have been criticized by a conservative group have been recommended by two school district book review committees to remain on select school library shelves. The books all deal with transgender topics, and one is about a gay teen. Fifteen of the 16 books flagged by the group County Citizens Defending Freedom have now been approved by the review committees to remain available at age-appropriate levels. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: A bill asking voters whether to elect the school superintendent has been signed by Gov. DeSantis, putting the issue on the Nov. 8 ballot. Local state legislators introduced the measure during the legislative session, arguing that the superintendent should be responsive to parents of students. WINK. A Cape Coral Middle School art teacher said she has been fired for discussing sexuality with her students. Casey Scott also said when she was asked about her sexuality, she told students she was pansexual. Some students then created art expressing their own sexuality, and Scott hung it on her classroom door. School officials ordered her to take it down, and she was then told she was being released from her contract. School officials acknowledged they received complaints from parents about the discussion and artwork, but said Scott was fired because she wasn’t following the curriculum. WBBH.

Pasco: School board members unanimously decided Tuesday to place a school tax referendum on the Aug. 23 ballot. They said they wanted to avoid voter confusion with the separate Penny for Pasco sales tax that’s on the ballot Nov. 8. Revenue from that tax would be shared among the school district and county and municipal governments, while the school tax vote in August would be used to improve salaries for public school employees. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF.

Brevard: Forty-one students from the Imagine School escaped unhurt Tuesday afternoon when their school bus caught fire in Palm Bay. The bus driver saw smoke coming from the engine, pulled over and evacuated the bus before it went up in flames. School principal Brian DeGonzague commended older students who “showed great character” by helping keep the younger kids calm. Spectrum News 13.

Seminole: Three Hagerty High School students and a school bus driver were taken to a hospital after a three-vehicle crash Tuesday afternoon. Florida Highway Patrol troopers said a 16-year-old student was seriously injured, while the injuries to the other three were minor. WESH. WKMG. WFTV. WOFL.

Sarasota: School board members reversed a previous decision to advertise a policy that would ban parents from recording individualized education plan meetings between parents and teachers. The decision was revisited after board member Shirley Brown, who voted for the policy in April, ask that it be reconsidered. Vice chair Tom Edwards, who also voted for the policy, agreed that further discussion was needed in a future workshop meeting, and the vote was 4-0 to pull back the policy for now. Charlotte Sun. Lauren Kurnov has qualified as a candidate for the District 4 seat on the school board. Kurnov is an assistant vice president and director of student success at USF Sarasota-Manatee and an educational consultant with New College. Robyn Marinelli is also an announced candidate for the seat that has been held since 2006 by Shirley Brown, who is not running for re-election. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Mindy Long, the assistant principal of Fruitville Elementary School, has been named the principal at Alta Vista Elementary. She replaces the retiring Barbara Shirley. Sarasota Magazine.

Leon: A middle school principal has created a stir with her recent Facebook post that said, “I am SO TIRED of being told we don’t know what we are doing or that we are messing with parents’ rights. Today I say – Parents, Quit pushing for stupid bills and getting in our way … schools are going to do what’s best for your students in spite of you.” Sarah Hembree, principal at Cobb Middle School, was referring to the controversial Parental Rights in Education law and the role of parents in education. She also wrote that teachers “want to decide what they teach in their classroom based on the needs of the students in front of them.” Tallahassee Reports.

Flagler: County commissioners scuttled an updated interlocal agreement among the county, school district and three cities. The agreement would have defined when developers pay impact fees to the school board from new construction that adds students to the district. Right now, developers pay the fee before the project begins, but they want to delay that payment until permits for homes are issued. Flagler Live.

Wakulla, Bay: The school district has been awarded $20 million from the Triumph Gulf Coast Board, which it will use to build the War Eagle Career Academy. The academy will partner with Lively Technical College to offer Wakulla and Franklin students training for technical careers. The board also awarded Bay County $7.6 million to create the Collegiate Laboratory High School, where students can earn industry certifications and take both high school and college courses. Triumph Gulf Coast is a nonprofit that handles the distribution of 75 percent of the money Florida received from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Wakulla News.

More books approved: Two more math textbooks have been approved by the Florida Department of Education after the publishers changed some content the state had objected to. That brings the number of approved texts to 19. DOE has not provided specific examples of content in the books that led to their rejection, simply saying they didn’t meet the state standards or contained prohibited content relating to critical race theory or social emotional learning. WFLA.

Opinions on schools: Floridians need an education commissioner who has strong convictions and is willing to make tough decisions. But, now more than ever, we also need someone who can approach those decisions with humility, knowing that no one person has all the answers, despite how strongly we feel we are right. Manny Diaz is that person. Sara S. Clements, Florida Politics. New Education Commissioner Manny Diaz has called traditional public schools “incredibly important.” It would be way cool if Florida started treating them that way. Randy Schultz, Sun Sentinel. The “interest” of state officials in the operation of the University of Florida has made it more likely to result in a new president who is more politically connected than academically grounded. Carl Ramey, Gainesville Sun. By encouraging color-blindness and restricting how race is taught in classrooms and discussed in the workplace, Florida’s Stop WOKE Act can potentially undermine both freedom of speech and the beauty of diverse perspectives. Amiah Taylor, Fortune. Yes, Gov. DeSantis is wrong. Getting the answer in math is not the most important part. The most important part is to understand which numbers to enter, why they matter, what the resulting answer means and how to use that answer to solve a real-life problem. James Stewart, Gainesville Sun. Focusing on funding students instead of systems can foster bold new ways to educate, creating partnerships with public schools that otherwise would be unavailable. This isn’t the death of public education – it’s the reinvigoration of it. Scott Kent, Citrus County Chronicle. (Note: Kent is assistant director of strategic communications for Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog.)

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BY NextSteps staff