State explains why math textbooks were rejected, elevator problems in Broward, growth, and more

Why texts were rejected: Florida Department of Education officials on Thursday released nearly 6,000 pages of reviews of 54 math textbooks explaining why they were rejected for use in Florida schools. According to the records, reviewers found several instances of critical race theory and inklings of “social emotional learning” in the texts, two topics targeted by the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Among the examples were a high school statistics text that discussed racial profiling by police and one on “discrimination in magnet school admission.” Another was judged to be biased on climate change because it talked about “a climate crisis as if it’s a proven fact,” and another was flagged because it referred to a debate about climate change between former vice president Al Gore and late radio host Rush Limbaugh in which, the reviewer wrote, “You can tell the author favors Al Gore and dislikes Rush Limbaugh based on questions.” Politico Florida. Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. WFTV.

Around the state: A review of records shows that 69 percent of Broward school elevators haven’t been inspected in more than a year or have violations that have not been fixed, growth in Lee County could increase student enrollment by 14,500 in the next 10 years, Marion school board members are considering whether to find ways to use student cell phones at school or to ban them altogether during the school day, bills creating a “Victims of Communism” day and several tax holidays are now on the desk of Gov. DeSantis, University of Florida officials said they risk losing $100 million in state funding if they don’t comply with the Stop WOKE Act, the Leesburg High School band director has submitted his resignation after being accused of running a “secret society” at the school, and a handful of St. Johns County students face disciplinary measures and possible criminal charges for hanging a gutted shark from the rafters of Ponte Vedra High School on Thursday. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Cristina Rodriguez, once a student at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Miami and now the principal, talks with Step Up For Students about why she left teaching in public schools to return to Catholic education, the changes and innovations she’s seen between now and when she was a student, and her goals for improving the school. reimaginED. A Bethel Junior Academy student’s mother is seen in a surveillance video attacking a 13-year-old student with a belt Thursday in Florida City. The boy had an altercation with the woman’s son earlier, and he told the woman her son was a bully. A restraining order was issued against the woman, and the investigation continues. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR.

Broward: A records review has found that 162 out of 236 school elevators do not have a 2022 certificate of occupancy, meaning they’ve either not been inspected for more than a year or their last inspection found violations that have yet to be fixed. About three-dozen elevators have not been in compliance for more than a decade, and one elevator certificate expired in 2006. “This isn’t a quirk of circumstance or an anecdotal school here and there that lost their certificates,” said Jacqui Luscombe, who heads a district committee that advocates for students with special needs. “This is wholesale neglect, and it speaks to Broward schools’ lack of understanding of the needs of their students and staff.” District spokesman John Sullivan said the district is working to fix the problems, which he said “include issues that are not considered safety-related, meaning the elevator is safe to operate while the issue/violation is addressed.” Sun Sentinel.

Lee: Development is exploding in the county, and the school district has added 500 students just since January. The growth is forecast to continue. In the next 10 years, district officials project, about 14,500 more students will be enrolled. New schools are in the planning or construction stages, and many existing schools will be expanded to handle the growth. WFTX.

Collier: A 16-year-old student at Palmetto Ridge High School in Naples was charged Wednesday with making a written or electronic threat to kill, do bodily injury or conduct a mass shooting at the school. Deputies said the student made the threats on social media. WFTX.

Lake: A former student at Leesburg High School has alleged that band director Gabriel Fielder ran a “secret society” at the school called the Elder Council, and that he had a sexual relationship with guidance counselor Lenny Finelli. Finelli has since resigned from the school, and Fielder’s resignation in lieu of termination will be considered by the school board Monday. No criminal charges have been filed because the student was 18 at the time of his relationship with Finelli, according to Leesburg Police Department investigators. Daily Commercial. WFTV.

St. Johns: A gutted shark was found hanging from the rafters Thursday morning at Ponte Vedra High School. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, which is investigating the incident, said a group of five students hung the shark as a senior prank. District officials said those found responsible could be suspended, expelled, transferred to an alternative school, referred to mental health services and/or face criminal charges. St. Augustine Record. WJAX. WJXT. WKMG. WESH.

Marion: School board members are considering whether to find ways to use student cell phones at school or to ban them altogether during the school day. Board member Don Browning is an advocate or using phones in learning, while other board members and some principals want them powered off and out of sight during the day. Doing that keeps students off social media platforms and could increase personal interaction, they contend. No changes to the existing policy were made, but Superintendent Diane Gullett said a committee will consider revisions. Ocala Star-Banner. The school district has become the 11th in the state to earn exemplary status from the Florida Department of Education’s African American History Task Force for its efforts to teach black history. WCJB.

Bay: Mosley High School’s band was awarded the Otto J. Kraushaar Award, which only 1 percent of U.S. high school bands every year. Mosley qualified for the award by earning superior ratings in a single year at three competitions: District Marching Band Assessment, District Concert Band Assessment, and State Concert Assessment. Only two county schools have previously won the award: Rutherford High School in 1980 and Bozeman High School in 2017. Panama City News Herald.

Bradford: A school district employee and coach has been sentenced to two years of probation for sending sexual text messages to a Bradford High School student last September. Lainie Kay Rodgers, 24, who was a teacher’s aide and volleyball coach, pleaded no contest to charges of  transmission of harmful material to a minor by electronic device, and authority figure soliciting/engaging in lewd conduct with a student. WTLV.

Colleges and universities: University of Florida officials said if they don’t follow the state’s new instructional guidelines as spelled out in the Stop WOKE Act, the school risks losing $100 million in performance funding. President Kent Fuchs recently made a slide presentation to faculty that he said “seeks to accomplish three things. First to inform you about the law as it relates to instruction, second provides recommendations on how to remain within the laws, requirements and guidelines. And third, make clear that you continue to address academic issues in your class.” Gainesville Sun.

Bills now before DeSantis: Bills creating a “Victims of Communism” day in schools and a tax-holiday for school supplies and more have landed on the desk of Gov. DeSantis. H.B. 395 would designate Nov. 7 as a day students would get at least 45 minutes of instruction on the suffering caused by communism, starting in the 2023-2024 school year. H.B. 7071 would establish a back-to-school tax holiday July 25 through Aug. 7, and also create tax-free periods for hurricane supplies, tools for skilled tradespeople, and state and county gas taxes. Florida Politics. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Education commissioners: Manny Diaz Jr. is the state’s ninth education commissioner since 1998, when Florida voters decided the position should be an appointed one instead of an elected one. Here’s a look at the first eight. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: The Biden administration is expected this month to announce its revision of Title IX, the federal education law that prohibits sex-based discrimination. Lawsuits from Republican attorneys general and conservative groups are expected to follow. Politico. Many U.S. school districts are revising their plans on spending federal coronavirus relief aid from focusing on recovering lost learning and addressing student mental health issues to filling budget holes and addressing staff shortages. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: Over the past two years, parents have been empowered to regain control of their children’s education and explore, or create, new learning models. This dynamic cycle of empowerment, exit and entrepreneurship is poised to continue and accelerate, expanding education options for more families. It’s a great time to be a learner, a parent, an educator and an entrepreneur. Kerry McDonald, Forbes.

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BY NextSteps staff