Yearbook photos won’t be covered, 16 books stay in Polk schools, new Volusia chief, tax votes and more

Around the state: The Seminole County School Board reverses a high school principal’s decision to place stickers over yearbook photos showing students protesting against a state law, Polk’s superintendent said 16 challenged books should remain in school libraries, Volusia school board members are offering a former administrator a three-year contract to return to the district as superintendent, a contract agreement is reached between Brevard teachers and district officials, Broward’s proposal to raise school taxes will remain on the Aug. 23 ballot, St. Lucie schools will ask voters to renew a tax levy on the Nov. 8 ballot, a charter school in Pinellas County is given notice that its contract with the district is being terminated, and a Sarasota student said he’s been told the microphone will be turned off during his graduation speech if he discusses his LGBTQ activism. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: County commissioners decided Tuesday not to move the school district’s tax increase request from the Aug. 23 primary to the Nov. 8 general election. Some county officials had suggested the general election was a better spot because more voters would decide the issue, but school officials argued that it was not the county’s decision and threatened a lawsuit if the referendum was moved. “If we were the governing body on this issue, I personally would put it on the November ballot. I think that makes sense,” said County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz. “I just think we’re not the governing body on that issue.” Voters are being asked to expand an existing school tax passed in 2018 to raise teacher pay, bolster safety and security, and improve mental health services. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Twenty schools will get new principals for the 2022-2023 school year, Superintendent Addison Davis said Tuesday. Among the changes are Jesse Salters leaving Blake High, which has been hit with allegations of inappropriate conduct toward students, to lead Aparicio-Levy, a technical college for adult students. In all, 32 leadership changes were announced. Tampa Bay Times. Officials from school districts in the Tampa Bay area say they will wait for publishers to resolve their appeals with the state over rejected math textbooks before finalizing their orders for the 2022-2023 school year. WUSF.

Orange: Ginaha Jean won the school district’s 11th annual Math Bee on Tuesday in Orlando. Fourth-graders from 18 schools participated. WKMG.

Palm Beach: Seven district teachers were chosen Tuesday as winners of Dwyer Awards for Excellence in Education. They are: Barbara Boehringer, early learning; Katherine Kovalsky, elementary school; Annette Johnson, middle school; Geri Grocki, high school; John Miller, special programs; Scott Lehman, STEM education; and Jill Williams, student advancement and career education. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Fletcher High School in Jacksonville is under a boil-water notice for at least the next three days, school officials have told parents. Bottled water will be provided for students and staff. The school did not disclose the specific nature of the problem. WJXT.

Polk: Superintendent Frederick Heid has recommended that 16 books challenged by a conservative group for their content remain in school libraries. They had been removed for review by two committees, and won’t go back in circulation immediately. This summer, the district will develop a system that will allow parents to decide what books their children may have access to. It’s expected to be in place by the time schools open in the fall. Spectrum News 9. Polk County School District. WFTS.

Pinellas: NorthStar Academy charter school in St. Petersburg has been told by the school board that its contract will be terminated in 90 days. The school has provided an alternative to traditional education for students in grades 7-12. But it has struggled with enrollment and its finances, and has lost financial support of a principal backer. The school has 14 days to file an appeal with the state. Tampa Bay Times. New principals have been named at 11 county schools. Most notably, Largo High will have its first new principal in a decade after the retirement of Brad Finkbiner. Jennifer Vragovic, an assistant principal at St. Petersburg High since 2016, will replace him. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Teachers will receive bonuses of $3,400 to $4,400 in several installments over the next eight months under a contract agreement reached Tuesday. Under the deal, teachers working as of May 27 will receive $1,000 on Sept. 12, and teachers who have worked for the district eight or more years will receive another $1,000 that day. Teachers on the job Aug. 15 will receive $1,200 on Nov. 15, and those working on Jan. 27 will receive $1,200 on Feb 28. On June 2, the two sides will resume negotiations for permanent pay raises. Florida Today.

Seminole: A principal’s decision to put stickers over yearbook photos of students protesting against the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill that restricts school discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation was reversed Tuesday by the school board. Instead, a sticker will be placed on the page noting that the protest was led by Lyman High School students and not sponsored by the school. “We all make mistakes. … We own up to it, and we try to do what we can to fix it,” said Abby Sanchez, the board’s vice chair. “As students, I am proud of you for bringing it to our attention.” Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

Volusia: School board members voted unanimously Tuesday to offer a former district administrator a three-year contract to become school superintendent. Carmen Balgobin, 50, acted as interim superintendent for seven months in 2020 and 2021 while then-superintendent Scott Fritz took a medical leave of absence. She returned to her role as deputy until last March, when she accepted a job as deputy superintendent of teaching and learning for the Broward County School District. Board chair Ruben Colon will now begin negotiating a contract with Balgobin. The board has scheduled a special meeting May 17 to approve the contract. WFTV. WESH.

Manatee: A former private school teacher who was convicted in March of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old  student was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison, followed by two years of house arrest and eight years of sexual predator probation. Kassandra Moore, who taught at The Broach School, pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual battery of a minor more than 12 years of age and less than 18 years of age by a person in custodial authority and one count of transmission of harmful material to a minor. Bradenton Herald.

Collier: Several elderly county residents protested to the school board against some of the textbooks that have been approved by the state. They were upset that the books contained LGBTQ references and contended that they also mentioned critical race theory. Some even objected to the inclusion of quotes from former first lady Michelle Obama. “Why Michelle Obama? Why not Ronald Reagan or the First Lady, Ronald Reagan’s wife…Or Trump.  Anybody,” questioned Victoria Redstall. “If we’re going to talk about race let’s talk about somebody else, somebody else who is white, that has done something great.” After the public comments, the school board voted to adopt the books in question for use during the 2022-2023 school year. WBBH. A 17-year-old boy from Monroe County has been arrested and accused of making a bomb threat against Oasis Middle School in Cape Coral. Police said the boy left a voice-mail message threatening to come to school on March 30 with a “suicide vest” and military rifles, and pipe bombs he would throw into classrooms. He was apparently upset at an Oasis Middle student over a video game they were playing and wanted to cause him problems by making threats while claiming to be him. WINK. WBBH.

St. Lucie: School board members decided Tuesday to ask voters Nov. 8 to renew a property tax increase for four years to fund teacher salaries, school security, mental health services and educational programs. County commissioners still have to agree to put the matter on the ballot. If voters approve the renewal, the tax would go into effect July 1 and expire in June 2027, and will generate about $25 million a year. TCPalm. WPTV.

Sarasota: A Pine View School senior class president who is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state’s Parental Rights in Education law said he’s been told by his principal that if he discusses his LGBTQ activism in his graduation speech March 22, the microphone will be cut off and the ceremony halted. Zander Moricz, who said he’s the school’s first openly gay class president, said, “I will be the only student speaker at graduation, and I cannot speak about who I am.” Principal Stephen Covert’s office referred questions to the district. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun. Patch. Sun Sentinel.

Leon: A school district’s LGBT advisory committee has begun the process of updating the district’s guide for school personnel to deal with students and related issues. Eleven of the guide’s 20 pages have been revised on such topics as use of locker rooms, pronouns in the classroom, and dress code, and the work will continue at another meeting later this month. The guide is scheduled to go to the school board in June for its consideration. WTXL.

Alachua: Julie Rye, a clerical assistant at Santa Fe High School, has been named the school district’s school-related employee of the year. Forty-three others were also honored at Tuesday’s awards ceremony. Gainesville Sun. Mainstreet Daily News. WCJB.

Bay: Oscar Patterson Academy in Panama City is offering teachers $2,500 bonuses to teach at the magnet school, which opens in the fall. The school needs five teachers. “It’s extremely important for us because we need teachers,” said principal Charlotte Blue. “As an opening school, we need people that come in and want to work. Right now we’re in a competitive time because all schools are hiring.” WJHG. WMBB.

H.B. 1557 lawsuit: The legal fight over H.B. 1557, the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to students in K-3 in kindergarten through 3rd grade and in older grades if not in accordance with state standards, could continue into the next school year. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs have asked the judge to give them until Sept. 30 to file briefs supporting their motion for a preliminary injunction. Attorneys for the state objected, and said they will have their motion to dismiss the case before the court by June 15. News Service of Florida.

Hope Scholarships: The number of students using the state’s Hope Scholarships declined by 35 percent this school year even though eligibility was expanded last year to include students who wanted to get away from mask mandates at their schools. The program began in 2018 as a way to allow bullied students to switch public schools or attend a private school. In 2020-2021, 384 students received Hope Scholarships. In 2021-2022, that declined to 249, according to Florida Department of Education data. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the scholarships. Tallahassee Democrat.

Around the nation: Amazon is recalling 22,400 AmazonBasics School Classroom Stack Chairs after 55 reports of them breaking because of a faulty weld. Miami Herald. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Opinions on schools: The Broward County School District has a tough assignment: selling voters on another property tax increase in the Aug. 23 primary. Randy Schultz, Sun Sentinel. What do Cuba and Florida have in common? Book-banning, censorship and, added into the mix this week, state-mandated school indoctrination for political purposes. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff