Company got ransomware report before public, school board candidates, meal prices up, and more

Around the state: Even as the Broward school district withheld details from the public about a ransomware attack in 2021, three of its current and former administrators wrote a report for a private company detailing how the attack was handled, candidates for school board seats around the state qualified last week for the election, the Seminole County School District is raising the prices for school breakfasts and lunches to all students who don’t get free or reduced-price meals, school districts are struggling to implement the new Parental Rights in Education law without guidance from the state, and Republican members of Congress have introduced a bill that would create a federal school choice program funded by a $10 billion tax credit program. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Nine candidates have qualified to run for four school board seats. District 2 incumbent Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall is being challenged by La-Shanda West. In District 4, Roberto Alonso was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to finish the term of the retiring Perla Tabares Hantman, and is running for election. Other candidates are Maribel Balbin and Kevin Menendez Macki. In District 6, Sandra Manzieri is challenging incumbent Maria Teresa Rojas, and District 8 incumbent is opposed by Monica Colucci. Miami Herald.

Broward: Even as the school district withheld details from the public about a ransomware attack in 2021, three of its current and former administrators wrote a report for a private company detailing how the attack was handled. Former superintendent Robert Runcie, former school safety chief Brian Katz and Philip Dunn, who was at the time the district’s chief of technology, wrote the report for the education advocacy group Chiefs for Change on the letterhead of a company, Safer School Solutions, started by Katz and Dunn. The company has received $1 million for security consulting work from six school districts, which were all reimbursed by Chiefs for Change, which hired Runcie on May 1 to be its interim leader. The report said the attack left 2,000 servers inoperable. District spokesman John Sullivan said, “The current administration cannot ascertain if permission was sought or granted for the production of this report.” Sun-Sentinel. Twenty-two candidates are running for six school board seats. In District 1, Ann Murray is not running for re-election. Candidates to replace her are her daughter Marie Murray Martin, Rodney Velez and Paul Wiggins. In District 4, incumbent Lori Alhadeff is being challenged by Kimberly Coward. District 5 is an open seat because Rosalind Osgood stepped down to run for the state Senate and her appointed replacement, Daniel Foganholi, isn’t running. Antonio Burgess, Ruth Carter-Lynch, Clifford Coach Sr., Jeff Holness, Nathalie Lynch-Walsh and Jimmy Witherspoon are the candidates. In District 6 incumbent Laurie Rich Levinson isn’t running for re-election. Candidates for the seat are John Christopher Canter, Brenda Fam, Steven Julian and Merick Lewin. District 7 incumbent Nora Rupert is facing Merceydes Morassi, and District 8 incumbent Donna Korn has competition from Raymond Adderly, Mourice Hylton and Allen Zeman. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay: Three seats on the school board are being contested this election cycle. In District 4, incumbent Melissa Snively is not running for re-election. Patti Rendon, Hunter Gambrell and Danielle Smalley are running to replace her. In District 4, incumbent Stacy Hahn is facing a challenge from Damaris Allen, and District 6 incumbent Karen Perez has drawn Roshaun Gendrett and Alysha Legge as opponents. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. Six school board candidates spoke at a community forum Friday about such issues as critical race theory, budget deficits, ethnic mascots and more. Tampa Bay Times. Creative Loafing.

Palm Beach: Fourteen candidates have qualified to run in elections for school board seats in districts 3, 4, 6 and 7. If no one receives a majority of the votes, the two top finishers will compete again on the Nov. 8 ballot. In District 3, incumbent Karen Brill is getting competition from Connor Frontera, Bailey K. Lashells and Kristen Marie Stevenson. District 4 has Angelique Contreras challenging incumbent Erica Whitfield. District 6 incumbent Marcia Andrews is facing Jeff Browning, V. Deanne Ewers, Jennifer Lynn Miller Showalter and Amanda Silvestri. The District 7 seat is being vacated by Debra Robinson. Competing for it are Edwin Ferguson, Christopher Persaud and Corey Michael Smith. Palm Beach Post.

Pinellas: Four of the seven school board seats are on the ballot in August. In District 2, incumbent Lisa Cane faces Brad DeCourte and Bronson Oudshoff. In District 3, Keesha Benson, Dawn Peters and Carl Zimmerman are running to replace Nicole Carr, who is not running for re-election. Both those races are elected countywide. In District 6, Stephanie Meyer, Kimberly Works and Brian Martin are competing for the seat held by Bill Dudley, who isn’t running again. District 7 incumbent Caprice Edmond is being challenged by Maria Solanki. Both are elected only by voters in their districts. Tampa Bay Times. Incoming Pinellas Superintendent Kevin Hendrick has his contract and most of his administrative team in place as he nears his first day of running the district, July 1. He’s stepping in just as the culture wars are erupting in schools and the school board is undergoing change. But he said his approach to the job will be “simple. You just focus on the kids. When you look at how do the kids win, that’s all you have to worry about.” Tampa Bay Times.

Pasco: Seven candidates have qualified to run for three school board seats, all of which are elected on a countywide basis. In District 1, Allen Altman is retiring after 16 years on the board. Competing for his seat are Alvaro Hernandez, Stephen Meisman and James Washington. In District 3, incumbent Cynthia Armstrong is taking on Matthew Geiger, and in District 5, Charles Touseull is challenging incumbent Megan Harding. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Three school board seats are up for grabs in the August primary. In District 1, incumbent board chair Misty Belford faces Megan Wright, and board member Katye Campbell is being challenged by Kim Hough for the District 5 seat. Four candidates are in the race for the District 2 seat being vacated by vice-chair Cheryl McDougall: Erin Dunne, Gene Trent, Courtney Lewis and Shawn Overdorf. If none of the candidates wins 50 percent of the vote in the August primary, the two top finishers advance to the November ballot for the runoff. Florida Today.

Seminole: With a nod to rising prices, school district officials are increasing the cost of breakfasts and lunches at schools for the next school year. For example, the cost of breakfast at elementary schools is going up from $2.50 to $3.25, and the price for a high school breakfast will go from $1.75 to $2.75. Students who get free or reduced-price meals will not be affected. “Right now even with the increase, we’re still projecting we’ll be operating in the red a little bit,” said Todd Seis, the district’s chief financial officer. Orlando Sentinel. WMFE.

Volusia, Flagler: Ten candidates are running for three seats on the Volusia County School Board. Chair Ruben Colon, who represents District 5, is being challenged by Fred Lowry. In District 1, incumbent Jamie Haynes has drawn four opponents: Albert L. Bouie, Georgann K. Carncella, Jaclyn Carrell and Virginia Joiner. In District 3, Justin Kennedy, Kimberly Short and Jessie Thompson are in the race to replace the outgoing Linda Cuthbert. Three Flagler school board seats are also on the ballot. In District 1, Sally Hunt is challenging incumbent Jill Woolbright. In District 2, Lance Alred, Will Furry and Courtney VandeBunte are competing to replace the outgoing Janet McDonald, and incumbent board chair Trevor Tucker is running against Christy Marie Chong in District 4. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Manatee, Sarasota: Eight candidates have qualified to run in three Manatee County School Board races. In District 2, Susan Agruso, Harold E. Byrd Jr. and Cindy Spray are trying to replace incumbent Charlie Kennedy, who decided not to run. In District 4, incumbent Chad Choate is being challenged by Sean L. Conley, and District 5 incumbent James Golden drew two challengers, Richard William Tatem and Chantal Wilford. In Sarasota County, District 1 incumbent Bridget Ziegler is running against Dawnyelle Singleton. District 4 has Lauren Kurnov and Robyn Marinelli competing to replace the outgoing Shirley Brown, and in District 5 Nora Cietek and Timothy Enos compete to succeed the outgoing chair, Jane Goodwin. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. District 5 candidates Enos, a career law enforcement officer, and Cietek, a career school administrator, gave their views about school safety, the public commenting policy for board meetings and more at a community meeting last week. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: Two school board incumbents decided late last week not to run for office again. Two-term District 5 incumbent Kelly King and Don Browning, who was appointed to the District 2 seat by Gov. DeSantis in August, are stepping down. Lori Conrad and Joseph Suranni qualified to run for the District 2 seat, while Sarah James and Taylor Smith will face off to replace King. A third incumbent, District 4’s Nancy Thrower, was re-elected automatically when no one qualified to oppose her. In District 3, school board chair Eric Cummings is running against Steve Swett. All three contested races will be decided in the August primary. Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie: The winners of all three school board seats on the ballot will be determined in the Aug. 23 primary because each has just two contestants. District 1 incumbent Debbie Johnson Hawley is running against Brian K. Capp, District 3 incumbent Donna Mills faces Donnita Graben, and District 5 seat-holder Troy Ingersoll is being challenged by Arndrea Pressley Dampier. TCPalm.

Escambia, Santa Rosa: Three Escambia school board members up for re-election have challengers. In District 1, incumbent Kevin Adams faces Connor Mann. In District 2, sitting member Paul Fetsko drew opposition from Raymond Guillory and Kells Hetherington. In District 3, incumbent Laura Dortch Edler faces David Williams. In Santa Rosa County, District 1 incumbent Linda Sanborn runs against Wayne Patterson, and Alisabeth Janai Lancaster is trying to unseat Carol Boston. In District 5, Scott Peden, Pete Peters and Gregory Seltzer are competing to replace outgoing board member Wei Ueberschaer. Pensacola News Journal.

Okaloosa, Walton: All three Okaloosa school board seats are being contested. In District 1, incumbent Lamar White faces Jerry Buckman. Incumbent Linda Evanchyk will compete with Darrel Barnhill for the District 3 seat, and in District 5 incumbent Diane Kelley faces Cara Marion. In Walton County, incumbent Kim Kirby won the District 2 seat by drawing no opponent, while District 3 incumbent Bill Eddins Jr. is being challenged by Gordon Michael Porter and District 5 incumbent Jason Catalano competes against Matt Carr. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Leon: Three of the four school board seats up for election this year are being contested. In District 1, vice chair Alva Striplin is being challenged by Marianna Arbulu and Anthony DeMarco. Board chair Darryl Jones will face off against a write-in candidate, Harrison Arencibian, for the District 3 seat. District 4 incumbent DeeDee Rasmussen is not running for re-election, leaving Laurie Cox, Susan Hodges and Alex Stemle to battle for the seat. In District 5, outgoing member Georgia Bowen will be replaced by Marcus Nicholas, who won automatically when no one filed to run against him. WTXL. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Four of the school board’s five seats are up for election Aug. 23, and all are being contested. The most watched race will be in District 2, where Mildred Russell is the incumbent due to her appointment to the seat last August by Gov. DeSantis. Diyonne McGraw, who won the seat in 2020 but was removed by DeSantis because she lived in a different district, now lives in it thanks to redistricting and is trying to regain her old seat. In District 1, board vice-chair Tina Certain is being challenged by Daniel Fisher. District 3 is a race between Raymond Holt Jr. and Sarah Rockwell after incumbent Gunnar Paulson decided not to run again. District 5 also will get a new face, as board chair Rob Hyatt isn’t running. Kay Abbitt and Prescott Cowles are the candidates. Gainesville Sun. WGFL. Mainstreet Daily News.

Bay: Two school board races won’t be on the ballot because only one candidate filed to run in each. Neither District 5 incumbent Steve Moss nor District 3 candidate Christopher Moore had challengers, Moore will replace outgoing board member Pamm Chapman. Frances Keys Gordon and Ann Leonard are running for the District 2 seat being vacated by Brenda Ruthven. WMBB.

Martin: Two of the three school board races will be on the ballot Aug. 23. Only Christia Li Roberts, the incumbent in District 1, was automatically elected. In District 4, incumbent Tony Anderson will face Amy Pritchett. In District 3, Elizabeth Bernstein and Jennifer Russell square off to succeed Victoria Defenthaler, who is leaving the board. TCPalm.

Indian River: Two of the three school board races up for election this are being contested. In District 2, incumbent Jacqueline Rosario is facing LaDonna Corbin, Cynthia Gibbs and Josh Post. In District 4, Thomas Kenny is challenging incumbent Terri Barenborg. In District 1, newcomer Gene Posca was automatically elected when he drew no opponents. The incumbent, Mara Schiff, chose not to run for re-election. TCPalm.

Charlotte: District 1 school board incumbent Cara Reynolds was re-elected automatically when no one filed to run against her. In District 4, James A. Barber and John LeClair are running to replace the outgoing board chair Ian Vincent. Charlotte Sun.

Citrus: Only one of the three school board seats open for election this year are being contested. In District 5, incumbent Linda Powers has three challengers: Deborah Daniels, Joseph Faherty and Mary Seader. District 1 board member Thomas Kennedy and District 3’s Douglas Dodd are unopposed. Citrus County Chronicle.

Nassau: One school board candidate won election automatically Friday when her announced opponent failed to qualify, and another is trying to get elected to a different district than the one he now represents. District 5 incumbent Lissa Braddock won automatically when her opponent didn’t qualify, while District 3 board member Jamie Deonas is now running for the District 1 seat against Shannon Hogue and Rick Pavelock. Running to replace Deonas in District 3 are Albert Wagner, Curtis Gaus and David Dew. Florida Politics.

Monroe: School board chair John Dick was declared the winner of his District 4 seat when no one filed to run against him. Another incumbent, Sue Woltanski in District 5, is being challenged by Alexandria Suarez. In District 1, Gabrielle Brown and Darren Horan will compete to succeed Bobby Highsmith. Key West Citizen. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: Haney Technical College in Lynn Haven has received a $7 million state grant that it’s using to help build a teaching building and testing center. The rest of the $12 million project will come from local capital improvement funding, FEMA funding and money from the county’s extra half-cent sales tax. Panama City News Herald.

Parental rights implementation: School districts are struggling to comply with the state’s new Parental Rights in Education law, and won’t get much help from the state until the Board of Education meets later this month to craft a rule. Some teachers say they’re scared that they could be sued if they say the wrong thing. “There’s no doubt about it, an issue that is this sensitive,” said Bill Montford, who heads the Florida Association of District Superintendents. “We’ve got the school districts and the Department of Education, you know, we’ve got to jump on this really, really quick and make sure that we implement and follow the intent of the legislation and do it in a timely manner as we can.” WFSU.

Around the nation: Republican members of Congress have introduced a bill that would create a federal school choice program funded by a $10 billion tax credit program. Washington Examiner. More than 160 U.S. teachers have lost their jobs in the past two academic years over the culture wars about race, sex, political leanings or pandemic issues, according to a review of news reports. Washington Post.

Opinions on schools: Today’s classrooms demand that teachers be counselors, disciplinarians, referees, social workers, psychotherapists and, in some cases, stand-in parents. Throw in armed security and book censors to their already ballooning job description, and it’s understandable why more are questioning their career choice. Palm Beach Post. I hope that the school board candidates fighting on the front lines of the culture wars in this year’s campaigns have time to remember how important it is for Florida’s public schools to provide their students pathways to the highest levels of achievement in math and science and in every other subject. If they don’t, we may find sometime in 2023 that the Mediocrity Caucus has taken over many of our state’s school districts. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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BY NextSteps staff