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Duval has most ‘high-priority’ schools, new job for Runcie, student makes a public apology and more

Around the state: Duval County has the most low-achieving, “high-priority” schools in the states, former Broward County superintendent Robert Runcie is the interim leader of a superintendents’ organization and overseeing a project to improve school safety, a Martin County student makes a public apology at an NAACP event for being one of the six students in a photo holding letters that spelled out a racial slur, Hillsborough County schools have 600 teacher job openings, some members of Lee County’s Republican Party are aggressively trying to win a majority of seats on the school board, two more educators in Marion County have announced their candidacies for school board seats, a state program is helping preschools improve security, and St. Petersburg College rejects a recommendation from a special magistrate to honor a financial agreement between administrators and the union representing adjunct faculty members. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Robert Runcie, who was the superintendent when 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, has been named the interim leader of a national superintendents’ organization that is overseeing a $1 million project to improve school safety. The group is Chiefs for Change, and the project is the School Safety Cohort, which is paying a company called Safer School Solutions to review safety plans and monitor compliance. Safer School Solutions was started by the former Broward district’s chief of safety and security and technology director. Runcie resigned as Broward superintendent in May 2021 when it seemed likely he would be fired after he was indicted for perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury. Sun-Sentinel.

Tampa Bay area: School districts in west-central Florida continue to struggle finding teachers. Hillsborough still needs about 600 teachers for the fall, and Pinellas is short about 200. “This is a lot,” said Hillsborough Superintendent Addison Davis. “Especially during a time where we see so many fewer educators or individuals transition to education.” A state Board of Education report forecasts more than 9,000 teaching jobs need to be filled this summer. WFTS.

Orange: More than 60 firefighters battled a blaze at an abandoned charter school in Maitland on Saturday morning. The building was home to the Summit Charter School that closed about 10 years ago. The fire was brought under control later in the day, and no one was injured. WESH. WFTV.

Duval: The school district has more low-achieving, “high-priority” schools than any of the 67 districts in the state, according to a Florida Department of Education report. It lists more than 700 state schools with that designation, which is assigned to schools with 75 percent or more students qualifying for the USDA’s free or reduced-price lunch program, and an F grade or three straight D grades from the state. Duval has 108 of them, which is more than half of the total number of 204 schools in the district. Miami-Dade, which has 516 schools, was next with 65 high-priority schools. The report also said that 10 percent of the courses in the state were taught by teachers who were not certified in that subject. WJXT.

Pinellas: A former student at Seminole High School was arrested last week and accused of making written threats to kill or do bodily injury to a classmate. Deputies said the 19-year-old posted a photo on Snapchat with a caption reading, “All these $20s, whoever kills Adam first,” referring to a classmate with whom he had been feuding. WFLA.

Lee: Some members of the county’s Republican Party are acknowledging that they have started a local culture war in a bid to win more school board seats. Terry Miller, a conservative Republican political consultant, said only three of the seven school board members are Republican in a county where every partisan position is held by a member of the GOP. “What I’m doing is bringing forward conservative leadership for a conservative community,” he said. WBBH. Forty-eight percent of the county’s 3rd-graders passed the Florida Standards Assessments reading test in the spring, according to data released by the state. The state average was 53 percent. Only 20 percent of Lee 3rd-graders scored at a level representing reading proficiency. Lehigh Acres Citizen.

Marion: Two educators have announced their candidacies for school board seats. Sarah James, 32, a former teacher and assistant principal who now operates the Kid City USA preschool, said she’s running for the District 5 seat currently held by Kelly King. King has not decided whether she’ll run again. Another candidate is Taylor Smith, 24, a horse trainer. In District 2, Joseph Suranni, 49, a dean at Belleview-Santos Elementary School, said he is running for the seat held by Don Browning, who was appointed to the post last summer by Gov. Ron DeSantis but has not yet announced if he’ll try to win the seat in this year’s election. A teacher, Lori Conrad, 50, is also in the race. Ocala Star-Banner.

Bay: District school leaders said construction and renovation projects are underway at several schools in the county. The work is being financed with money from FEMA, the local extra half-cent sales tax, and local capital improvement funds. Lee Walters, the district’s executive director of facilities, said a complete list of the ongoing projects will be released within a week. Panama City News Herald.

Martin: Hidden Oaks Middle School student McClain Lewis appeared at a rally hosted by the county NAACP chapter Saturday and publicly apologized for his part in a photo of six students holding signs that spelled out a racial slur. “I feel as if I have let my family, team, coaches and community down,” Lewis said. “I’m not trying to make excuses. Part of me knew this was wrong, but we did not do this out of hatred and we did not know the full horrific meaning of this word.” Local NAACP president Jimmy Smith said the apology was accepted. “We can’t do things to be bitter after someone makes a mistake,” he said. “There’s so many black and brown parents who feel the same way about their children. They’ve cried out for many years, ‘Please have mercy on my child.’ We’ve got to have this for all children.” TCPalm.

Flagler: Two district administrators will become principals in the fall, Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt announced Friday. Assistant superintendent of academic services Bobby Bossardet will be the next principal of Flagler-Palm Coast High School, and chief of operational services Paul Peacock is the new principal at Wadsworth Elementary. Mittelstadt said LaShakia Moore, who was director of teaching and learning, will replace Bossardet, and Dave Freeman, the director of plant services, replaces Peacock. A district spokesperson said the moves were not demotions for Bossardet and Peacock, but lateral moves to strengthen leadership. Flagler Live. WKMG.

Colleges and universities: St. Petersburg College is ignoring a recommendation from a special magistrate to honor an agreement between administrators and the union representing adjunct faculty members that called for the professors to be paid a kill fee if their course is canceled two weeks before its scheduled start, and to receive a $500 bonus. The trustees rejected the agreement, an impasse was declared and the issue went to the state’s Public Employee Relations Commission. But the school is rejecting the recommendation of the magistrate for the commission. College spokeswoman Marilyn Shaw said the  rejection was “in the best interest of the college and our students.” Tampa Bay Times. The interim dean of the University of South Florida’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management said officials will review, modify and expand the school’s curriculum to bring it up to date with changes in the industry brought on by the pandemic. “What that means is, we are going to assume we don’t have a hospitality school,” said Cihan Cobanoglu. “We will ask our stakeholders from hotels, restaurants, theme parks, casinos, travel agencies, tourism destinations and management organizations to come and help us to draw what a hospitality student should know.” St. Pete Catalyst. A physician and leader of the anti-racist organization Do No Harm has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education over the University of Florida’s Underrepresented in Medicine Visiting Student Program that offers scholarships to minority students. “This scholarship discriminates based on race,” said a representative of Do No Harm. “If there are other scholarships that do the same thing, we’re just as opposed to them. Discrimination has no place in health-care and is downright un-American.” Gainesville Sun.

Preschool security help: Preschools that want to improve their security can get help from a state-funded program started in 2017 that trains early-education teachers on what to do if a gunman enters their classrooms. Training for the Preschool Emergency Alert Response Learning System is available for any early-education site in the state at no cost. WPBF.

Around the nation: Thousands of people in Florida and around the country marched Saturday to protest gun violence in schools and cities, and to lobby for gun control legislation. The rallies were coordinated by the group March for Our Lives, which was started by surviving students of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Sun-Sentinel. USA Today Florida Network. Associated Press. It’s a commonly held belief among teachers that smaller class sizes improve student learning. But do they really? Some education experts contend that reducing class sizes has a limited value and diverts money from more effective investments. Chalkbeat. A few days after the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre touted the group’s School Shield program, which began in 2014 “to help promote and fund the necessary security that every school child needs and deserves.” But records show that of the $2.2 billion the NRA reported in revenues between 2014 and 2019, just $2 million went to the School Shield program. NBC News.

Opinions on schools: Real educational pluralism means allowing schools to truly be different from one another. If schools want to pursue a different curriculum, or pay their teachers differently, a pluralistic system would allow them to. Mike McShane, Forbes. The bill requiring colleges and universities to change accreditors every cycle will have unintended consequences for Florida higher education, undermining the purpose of accreditation and the guarantee that Florida students, parents, and families are receiving quality academic experiences provided by quality Florida institutions. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, Tallahassee Democrat. Summer has already started, but it is not too late to build a little routine into your kids’ day to keep them on track and prepared for the return of school in August. The next few months will fly by, so avoid that summer slide by including some academics in your kids’ day. Make it fun, make it manageable, and make it routine. Berney Wilkinson, Lakeland Ledger.

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BY NextSteps staff