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School board races, teacher shortages, new university presidents and more

Around the state: School board races heat up, teacher shortages statewide, a boost in spending on school safety in St. Johns, resignations at a high school in Pinellas and new presidents at Saint Leo University and University of North Florida. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Citing almost a dozen mass shootings that occurred over the Fourth of July holiday, Broward County school teacher and gun violence prevention activist Tracy Merlin said she will use her new role with the Florida Commission on the Status of Women to amplify demands for common sense gun laws. Florida Phoenix.

Palm Beach: Three candidates are vying for the lone school board seat here that’s not guarded by an incumbent. Debra Robinson, a school board member for more than 20 years, decided not to run for re-election, opening the door for Edwin Ferguson, Christopher Persaud and Corey Michael Smith. Candidates will face off on Aug. 23 in a primary election. If no one receives 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face off in the general election on Nov. 8. Palm Beach Post.

Pinellas: Four assistant principals resigned from Tarpon Springs High School over the past year, with the latest being a week ago. Three of them began the 2021-22 academic year at the campus. One joined in January as a replacement. In addition, about two dozen teachers departed, including the current Teacher of the Year. Tampa Bay Times. 

Duval: The number of teachers entering classrooms in Florida this school year continues to dwindle, including in Duval. A new survey released by the Florida Education Association shows over 9,500 teaching and staffing vacancies statewide. This time last year, the FEA reported about 5,000 shortages. As of this week, Duval County Public Schools reported 529 vacancies for certified teachers, which is up 23% compared to the start of last school year. The vacancies are are almost double the number Duval saw at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. The Florida Times-Union.

Volusia: There are hundreds of openings here, and the teachers union presidents say with the level of shortage they’re facing this close to the start of the school year, there won’t be enough teachers for the number of enrolled students. That also means there could be more students this year per classroom. There are currently 365 openings for teachers. The county raised the base pay for new hires to $47,500, but there hasn’t been an increase in the state budget for those who are already working. WKMG.

Pasco: The Pasco County School Board has three of its five seats up or consideration. Steve Meisman (District 1), Matt Geiger (District 3) and Charles Touseull (District 5) share talking points on issues that include their opposition to the district’s property tax referendum and what they call “woke” curriculum. Two incumbents, Cynthia Armstrong (District 3) and Megan Harding (District 5), are defending their records on the school board. Allen Altman retired after four terms in District 1. Meanwhile, newcomers Al Hernandez and James Washington are vying for Altman’s spot. Tampa Bay Times.

Collier: A new high school will be opening in North Naples in 2023. Parents, meanwhile, have been pushing for more information — specifically on zoning. The school district plans to hold meetings for naming the school in September. Naples Daily News.

St. Johns: Officials here are boosting spending on school safety. A plan presented on Tuesday morning to the school board calls for more than $1 million more than last year to be allocated toward protecting schools, which includes increasing pay for armed guards. The increases will cost the school district a total of around $4.7 million. With state assistance, the district only has to pay $1.9 million, officials said. That’s a district budget increase of more than $668,000, compared to last year. All 43 schools in St. Johns will have an armed guard on campus when the new school year starts in the fall. Some high schools, when available, will have two guards available. News4Jax.

University and college news: A professor at the University of South Florida is studying whether college students diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, can use a technology called “brain painting” to improve attention spans and reduce the need for prescription drugs. Tampa Bay Times. Saint Leo University announced a new president on its website this week. Edward Dadez, formerly the school’s provost, was selected by the board of trustees to succeed Jeffrey Senese. Tampa Bay Times. Meanwhile, the University of North Florida has also lined up its next president. The Board of Governors approved Moez Limayem, a former USF business college dean, as University of North Florida’s seventh president. Florida Times-Union. For the third year in a row, the University of West Florida led the state in finding success after school. UWF had more combined success at finding additional academic opportunities or employment during their first year out of college than did graduates from any other university within the Florida State University System. More than 72% of the UWF students who graduated at the conclusion of the 2020-21 school year are now furthering their education or are employed. Pensacola News Journal.

Attacks increase: About one in three school leaders noticed an uptick in student fights or physical attacks this past school year that are believed to be brought on by the pandemic and its lingering effects, new federal data shows. Also, more than half of school leaders reported an increase in classroom disruptions from student misconduct for the same reason. Chalkbeat.

Opinions on schools: Defenders of discrimination in education received a well-deserved comeuppance last month. The first was a lesson in constitutional law, while the second was the creation of expansive opportunities for parents to choose how and where their children learn. This combination will define K-12 education for the next century. reimaginED. The Catholic school movement has been advocating for the position that the court finally endorsed in Carson v Makin, which is that you can’t exclude a religious school from public benefit programs like school voucher programs because they’re religious. There is a long history of Catholic schools seeking public resources and being rebuked both politically and legally. reimaginED.


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BY Camille Knox