Top teacher finalists honored, school board recalls, contracts, school grades, and more

Around the state: The state honors the five teacher-of-the-year finalists with $15,000 checks, Brevard’s Charter Review Commission approves adding school board members to the list of public officials who can be recalled for malfeasance, an Escambia middle school will be converted into a charter school after receiving a D grade from the state, Martin County’s school board is considering a proposal to lower the teachers’ share of revenue generated by a voter-approved property tax as it’s up for renewal, a contract agreement is reached between Polk school officials and the union representing teachers and some noninstructional employees, the Pinellas school board approves a change in sick leave policy that will allow 275 teachers to reimbursed for unpaid leave they were forced to take while quarantining under COVID policies, and students in Duval will no longer be allowed to take videos of other people at schools without their permission. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Pretrial hearings continue today in the sentencing trial of Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz. Testimony is expected to start next week. Tuesday, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer denied a defense request to bar prosecutors from using questions from a psychological assessment of Cruz. Sun-Sentinel. WPLG. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: Three more schools will get new principals after the school board approved their appointments Tuesday. Carmen Harris, an assistant principal at Robles Elementary, is now the principal of Kimbell Elementary School. Michelle Perez is being promoted from assistant principal to principal at Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary, and Lipi Datta-Reid is being promoted from assistant principal at Woodson K-8 to principal. All three appointments take effect July 25. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange, central Florida: Orange County School Board members said Tuesday that they want clear guidance from the state before offering teachers guidelines on how to comply with the state law on the selection of instructional and library materials, and the process for challenging both. “I’m very concerned for our teachers that they have a huge burden just coming in and worrying about our students and teaching them, and there’s more of a threat this year than there’s ever been before of them individually being sued and that worries me,” said board chair Teresa Jacobs. WKMG.

Duval: Students will be forbidden from taking videos of other people on campuses without their permission under a new policy approved this week by the school board. Previously, the policy only banned students from taking videos of fights. WJXT. The board also approved a provision governing student protests. The new rules say the organizer has to get written confirmation from the principal that the school can accommodate the protest at least two days in advance of the event. WJXT.

Polk: School board members voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a tentative contract agreement between the district and the union representing teachers, paraprofessionals and clerical employees. The deal boosts starting teacher pay from $45,487 to $47,500, and gives a 2.25 percent raise for veteran teachers. Other district staff will have their pay increased to a minimum of $15 an hour. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: The school board approved an agreement to extend the district’s COVID-19 sick leave plan through June. That allows about 275 teachers who had to quarantine after the policy expired in March and were forced to use unpaid time off to be reimbursed. Tampa Bay Times. Tash Elwyn, the president and CEO of Raymond James & Associates, is the new leader of the Pinellas Education Foundation’s board of directors. He’s been a board member for seven years, and replaces attorney Charles M. Harris as the board chair. Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: Three candidates are competing to replace Betsy Vaughn as the District 6 representative on the school board. Vaughn decided not to run for re-election. Tia Collin, Denise Nystrom and Jada Langford-Fleming have qualified for the Aug. 23 primary. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two vote-getters move on to the runoff Nov. 8. Fort Myers News-Press. In the District 4 race, incumbent Debbie Jordan is being challenged by Jason Jones, Dan Severson and Geraldine Ware. Fort Myers News-Press. In District 1, incumbent Mary Fischer is not running for re-election. Competing for the seat are Christine DeVigili, Kathy Fanny, Sam Fisher and Cathy Stout. Fort Myers News-Press. District 5 incumbent Gwynetta Gittens is being challenged by Armor Persons. Fort Myers News-Press. Dunbar High School student Andrew Chuang Saladin has won the Microsoft Office Specialist national online championship for his skills in Microsoft Excel (Office 2016). Last year, Saladin won the national and world championship in Powerpoint (2019). WBBH.

Brevard: The county’s Charter Review Commission has approved a proposal that would allow for the recall of school board members, but only after stripping it of a provision that would have permitted a recall for board members’ policy decisions. Recalls would be an option only for seven specific criteria of malfeasance, such as drunkenness and neglect. The proposal still has to be approved by a three-attorney panel and county commissioners before it would be placed before voters. Florida Today. Teachers union officials have rejected the district’s offer of a 4 percent pay raise and a proposal to pay up to $3,000 in bonuses to recruit and retain teachers at 26 of the district;s priority schools. The sides had already agreed on bonuses of up to $4,400 for teachers. Union officials countered with a flat, non-tiered approach affecting all teachers with six or more years equally. Negotiations resume July 27. WKMG.

Volusia: All district students are eligible to receive free meals for the 2022-2023 school year without filling out formal applications. The district qualifies under the federal community eligibility provision in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. WKMG. WOFL.

Manatee, Sarasota: Two Sarasota County and nine Manatee County schools have new principals. Michelle Miller, who was the assistant principal at Glenallen Elementary, is the new principal of Gulf Gate Elementary in Sarasota County, and Mindy Long, who was the assistant principal of Fruitville Elementary, is the new principal of Alta Vista Elementary. Manatee school officials also announced the appointment of 11 assistant principals. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

St. Johns: School board members have approved a $59.4 million bid from the St. Augustine-based STG Contracting Group to build a new K-8 in the Shearwater neighborhood. It’s scheduled to open in August 2024. WJXT. Sister Suzan Foster, who taught in Florida schools for 50 years, has retired after about 25 years as a religion teacher and assistant principal at St. Joseph Academy Catholic High School. The school honored her by naming a campus street “Sister Suzan Way.” St. Augustine Record.

Marion: The former Evergreen Elementary School will open in August as the Fordham Early Learning Academy for 72 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students. District officials plan to add 1st grade in the 2023-2024 school year and 2nd grade the year after that. The school is named after Edmond Fordham, 94, who was a career educator and administrator with Marion County Public School until he retired in 1988. Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia: Warrington Middle School was issued a school grade of D by the state this week. It was the ninth straight year the school received a D, and it triggers a plan approved by the state to transform Warrington into a charter school for the 2023-2024 academic year after one more year as a traditional district middle school. “It would be a huge understatement to say we are disappointed,” said Superintendent Tim Smith. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. Catherine Rudd, an assistant principal at Beulah Elementary School in Pensacola, has been named the principal at the Escambia Westgate School, a school for children with severe physical and mental disabilities who are unable to function in standard classrooms. Pensacola News Journal.

Clay: Three school board races are on the ballot Aug. 23. In District 1, incumbent Janice Kerekes is being challenged by Erin Skipper and Charles Kirk. In District 4, incumbent Tina Bullock is running against Michele Hanson. And in District 5, incumbent Ashley Gilhousen faces Gerald Beasley. WJXT. Clay Today.

Alachua: School board candidates in districts 1, 2, 3 and 5 talk about what they want to accomplish if elected. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: The school district received a B grade from the state for the school year that just ended. Twenty schools received grades of A or B, seven received a C, four got a D and one failed. Four schools received grades of incomplete. Panama City News Herald. Thirty-five percent of the district’s teachers have bachelor’s degrees in something other than education, according to district officials. That’s up from about 5 percent 10 years ago, said district spokeswoman Sharon Michalik. WEAR. WJHG. Two district principals are stepping into new roles. Bay High principal Billy May will be the new principal of Jinks Middle School, and Rutherford principal Coy Pilson will be an assistant director at Haney Technical College. Rutherford assistant principal Todd Mitchell has been named acting principal. And Blythe Carpenter, Jinks Middle School principal, will become the acting principal at Bay High. WMBB. WJHG.

Martin: The school board is considering changing teachers’ share of money generated by a voter-approved property tax for schools from 77 percent to 73 percent. Voters are being asked to renew the tax in the primary election Aug. 23, which also helps fund school safety, mental health programs, professional development and academic initiatives. Teachers say the change would reduce stipends they work extra for at a time when inflation is already cutting into their paychecks. TCPalm. WPEC.

Wakulla: The school district slipped from an A grade from the state in 2019 to a B grade this year, Superintendent Bobby Pearce said. “We are very encouraged by our students’ performance on the final year of the (Florida Standards Assessments). Our district has performed well as we emerged from the challenges of the pandemic. Our district was only 7/10 of a point away from achieving an A grade.” Three district schools received A grades, while two got a B and three received a C. Wakulla News.

Gulf: The school district’s grade from the state improved to a B in 2022 after it received a C in 2019, the last year grades were issued. It was the only district in the state to improve its grade. Superintendent Jim Norton also said the district’s Florida Standards Assessments tests showed mixed results, with gains in some areas and declines in others. Overall, the district is just below the state average. Port St. Joe Star.

Colleges and universities: A Florida Board of Governors search committee will take applications for the state university system’s chancellor job until Aug. 12. Marshall Criser, who had been the chancellor since 2014, announced June 30 that he was stepping down at the end of the year. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Top teacher finalists honored: The five finalists for the Florida teacher-of-the-year award were honored Tuesday with $15,000 bonuses. The finalists are Melissa Matz, a 7th-grade math teacher at Lakeside Junior High School in Clay County; Trinity Whittington, a 4th-grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Bell Elementary School in Gilchrist County; Jennifer Jaso, a social studies teacher at Sarasota Middle School; Deelah Jackson, a 4th-grade teacher at Samoset Elementary School in Manatee County; and Seema Naik, a 4th-grade teacher at Eagle Ridge Elementary School in Broward County. The winner will be announced Thursday. The Florida Department of Education. WPLG. WCJB.

Opinions on schools: It’s a diverse and confusing universe for private schools. But their virtue is that they’re different. And that means very different from each other, too. Chester E. Finn Jr., Thomas B. Fordham Institute. As Florida politicians focus on educational culture wars, student test scores are falling. Why on earth would you ask someone who barely even talks about reading, writing and job skills to be in charge of education? Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff