BOE orders review of all district LGBTQ+ support guides, approves rules for vets to teach, and more

BOE targets LGBTQ guides: After a member of the state Board of Education said Wednesday that he believed some school districts’ LGBTQ+ support guides could violate state law, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. ordered his staff to review all district guides for compliance. Board member Ryan Petty cited a line from the Hillsborough and Palm Beach guides that reads, “With the very limited exception involving the imminent fear of physical harm, it is never appropriate to divulge the sexual orientation or gender identity of a student to a parent/caregiver without that student’s informed consent.” But that passage has already been removed from the Palm Beach district’s guide, and Hillsborough’s is undergoing revision. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. The board also approved rules that will allow certain military veterans to get five-year temporary teaching certificates even if they don’t have a college degree. They would have to have served four years, received an horable discharge, and have earned 60 college credits hours with at least a 2.5 grade point average to be eligible. They would also be under the guidance of an experienced teacher. Florida Phoenix.

Chancellor finalists: Two finalists have been chosen by the Board of Governor for the soon-to-be-open job of chancellor of the state university system. State Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and Lori Cromwell, chief business officer for Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, will be interviewed Aug. 26 for the job that Marshall Criser has held since 2014 but is leaving when his contract expires in December. Board members expect to name the new chancellor in September. Rodigues, an administrator at Florida Gulf Coast University and an ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis, is widely viewed as the favorite. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Around the state: Brevard county commissioners decide not to try to block the school board’s tax measure from appearing on the November ballot, Palm Beach school board members get an earful from parents at a board meeting over their June decision to give students a day off for a Muslim holiday, Broward and Polk schools are turning to foreignc countries to help fill teacher vacancies, no significant issues were reported on the first day of school in Miami-Dade County, school officials in Fargo, N.D., are trying to recruit Florida teachers who are angry about the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, data from the first semester of a new student dress code in St. Johns County show no change in the percentage of girls receiving code citations, and school board elections in several districts are previewed. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Superintendent Jose Dotres reported no significant issues on the first day back to school in the district, the largest in the state and the fourth-largest in the country. The year was starting “on the right foot,” he said. “This is a year where we get to inspire students, inspire our teachers and a year where we really need to reconnect and connect with each other. That’s what we’re going to focus on.” Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ.

Broward: School officials have developed a pipeline to the Philippines as they try to hire teachers. More than 100 Filipinos are teaching in the district this year or soon will be, the result of a contract school officials signed about eight months ago with the company Foreign Cultural Exchange Consultants. The teachers get exchange visas, which allow them to stay in the United States for up to three years and can be renewed for two more. “They’re coming over here so our kids can experience some culture they would probably never have the opportunity to experience, and at the same time those teachers are learning about our culture and taking that back to their country when they’re done being teachers with us,” said Susan Rockelman, the district’s director of talent acquisitions and operations. Sun-Sentinel. Attorneys for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz said Wednesday in court that they will not try to present scans of Cruz’s brain to the jury and argue that they prove Cruz suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. Attorney Casey Secor did not explain the decision. Monday, the defense is scheduled to begin its case with opening statements. Associated Press. WPLG. WTVJ.

Palm Beach: The school board’s decision in June to give students a day off for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the month-long celebration of the Muslim holiday Ramadan, in each of the next two school years was criticized by several speakers at Wednesday’s board meeting. “By standing with the South Florida Muslim Federation, you are standing with the worst of violence and bigotry. Shame on you,” said Joe Kauffman, who called the group an umbrella organization for terrorists and extremists. The negative comments drew a rebuke from board member Alexandria Ayala, who asked board chair Frank Barbieri, “Is there not a line of decorum in our chamber? They are singling out members of the community, calling them jihadists and making racist statements.” Palm Beach Post.

Polk: District officials have joined other school systems in looking overseas to help fill open teaching positions. Seventy foreign teachers are in district classrooms this year. At Denison Middle School in Water Haven, principal Terri Christian hired two foreign teachers last year and because it went so well, hired seven this year. “They’re content area experts. They are familiar with the curriculum and are on board and up to speed. It doesn’t take long, and they contribute,” Christian said. WTVT.

Brevard: County commissioners rejected a request this week from board member John Tobia to block the school board from placing a proposed tax increase on the November ballot. Commission chair Kristine Zonka said she doesn’t support the tax increase, but “we’re simply being asked to follow the law and confirm that the school board checked all the proper boxes before this measure goes to the voting public. So that’s what we’re doing.” Commissioners did agree to move forward with another Tobia recommendation, a referendum that could allow school board members to be recalled. Florida Today.

Volusia: School board chair Ruben Colon is asking District 5 voters to re-elect him for a second term. Colon, a physician liaison at AdventHealth, said he delivered on his two biggest campaign promises from four years ago: expanding academies at Deltona high schools and improving district graduation rates. He’s facing Fred Lowry, an outgoing Volusia County councilman who is a former principal and is now an ordained minister. Both men talked about what they perceive as their strengths, their views of the job, and the biggest issues facing the board. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

St. Johns: The results from the first semester with changes in the student dress code look very much like the results before the code was changed. There were 316 dress code violations issued, and 265 were given to girls. That’s 83 percent, the same percentage that prompted the changes intended to make the standards more equitable between girls and boys. “That’s just unbelievable that we’re still basically having the same trend,” said Taryn O’Keefe, a parent who was pushing for revisions to make the code more gender-neutral. WTLV. A former assistant weightlifting coach at Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine has been arrested and accused of sexual battery against two women in 2017 who were then students at the school. Tylar Reagan, 27, left the district in 2018 after the allegations were made. WJXT.

Sarasota: An arrest has been made in a hit-and-run Tuesday that left a 13-year-old bike rider in critical condition. The girl was riding in a school crosswalk near the Pine View School in Osprey when she was hit by a driver who left the scene. David Ching Cheng Chang, 65, was arrested by Florida Highway Patrol troopers on Wednesday and charged with leaving the scene of an accident, leaving the scene with property damage and evidence destruction. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WTVT.

Alachua: No resolution was reached this week with the request by Eastside High School alumni that the school marching band incorporate “show band” style of performing, which is associated with historically black college and universities. What did emerge from the conversation at this week’s school board meeting is a consensus that more participation in the band is something everyone supports. To that end, board member Tina Certain asked Alex Rella, chief of finance, and Jennie Wise, chief of teaching and learning, to research the possible use of federal coronavirus relief funds to create an after-school program that could draw more students toward music and band. Gainesville Sun. WGFL.

Hernando: The school board’s wish to have a proposed sales tax surcharge put before voters Nov. 8 is the subject of a court hearing today. County commissioners decided to schedule the tax vote for 2024 instead of this year, prompting the school board to ask a court to intervene on its behalf. The deadline to get the ballot language to the supervisor of elections for inclusion on the Nov. 8 ballot is Friday. Suncoast News.

Charlotte: An English teacher at Charlotte High School was arrested Tuesday after a juvenile reported missing Aug. 12 was found in her home. Kelly Simpson, 31, has been charged with interfering with the custody of a minor. Charlotte Sun. WWSB. WINK. WBBH.

Flagler: District 1 school board incumbent Jill Woolbright is being challenged by Sally Hunt in next Tuesday’s primary. Hunt, a 44-year-old consultant, has been critical of the time the board spends on controversial topics instead of academics. She said she believes in diversity and inclusion, wants to engage with students and staff and better communicate with parents. Woolbright, 64, was an elementary school teacher from 1991 until she retired in 2019. She was elected to the board in a special election in 2020. She has praise for the district’s graduation rate and technical programs, supports the Parental Rights in Education law and said, “We must be transparent in all things with our parents reinforcing the sanctity of the family unit and respecting the moral teachings and values of the family unit.” Daytona Beach News-Journal. Two of Woolbright’s school board colleagues had harsh words for her after a video of her comments at a church service were published. Woolbright said God put her on the school board to engage in “satanic warfare” against “liberal progressives,” and referred to district staff and her school board colleagues as “the evil spirits around me.” Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: Two Miami area universities are struggling to find on-campus housing for incoming students this fall. Because of the soaring costs for off-campus housing, demand for dorm beds is up significantly, along with freshmen enrollment. Both the University of Miami and Florida International University have hundreds of students on waiting lists for dorm rooms. Miami Herald.

Fargo targets Florida teachers: Administrators in the Fargo, N.D., school system are recruiting Florida teachers who are angry with the state’s new Parental Rights in Education law that restricts how they can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. “Please know that Fargo Public Schools and public sectors within the Greater Fargo community not only offer a welcome to you but also offer actionable examples of our commitment to becoming an inclusive community that LGBTQ+ people can call home, Reach out if you have any questions or want to learn more,” reads the letter that has been posted on social media. Fox News.

Opinions on schools: Florida should be rolling out the red carpet for public school teachers. Instead, the highest echlon of state government is demonizing educators, calling them leftist “woke” indoctrinators who want to brainwash children into hating their country. Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff