Collier puts advisory notices on 100 books, most school districts open this week, elections and more

Around the state: Collier County school officials have chosen to place advisory notices on 100 books that were “identified by some community members as unsuitable for students,” school superintendents in several districts outline their plans for the coming school year, 62 of the 67 state’s districts open their schools Wednesday, the site of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School isn’t expected to be torn down before next year, Palm Beach County schools issues the district’s guide for supporting LGBTQ+ students, Palm Beach and Washington county districts are mourning the weekend deaths of respected educators, 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: New school Superintendent Jose Dotres praised the district for its achievements during his back-to-school speech Friday, and outlined a theme of “connect and inspire” for the upcoming year that starts Aug. 17. “Isn’t that what we are all here to do? Isn’t that the goal of education?” he asked district officials, school board members and educators who were in attendance. “If we are to truly be successful, our students will be inspired to explore, to create, to invent … they will be inspired to achieve their full potential.” Dotres called for renewed efforts to recover learning losses from the pandemic through tutoring and after-school interventions, and said special attention will be given to students’ mental health. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN.

Broward: The jury now has toured the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 students and employees were killed by Nikolas Cruz in 2018. But the building isn’t expected to be torn down before sometime next year. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that the building must be preserved as evidence for the trial of Scot Peterson, the sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer who is accused of child abuse for taking cover instead of confronting Cruz that day. That trial is expected to get started in February. Deputy superintendent for operations Judith Marte said the district will try to have a vendor in place to demolish the building as soon as possible once it’s no longer needed as evidence. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Tampa Bay area: Schools in Tampa Bay area open Wednesday, but Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco officials are still looking for teachers and other workers. Hillsborough needs nearly 700 teachers and about 670 bus drivers and other support employees. Pasco has 354 teaching positions still open, and Pinellas has about 100, though Superintendent Kevin Hendrick said there were only 15 that absolutely have to be filled. Tampa Bay Times. Pinellas County District 6 school board candidate Kimberly Works talks about her qualifications, platform and priorities. She’s running against Brian Martin and Stephanie Meyer. Florida Politics. More than 30,000 backpacks filled with school supplies were handed out to students Saturday at the Bullard Family Foundation’s 5th annual Back-to-School Bash at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The event was organized by former WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil. WFLA. WTVT.

Orange: Incoming Superintendent Maria Vazquez talks about updates in school security, filling the final 100 open teaching jobs and complying with new state laws strictly regulating instruction on race and sexual issues. WKMG. University High School in Orlando has won the state architectural award in the 2022 People’s Choice Competition, the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects announced Friday. University High, which opened in 1990 and features a Spanish village design with a central plaza and red barrel tile roofs, beat out 13 other state schools for the award. WFTV.

Palm Beach: School officials issued the district’s updated 111-page LGBTQ+ Critical Support Guide on Friday. It offers support for the continuation of Transgender Awareness Week and states that reading LGBTQ+ authors remains permitted. Superintendent Michael Burke, who said he backs access to gay-straight alliances at all secondary schools and the possible expansion of single-person bathrooms at schools, wrote an intro to the guide that said, in part, “Ultimately, as educators, we are all responsible for our students’ well-being and success. We must foster the acceptance and inclusion of our wonderfully diverse student population.” Palm Beach Post. School board members approved spending $6.7 million for local law enforcement agencies to provide officers in schools. Nearly 30 percent of jobs in the school district’s police department are unfilled. Last year the district spent $2.91 million for outside security help. Palm Beach Post. Twenty-four district schools will have new principals when they reopen Wednesday. In most years, 10 to 20 schools get a change in leadership. Palm Beach Post. Daily Magazine.

Duval: Two school board races are being contested in the Aug. 23 primary. In District 2, incumbent Elizabeth Andersen is being challenged by April Carney, and in District 6, incumbent Charlotte Joyce is running against Tanya Hardaker. Florida Times-Union. Deborah Mosley Norman, the longest-serving guidance counselor in the history of Raines High School and the winner in 2020 of the first education excellence award at the Jacksonville Image Awards, died Friday. WJXT.

Polk: Candidates for the District 6 and District 7 seats on the school board talked about the issues and their positions during a community forum Friday. Participating were District 6 candidates Justin Sharpless and Sara Jones, and District 7 candidates Lisa Miller, the incumbent, and Dell Quary and Jill Sessions. Lakeland Now.

Lee: Superintendent Christopher Bernier talks about his top priorities for the new school year, new security measures, protecting LGBTQ students, the teacher shortage and more as he begins his first full year of running the district. Bernier started in May after working previously as associate superintendent of schools in Orange County and chief of staff for the Clark County, Nevada, school district. Fort Myers News-Press. WBBH.

Pasco: School officials have opened a call center for parents who have questions about school bus routes and pickup times. It will be open through Aug. 17. Suncoast News. District 1 school board candidate Al Hernandez talks about his qualifications, platform and priorities. He’s running against Steve Meisman and James Washington. Florida Politics.

Volusia: Four of the 10 candidates for school board seats attended a community forum Saturday to answer questions about staffing shortages, banned books and pay for veteran teachers. Participating were District 1 candidates Jamie Haynes and Al Bouie, and Justin Kennedy and Kim Short from District 3. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Collier: The school district has placed advisory notice to parents labels on more than 100 books, according to the nonprofit Florida Freedom to Read Project. “This Advisory Notice shall serve to inform you that this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students,” the label reads. “This book will also be identified in the Destiny system with the same notation. The decision as to whether this book is suitable or unsuitable shall be the decision of the parent(s) who has the right to oversee his/her child’s education consistent with state law.” Associate superintendent Elizabeth Alves defended the decision, calling it “a compromise.” PEN America. NBC News. Superintendent Kamela Patton talks about her top priorities for the new school year, new security measures, protecting LGBTQ students, the teacher shortage, and her impending retirement in June. Naples Daily News.

Lake: Service employees and the school district have reached a tentative contract agreement. Bus drivers and other support staff will receive 6 percent raises, and those being hired into hard-to-fill positions will receive $500 bonuses in each school semester. Union members will vote on the agreement in November. If they ratify it, the deal then goes to the school board for approval. WKMG. WFTV. Schools open Wednesday, but the district still has openings for 82 classroom teachers, 87 teaching assistants and 28 bus drivers, according to a spokesman. Daily Commercial.

Marion: The school district still needs about 150 teachers, and officials are targeting educators who have recently retired and college graduates with bachelor’s degrees who have not considered a teaching career. “I have been in contact with some retired educators who have, because of the climate of the country — economics, inflation, and different situations — have expressed an interest in returning to the classroom, and some of their certifications are still good,” said board chair Eric Cummings. “Maybe they may not commit for five years, but if they could commit for a year or two years to the district that will be beneficial to us.” Ocala Star-Banner.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: Schools open Wednesday for the 40,314 St. Lucie County School District students, 16,629 in Martin County and 15,300 in Indian River County. Here are some facts and figures about all three school systems. TCPalm. Indian River Superintendent David Moore talks about school security, staffing shortages, and how the district is complying with the state’s Parental Rights in Education law when it comes to library books available to students. WPEC.

Escambia: Incumbent District 3 school board member Laura Dortch Edler is being challenged in the primary by David Williams. Both are educators: Edler is an assistant professor at the University of West Florida and Williams retired as  principal at Pensacola High School. Edler wants to reduce the number of students receiving referrals for behavior problems. Williams’ goals are to improve school safety and close the achievement gap. Williams and Edler answered questions about why they’re running for office, their top priorities, closing the learning gap caused by the pandemic, and more. Pensacola News Journal.

Clay: The Clay Education Foundation and the Bailey Group have teamed up to open a second location where teachers can get school supplies four times a year for free. The new store is in Keystone Heights Elementary, and the other is at Garber Automall in Green Cove Springs. WTLV.

Leon: The district is partnering with Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare to offer an expanded list of courses for students in the Rickards High Millicent Holifield Health Sciences Academy. Students in the academy can already become a certified nursing assistant, and the program would also extend to technical positions in such fields as respiratory therapy, cath lab, sonography and surgical. TMH Foundation development officer Becky Harnden said the goal of the program is to create a workforce pipeline to help with the shortage of nursing and clinical staff. WCTV.

Okaloosa: Students at nine schools will be among the first in Florida to learn how to code for artificial intelligence. Once they’ve learned how to code, they can program robots, vacuum cleaners and even cars. Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach and Bruner, Davidson, Destin, Meigs, Pryor, Shoal River and Ruckel middle schools are all offering the program. “The ultimate goal of this program is to equip our students with a decision. They can take the path of academia and study it even further, or they can go straight into the workforce,” said instructor Dottie Holland of Choctawhatchee High. “With us being as close to the Air Force that we are, they are always looking for interns that have Python programming language skills.” WKRG.

Alachua: A charter school founder and a district administrator are competing to replace the departing Rob Hyatt in the District 5 seat on the school board. Kay Abbitt, 68, recently retired as director of the Boulware Springs Charter School. She supports extending the school day to help low-performing schools, and wants the district to “get away from one-curriculum-fits-all, one-schedule-fits-all” model. Prescott Cowles, 26, is the district’s special projects manager for accountability evaluation and data analytics. He backs rezoning, calling it a “moral imperative,” and wants to expand the conversation on the achievement gap to students with disabilities. Gainesville Sun.

Hernando: School board members will meet in special session Tuesday to discuss their next steps in the fight to get the renewal on an extra half-cent sales tax placed on the ballot. The board wanted it before voters in November, but the county commission decided instead to put it on the November 2024 ballot. Board members sued but were rebuffed by a judge because the two sides hadn’t first participated in state-required negotiations. In a letter, school board chair Gus Guadagnino asked commissioners for a meeting to discuss a possible resolution. Suncoast News. Hernando County School District.

Okeechobee: School officials have looked to other countries to fill open teaching positions for the past several years. This year, 30 of the district’s 430 teachers are from countries such as India, the Philippines, Peru, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Ghana and Mexico. That’s twice as many as the district had last year. “They fill in a gap that we have and we want to build to where we’re not in a crisis for teachers,” said assistant suiperintendent Dylan Tedders. WPEC.

Washington: Trey Pike, the athletic director and head football coach at Vernon High School, died Saturday when his boat ran into a cement power line tower in Bay County. Grief counselors will be available at the school when it opens Wednesday. WMBB. WJHG.

Taylor: Police in Perry have arrested a man and accused him of starting a fire last week that destroyed all the furniture and equipment in the main office at Point of Grace Christian School and heavily damaged three other offices. Joshua James Gipson, 34, is facing charges of arson, criminal mischief resulting in property damage to a religious building, burglary, and larceny. The offices will be temporarily relocated while they’re being repaired, and the school will open as scheduled Wednesday. WCTV.

Colleges and universities: Forty-six newly remodeled rooms at Flagler College in St. Augustine were destroyed by water leaks and won’t be usable this school year, according to college officials. The rooms are located in the historic Ponce de Leon Hall building. Students assigned to the rooms will be moved to other dorms. WTLV.

School calendars: Sixty-two of the state’s 67 school districts reopen schools for students on Wednesday. Wakulla County starts Thursday, Duval and Volusia on Aug. 15, Broward on Aug. 16, and Miami-Dade on Aug. 17. Florida Department of Education.

Gubernatorial appointments: Christine Chapman, Ralph Hadley, Owen McCaul and Thomas Zavelson have been appointed to the board of trustees for the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The appointments must be approved by the Florida Senate. WCJB. Office of the Governor.

Around the nation: Soaring rents are stressing the budgets for U.S. college students who live off-campus. The cost of that housing is up an average of 6 percent year-over-year, and in some markets costs have jumped 30 percent or more. “If you’re a student who’s struggling to make ends meet, that can really impact your likelihood of remaining in college and ultimately obtaining your degree. You’re talking about this house of cards, and every issue is like pulling out another card,” said Justin Ortagus, director of the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida. USA Today.

Opinions on schools: Can a death verdict for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz provide solace enough to justify putting this community through this torturous trial? Was it worth postponing the demolition of Building 1200, a looming reminder to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and faculty that four years later their campus remains a crime scene? For a 92-minute jury walk-through? Fred Grimm, Sun-Sentinel.

Avatar photo

BY NextSteps staff