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Parkland families testify about their losses, charter schools delayed, state races targeted, and more

Around the state: Family members of the 17 students and employees killed in the Parkland school shooting testify about the impact of their murders, a technicality is forcing a delay of a year in the openings of four charter schools sponsored by state colleges, the opening of a new St. Johns high school is pushed back three days by construction issues, an education group is offering support in Florida and 14 other states to fight conservative-led legislation, the state’s Democrats release endorsements for local school board seats, school board elections in several districts are previewed, school districts continue to report staffing shortages, and an 85-year-old woman is graduating today from Florida International University in Miami. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Family members gave emotional testimony Monday about how their lives were shattered when Nikolas Cruz shot and killed their loved ones at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. “It causes me pain to know that she never got to fall in love,” said Megan Petty of her sister Alaina. “I keep waiting for her to walk through the door. Her absence screams at me.” Michael Schulman’s stepson Scott Beigel, a teacher, also died that day. “I will never get over it. I will never get past it. My life will never, ever be the same,” he said. More family members of the 17 victims are scheduled to testify today. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. WPEC. Summarizing what happened Monday in the sentencing trial of Cruz. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Orange, central Florida: Schools reopen Aug. 10 in every central Florida school district except Volusia’s, where classes resume Aug. 15. WFTV. Alain Noel, an assistant football coach at Central Floida Christian Academy in Orlando, has died, school officials have announced. A cause of death was not revealed. Orange Observer.

Palm Beach: At a back-to-school news conference Monday, Superintendent Michael Burke said the district still needs to hire 400 teachers, 80 bus drivers and 100 maintenance workers. He also said that the district’s COVID dashboard is being retired and that parents will no longer be called when there’s a confirmed case in their child’s class, that parents will have to opt-in for health services and can designate a child’s preferred names on school forms, that all students will continue to receive free breakfasts and lunches, and 146 of the 180 schools now have panic buttons. The first day of school is Aug. 10. Palm Beach Post. WPTV.

Duval: District officials are asking voters on Aug. 23 to approve a 1-mill property tax increase to give teachers pay raises and purchase equipment for school arts and athletics programs. If approved, the tax would generate an estimated $81.8 million a year for four years. Sixty-five percent would be used for teacher salaries, 12.5 percent for arts and athletics, 12.5 percent for charter schools and 10 percent would go to other school staff. Florida Times-Union. Sixteen schools will have new principals when classes begin Aug. 15. All but two of the schools are low-income, Title I schools that, according to the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, are more likely to experience a principal change. Florida Times-Union. Two school board seats are being contested on the Aug. 23 primary ballot. In District 2, incumbent Elizabeth Andersen is getting a challenge from businesswoman April Carney. In District 6, incumbent Charlotte Joyce is running against PTA leader and former accountant Tanya Hardaker. WJXT. WJXT.

Polk: The longest-serving school board member is being challenged by a pastor in her bid for a sixth term in the primary election Aug. 23. District 5 board member Kay Fields, who has been on the board since 2002, is running against Terry Clark. “I am greatly disturbed with what I see in our public schools, and I lay much of the blame on a school board that won’t stand up for what’s right,” said Clark, who uses the motto “Educate. not indoctrinate” that was popularized by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Fields, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Girls Inc. of Lakeland, blames COVID for the drop in the district’s grade this year from B to C, and said she’s running again to make “sure that the hard work that so many people have done will not be dismantled.” Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: The first day of school is Aug. 10, and the district still has 139 openings for school bus drivers. “We have hired a handful but we’ve also lost a handful of drivers,” said the district’s director of transportation, Roger Lloyd. “The reality is, buses are going to be late this fall.” There are 729 bus routes, and only 590 drivers. Fort Myers News-Press. WINK. WFTX.

Collier: School officials have hired 365 new teachers for the 2022-2023 school year that begins Aug. 10, but said they still have 160 job openings. The number of teachers needed hasn’t changed since late June. WINK.

St. Johns: The opening of the new Beachside High School will be pushed back three days by construction delays, district officials announced Monday. Day 1 is now scheduled Aug. 15 for the 1,100 students and 100 teachers. Families of students have been told that the academic building, administration building, cafeteria and other areas have been completed, but the gym and auditorium still aren’t finished. WJAX. Schools reopen Aug. 10. Here are things parents and students need to know. St. Augustine Record. WJXT.

Leon: A technicality will delay the launch of Tallahassee Community College’s STEM-based charter school, and similar projects at several other state colleges. Each of the schools received a $2 million state grant and planned to open the schools this month under a law passed by the Legislature in 2021 that gives them authority to approve charters. But the Florida Board of Education only approved the new rules at its July 13 meeting, and it takes about 60 days for the schools’ applications to be processed and voted on by the board. The other schools involved are Miami Dade College, Northwest Florida State College, St. Petersburg College and Santa Fe College. All now plan to open the schools in August 2023. Tallahassee Democrat.

Bay: Nearly four years after Oscar Patterson Elementary was closed after being damaged by Hurricane Michael, it’s reopening Aug. 10 as the Oscar Patterson Academy. About 230 students in grades K-2 are expected, said principal Charlotte Blue. The plan is to expand the school by one grade in each of the next three years. WJHG. Surfside Middle School in Panama City Beach has received a $50,000 grant from the St. Joe Community Foundation that will be used to upgrade the schools 10-year-old theater and stage equipment. Principal Matt Pitts said getting the grant was “better than Christmas morning. … We are over the moon excited about this grant opportunity because what we’re going to do with it never would have happened without a sponsor and a community partner like St. Joe,” he said. Nearly half the students at the school are enrolled in the fine arts program, and Surfside is one of just 70 U.S. schools to earn a NAMM School of Excellence for Music Education award. Panama City News Herald.

Flagler: District 1 school board member Jill Woolbright is being challenged in the Aug. 23 primary by businesswoman Sally Hunt. In an interview, Hunt answers questions about her qualifications, her priorities if elected, whether she supports the renewal of the extra half-cent sales tax, and more. Flagler Live.

Nassau: School board members recently decided in a 4-1 vote not to appoint a citizens’ budget advisory committee. “I’ve been on the board for eight years … we haven’t had any issues in regard to audits. We haven’t had any issues with anything that’s budgetary. We’ve had comments from citizens and we’ve had issues, and they get resolved,” said board member Jamie Deonas. Florida Politics.

Monroe: Schools open in eight days, and the school district is still looking to hire 17 teachers and 47 food service workers, paraprofessionals, psychologists, administrative assistants, maintenance positions and more. Harry Russell, the district’s executive director of personnel support and instructional leadership, said a shortage of affordable housing is a key factor in the staff shortages. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: Arlyne Frankel, 85 years old, is getting her bachelor’s degree today from Florida International University. She attended Boston University for two years before dropping out, then decided at age 80 to finish her formal education. “It’s never, ever, ever to late to do something that you want to do,” she said. “It’s too late when you’re buried. Then you can’t do it.” WSVN. WTVJ. Eugene Lamb Jr. has been reappointed as a trustee for Tallahassee Community College by Gov. DeSantis. Lamb, 75, a former educator for more than 30 years in Leon, Gadsden and Volusia counties, has been on the board of trustees since 2007. The appointment must be approved by the Florida Senate. Florida Politics.

School board endorsements: The Florida Democratic Party jumped into the game of endorsing candidates in local school board races on Monday, announcing 18 endorsements. Gov. DeSantis had previously endorsed 29 candidates and his potential Democratic challenger Charlie Crist has announced backing for seven. Florida Phoenix. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: Florida is one of 15 states targeted by the education group Campaign for Our Shared Future for an influx of money and support during the midterm elections campaign to influence education policy and local school board races. Its stated goal is to organize parents, educators and students to fight conservative-led legislation targeting the ways race, gender and curriculum are addressed on the state’s K-12 campuses. “Any place legislation really gets in the way of students getting what they need to learn and thrive and be successful, we’re going to look at,” said Heather Harding, the executive director of the campaign. Politico.

Opinions on schools: There’s real electricity in the air for transformative education policy. This is the moment for education activists to fix, expand and create an education system that is ready to meet the future. But it requires rejecting false dichotomies, rejecting the reform vs. transform notion of education policy, and recognizing that creating a better education for every student is a space that’s open to every student-centered idea and solution. Patricia Levesque, Education Next. Parents should be able to walk away from a school situation that is not working for their children. The next generation of choice programs will place families in the driver’s seat and help educators operate outside of stultifying bureaucratic systems. Matthew Ladner, Real Clear Education. Education savings accounts empower families when public schools fail them. Jonathan Butcher, The Federalist.

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BY NextSteps staff