Legal bills, Broward officials leaving, teacher pay, rezoning, sex education, ‘safe spaces’ and more

Around the state: Broward school board members will consider a proposal to stop paying the legal bills for suspended board members, all three Broward administrators asked to resign after being criticized by the statewide grand jury report are planning to do so, Duval’s school board approves a contract that raises starting teacher pay to $48,700, a judge is being asked to allow plaintiffs to begin collecting information from the state in a lawsuit against the Parental Rights in Education law, Duval will design its own sex education curriculum after it said materials from a third party didn’t comply with that state law, LGBTQ supporters flood a Pasco school board meeting to protest the removal of “safe space” stickers from schools, the first in a series of community meetings shows deep opposition to school rezoning in Hillsborough, the chair of the Gulf County School is arrested and accused of stalking a woman, and the Escambia County mother who was accused of trying to rig a homecoming queen contest for her daughter has pleaded no contest. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School board members will consider a proposal to stop paying the legal bills of board members who were suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Two of those members, Ann Murray and Donna Korn, ran up bills totaling $120,000 in the past 16 months in an effort to delay the release of the statewide grand jury report on the Parkland school shooting and school safety. They and two other members were suspended shortly after the report finally was made public. The proposal does not include asking those board members for reimbursement. The board will also be asked today to approve the resignations of chief of staff Jeff Moquin and equity and school climate director David Watkins, and the retirement of Ron Morgan, assistant chief building official. All were slammed in the grand jury report, and ordered by Superintendent Vickie Cartwright to resign or face a state investigation over their actions. Sun-Sentinel. Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was mentally impaired, with an IQ of 83, in part because his mother drank when she was pregnant with him, a neuropsychologist testified Monday at his sentencing trial. The defense is trying to convince the jury to sentence Cruz to life in prison instead of the death penalty. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. WPLG. WTVJ. Summarizing what happened Monday in the sentencing trial of Cruz. Sun-Sentinel. Palm Beach Post.

Hillsborough: A consultant hired to help the school district rezone school boundaries to balance enrollment is discovering how difficult its job could be after the first of a series of town hall meetings Monday. Almost 60 percent of those attending the meeting told WXY Studio that their primary objective was to “preserve current school assignments.” Nearly half of the district’s schools are less than 80 percent full, and some of those are half-empty, while 15 percent of schools are overcrowded. Boundary changes could affect up to 14 percent of the district’s students, or more than 20,000 students. One option being considered is consolidating under-enrolled schools and then using the closed schools as preschools or adult training centers. Four more public meetings are planned this week. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT.

Palm Beach: A meeting last week between the state’s director of Safe Schools, Tim Hay, and Superintendent Michael Burke did not result in any immediate changes in the school safety protocols, Burke said. He expects to hear from Hay soon about his take on the discussions. The statewide grand jury investigating school safety and the Parkland school shooting named the district as one of five with safety issues. In Palm Beach, the concern seemed to center on the district’s decision to hire a third party to train security guards. After Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said the training was not sufficient, the district canceled the contract and paid the company $75,000 in a settlement. Palm Beach Post. A former teacher at Independence Middle School in Jupiter pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual activity with a minor and offense against students by authority figures and was sentenced to three years in prison. Daniel Norment, 41, was accused of forcing a 16-year-old student into having sex with him in a classroom closet. The pleae came a month after the girl filed suit against the school board, accusing the district  of “allowing and enabling” the teacher to “groom and then sexually assault her” in 2019. Palm Beach Post. WPEC. WPTV.

Duval: School board members on Monday approved a one-year contract agreement that raises starting teacher pay to $48,700. The change will affect most district teachers, since the starting rate applies for the first 14 years of teaching. Veterans teachers will receive an average raise of 2.5 percent. The raise is retroactive to the beginning of this school year, and doesn’t apply to additional supplements from a tax levy approved by voters in August. Teachers have already ratified the agreement with the district. Florida Times-Union. A scheduled vote by the school board on sex education curriculum materials from third parties was canceled after it was decided the materials did not “address all statutory requirements of law.” Officials said the district “will create its own supplemental materials to meet educational requirements defined in Florida statutes.” WTLV. WJXT. WJAX.

Pasco: LGBTQ supporters flooded a Monday school board meeting to protest the district’s recent order to remove all “safe space” stickers in schools. The decision makes schools less safe for gay and transgender students, they said. Superintendent Kurt Browning contended the change was necessary to comply with state law. “Whether you agree or disagree with the law. The law is the law,” he said. “So when teachers continue to think that they can have private personal conversations with students they are wrong. They run the risk of litigation.” WFLA. WFTS. A 19-year-old student at Sunlake High School was arrested for allegedly sending text threats to other students at the school. The boy had been sent home after a disciplinary issue, and apparently texted the threats as he was walking home. When deputies located him, he was also carrying a concealed knife. WTSP.

Seminole: A 14-year-old student has been arrested and accused of making a social media threat against Lyman High School in Longwood. The boy is not a student at the school, according to deputies, who also said the threat was not credible. The boy said he was just joking. WFTV.

Volusia: Investigators said they have the identified about a dozen Mainland High School students who started rumors about a shooting that closed the school early on Friday, and said they could be charged with a crime and expelled or suspended from school. WESH.

Escambia: Laura Carroll, the mother of a Tate High School student who was accused of accessing student information through the school’s computers to try to rig a homecoming queen vote so her daughter would win, has pleaded no contest to a charge of using a two-way device to facilitate a felony. Three other charges were dropped. Charges against her daughter, Emily Grover, were dismissed after she completed a supervised program. WEAR. Thirteen students were taken to the hospital after an 18-wheel semi-truck slammed into the back of their school bus Monday morning. None are believed to be seriously injured. The truck driver was cited by the Florida Highway Patrol on suspicion of careless driving. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Leon: Hartsfield Elementary School is now Hartsfield Magnet School for International Studies and is in the process of becoming certified to become an International Baccalaureate school. When that happens, Hartsfield will feed the IB programs at Fairview Middle School and Rickards High School. “For families in the neighborhoods surrounding the school, we hope that the IB program and the rigorous curriculum offered will serve as a pathway and magnet for students to attend their neighborhood school,” said Hartsfield principal Rhonda Blackwell-Flanagan. Hartsfield is designated as a Title I school and receives federal assistance because at least 40 percent of its students are considered low income. Tallahassee Democrat.

Okaloosa: A 15-year-old Choctawhatchee High School student has been arrested and accused of threatening a classmate with a knife. Deputies said the boy told a female student he should kill her and then showed her the knife. He’s been charged with charged with possession of a weapon on school property and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. WJHG. Northwest Florida Daily News. WEAR.

Bay: More than 70 percent of district students who attended summer learning programs passed their reading and math assessments, and more than 1,200 courses were completed by high school students, Superintendent Bill Husfelt recently announced. “I really can’t say enough great things about those teams of employees,” he said. “They were tired from the school year but stepped up to the plate, once again, because they knew our students needed this opportunity.” WFSU.

Nassau: The school district is now second among the 67 school districts in achievement based on state testing results, school board members were told at a recent meeting. Nassau was first in the state in math, 5th-grade science, exceptional student education overall and ESE math, second in English/language arts, 8th-grade science, U.S. history and ESE language arts, third in civics and sixth in biology. “Those are just phenomenal results that really are amazing, and I’m so proud to be a part of a school district that has this legacy of excellence,” said Misty Mathis, executive director of curriculum and instruction. Florida Politics.

Gulf: School board chair Dennis McGlon is under investigation by the school district after his arrest last month for allegedly stalking a woman. Lynn Haven police said McGlon waited for the woman outside of her workplace, followed her home and wouldn’t leave when asked repeatedly to do so. When he was arrested, he signed into the police log book as Donald Duck. Superintendent Jim Norton said, “We are aware of the incident, and it is presently under investigation. We are not able to comment at this time.” McGlon was first elected to the board in 2018, and ran unopposed for re-election this year. WMBB. Port St. Joe Star.

Colleges and universities: Gov. DeSantis has appointed four new members to the board of trustees for State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota: Rod Thomson, who owns a Sarasota public relations company; Manatee realtor Jaymie Carter; Ryan Moore, the CEO of the UMR Sports sports complex in Lakewood Ranch; and Tracy Knight, an owner and vice president of Knight Strategic Communications in Sarasota. The appointments are subject to approval by the Florida Senate. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. DeSantis also appointed three trustees for Daytona State College: Board chair Randy Howard and member Garry Lubi were reappointed, and attorney Kelly Kwiatek joins them. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Parents’ rights suit: Two organizations, parents, students and a teacher suing the state over the Parental Rights in Education law have asked a court to reverse an earlier ruling and allow them to begin collecting information from the state. In July, the judge halted the process called discovery while the state’s request to dismiss the case was being considered. But the plaintiffs contend the situation has changed since the ruling because school districts “are taking extraordinary measures to purge any trace of LGBT people from schools, and teachers are afraid to show any support for LGBT students.” News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: American families have been caught in a trap of never-ending conflict over public schools, but they can – and many have – walked out. Families ought to be able to access an equitable share of funding when they do so. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. After 16 years as a teacher, the last seven at Venice High School Janet Allen has stepped away from the classroom. Here’s why. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. I believe deeply in public education — the path to the future for 90 percent of students in our republic. But I also believe that people ought to have a choice. The Cristo Rey high school in Miami is a life-changing choice — a blessing for the future of many, a blessing for the future of our republic. David Lawrence Jr., Miami Herald. Miami-Dade schools’ Division of Academics is refusing to allow high school students to attend, as they have in the past, Miami New Drama’s staging of Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work Anna in the Tropics. Why? The school district’s not saying. Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff