Three Broward officials ordered to quit or go on leave, book battles, budgets, tax issues and more

Around the state: Three Broward school administrators whose “failed decisions on school safety” were part of the recently released statewide grand jury report have been told by Superintendent Vickie Cartwright to resign or go on leave while their actions are investigated, a group in Polk County has filed a complaint against the superintendent’s policy of allowing parents only to opt-out of allowing their children to see 16 challenged books, two books are at the center of a sparring match between two Orange County School Board candidates, enrollment is up slightly in Hillsborough County, school boards in Palm Beach and Bay counties approve budgets, two school tax issues are on the November ballot in Franklin County, a Heritage Foundation rating has Florida as the top state for education freedom, and school data shows that St. Johns County female students are still the target of most dress code violations even after the policy was rewritten last year to be more gender-neutral. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Six of the same school board members who voted a year ago to observe October as LGBTQ History Month flipped their votes this week and sent the proposal to defeat. Perla Tabares Hantman, Steve Gallon III, Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Marta Pérez, Mari Tere Rojas and Luisa Santos voted yes a year ago and no Wednesday night. Christi Fraga voted against the measure both times, and Lucia Baez-Geller voted in favor both times. Board members said they were concerned that approving the proposal would violate the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, which some say shows the chilling effect the new law has had. Miami Herald. Police said a 16-year-old boy was arrested Thursday and accused of shooting two 12-year-old boys who were waiting for their school bus in Pinewood. The gunman approached the boys and demanded they hand over their property. When the boys refused, they were shot. Both were hospitalized in stable condition and are expected to survive. WTVJ. WPLG. WFOR.

Broward: School Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, who is under pressure from the Florida Department of Education to fire district administrators whose “failed decisions on school safety” were pointed out in the recently released statewide grand jury report, has told three of them to resign or go on leave while they are investigated, according to school board members. The three are chief of staff Jeff Moquin, director of diversity and school climate David Watkins, and assistant chief building official Ron Morgan. What the three have decided to do is not yet known, and Cartwright said she will provide an update next week. Other administrators still working for the district who were mentioned by the grand jury are Derek Messier, Leon Bobadilla, Robert Hamberger, Judith Marte, Mary Coker and Maria Louisa Rouco. The school board’s next meeting is Tuesday. Sun-Sentinel. Students at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs were sent home Thursday morning after an electricity failure meant limited lighting, no air conditioning and no Internet. School officials expect the school to reopen today. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough: Enrollment in the district’s traditional schools is flat from last year to this year, while charter school enrollment is up by about 2,000 students, or about 6 percent. The district counted 220,101 students as of the 20th day of school, compared to 218,197 last year. Charter enrollment grew from 33,079 to 35,050. Tampa Bay Times. WTVT. WFTS. A longtime math teacher has opened a private K-12 school in east Tampa that blends Christianity with core academic subjects. Tavis Myrick said he was compelled to open Manifestations: School for Innovation and Learning by parents’ request for a school that addresses students’ individual needs. The school has four teachers and about 40 students who attend tuition-free and receive free uniforms, catered meals and educational field trips through state scholarships that are administered by Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog. WFLA.

Orange: Candidates for the District 3 school board seat being vacated by Linda Kobert sparred this week over school library books. Alicia Farrant, who received the most votes in the Aug. 23 primary, called for two books to be removed from libraries. She contends that the John Green novel Looking for Alaska and the book Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being a Human” violate state obscenity laws. “I’m embarrassed. I’m a 42-year-old woman,” said Farrant, a member of the local Moms for Liberty group. “Why is this there? Who ordered it?” Her opponent, college administrator Michael Daniels, said, “I‘ve knocked on so many doors and talked to so many people. This isn’t an issue.” Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: School board members approved a $4.9 billion budget this week, up from last year’s $4.1 billion. It includes $16 million for teacher raises and higher student spending. WLRN. Here are the 31 school library books that drew complaints from county residents, leading to reviews by a district committee. Just one, The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, was banned from classroom use. Several others that mostly dealt with sexual orientation or gender identity issues were restricted to students in grades 4-12. Palm Beach Post. The district’s first new high school in 17 years is nearing completion west of Lake Worth Beach. Zoning boundaries, a name and a mascot still must be decided for the school known as “Triple-O,” which is expected to open next fall. WPTV.

Polk: The County Citizens Defending Freedom is filing a court appeal of the school superintendent’s decision to give parents only an opt-out option to keep 16 contested library books out of the hands of their children. The books are pornographic, age-inappropriate, obscene and attempt to indoctrinate students, the group contends. Four of the seven board members support Superintendent Frederick Heid’s decision to drop an opt-in policy that would put the books out of sight and available only to children whose parents had consented to allow them access. Lakeland Now. Residents in the rural Lake Hatchineha area protested at this week’s school board meeting against plans to possibly build two schools on a former cattle ranch in the area. District officials are considering buying one of two 100-acre parcels available where they can put a high school and possibly a middle school to ease overcrowing at schools in Auburndale and Haines City. Residents say the properties are environmentally sensitive and that the two-lane road can’t accommodate the school buses and extra cars the school or schools would bring. Board members are expected to vote on the proposal next month. Lakeland Ledger.

Pasco: Results of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into an alleged testing scam involving teachers at Hudson High School are expected to be announced this afternoon. Several teachers were placed on paid administrative leave in August 2021 after a complaint was received The alleged fraud occurred before the summer of 2020, according to district spokesman Stephen Hegarty. WFLA. WTSP.

Seminole: A student at Winter Springs High School was arrested Thursday after angrily throwing a chair that broke an office window and damaged some trophies. The noise from the disturbance was mistaken for gunfire, and the campus was temporarily locked down. The student fled the scene but was caught on a nearby bike trail. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WESH.

Lake: A 16-year-old student at Lake Hills Academy in Mascotte was arrested Thursday and accused of having a gun on a school bus. Another student who saw the weapon notified police, who found it wrapped in a sweatshirt on the bus after the students had gotten off. WKMG. WESH.

St. Johns: School officials removed gender-related references in the district’s student dress code last year after students and parents complained that it targeted female students. But so far this year, 92.2 percent of the citations issued since schools opened Aug. 10 have been to girls. Records also show that 96 percent of the violations were reported by four schools: Bartram Trail High School, Creekside High, Nease High and Switzerland Point Middle. School board member Bev Slough, who is running for re-election, said the board is monitoring the statstics and will consider adjustments if necessary. WJXT.

Leon: The supposedly nonpartisan District 4 school board race is drawing intense interest from the political parties. Alex Stemle, an assistant principal at Godby High School and the leading vote-getter in the Aug. 23 primary, is being supported by Democrats and unions. Laurie Cox, who was a physical education teacher with the school district for 33 years, is backed by the local Republican party and a school choice group based in Washington, D.C. The winner will replace longtime board member DeeDee Rasmussen, who announced in May that she would not be running for re-election. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Some parents of 10th-graders at Gainesville High School say there aren’t enough copies of the algebra 2 textbook for each student to have one. District spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said a shipment of the books has arrived and school officials are working to get them passed out. She attributed the delay to a late order after the state decided that previously approved books would have to be amended, and paper and labor shortages also played a role. WGFL.

Bay: At Thursday’s meeting, school board members approved a nearly $608 million budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, an increase of $71 million over last year’s spending. A lower millage rate was approved that will still generate more revenue because of rising property values and new construction. WJHG.

Flagler: An agreement approved by the school district, county and cities that establishes a process for developers to pay impact fees was approved this week by the Inter-Local Agreement Oversight Committee. Proposed by school board chair Trevor Tucker, it calls for developers to pay a third of impact fees within 60 days of their development being platted, a third after 21 months, and the final third at the 42-month mark. Flagler Live.

Walton: A school resource officer is being called a hero after he saved a choking student Thursday morning at Seacoast Collegiate High School. Trenton VanCleve rushed into action when a student told him a girl was choking in the school yard. He used the Heimlich manuever to dislodge a cough drop, and the girl is fine. WJHG.

Franklin: Voters will be asked to pass two school tax referendums in the general election Nov. 8. One asks for another half-cent to be added to the sales tax for school construction and repairs, and new air-conditioning units, buses, playground equipment, wireless communication, and more. The other asks voters to renew the half-cent property tax that was first passed in 2008, and to allow the district to shift the use of some of the money it generates from capital projects to operating funds such as teacher salaries and benefits. Town hall meetings to discuss the requests are scheduled Sept. 22 in Apalachicola and Oct. 3 in Lanark. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: The state’s Board of Governors meets next week to discuss how to spend $40 million in state money to increase the number of “high-quality” nursing graduates. Ten of the 12 state universities with nursing programs will share the money. News Service of Florida. University of South Florida researchers have won a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a way to protect and replenish coral reef and mangrove ecosystems off Miami, Belize and the U.S. Virgin Islands. WFTS.

Around the nation: Florida leads the states in education freedom, according to ratings issued this week by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank. The states were rated in the broad categories of school choice, transparency, regulatory freedom and spending. Fox News. The Daily Signal.

Opinions on schools: The vote against the recognition of LGBTQ History Month in October, an item the Miami-Dade County School Board approved almost unanimously last year with little fanfare, shows that when under pressure from the culture wars unleashed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, our board members choose to cower. Miami Herald. Florida lawmakers claim that public education’s main problem is not a shortage of teachers and bus drivers or helping students who fell behind during the pandemic. No, the problem is school districts forcing an LGTBQ agenda on children and parents. Sun-Sentinel. If I want to  keep my kid ignorant, I have every right to do so — and to keep your kids ignorant as well. That’s Florida’s version of “freedom.” So let’s just ban every book and idea that makes anyone uncomfortable. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. A one-size-fits-all education system does not work for every child, and parents appreciate having educational options. Someone should remind the Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor of that. Valeria Gurr, Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff