Broward superintendent’s job spared, Pasco board candidate back on ballot, and more

Around the state: Broward Superintendent Vickie Carwright has been reprimanded by the school board and given 90 days to address board members’ concerns, an appeals judge has blocked a lower court’s ruling that District 1 school board candidate Al Hernandez is ineligible to run because he didn’t live in the district at the time of qualification, two of the five Lee County schools most heavily damaged during Hurricane Ian have set Oct. 31 as their reopening date, the Palm Beach County School District is being sued by a parent because a teacher put up two rainbow flags in a classroom, a proposal to rezone Bay County high schools to ease overcrowding was put off by the school board, and a quick-thinking Osceola County school bus attendant stopped a man’s attempt to steal a school bus Monday. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: After a 12-hour meeting Tuesday, school board members voted to reprimand Superintendent Vickie Cartwright instead of firing her. She was given 90 days to prepare and carry out an action plan detailing how she’ll address a list of concerns raised by board members, which includes a response to the criticism levied at the district by the statewide grand jury, allegations of a district culture of retaliation, and ongoing problems with the $800 million bond referendum, after which she will be re-evaluated. Just two weeks ago the board gave her an “effective” rating on her evaluation. The nine-person board, which includes five members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, was divided about whether to fire Cartwright before voting unanimously to keep her. “Dr. Cartwright has done the best we can,” said board member Debra Hixon. “We are not perfect. We can and must do better, but it doesn’t rest with one person.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WFOR. WTVJ.

Hillsborough: Two struggling charter schools provided grim updates at Tuesday’s school board meeting, but vowed to make improvements. Village of Excellence, which opened in 2000, was graded an F school with only 8 percent of its students passing the state reading exam and a teaching staff that’s two-thirds long-term substitutes. The Village of Excellence Middle School, which opened in 2014, is a D school, with just 12 percent of its students passing the state reading exam. Both schools have students who are chronically absent. School board members had suggestions and ideas for leaders of the schools, but said state law prevents them from closing the schools or demanding changes. The last time the board voted to close four charters, in 2021, it was overruled by the state, accused of acting illegally and threatened with financial sanctions. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: The father of a 7th-grade student at Emerald Cove Middle School in Wellington is suing the school district, the school, its principal and a computer science teacher after his son told him the teacher put up two rainbow flags in the classroom. In his complaint, Francisco Catalin Deliu alleges that the school “is expressly and/or implicitly advocating for homosexuality as an alternative way of life.” He called the flags “offensive” and said they amounted to “brainwashing,” forcing him to request the 12-year-old boy be removed from the class. Deliu based his suit on the 2021 Parental Bill of Rights law. Palm Beach Post. WPEC. The former athletic director at Atlantic High School has been arrested and accused of stealing $4,609.80 from the school between March 5, 2019, and March 16, 2020. Andrea Smith-Thomas, 56, is charged with grand theft, official misconduct and organized scheme to defraud valued less than $20,000 for taking coaching stipends for two sports she claimed she coached but allegedly did not. She was removed from the job at Atlantic at the end of the 2021-2022 school year and now works at Village Academy. District officials said she’s been reassigned pending the outcome of the criminal case and a district investigation. Palm Beach Post. WPEC.

Duval: The drone pilot magnet program at Frank. H. Peterson Academies of Technology in Jacksonville is expanding to help students get their drone pilot’s licenses by the time they graduate. “The ultimate goal is for the students to get their remote pilot license,” said aviation instructor Marcus Campbell. The school pays for the course and testing for students to get those licenses. Demand for drone pilots is expected to increase by 51 percent in the next five years, according to a report from Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology. The industry’s average salary is $54,128, according to the report, and some jobs pay more than $100,000 a year. WTLV.

Lee: Five schools heavily damaged during Hurricane Ian remain closed to students. Lexington and Diplomat middle schools are on track to reopen Oct. 31, according to school officials, but no return dates have yet been set for Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary, Fort Myers Beach Elementary and the Sanibel School. More than 94 percent of teachers and 92 percent of support staff have returned to their jobs, said district spokesman Rob Spicker, and student attendance has been about 87 percent, with nearly 500 students leaving the district. “We are very pleased with the return to school last week,” said Spicker. “The partner schools seemed to work well. We encourage our families to come back to school.” Fort Myers News-Press.

Pasco: An appeals court has blocked a lower court’s ruling that District 1 school board candidate Al Hernandez is ineligible to run because he didn’t live in the east Pasco region he wants to represent at the time of qualification, as required by law. The 2nd District Court of Appeal’s decision allows Hernandez to resume campaigning while he awaits the outcome of his appeal. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: School officials are investigating allegations that District 2 school board candidate Gene Trent falsified his 2015 application to be a math teacher by withholding his history of arrests. Trent was arrested in the 1990s for battery and a violation of an alcohol-related ordinance. If the allegations are true, Trent could lose his job. “I am not even going to address that because we are voting now,” Trent responded. “My record speaks for itself. I think the issues speak for themselves, so I don’t want to partake in any type of dirty politics.” His opponent is Erin Dunne. Florida Today.

Osceola: A quick-thinking school bus attendant thwarted a man’s attempt to steal the bus Monday at a gas station. When the driver stopped to use the bathroom, a man jumped onboard and into the driver’s seat. The attendant quickly hit the air brake switch, which kept the man from starting the bus. No students were onboard. Deputies charged the 22-year-old man with grand theft auto and burglary while armed. WKMG. WOFL. WESH. District officials are trying to expel a 15-year-old student for filming 24 seconds of a recent fight at St. Cloud High School that later went viral. Jayden Carpenter has been hit with a major disruption on campus charge and is banned from school pending a review by the school board. WFTV.

Manatee: Harold Byrd Jr. and Cindy Spray will compete in the Nov. 8 runoff for the District 2 seat on the school board. Spray, 66, has an accounting background and collected the most votes in the Aug. 23 primary at 39 percent, while Byrd, a 62-year-old former member of the Bradenton City Council, received 36 percent. Byrd wants to address equity gaps in the district, while Spray is an advocate for parents’ rights and said she wants the district to “educate, and not indoctrinate” students. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sarasota: John Zablackas, a former assistant principal at Sarasota High School and a 35-year district employee until his retirement in 2010, died Sept. 27 at the age of 71. He fell off a roof in Osprey while helping prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ian. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Leon: A former teacher at Trinity Catholic School has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for possession of child pornography. Mark Clow, 54, was arrested in September 2021, fired by the school a week later and pleaded guilty to the charges in April. School officials said Clow didn’t use the school computers and was never alone with students. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV.

Bay: Superintendent Bill Husfelt is proposing to rezone high school boundaries to address overcrowding. The proposal drew a mixed reaction from members of the community attending the school board meeting. Board members decided at Tuesday’s meeting not to consider rezoning now, but Steve Moss said they will have to confront the issue soon. WMBB. WJHG.

Hernando: Lorenzo Hamilton, a longtime teacher, coach and assistant principal who helped integrate the district’s schools, died Oct. 4 at the age of 84 in Brooksville. Hernando Sun.

Colleges and universities: Three state colleges will receive $9 million in state grants to bolster their workforce training and certification programs. St. Petersburg College in Pinellas County will receive $3.4 million. South Florida State College, which serves DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands counties, and Daytona State College in Volusia County will each get $2.8 million. The money will be used for partnerships between the colleges and local school districts to create career academies in the fields of teaching, law enforcement, nursing and emergency management. Florida Politics. WTSP. Edward Waters University in Jacksonville has named Ivana Rich as the first female athletic director in school history. WJXT. WTLV.

Around the nation: More than 80 percent of LGBTQ students say they have been harassed or assaulted in school, according to surveys conducted by the nonprofit YouthTruth and GLSEN, a group that promotes safe and inclusive schools. “Most LGBTQ students are going to schools that are unsafe, unwelcoming, and not affirming,” said Caitlin Clark, a senior research associate at GLSEN who co-authored its report. Chalkbeat.

Opinions on schools: Though it’s difficult to make precise comparisons between NAEP and state-level standardized test results, the NAEP trends largely mirror the findings of a FutureEd analysis of the testing trends of the 39 states that have released results from spring 2022. Bella DiMarco, The 74.

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BY NextSteps staff