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Another suit refiled against parents’ rights bill, flag policy proposal, audit hits district deals, and more

Around the state: A second lawsuit against the state’s Parental Rights in Education law has been revised and refiled in federal court, Miami-Dade school board members could consider a proposal to allow only the American flag and Florida’s official motto to be displayed on campuses, another audit faults Broward school officials for improperly awarding contracts to two longtime vendors and then failing to adequate monitor them, Marion County School Board members will soon discuss school rezonings to relieve overcrowding in the southwest part of the county, a Pasco school board candidate who had been ruled out of Tuesday’s election because of residency questions has been reinstated onto the ballot, and the principal of Venice High School canceled the school band’s scheduled appearance at Disney World after Disney asked the school to cover its native American logo. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Only the American flag and the official motto of Florida — “In God We Trust” — would be allowed to be displayed on school campuses under a proposal that could be discussed at this week’s school board workshop meeting. Board member Christi Fraga sponsored the item. Eulalia Jimenez, the Miami chapter president of the conservative group Moms for Liberty, said the proposal would reinforce the flag policy and “remind the school board that public schools (should) be neutral and not to be used to impose any type of ideology or political agenda on the kids. It also solidifies the Parental Rights in Education law.” Miami Herald. Every kindergarten student in the school district will be given $50 to start a college savings account under the Future Bound Miami program initiated by the district and the Children’s Trust and funded with federal grants and contributions from the city and county. The program had been in 38 schools, but is being expanded to include every elementary and K-8 school in the county. WTVJ. The growth of outdoor learning is exemplified by the Take Root Forest School in North Miami Beach, which takes its 80 students to beaches and local and national parks in south Florida to learn about nature in addition to teaching traditional subjects. The students “grow to be stewards of where they live, said school cofounder Christy Schultz. reimaginED.

Broward: School officials improperly awarded contracts to two long-time vendors and then failed to adequately monitor them, according to investigative audits conducted by an Alabama accounting firm. The lax oversight cost the district $1.4 million, the audits concluded. Attempts to determine if school board members or district administrators were swayed by  vendors in either report were unsuccessful because some board members and administrators refused to turn over their phones or had deleted data. The contracts were with Public Consulting Group, which provides education management and training services, and Chuck Puleri & Associates, a distributor for Herff Jones caps and gowns for graduating seniors. District officials said they are reviewing the findings. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough: As contract negotiations between teachers and the district drag on, teachers have begun to bring working conditions into the conversation. At last week’s school board meeting, teachers told stories about classrooms with mold and no air-conditioning, roaches scurrying on the floors, broken elevators, a shortage of math textbooks and more. Negotiations move to an impasse hearing Nov. 29. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: School officials said they’re making some changes to meet state requirements for school security and safety. Numbers will be added to each building, vehicle barriers will be built in certain areas, PA systems will be improved to provide better coverage, and no trespassing signs will be enhanced along school perimeters. WFTV.

Duval: Ten of the school district’s 40 charter schools are now operating under school improvement plans approved by the school board after receiving grades of D or F from the state. Those plans outline school objectives, a detailed list of what’s wrong, the person or group responsible for fixing each problem, the resources needed to fix them, and a timeline for when each problem will be fixed. School boards are limited in their authority to suspend the contracts of low-performing charter schools, said Gene Hays, the district’s director of school choice, with “the only grounds for termination … would be a low performance on a persistent basis, multiple F’s, a school that maybe falls behind financially and is in what the state determines is a financial deterioration or material violation of the law.” WJXT.

Pasco: An appeals court ruled Friday that Al Hernandez, a candidate for the District 1 seat on the school board, will remain on Tuesday’s ballot. In October, a circuit court ordered Hernandez off the ballot, saying he hadn’t established residency in the district at the time he qualified as a candidate. The appeals court overturned that, saying Hernandez made a reasonable effort to live in his new home but that it needed repairs that were delayed. Hernandez, an executive with Humana, faces Pasco High School graduation enhancement teacher James Washington. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: Six finalists have been selected for the school district’s employee of the year award. They are: Ira Lightsey, instructional assistant at Mims Elementary; John Cruz, school resource officer at Astronaut High; Jacqueline Scislaw, technology associate at Enterprise Elementary; Jamie Cabrera, school secretary at Audubon Elementary; Lauren Dickens, instructional assistant at Meadowlane Intermediate; and Roderick Foster, technology associate at McNair Magnet Middle. Space Coast Daily.

Manatee: Daughtrey Elementary School in Bradenton is becoming the district’s second community partnership school, which combines schooling with health-care and social services. Partnering with the school district are the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Boys & Girls Club of Manatee County, MCR Health and the University of South Florida. Bradenton Times.

Collier: A teacher and coach at Lely High School has been arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Lee County sheriff’s deputies said Erik Manning, 30, of Fort Myers, who taught social studies and coached baseball and football, was charged with sexual battery of a victim 16 or 17 years old. He was immediately fired, said a Collier district spokesperson. Naples Daily News. WINK.

Sarasota: Venice High School’s principal canceled the school band’s scheduled appearance Saturday on Main Street at Disney World after Disney asked the school to cover its Native American logo. “Our band deserves to be honored and celebrated without having to change our name or cover our identity,” principal Zoltan Kerestely wrote in a letter to parents and students. He said he asked Disney twice to reconsider. About eight years ago, a proposal to change the Venice High mascot and logo was abandoned after a backlash from alumni. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB.

Marion: With many schools in the southwest part of the county at or over capacity, school board members will soon be asked to consider rezoning to send students from the overcrowded schools into schools that are underenrolled. A planning meeting will be held Dec. 15, with a decision expected in the spring and the new boundaries taking effect for the 2023-2024 school year. Ocala Star-Banner. A Belleview High School student has been arrested and accused of making a threatening video on the social media platform Snapchat. Deputies said they searched the boy’s home and found a pellet gun that resembles a real weapon. The boy told deputies the video was simply a skit. WCJB.

Leon: Partisan attacks from the local Republican party hit the District 4 school board seat last week, bringing criticism from candidate Alex Stemle, the target of the mailers, and a denial from his opponent, Laurie Cox, that she or her campaign had anything to do with them. Tallahassee Democrat.

Nassau: Two school board races are on Tuesday’s ballot. In District 1, Emma Love Hardee Elementary reading coach Shannon Hogue faces Jamie Deonas, the current District 3 board member whose home was moved into District 1 by redistricting. In District 3, the candidates are former West Nassau High School principal Curtis Gaus and Albert Wagner, an assistant principal at Windy Hill Elementary in Duval County. Florida Politics.

Another suit refiled: A second lawsuit against the state’s Parental Rights in Education law has been revised and refiled in a federal court in Orlando. Parents, students and a nonprofit group filed the suit against the Florida Board of Education and school boards in Orange, Indian River, Duval and Palm Beach counties. They allege the law, which restricts classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, violates First Amendment rights. The suit and a request for a preliminary injunction was dismissed last month U.S. District Judge Wendy Berger, who ruled that the plaintiffs hadn’t shown a likelihood of success and didn’t have standing to bring it. Buit she said they could revise and refile. News Service of Florida.

Ron DeSantis, teacher: Just after graduation from Yale University, a 23-year-old Ron DeSantis spent the 2000-2001 school year teaching history and coaching football and baseball at the K-12 Darlington School in Rome, Ga., before leaving to attend Harvard Law School. The future Florida governor was well-liked, expressed strong and controversial opinions on such things as the Civil War and abortion, and occasionally pulled pranks on students and attended parties with them, said students. New York Times.

Around the nation: Parents and students are fighting back against some schools’ policies to restrict or ban children’s access to cell phones during school. Many parents want to have quick contact with their children during a school emergency, and some view restrictions as a means to exclude their participation in their children’s education. Associated Press. Only 38 percent of school board members said they plan to run for re-election when their terms end, according to a survey by School Board Partners, a national nonprofit group that trains new school board members. USA Today.

Opinions on schools: When it comes to compliance with the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, many districts may take the path of least resistance. This is the inevitable result of laws designed to create and stoke imagined grievances and dumb down education. Sun-Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff