Broward superintendent fired, UF student president’s impeachment dropped, virtual enrollment rising, and more

Around the state: Broward County School Board members voted 5-4 Monday to fire Superintendent Vickie Cartwright just two weeks after giving her 90 days to show progress, Broward’s board also cut ties with a longtime vendor of caps and gowns after an audit disclosed it had overcharged the district by $331,181 in one year, the proposed impeachment of the University of Florida student body president for supporting Ben Sasse as the new UF president was killed by a student government judiciary committee, virtual school enrollment is up sharply in Florida and nine other states since the pandemic began, Sarasota school board members are expected to vote on adding two days to the academic calendar to help make up time lost to storms, and Marion County schools choose their principal and assistant principal of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: In a 5-4 vote late Monday, the school board fired Superintendent Vickie Cartwright. All five of the board members who voted for her dismissal were appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and four of them leave the board next week when new members who won election Nov. 8 are sworn in. The four elected members voted against the dismissal. The firing was prompted by two audits critical of the district’s contracts with two longtime vendors. On Oct. 26, the board considered firing Cartwright but instead agreed to give her 90 days to make progress on several issues. “What message does that send?” asked board member Sarah Leonardi. “That one day we make a 90-day agreement, and then two weeks later we go back on that. And so while I have serious concerns about the issues raised in this audit and the legitimacy of the audit, this action is impulsive and inappropriate for this moment, and I cannot support that.” The board meets in special session this morning, and could name an interim replacement for Cartwright. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WPLG. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. The board also voted to sever ties with the vendor that supplied caps and gowns for graduating seniors. According to a recent audit, Chuck Puleri & Associates, which distributes Herff Jones scholastic products, overcharged students and parents $331,181 one year and reported to auditors that it had shredded invoices for four other years in a contract. “To take advantage of our students and families and exploit one of the most joyous times in their lives is really egregious,” said Leonardi. Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: The private Greene School in West Palm Beach has hired a director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Michael D’Egidio is tasked with reviewing the curriculum to look for ways to tailor it to better reflect the community and the backgrounds and experiences of each of the 175 students. The previously preK-8 school added a 9th grade in August, and will expand by a grade in each of the next three years. “We’re very proud of our diversity, but you always feel like you could have more,” said real estate developer Jeff Greene, who founded the school with his wife Mei Sze Greene. Palm Beach Post.

Polk: Bryant Black, the director of curriculum and instruction of Lakeland Christian School, will take over as the school’s headmaster June 1. He was selected from 140 candidates to replace Mike Sligh, who had run the school for 27 years. Lakeland Ledger.

Seminole: Parents of students at Evans Elementary School in Oviedo said they are concerned about mold that has been discovered in several classrooms. District officials said a secondary assessment and sampling will be conducted. WFTV.

Volusia: The family of a 10-year-old boy who was suspended for allegedly groping a school mental health counselor at Holly Hill School is fighting back against the charge. An attorney has been hired to represent the boy and clear his record, and the family is calling on the school district to fire the counselor, discipline others involved, and apologize. “We will not stand by this and allow him to be accused of something that he did not do,” said the boy’s grandfather, Ed Hollins, at a news conference Monday. “I would not stand for my grandchild or any child to be treated this way by a professional. This is a new way of lynching.” Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sarasota: School board members are expected to vote today on a proposal to add two school days to the academic calendar to make up time lost when storms affected the area. Jan. 9 and March 20, which are scheduled as professional days for teachers and staff, would instead become school days for students. They are Mondays after the winter and spring breaks, respectively, and were chosen by district staff who felt they would be more productive for students, according to Allison Foster, district executive director of human resources. North Sarasota County schools missed nine days and south Sarasota County schools missed 13 during Hurricane Ian and one day because of Hurricane Nicole. Most of the instruction time lost is covered by the extra 30 minutes a day of classes. Schools are required to provide 180 teaching days, or at least 720 instructional hours, for K-3 students and 900 hours for higher grades. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: Ginger Cruze of West Port High School has been named the school district’s 2023 principal of the year, and Harbour View Elementary’s Jennifer Pollard has been selected as the assistant principal of the year. Both are now eligible for the statewide awards. WCJB.

St. Lucie: A 14-year-old student at St. Lucie West Centennial High School in Port St. Lucie was hit by a vehicle Monday morning as she was trying to cross a street to get to school. She was flown to a hospital with non-life threatening head injuries, according to police. A police spokesman said she was not in a crosswalk when she was hit, and the driver was not ticketed. TCPalm. WPTV.

Escambia: Pine Forest High School is in the final stages of opening a new clinic for students and the community under the Community Partnership School program. The clinic is being developed with a $77,658 grant from the Escambia Children Trust and is expected to open next month. Partners in the community schools project, which integrates educational, health and social services in schools, are the school district, Children’s Home Society of Florida, Community Health Northwest Florida and the University of West Florida. Pensacola News Journal. School board members are expected to decide today whether they will vote on a contract with Charter Schools USA to take over Warrington Middle School next fall. WEAR.

Alachua: Santa Fe Academy of Science and Technology, a charter school launched by Santa Fe College, opens in the fall to 75 9th-graders. Eventually it will offer students a high school diploma, an associate in science degree or two industry certifications. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis. Independent Florida Alligator.

Walton: The school district is one of 14 in the state to be selected by the state Department of Education as an academically high-performing school district. Districts are chosen for their district grade, school grades, class size compliance and financial audit reports. Walton received an A+ grade from the state. “We’re proud to be the No. 3 ranked school district in the state of Florida out of 67,” said Superintendent A. Russel Hughes. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: The University of Florida’s student government judiciary committee has dismissed an impeachment resolution against student body president Lauren Lemasters for her support of the nomination of Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse as university president. The committee’s nine members, who all belong to the same Gator party as Lemasters, ruled that her vote for Sasse did not constitute malfeasance. Members of the Change party proposed the resolution, saying it was “unacceptable that (Lemasters) neglected the calls to action of her constituents and her fellow elected colleagues.” Tampa Bay Times. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously Monday to block the Biden administration’s student debt relief program. The judges said their injunction against the program “will remain in effect until further order of this court or the Supreme Court of the United States.” The program had already been suspended by the administration after a Texas judge struck it down as illegal and unconstitutional. Politico. A sole finalist has been named for the Florida Gulf Coast University presidency. Robert Gregerson, president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and a former dean of FGCU’s College of Arts and Sciences, will be the only candidate considered by trustees at a meeting Thursday. Two others who had been considered withdrew. News Service of Florida.

Virtual enrollment soaring: Even as the pandemic receded, virtual school enrollment in Florida and nine other states around the country soared, according to new data. Enrollment was up 170 percent over pre-pandemic enrollment in 2021, an increase that nudged up to 176 percent during the 2021-2022 school year. In Florida, the number of students in virtual schools went from 5,193 in the 2019-2020 school year to 13,480 the following year and 11,719 during the 2021-2022 school year. “It looks like it’ll stick,” said Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education. “In some states, the numbers went up temporarily and came back down a bit. But overall, if (families) are staying for a couple of years, I would expect that they would keep it going.” The 74.

Senate leadership: Incoming Florida Senate president Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has named her legislative leadership team. Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, has been chosen as the majority leader and Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, will be the president pro tempore. She also announced several committee chairs. An organizational meeting will be held Nov. 22, and the 60-day 2023 legislative session begins March 6. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.

Opinions on schools: Florida’s combined strategy of emphasizing both education choice and literacy is driving gains on NAEP testing. It also shows that the combination of the two is not mutually exclusive, and in fact, each strategy can mutually reinforce the other. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED.

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BY NextSteps staff