Partisan school elections bill, superintendents’ jobs, school metal detectors, sex ed and more

Around the state: A resolution has been proposed for the 2023 legislative session that would make school board elections partisan, Osceola school Superintendent Debra Pace announces she’ll retire next June, a separation agreement is reached between Sarasota Superintendent Brennan Asplen and the school board, Broward school board members will vote next week whether to keep Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, handheld metal detectors and a weapons-sniffing dog will be used randomly in Leon County schools starting next month, Duval school board members vote to adopt a new sex education curriculum, and Lee and Citrus school officials honor their top teacher and school-related employees. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Vickie Cartwright’s job prospects have been placed on the agenda for next Tuesday’s school board meeting. At least two motions will be considered: one to keep Cartwright, from new member Jeff Holness, and another from chair Lori Alhadeff to replace her as quickly as possible. In November the board voted 5-4 to fire Cartwright. But a new board has been seated, and four of the five members who were appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and voted to dismiss the superintendent are no longer on the board. Miami Herald. The board will also reconsider an earlier decision to cut ties with a longtime provider of graduation caps and gowns for the district. Sun-Sentinel. Newly elected school board member Brenda Fam spoke last weekend at anti-LGBTQ rally hosted by the Miami-Dade County chapter of Moms for Liberty and Florida Fathers for Freedom. Fam warned attendees against grooming and got a warm reception. She did not respond to interview requests. WLRN.

Duval: School board members voted 5-2 Tuesday to adopt a new sex education and reproductive health curriculum for middle and high school students. The previous curriculum approved by the board in September had to be scrapped and “started from scratch” to comply with a new state law. More than 100 people spoke at the meeting, with a majority opposing the lesson plans, calling them too comprehensive. The curriculum will now be issued to teachers, who must incorporate it in their instruction before the end of the school year in order to comply with state education standards. WJXT. WTLV.

Lee: James Busscher, the building supervisor at Franklin Park Elementary School in Fort Myers, has been named the school district’s school-related employee of the year. He’s now eligible for the statewide award. The other finalists were Lissette Arocho, an instructional paraprofessional at Ray V. Pottorf Elementary, and Clarence Finnie, safety and security specialist at Harns Marsh Middle. WZVN. Amanecer Elementary, which opens next fall, will be the district’s first Cambridge Primary Center. Each student will take a Cambridge class every week, and the program’s projects and skills will be incorporated into daily math, science and English lessons. Lee County School District.

Brevard: A special school board meeting will be held Thursday to discuss the school district’s disciplinary policies. Board chair Matt Susin said the district has recently lost 42 teachers and eight school bus drivers because of student behavior. He said student suspensions would be part of the discussion. A week ago, Susin and county Sheriff Wayne Ivey held a news conference to announce a forthcoming crackdown. No details have been released. WKMG. Pinecrest Space Coast charter school opened three years ago to offer students in kindergarten through the 8th grade a project-based curriculum focused on STEM subjects and Spanish. The goal is to help students develop critical thinking skills and technical training to prepare them for 21st-century jobs. Florida Today.

Osceola: School Superintendent Debra Pace announced Tuesday that she would retire next June after more than 30 years in the district as a teacher, principal, deputy superintendent and, since 2016, superintendent. WKMG. WESH. WFTV. Osceola News-Gazette.

Sarasota: A tentative separation agreement has been reached between Superintendent Brennan Asplen and the school board that would pay him 32 weeks of severance, or about $170,000, plus benefits and compensation for moving and legal fees. Also included in the settlement is a 12-week transition period in which Asplen would be available as a consultant to the school board and interim superintendent. Board members will discuss the agreement and vote on it at their Dec. 13 meeting. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: Pine Forest High School is launching a pilot mentorship program called Dads on Duty to get more adult males in schools as volunteers and provide a “power of presence” that will hopefully cut down on misbehavior and fights, especially during lunches. Vice principal Bakari Franklin said the program, adopted from one started in New Orleans, would provide stand-in father figures to create relationships with at-risk students. “A lot of our at-risk students don’t have males in the household. That’s very important for them to be able to have a male point of view and a different lens,” said Franklin. Pensacola News Journal.

Leon: Handheld metal detectors and a weapons-sniffing dog will be used randomly to search for weapons in schools starting next month, Superintendent Rocky Hanna announced Tuesday. The district is also contracting with Anonymous Alerts to make an reporting app available at every school. “Coming to and from school or not, when you hit our property line, do not cross that line with a firearm,” Hanna warned. The number of cases of students having weapons at school has spiked, and there have been at least 103 shootings in Tallahassee this year resulting in at least 87 injuries and 18 deaths. Tallahassee Democrat. Tallahassee Reports. WTXL. WCTV. An off-duty law enforcement officer with the Florida Department of Financial Services has been arrested and accused of attacking a charter school guardian last week at the Tallahassee School of Math and Science. Deputies said Jimmy Toribio-Batista, whose child attends the school, was charged with battery on a school official, disturbing the peace and interfering with school administration functions. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: A former employee at a Gainesville day-care center has been convicted of producing child pornography and was sentenced to 120 years in prison. Prosecutors said Trevor Hruby, 24, who worked at A Child’s Dream, sexually abused and photographed numerous children at the center. Two of the victims were just 3 years old, police said. Gainesville Sun. WCJB. WGFL.

Bay: An 11th-grader at Bay High School in Panama City was arrested Tuesday and accused of having a loaded handgun at school. Deputies said the boy was caught vaping in a bathroom, and the gun was found in a subsequent search of his backpack. He told deputies “he carried the firearm because he felt he needed protection from dogs while he walked home.” WMBB. WJHG.

Citrus: Lita Stanton, a math teacher at Citrus High School, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year. Angelica Lefevers, a paraprofessional/ESE at Lecanto Primary School, was named the school-related employee of the year. Both are now eligible for the statewide honors. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: A 13-year-old student at the Imagine School at Town Center in Palm Coast has been arrested and accused of threatening to kill other students. Deputies said the threats were directed at classmates who attended a dance at the charter school, which the arrested boy did not. WESH.

Colleges and universities: Florida A&M University is partnering with Chevron and the nonprofit organization Fab Foundation to create a drug fabrication lab to expose K-12 students to the STEM field. The lab will also make laser and vinyl cutters, 3-D printers and milling machines available to the community once the lab is opened next August. Tallahassee Democrat.

In the Legislature: School board elections would switch from nonpartisan to partisan under a resolution introduced Tuesday in the Legislature. HJR 31, filed by Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, would have to be approved by the Legislature and at least 60 percent of voters in the 2024 general election to become effective for the 2026 election cycle. “My motivation for this bill is voter transparency,” said Roach. “I simply believe that in every election, we should do everything we can to make sure the voters have as much information as possible about a candidate before they vote on them.” News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Teaching about holidays: For many teachers, the new state laws that have ill-defined warnings against indoctrination are making them hesitant to teach students about the holidays. Their fear is they might say something that triggers a complaint from a parent and cost them their job. But Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said those worries are unfounded, and most officials advise sticking to the long-standing doctrine of “teach, don’t preach.” Tampa Bay Times.

Around the nation: A U.S. Department of Education survey shows a decline in the number of schools participating in school meals programs from March 2022, when universal school meal waivers were still in place, to the fall. In March, about 94 percent of schools were in the program. That dropped to 88 percent in October. K-12 Dive. Chalkbeat. Data suggests that students’ performance gap between pre- and post-pandemic performance have been slowly shrinking. The findings are “evidence of resiliency on the part of students,” said Karyn Lewis, director of NWEA’s Center for School and Progress. The 74. Parents whose children have struggled during the pandemic and not recovered are wondering if special education classes are the answer. But screening for eligibility is backlogged, and some experts caution against placing struggling students into the special education system. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: Florida should curb its enthusiasm over the 4th-grade NAEP math results. After all, in the end it doesn’t matter what a student can do in 4th grade. What matters is what a student can do when she or he graduates from high school – or maybe later than that. No student should peak in 4th grade. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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BY NextSteps staff