State school vaccination rates sag, superintendent separations, rezoning meeting delayed, and more

School immunizations drop: Immunizations of Florida kindergartners and 7th-grade students hit a 10-year low during the 2021-2022 school year, according to a report from the state Department of Health. Only 91.7 percent of public and private school kindergarten students were fully vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza B, hepatitis B and polio for school last year, the lowest rate since the 91.3 percent reported in the 2010-2011 school year. Among 7th-graders the rate was 94.3 percent, also the lowest since 93.4 percent completed all the required doses in the 2010-2011 school year. Just 18 of the state’s 67 districts reached the immunization goal of 95 percent or higher for kindergartners, though 49 of the 67 districts reached the goal for 7th-graders. Duval, Escambia, Gadsden, Indian River, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Putnam and Sarasota counties were the only districts under 90 percent among kindergarten students. News Service of Florida. Pensacola News Journal. Flagler Live.

Around the state: Brevard’s school board approves a separation agreement with Superintendent Mark Mullins under which he will resign Dec. 31, Sarasota school board members expect to reach a similar agreement with Superintendent Brennan Asplen and vote on it next week, a new state law regulating lobbying could force a Miami-Dade County School Board member to resign and give Gov. Ron DeSantis another appointment, community meetings about a school rezoning plan in Hillsborough have been delayed until next month, some Duval teachers and educators are lobbying the school district to reverse a decision to cancel a contract with an LGBTQ advocacy group, and Flagler school officials are disavowing a sign posted by a high school teacher threatening to close a school bathroom because of vandalism. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A new state law that goes into effect at the end of the month could force a school board member to resign and give Gov. DeSantis another opening to fill. A constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018 restricts public officials from lobbying during their term in office and extends the period of time that certain elected officials can’t lobby after leaving office from two to six years. It applies to school superintendents, school board members and other elected government officials. As a lobbyist for the South Broward Hospital District, school board vice chair Lubby Navarro may be required to resign. She has not responded to questions about her intentions. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough: Community meetings about the school district’s plans to redraw school boundary lines have been put off. The meetings were supposed to start this week, but will now be held in January. “Plans change,” district spokeswoman Tanya Arja said Monday. “We want to ensure we allow parents and all stakeholders time to fully review the boundary scenarios prior to holding public meetings.” School board chair Nadia Combs said she wants the plans, being developed for the board with the help of a consultant, to be refined before being released. “I think that we’ve taken our time to get it right,” she said. “We only have one shot to release these maps.” Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: School board members Frank Barbieri and Karen Brill have been re-elected by their colleagues as board chair and vice chair, respectively. New member Edwin Ferguson also was sworn in during the meeting, and said he wants the district to redirect more resources to schools with the poorest students. WLRN.

Duval: A group of parents, teachers and school employees is urging the district to reconsider its decision to sever its contract with JASMYN, a local LGBTQ advocacy group that supports Gay-Straight Alliance clubs at schools. District officials announced last week that they were ending the $45,000 contract over JASMYN’s use of cartoon penises in an online card-matching game. “The district simply cannot partner with the organization given their use of program materials that the district believes to be inappropriate for use with children,” Superintendent Diana Greene said at the time. “JASMYN has been the only source of meaningful support for GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club[s] across the district, and this decision will cause great harm to these clubs,” the Duval Coalition of Rank (and File) Educators said Monday. “The superintendent made this decision without consulting a single student, teacher, or staff member. And we are demanding she reverse this decision, immediately.” WJXT.

Lee: At a town hall meeting Monday, parents, teachers and school staff pushed district officials to commit to rebuilding Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ian when it made landfall Sept. 28 near Cape Coral. The school has been boarded up since shortly after the storm hit, and school officials said they are still considering their options. A school board meeting will be held next week to discuss the district’s plans. WFTX. A 19-year-old Cape Coral High School student was arrested last week and accused of threatening to commit a mass shooting at the school. Police said the girl wrote the threat on a bathroom wall that said, “I have a gun in my bookbag, and I am going to kill all of you! You better run!” WINK. WFTX. WBBH.

Pasco: A student at Cypress Creek High School was arrested Monday and accused of having a weapon on campus. Deputies said they found a knife after investigating a report of a student acting suspiciously. WFLA.

Brevard: School board members approved a separation agreement with Superintendent Mark Mullins on Monday that calls for his departure Dec. 31. Mullins will receive 20 weeks’ pay and benefits for his resignation, which is what he would have been entitled to if the board fired him without cause. Mullins, who has worked in the district since 1994 and has been superintendent since 2018, said he held no grudges over being forced out. “Life presents us the ending of chapters, some that we anticipate and some that we don’t … New chapters bring new opportunities, new adventures and that’s how I view this. … I will forever cherish my time as an educator with Brevard Public Schools.” Florida Today. WFTV. Civil rights and community leaders who have been critical of a recently announced “crackdown” on student misbehavior could be included in the discussions about any disciplinary changes, says school board chair Matt Susin. One of those leaders, Samantha Nazario of the Hispanic community, said whatever code of conduct discussed has to be color-blind. Spectrum News 13.

Manatee: Nick Bollettieri, a renowned coach who created a tennis academy in Bradenton in 1978 that would later become the IMG Academies boarding school and sports training center, has died at the age of 91. Bradenton Herald. Associated Press. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sarasota: Terms of a separation agreement between Superintendent Brennan Asplen and the school board are expected to be finalized soon and voted on at the next board meeting Dec. 13. Negotiations for Asplen’s departure began Nov. 29 after the school board voted 4-1 in favor of meeting to discuss firing Asplen. Board members subsequently backed off that position, in favor of a negotiated resignation. Asplen, who was hired in the summer of 2020, has said he’s “accepted” that he will be leaving the district. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Martin: Alice Luckhardt, a former teacher, Stuart historian and author who was considered by many a “walking encyclopedia of Martin County history,” died Sunday of cancer-related complications at the age of 72. TCPalm.

Flagler: Matanzas High School officials are disavowing a sign posted Monday by a teacher that said, “If we don’t start treating our restrooms with respect, they will be closed until further notice.” School officials said the note was posted by a teacher frustrated by vandalism in school bathrooms, but is not a school or district policy. “We do not withhold and/or prevent students from going to the bathroom,” said school board attorney Kristy Gavin. “However, we also have to be in compliance with sanitary requirements, so if a bathroom has been destroyed, it may need to be closed for repairs.” Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: About 40 state college and university presidents will meet in Tallahassee on Wednesday to discuss system-wide goals and share best practices, according to a Florida Department of Education’s spokesperson. The first-of-its-kind, closed-door meeting was requested by Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. and Ray Rodrigues, the chancellor of the state university system. “The chancellor and commissioner really want to address things to the presidents directly, so this will be a wonderful opportunity to get together and talk,” said Tallahassee Community College president Jim Murdaugh, who is hosting the meeting. Tallahassee Democrat.

In the Legislature: Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, appointed leaders of major committees on Monday. Among them are newly elected state Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, as chair of the Committee on Pre-K-12 Education, and Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, as chair of the Committee on Postsecondary Education. The 60-day legislative session begins March 6. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, has announced committee chair assignments. Among them were Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe, as chair of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee; and Rep. Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City, as chair of the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: U.S. Department of Education officials have decided to scrap a planned advisory council to include parents in decisions about pandemic recovery efforts. The council was announced in June, but conservative parent group filed suit in July, contending the councils were stacked with members from liberal-leaning organizations. Monday’s announcement prompted those groups to drop their lawsuit. The 74.

Opinions on schools: Charter schools represent a large advancement over regulatorily captured school districts attempting to engage in central planning to suit their dominant interests. In charter schooling, however, the state is still a master. Those hoping to serve God should choose wisely when it comes to religious charter schools: permissible and desirable are not one in the same. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Broward School Board members of the recent past and present emphasize the need for stability. That’s a laudable goal, and it could be closer to reality if members make smart decisions this week and next. Sun-Sentinel. Election results don’t always mean what people think they mean. I’m guessing Martin County School Board member Christia Li Roberts has a better understanding of that following a pair of ill-fated posts she made on a Facebook page on Thanksgiving week. Blake Fontenay, TCPalm. Sarasota school Superintendent Brennan Asplen will assuredly find his way to another district that will better appreciate and benefit from his vision, commitment and professionalism. Meanwhile, our district finds itself back where it was before he arrived: without an aspirational leader or a strategic plan; with teachers and staff members who are dispirited and disillusioned; with community members angered, frustrated and discouraged; and with public education under increasing threat and attack. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff