Superintendent shuffle, guardians, parents’ rights law, OD treatment, book challenges and more

Around the state: School superintendents in Broward and Sarasota counties will find out today if they still have a job, half the nation’s largest school districts including five in Florida have changed superintendents since the beginning of the pandemic, Lee County school board members said they will consider a proposal to join the state’s guardian program to protect schools, Republican attorneys general from 14 states want to file a brief supporting Florida’s bill governing discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, a bill filed for the legislative session would require Florida colleges and universities to have an emergency supply of opioid overdose treatment in residence halls and dorms, Florida is ranked first in the nation for parental involvement in schools, three finalists are chosen for the Sarasota schools teacher of the year award, and one Clay County man says he has a list of 3,600 school books he may challenge for “concerning content.” Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: School board members vote today whether to rescind the previous board’s decision to fire Superintendent Vickie Cartwright or to let the termination stand and begin negotiations with former district administrator Earlean Smiley to become the interim leader. “Direct appointing Dr. Smiley allows us to put an end to the chaos and uncertainty that has characterized much of 2022 and start the new year ready to work together to make Broward County Public Schools the A-rated district our children deserve,” said board chair Lori Alhadeff. Newly elected board member Jeff Holness supports keeping Cartwright, saying, “I am proposing that we be that breath of fresh air to our community and staff by not adding the turmoil a new superintendent search will bring to this district.” Sun-Sentinel. A south Florida Muslim organization has asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to investigate the actions last week of a Pembroke Pines charter school teacher who interrupted the praying of two Muslim students and admonished them in a derogatory manner. The teacher was fired, said officials of the Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, but the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations wants a civil rights violation inquiry into the incident, and is asking the school to let its representatives educate its staff on the Islamic religion and on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right of freedom of religion. Miami Herald.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: There’s a child-care crisis in the Tampa Bay area that some say will have a long-lasting effect on education and the economy. About half of children in the area are not prepared for school when they enter kindergarten, in part because of the high cost of child care and a shortage of workers in that industry due to poor pay. “Wages are on par with grocery stores and fast food,” said Lindsay Carson, chief executive officer of the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County. “There’s certainly a labor of love, but without additional wages, it’s really hard to keep (employees).” The business community feels the ripple effect of that dynamic, said Bemetra Simmons, chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Partnership. Tampa Bay Times. A bilingual hotline for families was launched Monday by Hillsborough school officials. An estimated 44,000 families in the county are Hispanic. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. WFTS.

Polk: While a majority of state school districts did not meet the goal of a 95 percent vaccination rate for kindergartners and 7th-graders during the 2021-2022 school year, Polk’s rate of 95.8 percent hit the goal and surpassed the state average of 91.7 percent, according to data from the Florida Department of Health. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: School board members agreed to give consideration to joining the state’s Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program that could allow school employees to carry weapons in schools. The program is named after a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School coach who died in the 2018 shooting. To be eligible to become a guardian, a person would have to pass psychological and drug screenings and complete at least 144 hours of training. Forty-six of the state’s 67 districts participate in the program. North Fort Myers Neighbor.

Sarasota: School board members will decide today whether whether to accept a negotiated separation agreement with Superintendent Brennan Asplen. If they approve the settlement, Asplen will walk away with a severance package of about $170,000 and the board is expected to appoint an acting or interim superintendent. WTSP. WFLA. Three finalists for the school district’s teacher of the year award were revealed Monday. They are: Timothy Ferguson, a music teacher at Garden Elementary School and director of education for the Venice Symphony; Joseph Conner, a special education math teacher at Venice Middle; and Courtney Smith, a dance instructor and artistic director of the dance program at Booker High. The winner will be announced Jan. 18. Charlotte Sun. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Clay: At least 102 books have been removed from school classrooms and libraries so far this year, most at the request of one man: Bruce Friedman. He says this is just the beginning, and that he has targeted about 3,600 books that he said have “concerning content.” Under district policy, challenged books must be removed until they are evaluated by a district curriculum council. Friedman’s crusade is just one of many in Florida and the rest of the country. Raw Story.

Taylor: A student at Taylor County Middle School in Perry was arrested Monday and accused of threatening to shoot some classmates. According to deputies, the 14-year-old had compiled a list of students to harm. No one was injured. WCTV. WTXL.

In the Legislature: Florida colleges and universities would be required to have an emergency supply of opioid overdose treatment in residence halls and dorms under a House bill filed for the 2023 legislative session that begins March 6. H.B. 39, which was filed by Rep. Jervonte Edwards, D-West Palm Beach, would also require schools to train at least one resident assistant or employee for each residence hall to administer the treatment. The Capitolist.

GOP AGs back Florida law: Republican attorneys general from 14 states are asking a court to allow them to file a brief in support of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, which is the target of a lawsuit. The law bans instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3, and among older students unless the instruction is “age or developmentally appropriate.” In their brief, AGs from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia write, “Parents have a strong interest, and thus the state has a strong duty, in preventing children from being exposed to sexual instruction that is not age-appropriate. The law does not violate anyone’s right to expression or receive information, does not discriminate and is not unconstitutionally vague.” News Service of Florida. Forbes.

State tops in parental involvement: Florida is rated tops in the nation for parental involvement in education, according to rankings compiled by the Center for Education Reform. States were ranked on school choice programs, charter schools and innovation. Florida scored 94.6 percent overall, with 98 percent for choice, and 92 percent for charter schools and for innovation. The Capitolist. Governor’s Office.

Around the nation: About half of the nation’s largest 500 school districts, including the five largest in Florida, have changed superintendents since the pandemic began, according to a report released Monday by the ILO Group, a consulting firm that focuses on female school leaders. Of the 94 female superintendents who left their jobs, two-thirds were replaced by men. Florida districts that have changed leaders since the pandemic began include Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange and Palm Beach counties. The 74. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: The path to religious charter schools goes through years of litigation which, even if successful, will find itself (all too easily) thwarted by two powerful coalitions: one that wants no charter schools at all, and another that wants to limit the competition. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Florida Republicans feigned indignation when critics of the Parental Rights in Education law said it would force schools to “out” LGBTQ students to their parents and dismantle policies that protect transgender kids. Now it’s become clear that the state intends to use the law to deny gay and, especially, trans children the right to exist in peace. Miami Herald. Today’s meeting of the Broward County School Board could give clarity on the future of the district superintendent, or muddy the waters even further. Sun-Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff