Superintendent’s exit, board member’s comments, makeup days, new schools, rezonings and more

Around the state: Brevard school board members are voting today on an agreement for Superintendent Mark Mullins to leave the district at the end of the month, new Collier school board member Jerry Rutherford’s comments about restoring corporal punishment and reducing rights for LGBTQ students is creating a stir nationally, Martin County schools are reversing an earlier decision to use two days of Christmas vacation to make up instructional time lost to storms, three rezoning maps that could mean school changes for up to 1,900 students are being considered by the Palm Beach school board, three new schools are being planned in St. Lucie County, 10 finalists have been chosen for the Escambia County School District’s teacher of the year award, and former state university system chancellor Marshall Criser is named president of a college in Georgia. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Two people have been arrested and are being charged with stealing dozens of Samsung electronic tablets from the school district’s south transportation center in Florida City. Forty-one tablets were taken, with an estimated value of more than $20,000. The tablets were being used to make sure students with special needs are delivered to their guardians. WTVJ.

Broward: If Rod Velez doesn’t apply to get his rights restored by Dec. 22, Gov. Ron DeSantis could appoint a replacement, according to a constitutional law professor. Velez was elected Nov. 8 to the District 1 school board seat, but wasn’t sworn in with his colleagues because he was convicted of a felony in 1995 and has not had his civil rights to vote, hold office or sit on a jury restored. He said he’s applied but hasn’t heard from the state. “If Velez does not qualify and is not able to take the oath by Dec. 22, Gov. DeSantis will have the constitutional power and duty to appoint someone,” said Robert Jarvis, who teaches constitutional law at Nova Southeastern University. Velez’s opponent, Marie Murray Martin, filed suit last week to have Velez’s victory invalidated and have her installed in the seat. But Jarvis said the only legal basis for Martin to take the seat is if DeSantis appoints her. WLRN.

Hillsborough: A janitor at Alonso High School was arrested last week and accused of shooting cats in his neighborhood with a pellet gun. Deputies said Osvaldo Aloma Garrido, 65, was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals with a weapon. District officials said Garrido could be fired. WFLA.

Palm Beach: Three proposed rezoning maps were released last week that would change school assignments next fall for about 1,900 students at up to eight high schools. Zones are being redrawn to alleviate overcrowding and fill Dr. Joaquin Garcia High School, which opens next fall in western Lake Worth. All three proposals would send some students from Palm Beach Central High, John I. Leonard High, Santaluces Community High and Park Vista Community High to García High. Students from other schools would then be sent to those four schools. The district’s advisory boundary committee meets Wednesday to review the maps, take public comment and possibly vote to recommend one of the maps to Superintendent Michael Burke and the school board for final approval. WPTV. About $200,000 worth of school supplies will be handed out this week to hundreds of students from 120 Title I schools. Red Apple Supplies, Publix and the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County’s free teacher resource store partnered to buy the supplies. “Without these supplies, a lot of our kids cannot reach their full potential,” said Dwayne Dennard, the principal of Pahokee middle and high schools. “There are some kids that we lost because we didn’t have these types of supplies.” WPTV.

Pinellas: A school district teacher has been arrested and accused of having sex with an underage student. Police said Conor Westrate, 31, met a 16-year-old girl at a hotel in St. Petersburg on Nov. 18. He told police the girl said she was 18. WFLA.

Brevard: Superintendent Mark Mullins’ last day in the school district will be Dec. 31 if a tentative separation agreement is approved by the school board at today’s meeting. The deal, announced Friday, would pay Mullins five months’ salary, or about $90,000, plus 800 unused sick and vacation hours and $10,000 for attorney’s fees. Two high-ranking district administrators also said Friday that they would be retiring next month. Deputy superintendent Beth Thedy, the school district’s chief human resources officer, and assistant superintendent of student services Christine Moore declined to say why they were retiring. “Both of them have had more than 30 years with the district, so they were eligible for retirement,” said district spokesman Russell Bruhn. “I can’t speak for them, obviously, but my understanding is that they just felt that now was the time.” WKMG. Florida Today. Spectrum News 13. Space Coast Daily.

Collier: New school board member Jerry Rutherford’s call to reinstitute corporal punishment and roll back rights for LGBTQ students has drawn national attention and a drive to have him removed from the board. A psychiatric nurse practitioner in New Jersey has urged followers to e-mail board members Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter and Superintendent Kamela Patton in an effort to have Rutherford removed. Lucarelli pointed out that Gov. DeSantis is the only person empowered to remove a school board member. “Those e-mails should really be going to the governor’s office, not the school board,” said Lucarelli. “I will say that we do have a policy against corporal punishment in Collier County Public Schools and I 100 percent support that.” Naples Daily News.

St. Lucie: Three new schools are being planned to handle growth, especially in the Tradition area of the southwest part of the county, and the expected surge in school enrollment that development will bring. First will be an $80-million-plus, 2,000-student high school. Ground will be broken in March and the opening is expected in August 2025. Next October, the district plans to begin building a new Fort Pierce Westwood High School on the existing school’s site, also at a cost of $80-million-plus, that’s expected to be completed by December 2025. The third will be a K-8 school, which is projected to cost $50 million and open in 2027. Chief operating officer Terence O’Leary said the district will use capital outlays, loans, sales-tax revenues and impact fees to build the schools. TCPalm. WPTV.

Escambia: Ten finalists have been chosen for the school district’s teacher of the year award. They are: Audrey Brown of Brentwood Elementary School, Nikki Gill of J.M. Tate High, Anna Harageones of A. K. Suter Elementary, Gary Horne of Booker T. Washington High, Melanie Johnson of Kingsfield Elementary, Angela McFarland of West Florida High, Christopher Norris of Ransom Middle, Linda Patti of Escambia Virtual Academy, Allison Roberts of Success Academy, and Sara Smith of Beulah Elementary. The list will be pared to five finalists Dec. 12, and a winner will be announced in late January. WEAR.

Okaloosa: A health technician at Destin Middle School has been arrested and charged with prescription drugs from at least five students. Deputies said Makayla Crandall, 27, swapped prescription medicine with over-the-counter drugs. She was charged with grand theft of a controlled substance, child neglect, and failure to maintain narcotics records. Crandall is a contracted technician assigned to the school by Aveanna Healthcare, but has been removed. WEAR. WJHG.

Martin: School officials have reversed their decision to turn two days of Christmas vacation into school days to make up for instructional time lost during hurricanes Ian and Nicole. That decision was widely criticized by employees and parents, and prompted Superintendent John Millay to announce that makeup time instead would be done in February, March and May. “After consulting with our bargaining units’ leaders and in collaboration with our school board, our school calendar will be revised to reflect instructional makeup days that do not interfere with the valued holiday plans many of our families and employees have made,” Millay said in a statement. TCPalm.

Citrus: The school district has announced its nominees for the teacher of the year and school-related employee of the year. Citrus County Chronicle.

Monroe: A newly elected school board member and two returning members were sworn in recently. Darren Horan won election to the District 1 seat in the August primary, as did District 5 incumbent Sue Woltanski. John Dick was unopposed for the District 4 seat. Board members then elected Andy Griffiths as board chair, and Woltanski as vice chair. In other business, the board discussed suggested rents for the planned affordable housing development at the district’s Trumbo Road property in Key West. Those rents, which would range from $1,300 to $2,300 a month, would hinge on the size of the units and the income of the renters. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: Marshall Criser, who recently resigned as chancellor of the state university system, has been named president of Piedmont University, a private university in Demorest and Athens, Ga. Now Habersham. The term of Florida Gulf Coast University president Mike Martin could be extended by the board of trustees this week. Martin had announced he would retire by the end of the year, but the search for a replacement has stalled. Thursday, trustees will decide whether to extend Martin’s tenure until June 30, or sooner if a new president is selected. News Service of Florida. Critics contend that recent failed searches for administrators at Florida universities can be blamed on controversial laws passed by the state Legislature. Inside Higher Ed. The University of Florida College of Medicine has reportedly removed at least three pages from its website after complaints from Do No Harm, a group opposed to identity politics in medical education, that the school was promoting “woke” indoctrination in admissions. One of the pages included a statement that “black lives matter.” Washington Free Beacon. Dave Williams, an emeritus dean and professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State University, has been appointed to the Florida Polytechnic University board of trustees. Lakeland Ledger.

Opinions on schools: We still need to know more about how families arrive at their school choice decisions, especially if policymakers hope to target choice programs to those who want them the most. Jeff Murray, Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

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BY NextSteps staff