Superintendent’s job, flag proposal, social media safety, loan forgiveness, top educators and more

Around the state: Broward school board members will consider a proposal Dec. 13 to rescind the firing of Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, Miami-Dade’s school board will discuss a policy to specify which flags may fly in classrooms and schools, Pinellas school board members are considering whether to resume live-streaming the public comments portion of board meetings, Brevard school officials meet with parents to discuss escalating student behavior problems, Putnam County’s Rick Surrency is named superintendent of the year, Flagler schools announce winners of the principal and assistant principal of the year awards, Florida Virtual School announces its top educators, a bill has been filed for the 2023 Florida legislative session that would require teaching students about social media safety, and the U.S. Supreme Court will decide early next year if President Biden’s proposed student loan forgiveness program is legal. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board members will consider a proposal at a meeting Dec. 14 that will specify which flags may be flown in classrooms and schools, and which ones may not. Permitted will be the American flag and flags based on curriculum, such as those tied to Hispanic History Month and Black History Month. Not allowed will be flags of a political issue, party, candidate or anything that is not a classroom subject, said board member Roberto Alonso. WPLG.

Broward: At its next meeting Dec. 13, the school board will reportedly consider whether the firing of Superintendent Vickie Cartwright should be rescinded. Cartwright was fired Nov. 14 on a 5-4 vote, with the majority cast by board members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Four of those board members have been replaced by newly elected members. All four board members who supported Cartwright remain on the board, though none has publicly advocated for Cartwright’s reinstatement. One of the former board members who left office Nov. 22, Daniel Foganholi, said, “In this situation, it looks like something is becoming very political. What we did wasn’t political at all, we did what was right. The pressure is not on my back, it’s on them. I just hope they listen to the community.” Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough: A former public and private school teacher has been sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to distribution of child porn, possession of child porn and distribution of a video of animals being sexually abused. Kenneth Griffin had his state educator license revoked in 2011 after he was accused of sending sexual messages to a student. But he went on to get six more jobs in education, including two teaching. His latest job was teaching at Academy Prep Center of Tampa, though he was fired in January after the school learned he was the subject of a federal investigation. WTSP.

Orange: An Orlando school teacher was recently shocked when she received a bill of $955,000.02 to pay off Perkins loans that were past due. The woman, identified only as Michelle, thought she had paid off her student loans 20 years ago and that her Perkins loans had been forgiven because she had satisfied the teaching service requirements to get it. The bill eventually was determined to be in error and was reduced to $408, which Michelle paid. WKMG. CBS News.

Duval: District officials have canceled a long-standing contract for $45,000 with the LGBTQ nonprofit JASMYN after recent publicity about the organization’s use of cartoons of 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 in an email sent this week to school principals. “We must protect the continued good work of our schools and GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) clubs and the work they do each day to ensure our schools remain safe spaces for all students.” WJXT. Florida Times-Union. WJAX. A dean of students at Ribault High School in Jacksonville was arrested this week and accused of child abuse. Police said Kevin Lorenzo Greene Jr. had confronted a student about skipping class. The incident escalated and Greene allegedly took the student to the ground. WJXT. WTLV.

Polk: Newly elected school board member Rick Nolte has missed the deadline to file a final campaign report required by state law. Those reports are due Nov. 21, and any candidate who fails to file one is subject to a fine of $50 a day for the first three days and $500 a day after that. Supervisor of elections Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said anyone who hasn’t filed a termination report by Dec. 12 will be referred to the Florida Elections Commission. Lakeland Ledger. The K-8 Rosabelle W. Blake Academy in Lakeland will become home to a Cambridge program next fall, district officials announced this week. Lakeland Now. Lakeland Christian School athletic trainer Jordan Allen has become a TikTok sensation with 90,000 followers watching his often humorous videos about his work. “I just want athletes to understand and feel safe on and off the field,” said Allen. “No matter what they’re going through or what time of day, I’m here for them.” WTVT.

Pinellas: School board members are considering reversing a decision to turn off the live-streaming cameras during the public comment period at board meetings. The policy was enacted because board members feared speakers might inadvertently reveal personal information about children, but new board members Stephanie Meyer and Dawn Peters are pushing to reconsider. “The public’s right to address their elected officials and share their grievances is a fundamental principle of our democratic republic,” Meyer said. “If we’re going to live-stream government meetings, public comments should also be included in the live-stream.” Tampa Bay Times. Two teachers at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg recently found Ice Age fossils in waters off Pinellas County. Rick Cochrane and Henry Sadler discovered the jaw of a mastodon, two teeth and a tusk that are estimated to be about 10,000 years old. WFLA. WTVT. WFTS.

Pasco: District officials have reversed an elementary school’s decision to not allow a mother’s request to give a Hanukkah presentation to her son’s 5th-grade class. Rationale for the original decision was tied to the state’s Parental Rights in Education law. Now, a district spokesman says Rachel Long has been approved to make the presentation at Longleaf Elementary School once she meets with school officials to set up guidelines. “The Parents Bill of Rights is new, and even though it does not affect a lot of things, it affects some things, and everybody wants to make sure they’re doing the right thing,” said spokesman Stephen Hegarty. “They’re trying to be careful.” Florida Politics. WFTS.

Brevard: School officials met with parents Thursday to discuss the escalation of student disciplinary issues and share strategies that can be used at home to improve students’ behavior. The meeting came a few days after school board chair Matt Susin and Sheriff Wayne Ivey announced that a crackdown on discipline in schools would be coming soon. Details of their proposal are expected to be revealed at a special school board meeting Dec. 8. WKMG.

Seminole: A school bus driver was arrested Thursday and accused of child abuse for an incident that happened on a Lake Howell High School bus earlier this week. Deputies said James Blanton, 73, put a special needs student in a wrist and elbow lock and was charged with child abuse without great bodily harm. Blanton was placed on administrative leave, as was bus monitor Lisa Florio, who witnessed but did not report the incident. Orlando Sentinel. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: While each of the three Treasure Coast school districts lost four instructional days to Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, only one will change its academic schedule to make up any days. Martin schools will be in session Dec. 19 and 20, but St. Lucie and Indian River officials said they still meet the state’s required instructional time without making up days. TCPalm. A 17-year-old Vero Beach High School student was arrested Wednesday and accused of having a loaded gun in his school locker and threatening a classmate with it. He was charged with possession of a weapon on school property, carrying a concealed firearm, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief. TCPalm. WPEC.

Flagler: Marcus Sanfilippo and Donelle Evensen, both of Bunnell Elementary School, have been named the district principal and assistant principal of the year, respectively. Both are now eligible for the statewide awards given by the Florida Department of Education. Daytona Beach News-Journal. The number of book challenges in the school district has skyrocketed in the past two years, and so has the amount of school employee time devoted to reviews and meetings with the public. Meanwhile, school districts are dealing with challenges without clear direction from the state, which is expected to issue guidelines on age-appropriatedness on materials dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation issues next month. Flagler Live.

Putnam: School Superintendent Rick Surrency has been named state superintendent of the year by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. Surrency was elected superintendent in 2016, and between 2015 and 2021 the district posted the largest gain in the state in the percentage of students graduating, going from 54.9 percent to 92.5 percent. Palatka Daily News. Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

Colleges and universities: Florida State University has received a record 80,000 applications for 6,000 spots, president Richard McCullough said in his state of the university speech this week. He also said FSU continues to struggle to attrack black applicants. News Service of Florida. The incoming University of Florida president, U.S. Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, was one of three U.S. senators who abstained from voting this week on a bill that offers federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. A spokesperson said Sasse missed the vote because his wife had a medical incident the previous weekend. Tampa Bay Times. Jacksonville University announced it will start a four-year medical school program in the fall of 2026. JU will partner with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and has clinical agreement contracts with such regional health-care providers as Baptist Health, Flagler Health+ and AdventHealth. WJCT. Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth Beach campus is closed today after a water main broke Thursday. Classes will be conducted remotely. Sun-Sentinel. WPTV.

In the Legislature: Social media safety would be taught in Florida’s public schools if a bill proposed by state Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, passes the 60-day ;legislative session that begins March 6. “For better or worse, social media is a part of our society,” said Burgess on Twitter. “Knowledge is power, but due to the rapidly changing nature of social media and the continuous development of new apps targeting children, it is hard for parents to feel confident that they can keep their kids safe online.” Students would learn how to navigate and safely use the most popular social media platforms, and that information would also be available online. Florida Politics. The Capitolist. A bill restricting protests at the Florida Capitol also has been proposed for the legislative session. The state Department of Management Service’s proposal aims to prohibit actions or displays at the Capitol that are “harmful” to children. “Because the Capitol Complex is often a destination for children learning about their state government, visual displays, sounds, and other actions that are harmful to minors” as defined in state law, “or which include gratuitous violence, or gore, are not permitted in any portion of the Capitol Complex that is not a traditional public forum,” the proposed rule states. Critics call the proposal an attempt to stifle dissent. News Service of Florida.

FLVS teacher of year: Melissa Kelly, an instructional strategies coach, has been named the Florida Virtual School teacher of the year. Others honored were principal of the year Daniele Shick, assistant principal Ryan Foster, and support employee Breanne Guzman. Florida Virtual School.

Around the nation: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program is legal. Up to $20,000 in student loan debt could be forgiven for millions of students under the program, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated will cost the government about $400 billion over the next three decades. Justices will hear arguments in February or March. Associated Press. NPR. Almost 70 percent of U.S. K-12 school principals surveyed said they had “substantial political conflic(s)” with parents or community residents last year over politically controversial topics, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at UCLA and the Civic Engagement Research Group at UC Riverside. NPR.

Opinions on schools: Microschooling may have started on the margins more than a decade ago, but it has now entered the mainstream as an increasingly sought-after educational option. Kerry McDonald, The Epoch Times. The four Sarasota County School Board members responsible for this outrageous coup shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that getting rid of Superintendent Brennan Asplen will also remove the troubling questions surrounding their roles in the secretive manner of the superintendent’s exit. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Florida Gov. DeSantis claims politics have no place in the classroom, but the ousting of a popular and well-respected school superintendent in Sarasota County proves politics is thriving in school boards. Michael Daly, Daily Beast.

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BY NextSteps staff