DeSantis says students will have options if AP ends, school board bills approved, and more

DeSantis on AP options: If the state decides to end its relationship with the College Board, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday, Florida students will have alternatives to the Advanced Placement courses and SAT exam the organization offers. “I don’t think anyone should be concerned about our high school students not having opportunity for that,” said DeSantis. “They absolutely will. And it’s just a matter of what’s the best way to do it.” He called both International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International classes “more rigorous” than AP classes, and also pointed to dual-enrollment courses as options for students to earn college credit. Florida Politics. USA Today. Florida Phoenix. DeSantis also dismissed recent news stories about Duval removing a biography of Roberto Clemente as being manufactured “to try to create a narrative. … Come on. I mean, we know Roberto Clemente. I mean, seriously. That’s politics.” He also said, “I think the school unions are involved with this.” WPLG. WJAX.

In the Legislature: Members of the House Choice and Innovation subcommittee approved two bills Tuesday that would change local school board elections. H.B. 477 would limit school board members to eight years in office instead of the current 12. Also approved was H.J.R 31, which would ask voters if they want to switch from nonpartisan school board races to partisan contests starting in 2026. It’s a constitutional amendment that requires 60 percent approval from voters to take effect. Board elections have been nonpartisan for more than 20 years, but state Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, said, “This idea that school boards now are nonpartisan, and these races are nonpartisan … that’s an absolute legal fiction.” Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. Parents of students with special needs would be allowed to stay involved with their children’s individual education plan until that child turns 22 under new legislation, H.B. 19 and S.B. 636, filed in the Legislature. WFSU.

Around the state: Tuesday was “a day of service and love” to mark the fifth anniversary of the Parkland school shooting that claimed 17 lives, Orange County will no longer participate in the CDC survey of youth risk behavior, a U.S. District judge ruled Monday that the Brevard’s school board’s public speaking policy was applied in a way that was viewpoint-neutral and dismissed a claim calling it unconstitutional and discriminatory, Palm Beach Superintendent Michael Burke recommends a school rezoning plan, Pinellas County initiates a plan to improve middle schools, Bay’s school district is joining others around the country in suing social media companies for allegedly hindering students’ education, and Pensacola Christian College cancels a concert “upon learning that one of the artists openly maintained a lifestyle that contradicts Scripture.” Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Members of the community performed a variety of service projects Tuesday during “a day of service and love” to mark the fifth anniversary of the shooting that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. “It’s year 5, and it seems like a very (momentous) year for some reason, like a shift of sorts,” said English teacher Felicia Burgin, who hadn’t been on the school campus since the attack. “For a long time, we just felt like that was disrespectful or sad, or like somehow we weren’t remembering them by celebrating. But it feels like it’s come to a point where maybe we can celebrate them on Valentine’s Day.” Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. WFOR. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ. WJXT. Significant school security measures have been instituted since the Parkland shooting. Miami Herald. WTVT. The Broward Democratic Party has started a campaign to encourage people to buy books that have been banned from school libraries and donate them to tiny neighborhood book boxes so they’ll be available to students. Books most donated so far include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner, All Boys Aren’t Blue, This Book Is Gay and Beloved. Sun-Sentinel.

Orange: Under pressure from the state, district officials have decided to end their participation in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention youth risk behavior survey. The survey, which has been used in most states for the past 30 years, asks teens almost 100 questions about exercise, substance use, sexual activity, sexual orientation, health, mental health, suicidal thoughts and abuse. Florida officials announced last year that the state would no longer participate, and would instead create its own survey “specifically tailored to Florida’s unique needs.” Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Superintendent Michael Burke is recommending a school boundary map for Dr. Joaquin Garcia High School, which opens this fall, for school board members to consider at Wednesday’s meeting. Burke’s map will adopt a recommendation from the boundary advisory committee, with some changes: it would leave Lake Worth High School’s boundaries intact and keep a neighborhood near the airport from moving to John I. Leonard from Forest Hill High, while moving a Wellington neighborhood from Wellington High to Palm Beach Central. He’s also proposing to allow juniors and seniors to choose to stay at their current high school through graduation. Palm Beach Post.

Polk: A 15-year-old student was hit by a truck and critically injured Tuesday morning as she crossed a street in front of the Davenport School for the Arts. Deputies said the girl was walking in a marked crosswalk from a subdivision across the street to the school when she was hit at 6:45 a.m. The driver stopped and is cooperating with the investigation. Lakeland Ledger. Orlando Sentinel.

Pinellas: Students, parents and teachers called on the school board Tuesday to reconsider the district’s decision to remove Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye from school libraries. “I oversee what my children read. Not someone else,” said parent Nicole St. Leger. “When books are removed and banned, or have a change of status, that is the exact opposite of parental rights.” Superintendent Kevin Hendrick defended the removal. “We have a responsibility to follow the law,” he said. Board members said they will discuss the issue at their next workshop meeting. Tampa Bay Times. District officials are beginning to roll out a series of initiatives to improve middle schools, something Hendrick prioritized when he took the job. Among the changes: project-based science classes, greater participation encouraged during civics classes, more interactive physical education classes, an emphasis on more collaboration between classmates and more real-world assignments, and adding extracurricular activities such as robotics and intramurals. “We’ve got to try some different things,” said Pinellas Park Middle principal Jason Shedrick. “They’re trying to live on the cutting edge of what interests students.” Tampa Bay Times.

Lee: A South Fort Myers High School student was arrested Tuesday and accused of having a gun on campus. When confronted, the student tried to run from school resource officers but was quickly apprehended. No one was injured. WFTX. WBBH.

Brevard: A U.S. District judge ruled Monday that the school board’s public speaking policy was applied in a way that was viewpoint-neutral and dismissed a claim calling it unconstitutional and discriminatory. The policy was challenged by the conservative activist group Moms for Liberty, which contended it had a “chilling” effect on its members. An attorney from the Institute for Free speech representing the group said it would appeal the ruling. Florida Today.

Manatee: A new policy to review books and other school library materials has been approved by the school board. Parents, teachers, and members of the community can submit a form to challenge a book. It will go the principal and the executive director of curriculum, who will try to resolve the complaint informally. If they can’t, it then goes to a district committee made up of curriculum directors, district media specialists, up to four school employees and two parents of students, which will review the material and make a decision within 30 days. The book or materials will be quarantined while the committee reviews the complaint. WWSB.

Sarasota: Former school superintendent Brennan Asplen has been hired as a deputy superintendent for the St. Johns County School District, where he worked before taking the Sarasota job in 2020. Asplen was forced out as Sarasota superintendent in December. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

St. Lucie: School board members agreed Tuesday to spend $2.8 million for staff bonuses. Teachers will receive between $225 and $850, depending on their experience, and support staff and non-instructional teachers will receive between $150 and $300, depending on their hourly wage. TCPalm.

Leon: Superintendent Rocky Hanna, under investigation for the Florida Department of Education for allegedly infusing “personal views” into his work, picked up support this week from teachers and leaders of national, state and local teachers unions. Hanna said he believes he became a target of the state for a letter to sent to teachers at the start of the school year encouraging them to “continue to teach the standards just as you have always done and do not worry for one minute about naysayers, political and others, who are trying to mislead people and control what you can and cannot say in your classroom. If someone wants to come after you, they will have to go through us and our attorneys.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Bay: School board members agreed to join other U.S. school districts in suing social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Tik Tok and YouTube, alleging that they are hindering students’ education. Bay is the first district in Florida to join the suit. Board attorney Franklin Harrison said those companies must be held accountable for the impact they have on students’ learning and concentration. WJHG.

Martin: A janitor at Jensen Beach High School has been arrested and accused of possession of child pornography. Deputies said it does not appear that images of any district schoolchildren were in the possession of Jonathan Dibble, 32. WPTV. WPEC.

Indian River: Few of the books that have been challenged for content but remained on school library bookshelves have been checked out by students and staff, the district reported. In February, the Moms for Liberty group flagged 156 books for what it called inappropriate content, but 150 were cleared to remain in libraries. During the 2021-2022 school year, 60 students and 205 staff members checked out any of the 131 challenged books in the district high schools, and 31 students and 15 staff members checked out at least one of the 19 challenged books from middle schools, according to the report, which was requested by board chair Peggy Jones. “My main thing here was to let board members and the public know that probably 90 percent of these (books) have never been checked out,” she said. TCPalm.

Charlotte: The next school superintendent will be paid between $175,000 and $225,000 a year for three years, school board members decided Tuesday. Superintendent Steve Dionisio, who has held the position for eight years but is retiring at the end of this school year, is paid $194,850. The search for a new superintendent begins Friday, with interviews of finalists set for May 4 and 5. Board members want to have the new leader in place by mid-June. Charlotte Sun.

Colleges and universities: An audit has found that University of South Florida students were overcharged $8.56 million over the past three years through fees on “distance learning” courses added to the regular tuition. The fees were simply supposed to cover the costs of developing and delivering the classes. It’s unclear if USF intends to reimburse the students who were overcharged; officials are considering their options. Tampa Bay Times. A USF trustees committee decided Tuesday to formally ask the full board for $22 million for the design phase of the plan to build an on-campus stadium. Trustees meet March 7 to consider the request. Tampa Bay Times. Pensacola Christian College has canceled a concert by The King’s Singers, a British a capella vocal ensemble, because of “concerns related to the sexuality of members of our group,” according to a statement posted on the group’s website. PCC officials confirmed that, saying they canceled “upon learning that one of the artists openly maintained a lifestyle that contradicts Scripture.” Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Opinions on schools: As Broward and America honor the Parkland victims, people may ask what lessons have been applied. Sadly, it’s a mixed result. Sun-Sentinel. Florida politics has been a revolving door of elected officials who turn lobbyists, who become some kind of appointed official. The hiring of Richard Corcoran, Florida’s House speaker-turned-education commissioner-turned lobbying-firm-honcho — and now interim president of Sarasota’s New College of Florida — is more of the same. But then there was Corcoran’s jaw-dropping $699,000 salary to lead the tiny public liberal-arts college — which Gov. DeSantis has made sure is not so liberal anymore. Miami Herald.

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BY NextSteps staff