DeSantis targets AP courses, Corcoran’s big payday, Parkland shooting 5 years later, rezoning and more

DeSantis answers College Board: After the College Board criticized the state’s rejection of an Advanced Placement African American studies course over its historical accuracy, Gov. Ron DeSantis responded Monday by saying he wants legislators to “re-evaluate” the state’s relationship with the organization. “This College Board, like, nobody elected them to anything,” DeSantis said. “(The College Board) provided these AP courses for a long time, but you know, there are probably some other vendors who may be able to do that job as good or even a lot better.” DeSantis said. Tens of thousands of Florida high school students take AP courses and SAT exams every year. News Service of Florida. Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Politics. Florida Phoenix. In the culture wars and battles over “woke ideology” in education at all levels, is there a middle to be found between positions staked out by conservatives and educators who worry those positions infringe on other freedoms? WUSF.

Parkland, five years later: It’s been five years since Nikolas Cruz gunned down 17 students and employees at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, but “it still feels like five minutes ago,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was among the victims. Parents, families and survivors all say the trauma from the tragedy affects them every single day. They call it the “silent toll.” Sun-SentinelNews Service of FloridaWLRN. Families of the victims are remembering their loved ones by creating and expanding charities and foundations in their names. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. The shooting at their high school turned many students into activists who marched around the world, called for gun-control legislation and landed on the cover of Time magazine. Today, most avoid the spotlight and are trying to find new ways to bring about change. Sun-Sentinel.

Around the state: New College interim president Richard Corcoran will be paid a base salary of $699,000 a year, which is more than double his predecessor’s, a majority of the Hillsborough school board express doubts about Superintendent Addison Davis’ new school rezoning plan, a recently appointed New College trustee is critical of the University of South Florida’s diversity programs, Earlean Smiley agrees to a $300,000 salary to be the interim superintendent of the Broward school district, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. says photos of empty libraries from Duval schools are part of an overblown narrative about the effects of state laws, and the Orange and Seminole school districts name their teachers of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Earlean Smiley has agreed to a $300,000 annual salary as interim superintendent for a year or until the school board finds a permanent replacement for Vickie Cartwright. Board members hope to make that hire by July 1. Smiley’s contract is expected to be approved by the board at its meeting Wednesday, and she will begin the job immediately. Sun-Sentinel. WTVJ. School board members also decided Monday to cut ties with longtime cap-and-gown vendor Herff Jones after allegations that the company overcharged parents, destroyed records and failed to cooperate with auditors. A Minneapolis company, Jostens, will now supply the graduation gear. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough: A majority of school board members said Monday that they either oppose Superintendent Addison Davis’ newly unveiled school rezoning plan or have too many concerns to support it now. Henry Washington and Karen Perez don’t support the plan because they say it has a disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic students. Jessica Vaughn and Patti Rendon questioned the data, methodology and scope of the project and said, “We’re just not there yet.” It’s unclear if another workshop meeting will be held or Davis will meet individually with board members to address their concerns. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP.

Orange: Francisco Cardoza, a 5th-grade teacher at Village Park Elementary School in Orlando, has been chosen as the school district’s teacher of the year. The other finalists were Jessica Sarduy of the Blankner School, Joy Cahow of Endeavor Elementary, Kerry Hastings of Tangelo Park Elementary, and Melissa Williams of Washington Shores Elementary. Also honored were principal of the year Robert Strenth of Prairie Lake Elementary in Orlando; assistant principal John Miller of Meadowbrook Elementary in Pine Hills, who has since been promoted to principal; and support person of the year Alex Rodriguez, a bilingual paraprofessional at Vista Pointe Elementary in Orlando. Orlando Sentinel. Orange Observer. Orange County School District.

Duval: Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. says photos of empty libraries from Duval schools are part of an overblown narrative about the effects of state laws. “It’s clear that props have been used on occasion and for a political agenda,” he said. “I think some of this with the empty bookshelves and all that is staged.” He also said that some people are confusing long-standing laws against the use of pornography and new ones dealing with the teaching of race, sexual orientation and gender identity. “To conflate the two statutes and scare teachers that they’re going to be charged with a third-degree felony is preposterous,” he said. Diaz acknowledged there has been confusion over some districts’ rules, but said books should be pulled from libraries pending a review only if their content is obviously explicit or controversial. “Let’s use common sense,” he said. WJAX.

Lee: Enrollment began Monday and continues through March 10 under the new proximity-based student assignment plan. Students will be given the choice of four schools close to their homes. If they choose to stay at the school they’re in, they’ll have to provide their own transportation. “This is not a driver shortage issue but rather an increase in the number of students and the number of schools.” said Superintendent Christopher Bernier. “We’re only going to get bigger.” Fort Myers News-Press. WINK.

Seminole: Janan Hodges, a 3rd-grade teacher at Spring Lake Elementary School in Ocoee, has been selected as the school district’s teacher of the year. The other finalists were Joshua Autrey, a band and music teacher at Milwee Middle, and Matthew Thompson, a family and consumer science teacher at Hagerty High. Orlando Sentinel. Seminole County School District.

Hernando: District officials have deployed a new security software system that uses artificial intelligence to identify weapons that are picked up by school security cameras and send alerts to law enforcement. A demonstration of the Zeroeyes technology was held recently at the Challenger K-8 School of Mathematics and Technology. Hernando Sun.

Putnam: Officials have had success filling teacher openings through the district’s Para to Pros program. It pay some costs to help interested paraprofessionals with an associate degree complete a two-year program to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Leo University. WUFT.

Colleges and universities: As interim president of New College, Richard Corcoran will be paid almost $400,000 more a year than the woman he’s replacing. On Monday, college trustees approved a contract paying Corcoran $699,000 a year, in addition to $84,000 a year for housing, $12,000 a year for transportation and an annual retirement supplement of $104,850. Patricia Okker, who was fired as president last month when a conservative majority took control of the board of trustees, earned a base pay of $305,000. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. Associated Press. The latest university to draw the wrath of New College trustee and Gov. DeSantis ally Christopher Rufo is the University of South Florida. He recently wrote that USF’s program on diversity, equity and inclusion “resemble practices of cult initiation.” He also accuses the school’s “diversity bureaucracy” of implementing “an administrative policy of racial preferences and discrimination.” Axios.

Around the nation: Catholic schools are under pressure to cut ties with the nonprofit NWEA after the conservative Lepano Institute accused the group of producing LGBTQ-affirming material. Lepano suggests that Catholic schools using NWEA materials are supporting an ideology that is contrary to church doctrine. NWEA said it doesn’t have any LGBTQ-related material among its testing and reporting programs. Politico.

Opinions on schools: About 5 percent (and counting!) of American students will have access to universal or nearly universal private school choice next fall. The percentage could go substantially higher by the time the smoke of the 2023 legislative sessions clears. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. Florida legislators should just make the General Knowledge exam for teacher certification go away. Forever. And maybe the Legislature is about to do just that. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. The Parkland killer’s trial is over, but our personal trials continue. Howard Dvorkin, Sun-Sentinel. Public institutions differ profoundly from private ones. Private colleges and universities are free to adopt narrow ethical and intellectual standards. Public institutions, in contrast, must be pluralistic in design and in practice. Any governmental policies that ignore this fundamental requirement must be rejected. John Kroger, Inside Higher Ed. Florida is proclaiming its mistrust of higher education loudly and often, and it is backing up those words with actions that compromise institutional independence. Barrett J. Taylor, Inside Higher Ed. Directly and systematically empowering parents and the school level employees in daily contact with students in a friendly competition will accomplish more for them than any of the usual programs to improve K-12 education. Jay Stannard, Tallahassee Democrat. Parents should be given wide latitude on how to spend their education savings accounts, and teachers should have their own accounts as well. Mike Goldstein, Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

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BY NextSteps staff