New board fires New College president and appoints Corcoran, higher ed proposals and more

Corcoran in at New College: Former Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran is taking over as interim president of New College in Sarasota in March after trustees fired Patricia Okker on Tuesday. It was the first meeting since seven conservatives were appointed to the 13-member board with the stated intent to “restructure the administration” and turn New College into the South’s version of Hillsdale College, a private conservative religious school in Michigan that is closely connected with Republican politicians. “Here’s the thing, it (New College) is by statute supposed to be the premier honors college in Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at the meeting. “That’s the mission. It clearly has not met that mission, because our premier students are going to UF (the University of Florida) or some of our other schools. So, I think this is going to really reorient it in a very positive way.” Many students and parents protested the decision to fire Okker and likened the move to a hostile takeover of the notably liberal-leaning school where students create personalized education plans and don’t receive letter grades. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando SentinelFlorida Politics. Corcoran is a former speaker of the Florida House and a close political ally of DeSantis who stepped down as education commissioner last May. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Remake for higher ed: Gov. DeSantis also rolled out several proposals on Tuesday to remake higher education and eliminate what he calls indoctrination, including an end to funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs, giving presidents and trustees the power to review tenured faculty members “at any time” in addition to the periodic reviews that already take place, setting new core course requirements, and establishing civics institutes at three universities. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. USA Today Florida Network. Politico Florida. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Phoenix.

Around the state: Moms for Liberty is demanding that the Broward school district remove several books from its school libraries, two Brevard school board members accuse board chair Matt Susin of making “unilateral decisions” without their knowledge or approval, Bay County Superintendent Bill Husfelt announces he is retiring a year earlier than expected, teachers of the year are named in the Miami-Dade and Palm Beach school districts, and the principal of a high school in Osceola County is arrested and accused of keying a car in a Publix parking lot. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Don Clerveaux, a science and social studies teacher at Phyllis Ruth Miller Elementary, was named the school district’s teacher of the year on Tuesday and is now eligible for the statewide award. The other finalists were Khristal Gooding, who teaches history at Robert Morgan Educational Center; Vanessa Radice, a special education teacher at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High; and Monique Clayton, who teaches leadership development at COPE Center North, a school for pregnant students and young mothers. Also honored was Franquiana Williams of Frederick Douglass Elementary, who was named rookie teacher of the year. Miami Herald. WTVJ. The state’s decision to cancel an Advanced Placement African American studies class was called “shocking” by the two-dozen district students who were taking the course but now can’t finish the second half. “We don’t get a lot of chances to look into how African history plays into this country (and) we talked about serious topics that are hard to talk about,” said Cyara Pestaina, a senior at the Robert Morgan Educational Center. “It was shocking to hear we’d stop midway through the year and be degraded to a class we didn’t choose.” Miami Herald. WTVJ. WCTV.

Broward: The conservative activist group Moms for Liberty is demanding that the school district remove several books from school media centers because they claim they have graphic, explicit rape scenes that are inappropriate for high school students. Among them are The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, and The Bluest Eye by Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison. WTVJ. Five finalists have been selected for the school district’s teacher of the year award. They are: Otto Rodriguez, a science teacher at South Broward High School; Haley Shurack, who teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing pre-schoolers at Tropical Elementary; LaShaundra Williams, a history teacher at Hallandale Magnet High; Danielle Bradley, a teacher at Coral Glades High; and Jennifer Wilson, who teaches at Tequesta Trace Middle. The winner will be announced Friday. WTVJ.

Palm Beach: Joselyn Leon, a 5th-grade teacher at Belle Glade Elementary School, was named the school district’s teacher of the year in a ceremony Tuesday night. Others honored were Dwayne Dennard of Pahokee Middle-Senior High as principal of the year, Caelethia Taylor of Lake Worth High as assistant principal of the year, and Kathy Suarez, a social service facilitator at Village Academy, as school-related employee of the year. Palm Beach Post. WPTV.

Duval: Two students have been arrested after racist and threatening Snapchat messages were uncovered among some players on the Bishop J. Snyder High School baseball team that were directed at a black teammate. Officials at the private college preparatory school said they expelled the two who were charged, and police are continuing the investigation. WTLV. WJAX. WJXT.

Polk: The school board has agreed to pay $52,000 to settle a gender discrimination complaint filed in 2021 by an Equal Employment Opportunity officer. Carol Wynn-Green filed the complaint when she discovered a male coworker with less tenure was being paid more than she was and had an opportunity for promotion that she did not. Lakeland Ledger.

Brevard: Two school board members have been publicly critical of board chair Matt Susin for making what they call “unilateral decisions” he made without the board’s knowledge or approval. Katye Campbell and Jennifer Jenkins claim that Susin has planned and scheduled meetings without consulting other board members; failed to communicate agenda items he planned to introduce; promised new school policies and programs the board hadn’t approved; and kept them out of the loop on media plans that later caused controversy. “He is acting as if he is the mayor of this board, and it’s not good for the community,” Jenkins said. Susin has said he has done nothing wrong. Florida Today.

Osceola: The principal at St. Cloud High School was arrested Tuesday and accused of keying a car in a Publix parking lot, causing damage estimated at more than $1,000. School officials said Nathaniel Fancher, 48, faces a charge of criminal mischief. He was placed on administrative leave by the district.WKMG. WFTV. WESH.

Alachua: Free wireless Internet access has been added to all 125 school district buses through a federal grant from the Emergency Connectivity Fund. The connection will be active through September and could be extended, depending on the funding. Students will have to connect through the district’s network, which filters inappropriate websites and blocks social media. Gainesville Sun. WCJB.

Bay: Superintendent Bill Husfelt announced Tuesday that he is retiring at the end of July, about a year earlier than he originally planned, and called it a personal decision. “When I ran for my fourth term as superintendent three years ago, I intended for my final season as superintendent to conclude in the fall of 2024. … I know the district will be in great hands with whomever the governor appoints to serve out the rest of my term.” Husfelt worked for the district for more than four decades, and has been superintendent since 2008. Panama City News Herald. WJHG.

Around the nation: Almost $3.6 billion in Pell grants went unclaimed by the high school class of 2022, according to a report from the National College Attainment Network. About 44 percent of high school graduates did not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. “This shows that there are a lot of students who could receive a Pell grant — that could make college or a credential possible — who are not pursuing that,” said Bill DeBaun, NCAN senior director of data and strategic initiatives. Politico.

Opinions on schools: Gov. DeSantis, pitching hissy fits about gay people, drag queens and black history ain’t a good look if you want to appeal to anyone outside the Fox swamp. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix.

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BY NextSteps staff