$1.3B tax-cut holidays bill signed into law by DeSantis, Volusia job vacancies, shoe concerns at Escambia graduation and more

Tax-cut bill signed: A nearly $1.3 billion tax cut package was among the 27 bills signed into law Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. It includes two back-to-school tax holidays instead of the usual one. Shoppers can avoid sales taxes on school clothing of $100 or less, supplies costing $50 or less, and personal computers that cost less than $1,500 from July 24 to Aug. 6 and again Jan. 1-14. The two periods are expected to save shoppers more than $160 million. The first set of tax cuts begins Saturday with a disaster-preparedness holiday allowing shoppers to avoid sales taxes on storm supplies and household goods. It lasts through June 9. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Volusia school officials say they have more than 700 vacancies to fill before schools restart in August, Marion County Superintendent Diane Gullett receives high marks from the school board in her annual evaluation, members of the Destin High School board approve the hiring of an executive director for the charter school, and several seniors at an Escambia County high school were not allowed to walk across the stage to collect their diplomas because they were wearing the wrong kind of shoes. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: School board members and other school district officials met with members of the community Thursday night to talk about finding solutions to the increase in bad behavior by students. “It starts with simple things like no consequences for tardies, or skipping classes, or taking their phones out. And that builds up to no consequences for the bigger things,” said teacher Gretchen Robinson. Among the suggestions were fixing the code of conduct so discipline is handed out more consistently and imposing a district-wide policy on the use of cell phones in schools. Suggestions will eventually go before the school board. WFTV.

Duval: A teacher at the Lighthouse Christian School in Jacksonville has been arrested and accused of lewd and lascivious molestation on a minor older than 12 but younger than 16 Authorities said Angela Stewart, 53, was also charged with unlawful use of a two-way communication device. WJAX.

Volusia, Flagler: As the school year comes to a close, Volusia school district officials say they have more than 720 teaching and support vacancies to fill before the next academic year begins Aug. 14. About 350 of the unfilled jobs are for teachers. Elizabeth Albert, president of the teachers union, said the primary problem will be retention. “We don’t have a problem with recruitment in Volusia County,” she said, adding, “Working in public schools is becoming harder and harder every single day.” She cited factors leading to job dissatisfaction that are driving teachers into other professions, such as disciplinary issues, curriculum, state mandates and compensation. WKMG. WFTV. WESH. Nineteen books have been challenged in Volusia County and reviewed by a committee, resulting in one book being removed from all libraries, 18 staying on high school library shelves and just two staying on middle school shelves. Both Volusia and Flagler schools have an opt-in program that gives parents the power to decide which books their children can check out. In Flagler, only four of the almost 12,700 students in the district have restricted access to library books. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Marion: School Superintendent Diane Gullett received an evaluation rating of 3.32 on a scale of 4 from the five school board members this week. Board members also said they support the five-year school improvement plan Gullett is working on. Gullett is in the final year of the three-year contract she received when she was hired in 2020. WCJB.

Sarasota: Meet the 20 people who have applied for the district’s school superintendent job. Allison Foster, the executive director of human resources, has been the interim leader since February, when Brennan Asplen was forced out, and is the lone district candidate for the job. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Escambia: Several seniors at Tate High School in Cantonment were not allowed to walk across the stage to receive a diploma Thursday because they weren’t wearing the right shoes. School officials had advised parents to have their children wear “professional attire.” One student wore black and white dress shoes but was turned away, and still denied access after he changed them. The student’s mother said the principal later told her he should have been allowed to walk. WEAR.

Okaloosa: Destin High School board members have agreed to hire an executive director to help principal Christine Cruickshank run the rapidly growing charter school. It opened in 2021 with about 300 students in grades 9-11, but grew to 470 this year. “I realize I can’t do it all,” said Cruickshank. The approved job description said the position “is the athletic director and as such plans and directs interscholastic athletic activities, including publicity for athletic events” and will be “overseeing the school’s academics, cultural, financial, and operational performance.” Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: Notes taken during an April school administration meeting and statements from three employees at the meeting contradict interim superintendent Shane Andrew’s denial that he gave parts of his self-evaluation to staff members to complete, likened himself to the biblical figure Joshua and complained he had been betrayed. He made those denials at a May 2 school board meeting at which he was being evaluated by the board. The board’s next meeting is June 6. Gainesville Sun.

Monroe: Three district schools are getting new principals. Trevor Tyler will take over at the Sugarloaf School for the retiring Brett Unke, Melissa Alsobrooks has been named principal at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West to replace the retiring Fran Herrin, and Linda Diaz is the new principal at Stanley Switlik Elementary in Marathon. She replaces Christine Paul, who was recently named the principal at Marathon High School. Key West Citizen.

High school graduations: High schools around the state are holding graduation ceremonies. Here are reports and photos from some of them. Palm Beach Post. Lakeland Ledger. TCPalm. Ocala Star-Banner. Ocala Star-Banner. Tampa Bay Times. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. TCPalm. WWSB. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. Naples Daily News. Tina Kumar, valedictorian at Plant City High School in Hillsborough County, set a school record with a final grade point average of 11.0 compiled while taking a schedule heavy in math and science classes. WTVT.

Opinions on schools: Give families and educators the space and support to form communities and institutions. Live with the headaches that democracy creates. It’s much better than the alternative. Mike McShane, Forbes. Gov. DeSantis’ culture-war moves may help his expected bid for the Republican presidential nomination, but the price is steep. It comes at the expense of free speech, fairness and truth. Dick Batchelor, Tampa Bay Times. Gov. DeSantis has created an army of “feeling police” that will function to purge our corporations and schools from any discussion of systemic racial disparities. James D. Unnever, Tampa Bay Times. There are far more important issues for the Brevard school board to be focused on to create a safe, and educational environment for students than whether they can have a furry avatar. Tim M. Dahn, Florida Today.

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BY NextSteps staff