Interim superintendents, national faculty union rips Florida, Hernando said teacher violated school handbook, and more

Around the state: Duval school board members turn to the deputy superintendent to serve as the interim leader after Diana Greene departs, some members of the Escambia community are angry that the deputy superintendent was passed over for the interim position when the school superintendent was fired last week, a poet says she’s “gutted” after the poem she read at President Biden’s inauguration was made off-limits to elementary students at a Miami-Dade school, Hernando school officials have reportedly concluded that a teacher who showed a Disney movie with a gay character to 5th-graders violated the staff handbook, a national faculty union issues a report contending that laws passed in Florida represent an “unparalleled” attack on higher education, and the finance committee of the University of South Florida’s board of trustees has approved a financial plan to build a $340 million football stadium on campus. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history said Tuesday she is “gutted” that a district school has decided that her poem, The Hills We Climb, would not be available for elementary students to read. Amanda Gorman, 25, said, “Book bans aren’t new. Often all it takes to remove these works from our libraries and schools is a single objection. Most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on the bookshelves. The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white voices.” District officials pointed out that the poem is still available in the middle school section of the media center at the K-8 Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes. Miami Herald.

Broward: A video of boxes of books being discarded at McNicol Middle School in Hollywood on Monday falsely suggests that the disposal was part of the state’s move to ban books, said a district spokesman. The books were being thrown out because they’re old, and this was a normal process of updating of materials, said both district spokesman John Sullivan and Allison Ronis, a computer technician at the school. The video was first posted on TikTok, then shared on Twitter, where it had collected 1.7 million views by Tuesday afternoon. Sullivan said the employees who posted the video may face disciplinary action. Sun-Sentinel.

Orange: One student was hospitalized Tuesday after a school bus and a truck collided in eastern Orange County. Thirty-seven children were on the bus heading to an elementary school at the time of the crash. WKMG.

Palm Beach: Somerset Academy has announced plans to build a 600-student K-5 charter school in the Avenir community on the western edge of Palm Beach Gardens. Charter officials said it will focus on science, engineering, technology and math. With so many new communities under construction in Avenir, the school is needed, said city council member Marcie Tinsley. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Deputy superintendent Dana Kriznar was named interim superintendent by the school board on Tuesday while it searches for a replacement to Diana Greene. Kriznar “has a name that is trusted,” said board chair Kelly Coker. Board members voted 5-2 to hire Kraznar and begin negotiating a contract for up to six months. At a workshop meeting next month, board members will begin to discuss the process of searching for a new leader. Florida Times-Union. WJXT. WJAX. WTLV. Jacksonville Today.

Pinellas: Now that school bus drivers have received raises of up to 20 percent, other district employees are pushing for big raises as well. “We hope they show the same generosity to all of us,” said teachers union president Nancy Velardi. “I’m thrilled to death that (drivers) got a great deal. I don’t think we will get the same deal. But it better be something good.” If not, said she and Nelly Henjes, president of the union representing support employees, the shortages seen among bus drivers could expand to other jobs. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WFTS.

Lee: The school board votes today on an updated student code of conduct that would allow district officials with a “reasonable suspicion” to search a student, his or her possessions, locker or any other storage area on school property without a warrant. It also would add that the searches could include a cell phone, backpack and other electronic devices. Some parents have objected, saying it’s an invasion of privacy that requires their permission. Superintendent Christopher Bernier said the district is already searching phones and backpacks when there is a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. WFTX. WINK.

Volusia: A former teacher at Atlantic High School in Port Orange has been arrested again and accused of unlawful sexual activity. Arin Hankerd, 43, had been arrested in February and accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student at the school. This time he’s accused of again having an unlawful sexual relationship with a student, this time with a then-17-year-old student at Mainland High School in 2019. WESH. WKMG. WOFL.

Marion: Charges of inappropriate behavior with students will not be filed against a former West Port High School teacher, prosecutors have announced. Bernard Smith, 47, was arrested in February and accused of engaging in sexual conduct with students. He was suspended by school officials and later was told his contract would not be renewed. Ocala Star-Banner.

Escambia: Attendees at a town hall Tuesday teed off on school board members for firing Superintendent Tim Smith last week and then after doing so, not elevating deputy superintendent Sheena Payne to act as the interim leader. Board chair Paul Fetsko nominated assistant superintendent and director of human resources Keith Leonard for the interim position, then cut off the discussion. Some in Tuesday’s audience contend that Payne was passed over because she’s a black woman. Board members will vote on Leonard’s nomination at next Tuesday’s meeting. WEAR.

Okaloosa: School board members have approved the appointments of Gwen Morris as principal of Eglin Elementary School, Laurie Feldman as assistant principal of Wright Elementary, and Jennifer Stewart as assistant principal of Antioch Elementary. Okaloosa County School District.

Bay: Panama City commissioners agreed Tuesday to help the charter school University Academy get an $11 million loan to expand. Because of the agreement, the school will pay a lower interest rate on the loan. “The city is 100 percent not responsible for any of the bonding we’re just extending and saying, yes, this is this is an entity that’s operating in a government component,” said city commissioner Josh Street. WJHG. WMBB.

Hernando: A school district investigation into a teacher who showed her 5th-grade class a Disney movie that included a gay character has been closed, the teacher said. Jenna Barbee violated the staff handbook by showing the movie before getting administrative approval, according to the school report signed by Winding Waters K-8 School principal Cari O’Rourke. The state’s inappropriate conduct investigation continues, Barbee said. Investigations were initiated after school board member Shannon Rodriguez filed a complaint against Barbee. CNN.

Colleges and universities: The finance committee of the University of South Florida’s board of trustees has approved a financial plan to build a 35,000-seat, $340 million football stadium on campus. It still needs to get the approval of the trustees at their meeting July 13, and then the state Board of Governors. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. A University of Florida research project has been suspended after the deaths of two dogs during the study. The dogs had been injected in the heart with an adeno-associated virus vector, a form of gene therapy, as part of the research in a Duchenne muscular dystrophy study in 2022. Gainesville Sun. Florida A&M University Gibbs Hall, which was built in 1955 and closed in 2019, is being demolished at a cost of $1.5 million. Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV.

High school graduations: High schools around the state are holding graduation ceremonies. Here are reports and photos from some of them. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. Lakeland Ledger. Florida Today. Tampa Bay Times. WJHG. Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Post. TCPalm. TCPalm.

Around the nation: One of the nation’s top faculty groups has issued a report contending that laws passed in Florida represent an “unparalleled” attack on higher education that threaten “the very survival of meaningful higher education in the state, with the direst implications for the entire country.” The American Association of University Professors also implicates  “cowardly” college and university administrators who failed to push back against the attack. Tampa Bay Times. Inside Higher Ed.

Opinions on schools: The goal of widening school choice options ought not be to replace bad central planning with better central planning. Rather, the goal should be to create a fully inclusive and demand-driven system of education that allows educators and families to act as the hands of a potter at a wheel, molding the K-12 space over time to create the types of schools educators want to run – and that families want to support. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED. The number of “school choice voters” is sure to increase as more states expand education options. And, hopefully, school choice expansion will help de-escalate the stakes over school policies in places way beyond Florida as more states seek to imitate the success of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approach to K–12 education. William Mattox, Education Next. Gov. DeSantis is fighting a counterproductive culture war in Florida schools. Instead of banning exposure to certain things, why not teach the controversies? Done right, such an approach in K–12 would promote genuine diversity of viewpoints, intellectual tolerance, and understanding instead of polarization. Cathy Young, Education Next.

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BY NextSteps staff