Nine Florida students in National Spelling Bee, DeSantis leans into education in U.S. campaign, Broward school uniforms, and more

National spelling bee begins: Nine Florida students are among 231 spellers competing in the 94th Scripps National Spelling Bee that begins today in Oxon Hill, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. Preliminaries are today from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with quarterfinals Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., semifinals from 8-10 p.m. Wednesday, and finals from 8-10 p.m. Thursday. The semifinals and finals will be broadcast on the ION TV channel. Florida competitors are: No. 34, Lizzy Beers, a 14-year-old 8th-grader from Lee County; No. 35, Westin Martin, a 13-year-old 8th-grader from Duval; No. 36, Dev Shah, a 14-year-old 8th-grader from Pinellas; No. 37, Juan Rondeau, a 14-year-old 8th-grader from Miami-Dade; No. 38, Lancaster Gramer, an 11-year-old 5th-grader from Miami-Dade; No. 39, Luke Brown, a 14-year-old 8th-grader from Collier; No. 40, Evander Turner, a 14-year-old 8th-grader from Lake; No. 41, Sumayya Ahmad, an 11-year-old 6th-grader from Escambia; and No. 42, Bruhat Soma, an 11-year-old 6th-grader from Hillsborough. Scripps National Spelling Bee. How are words used in the spelling bee chosen by the selection panel? Associated Press.

DeSantis’ educational push: Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed education policies emphasizing increased rights for parents in the state, and many other state legislatures are trying to duplicate what Florida has done on several issues, including putting restrictions on the availability of school books to students because of content. Now, DeSantis is planning to export that message around the country in his bid for the presidency. Politico. Friday, in a speech at a home-schooling convention in Miami, DeSantis praised home-schooling parents for embracing educational freedom, complained about a “poem hoax” after the Miami-Dade school district made a poem read at President Biden’s inauguration off-limits to elementary students, and called New College of Florida “almost like a commune” before he initiated a conservative makeover of the school. Florida Phoenix. Florida Politics. Florida Politics.

Around the state: Broward school officials are considering requiring students in all grades to wear school uniforms starting in the 2024-2025 school year, jury selection begins Wednesday in the trial of the Broward deputy who took cover instead of confronting the Parkland school shooter in 2018, more than 20,000 immigrant students attended Miami-Dade school this year to boost district enrollment for the first time in about 20 years, some Seminole County parents are unhappy that a high school year contained two pages of LGBTQ+ material, and a printer’s error sent graduation gowns to a Duval high school with the lettering “Class of 2022.” Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The latest school district data indicates that more than 20,000 new immigrant students enrolled in schools this year, pushing overall enrollment up for the first time in about 20 years. A majority are from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela after a Biden administration program allows people from those countries to stay legally and work for two years, in an effort to discourage migrants from trying to cross at the U.S.-Mexico border. WLRN.

Broward: All district students could be required to wear uniforms when schools open for the 2024-2025 school year. The proposal is one of three being discussed by the school board at its June 12 town hall meeting to try to improve school safety and compete with charter schools, where uniforms are usually required. The draft policy from the District Advisory Council recommends uniform shirt colors be “consistent with the official colors of the school and one neutral color,” and should not be gender specific. If approved, the policy could mean an extra $1.3 million for the district from the state under a program offering incentives for school systems requiring uniforms. Other ideas that will be considered at the meeting are requiring students to have clear backpacks and bags, and installing metal detectors. Sun-Sentinel. Jury selection begins Wednesday for the trial of the deputy who took cover instead of confronting a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Scot Peterson is charged with six counts of aggravated child neglect with great bodily injury. Prosecutors contend that if Peterson had acted by entering the 1200 building to confront shooter Nikolas Cruz, the lives of Peter Wang, Jaime Guttenberg, Meadow Pollack, Cara Loughran, Joaquin Oliver and Scott Biegel might have been saved. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillborough: A charter school principal has been arrested and accused of twice failing to report allegations of child abuse to Child Protective Services or law enforcement, as required by state law. Cristina Fuentes, 49, the principal at Channelside Academy of Math and Science in Tampa since 2017, turned herself in to police Saturday. Officers said Fuentes told them she didn’t know that she was required to report child or sexual abuse. Lynn Norman-Teck, executive director of the Florida Charter School Alliance, said Fuentes was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the police investigation. Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP. WTVT. WFTS.

Palm Beach: Alexander Dreyfoos, a philanthropist who gave $1 million to support the former Palm Beach High arts magnet school in 1997 and another $1 million in 2020 to support a scholarship for nursing, died Sunday in West Palm Beach at the age of 91. He also founded the Palm Beach County Council of the Arts in 1978 and was instrumental in building the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. The arts magnet school was later named the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, and the performance hall at the Kravis Center also bears his name. “In my estimation, Alexander Dreyfoos is one of the most consequential people in the history of Palm Beach County, and he is either solely or partially responsible for a number of very important institutions in our community,” said historian Harvey Oyer III. Palm Beach Daily News. Sun-Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC.

Pasco: A health-care hub for women, infants and children (WIC) recently opened at Gulf Elementary School in Holiday in a collaboration among the school district, the health department and the federal government. WIC provides foods, nutrition education and health-care referrals to low-income children up to age 5, and to pregnant and postpartum women. Suncoast News.

Seminole: Some parents of Lyman High School students are unhappy that the school yearbook includes a two-page spread on LGBTQ+ matters with descriptions of different types of sexualities such as “pansexual,” “asexual” and “aromantic.” Sharman Craft, whose son is a sophomore, said, “It’s really not relevant to school activities, academics, clubs and sports. Anything that has to do with a high school experience, these terms and definitions are not appropriate.” The yearbook was approved by the school’s principal. WOFL. About 6,000 elementary and secondary school students will attend a free summer camp that starts Wednesday. The program is being funded by federal pandemic relief funds, and will focus on improving literacy, math, and advanced placement classes, but alsoinstruction about such things as robotics, musical theater and sculpture. WFTV.

Volusia: Two schools have opened in the past academic year, and both were financed with revenues from the half-cent sales tax first approved by voters in 2001, most recently renewed in 2014 and in place through Dec. 31, 2031. The state estimated the tax will bring in $45 million a year, and the school board projected a total of $480 million will be collected through 2031. It can be used only for capital expenses such as construction, reconstruction, improvements for school buildings and campuses, and for retrofitting and providing for new technology. Daytona Beach News-Journal. School ends June 2, and high school graduations will be held Wednesday through Sunday. Summer programs for reading, English language skills, and other skills from July 5 through begins July 27. There are also SEA labs for Title I students June 12-22 and a program from voluntary pre-K students from June 12-Aug. 3. Teachers report back to school Aug. 8, and students return Aug. 14. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Escambia: School board members are holding an emergency meeting today to discuss how they plan to look for a new superintendent. Tim Smith, who was hired by the board in 2020, was fired May 16. The job will be filled on an interim basis by assistant superintendent of human resources Keith Leonard starting Wednesday. Pensacola News Journal. Students in grades K-5 who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs will have the opportunity to attend the city’s after-school programs at four city community centers for free for the next three years, thanks to a $1.7 million grant awarded to the city of Pensacola by the Escambia Children’s Trust. Pensacola News Journal.

Martin: A teacher at Anderson Middle School in Stuart was killed in a murder-suicide in Port St. Lucie on Saturday, school district officials said Sunday. Amanda Hicks, 26, was killed by a man she was romantically involved with, according to Port St. Lucie police. An infant in the residence was unharmed. Grief counselors will be at the school today if teachers, other school employees and students need someone to talk to. TCPalm. WPTV. WPEC.

Hernando: More than 18,000 people have signed a petition to remove Shannon Rodriguez from the school board after she complained to the state that a teacher showed her 5th-graders a PG-rated Disney movie that included a gay character. “Shannon Rodriguez has displayed time and time again that, as a school board member, she does NOT support those who work in schools and has shown her disconnect with the reality of the public education system,” reads the petition started by Hernand resident and teacher Shelby Waymire. “She has called staff members lazy, claimed we are exposing children to pornography, and aligned herself with those who state that educators are indoctrinating and grooming children.” A second petition is aimed at removing board members Susan Duval, Linda Prescott, Gus Guadagnino and Superintendent John Stratton. The school board meets today. Tallahassee Democrat. Hernando Sun.

Flagler: School ended Friday, high school graduations are today, and a summer camp runs from June 5 through July 28 at Old Kings Elementary School. Teachers report back to school Aug. 2, and students return Aug. 10. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

High school graduations: High schools around the state are holding graduation ceremonies. Here are reports and photos from some of them. Palm Beach PostLakeland Now. Citrus County Chronicle. Citrus County Chronicle. WINK. TCPalm. Naples Daily News. Ocala Star-Banner. Ocala Star-Banner. Tallahassee Democrat. Florida Keys Weekly. Charlotte Sun. WCJB. A printing company that personalizes graduation gowns for students at Ribault High School in Jacksonville mistakenly printed “Class of 2022” on them. Principal Gregory Bostic told parents there’s no guarantee the company will be able to correct the problem before graduation, which is Wednesday. WJXT. WJAX.

Opinions on schools: As educators, we should be very careful of the temptation to steer a student in a particular path for any reason that isn’t focused on what’s best for that student. What’s best for the business community or for the school’s budget or state rating shouldn’t influence a student’s direction. This is all so fundamental that we shouldn’t ever have to say it. But we do have to say it. And that is unfortunate for the youth of our state. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. For the prestige of Florida’s university system, and more importantly for the independent pursuit of knowledge by Florida Atlantic University students, state Rep. Randy Fine would be a wrong-headed choice as president for the school. Palm Beach Post. Escambia County School Board members need to be serious and diligent about the search for a school superintendent. Whether right, center or left, the one thing we can all agree on is that we need less politics in our education. Grover Robinson, Pensacola News Journal.

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BY NextSteps staff