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District to consider classical education curriculum for elementaries, defense rests in Broward deputy’s trial, state scholarships, and more

Around the state: Miami-Dade school district officials will explore the feasibility of having a classical education curriculum in elementary schools, the defense has rested in the case against the school deputy who took cover instead of confronting the Parkland school shooter in 2018, Polk school officials estimate as many as 7,300 students could use state scholarships in the coming school year, several Alachua County administrators who took notes during a meeting with the superintendent have since resigned or been demoted, the Florida Board of Governors approved the distribution of $645 million in performance funds to the state’s 12 universities, and an independent investigation concluded that a former Flagler principal bullied and harassed employees and exhibited a “pattern of misrepresenting facts and disregard for the truth.” Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board members have given the go-ahead to “explore the feasibility” of offering a classical education curriculum in the district’s elementary schools. The curriculum focuses on the “centrality of the Western tradition”  embodied in Western European and Judeo-Christian foundations and “demands moral virtue of its adherents.” It stresses core virtues and studies in math, science, civics and classical texts. One of the more prominent proponents of the model is Hillsdale College, the conservative, politically influential private school in Michigan. Board member Monica Colucci made the proposal, which she said would be optional. District officials are expected to advise board members by October if a curriculum could be developed and offered by the fall of 2024. Miami Herald. District officials are partnering with Florida’s Summer BreakSpot program to feed school children throughout the summer. Meals will be available for children 18 and under at more than 190 district schools through Aug. 4. Kendall Gazette.

Broward: The defense rested its case Friday in the trial of a former sheriff’s deputy who took cover instead of confronting a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018. Seventeen people died in the attack by Nikolas Cruz and another 17 were wounded. Deputy Scot Peterson, who is charged with felony child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury, did not testify. Closing arguments begin today. Sun-Sentinel. Associated Press. CNN.

Duval: Construction has begun on a renovation project at Oceanway Middle School in Jacksonville. Fencing is now going in around the school as part of the project, which is being funded by the extra half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2020. Proceeds fromn the 15-year referendum will be used for security, building upgrades and renovations at district schools. WJAX.

Polk: District officials forecast that 7,300 students could use state scholarships to move from public to private schools in the fall, up from 5,600 this past year. At least $58.2 million and as much as $70 million in state funding would follow the students, said Superintendent Frederick Heid. The district had 117,727 students last year and has a nearly $1.2 billion budget. Beginning July 1, all students in Florida are eligible to apply for scholarships. Lakeland Now. An assistant football coach at Lake Wales High School was recently arrested and accused of pointing a gun at two people in what deputies called a road rage incident. Don Wayne Wise Jr., 33, is charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and resisting arrest. Lake Wales Charter Schools Superintendent Wayne V. Rodolfich said, “We are aware of the event and have no comment at this time.” Lakeland Ledger. WFLA. WFTS.

Lake:  Lake Pointe Academy has been cited by the National Wildlife Federation for creating a wildlife habitat with natural food sources, clean water and cover. The habitat is a collaborative project between the school’s Environmental Club and the Parent Teacher Student Association. WFTV.

Leon: Jane D. Mooney, the head of the Holy Comforter Episcopal School in Tallahassee from 1983 to 1993, died late last month at the age of 92. She is one of just five leaders in the 68-year history of the school, and also taught at multiple other Tallahassee schools, including Leon High School and Tallahassee Community College. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Several high-ranking school district administrators who took notes during an April meeting in which Superintendent Shane Andrew allegedly referenced biblical scripture about being undermined have resigned, or been reprimanded and demoted. Andrew has denied bringing a Bible to the meeting. District officials say the changes are standard at this time of year. “That process is happening now. It’s complex and time-consuming, and Mr. Andrew is focused on making decisions that are in the best interests of our students and schools,” said spokeswoman Jackie Johnson. School board chair Tina Certain said she was surprised by one demotion, considering the employee hadn’t had a performance evaluation, and has heard from several other district employees who say taking notes at meetings is now “frowned upon” in Andrew’s administration. “I am very concerned about the turnover and issues raised by staff,” she said. “I have received complaints from various employees that the environment is toxic.” Gainesville Sun. Board chair Certain, who was recently elected president of the Florida School Boards Association, talks about her goals for the organization and the district. WUFT.

Flagler: An independent investigation of former Wadsworth Elementary principal Paul Peacock that was centered on complaints by seven women and one man concluded that Peacock bullied and harassed employees, violated the district’s ethics policy and various sections of the state’s Principles of Professional Conduct and the Florida Educational Leadership Standards, and exhibited a “pattern of misrepresenting facts and disregard for the truth.” Peacock’s 18-year district career ended last week when his contract was not renewed. Flagler Live.

DeSoto: School supplies for district students in need are being collected today by the sheriff’s office. Items can be dropped off at a truck and trailer at the office, and will be distributed to students in August. WZVN.

Colleges and universities: The Florida Board of Governors approved the distribution of $645 million in performance funds to the state’s 12 universities. The amount received hinged on metric scores based on a variety of goals in the student success plan. The Capitolist. Tallahassee Democrat. John Crossman, chief executive officer of Crossman Career Builders, which provides resources and scholarships for college students and young professionals, has been appointed by the Florida Board of Governors to the board of trustees for Florida A&M University. He fills the opening created when trustee Thomas W. Dortch Jr. died earlier this year. WTXL.

Education in the courts: Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker heard arguments Friday from teachers unions trying to block a 2022 state law that places new restrictions on public employee unions, and from state officials defending the law, but did not immediately issue a ruling. Unions contend the law, which prohibits payroll deduction of union dues and requires unions to have 60 percent membership of eligible employees to retain certification, violates First Amendment and contract rights. News Service of Florida.

FLVS board appointee: Nercy Radcliffe, president and chief executive officer of Providence Healthcare Services, has been appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the board of trustees for the Florida Virtual School. Office of the Governor.

Around the nation: The U.S. Agriculture Department said Friday it is making an additional $1.3 billion available for school meal programs. Another $1 billion is being committed to food banks and community kitchens through USDA’s Temporary Food Assistance Program. Politico. More states are passing laws that require people to use school and public bathrooms that conform to their gender at birth. But how to enforce those laws remains a question for many of those states. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: Please, Gov. DeSantis and members of the Legislature, let our teachers do what they do so well without the heavy hand of government despoiling their classrooms. They are following their passion, and they are helping our bright young people find theirs. What, in the end, could be more important to all of us than this? Charles B. Dew, Tampa Bay Times. It’s hard to turn around a ship as massive as Sarasota County schools that’s gone so badly off course. What will be essential in the days ahead is for everyone – board members, the new superintendent and yes, even community members – to abide by the same set of rules and stay in their own lanes. Carrie Seidman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The Pasco County School Board got it right with its new policy on cellphone use in the classrooms. It strikes a sensible balance for students and families that other school districts should consider. Tampa Bay Times. Targeted state investment on financially needy students is necessary to remove the financial barriers that block their access to higher education, and ultimately deny to the state of Florida their full productive contribution. Tom Mortenson, Naples Daily News.

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BY NextSteps staff