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Option to SAT and ACT on college applications gets tentative backing, superintendent contracts, Pasco restricts cell phone use in schools, and more

College entrance exams: A Florida Board of Governors committee has approved the Classic Learning Test as a third entrance exam option on applications to the 12 state public universities. The SAT and ACT tests have been accepted for years. Members of the public now have two weeks to comment on the move before the full BOG takes a final vote in July on whether to approve the use of the test. The CLT, founded in 2015, is based on the classical education model focusing on the “centrality of the Western tradition.” It claims to be different from the SAT and ACT by placing an emphasis on “meaningful pieces of literature that have stood the test of time,” and is accepted by about 200 U.S. colleges and universities. A score of 38 on the CLT’s verbal reasoning and grammar sections is considered by the BOG as the equivalent of a 490 on the SAT’s reading and writing section or 19 and 17 on the ACT’s reading and English section. A 19 on the CLT’s quantitative reasoning is said to equal 480 on the SAT’s math section or 19 on the ACT’s math section. Tampa Bay Times. The BOG will consider a proposal today to designate special education and teaching, and elementary education and teaching degrees to become programs of “strategic emphasis.” Doing so would make some students eligible for tuition and fees waivers. News Service of Florida.

Around the state: Miami-Dade’s school superintendent has his contract extended for up to three years, Broward’s new superintendent would be paid $360,000 a year for three years under a proposed contract, Escambia’s interim superintendent will be paid $160,000 for a year, Pasco’s school board bans cell phone use by elementary school students, a Sarasota school board member is being criticized by conservative groups after she voted for a Hillsborough administrator to become the new superintendent, and prosecutors rest their case in the trial against the Broward deputy who took cover instead of confronting the Parkland school shooter in 2018. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board members on Wednesday extended the contract of Superintendent Jose Dotres for up to three years, which would take it through June 2027. He’s been the district’s leader since replacing Alberto Carvalho in February 2022. “Thank you for the vote of confidence,” Dotres told the board. “The fact that I get to continue the work is just wonderful. Again, thank you for your unanimous confidence in me. It’s an honor to be your superintendent.” Miami Herald. WPLG. Max Tuchman, a former school teacher in the district who is now an education technology entrepreneur, has announced her candidacy for the District 7 seat on the school board. Mary Blanco, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantos to replace Lubby Navarro, currently holds the seat and has not yet announced if she is running to retain it. Tuchman cofounded an app called Caribu, which students can use to read, draw and play games through an interactive video call. It was then sold to the toy company Mattel, according to her announcement. Florida Politics.

Broward: A proposed contract would pay newly named superintendent Peter Licata $360,000 a year for three years. The amount was a compromise between the district’s offer of $325,000 and the $375,000 proposed by Licata’s attorney. Licata has also asked that a vote of six of the nine board members be required to fire him. In the past, a simple majority has been required. If Licata is fired without cause during his contract, he would get 60 days’ notice and 20 weeks of severance pay. Board members will vote on the contract June 29, and Licata’s first day will be July 3. Sun-Sentinel. Licata talks about his thoughts on school choice, changing the district’s culture, new education laws, school safety, closing the academic achievement gap and more. WLRN. Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday against Scot Peterson, the deputy who took cover instead of confronting the Parkland school shooter on Feb. 14, 2018. Seventeen people died in the attack and 17 others were wounded. Peterson is charged with child neglect with great bodily harm, culpable negligence and perjury. The defense expects its case to last about a week. Sun-Sentinel. CNN. WPLG.

Hillsborough: Newly named interim superintendent Van Ayres is a Tampa native and the son of two longtime Hillsborough educators. He graduated from Jefferson High and the University of Tampa, and has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University. He began his career with the district as a chemistry teacher at Blake High. By 2012 he was named the principal at Jefferson and then began his climb through the administrative ranks. He’s working with outgoing Superintendent Addison Davis until Davis leaves July 14. School board members meet Tuesday to discuss Ayres’ contract. Tampa Bay Times.

Duval: County middle and high school students can now ride Jacksonville Transportation Authority buses for free seven days a week. Students must have a student ID or one issued to them by JTA. WJAX.

Pasco: Elementary school students will not be allowed to use cell phones in school classrooms under a district proposal that was approved this week by the school board. Wednesday. Those students who do have phones must keep them on silent mode and out of sight during the school day. The change takes effect immediately. Middle school students can use their phones in classes with teacher permission and during lunch period. High schools have the same rules, but can also use their phones between classes. Superintendent Kurt Browning said further restrictions may be coming. “I am not certain that we’ve seen the last legislation concerning cell phones,” he said, referring to information he learned at a recent statewide school security meeting with lawmakers. The board also made a change to the dress code, requiring that all shirts extend to a student’s waist. Tampa Bay Times. WTSP. WFLA.

Sarasota: Several far right community groups that supported school board member Karen Rose when she made a motion to fire the former superintendent eight months ago are now looking for a candidate to run against her in 2024 after she voted last week for Terrence Connor as the new superintendent. Rose joined Tom Edwards and Robyn Marinelli in voting for Connor, an administrator from Hillsborough County, while conservatives Bridget Ziegler and Tim Enos preferred Joe Phillips from Broward County and current interim superintendent Allison Foster. Rose said despite the criticism, she remains “extraordinarily confident” in her decision. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In an interview, Connor talks about moving from a large district to a medium-sized one, his goals for Sarasota schools, reducing tension at school board meetings, improving teacher morale and more. Sarasota Magazine.

Escambia: School board members have approved an “emergency” rule that will require any school books challenged for content to be removed from school libraries or classrooms within five days after the complaint is filed and kept inaccessible until the challenge is resolved. Students who previously could choose to “opt-in” to read challenged books will no longer have that option. The rule puts the district in compliance with a new state law that takes effect July 1. About 200 district books have been challenged. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR. Interim superintendent Keith Leonard will be paid $160,000 through June 30, 2024, $500 a month for automobile-related expenses and $200 a month for business expenses, according to the contract approved by school board members. If no replacement is found within the year, a majority of board members can extend the contract. Leonard was named the interim leader after the board fired Tim Smith in May. Pensacola News Journal.

Alachua: School board members approved Superintendent Shane Andrew’s appointments of a new deputy superintendent, chief of teaching and learning, chief of food and nutrition, two directorial positions and six principals at this week’s board meeting. Catherine Atria is the newly appointed deputy superintendent. Mainstreet Daily News.

Colleges and universities: On Wednesday, the University of Florida officially opened a $26.8 million public safety facility for the campus’ first responders. The three-story building replaces a 93-year-old facility that some referred to as a “gingerbread house.” Gainesville Sun. UF also held an online “ground-breaking” ceremony Wednesday for the school’s $5.7 million Health Urgent Care Center in east Gainesville. With bad weather forecast, the school opted to hold the ceremony on Zoom. The center is expected to open in mid-2024, and provide emergency care in underserved areas of the county. Gainesville Sun. A bachelor of science degree in exceptional student education will be offered at the College of the Florida Keys, starting this fall. Key West Citizen.

Education and courts: A brief filed Friday by attorneys for university professors and students urged a federal appeals court to uphold a court ruling blocking implementation of a 2022 Florida law restricting how race-related concepts can be taught in classrooms. The court is considering whether to uphold or reject a preliminary injunction that Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued in November. The plaintiffs contend the law violates free speech rights and academic freedom. News Service of Florida. A federal judge is expected to decide Friday whether block a new state law that places new restrictions on teachers unions and those representing other public employees. Payroll deduction of union dues is prohibited under the law, and unions must have 60 percent membership of eligible employees to retain certification. The law is scheduled to take effect July 1. Gray Florida Capitol Bureau. News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: A recent report shows that the contract model of delivering K-12 public education by creating independent public charter schools of choice, which are accountable for results, is public education’s enterprise system. These schools focus on achieving results, and on correcting and improving themselves as they develop. And it shows that this contract model of delivering education has much to contribute, long term, to solving the pandemic learning loss experienced by America’s K-12 students. Bruno V. Manno, The Messenger. To anyone with even a cursory knowledge of racial stereotypes, the new mascot of New College of Florida should have set off alarms. Interim president Richard Corcoran and college trustees supported and chose a mascot that depicts a tree that has been anthropomorphized to closely resemble an angry, threatening brown individual. Robin Williams, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff