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Piano fundraiser, school safety summit, Freedom School history lessons and more

Miami-Dade: As high school seniors here walk across the graduation stage to get their diplomas this month, many are hearing the words of poet Amanda Gorman. Steve Gallon, a school board member, says he’s quoting from Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb,” in every graduation speech he gives. The references in Gallon’s speeches are in response to a recent decision at a public school in Miami Lakes to limit the access of elementary school students to the poem after a parent claimed the work included ‘indirect hate messages’ and was ‘indoctrinating’ students. Gorman at 22 years old became the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.  WLRN.

Palm Beach: The Lake Worth High School teacher who put photos of students on his classroom board and labeled them using coffee terms is being recommendation for termination. Cary Altschuler, an Advanced Placement statistics teacher, posted three students photos on the board with the terms above their heads, according to two classroom sources. Principal Elena Villani sent home a letter apologizing to parents, and the teacher was moved to a job where he had no student contact. The school board will vote on June 14 regarding Superintendent Mike Burke’s recommendation to fire Altschuler for violations of ethical standards and inappropriate interactions with students, among others. Palm Beach Post.

Hillsborough: Missing keys, broken strings and stuck pedals are just some of the issues plaguing pianos at Blake High School. To help solve the problem, a massive fundraising effort is underway to replace them. The school has teamed up with the Robby Steinhardt Foundation to raise $500,000 for 17 new Steinway pianos. “So the school opened in 1998, and the pianos we are currently using every day are from 1998,” said piano teacher Matt Stemberg.

Hernando: Commencement ceremonies ended last week, but accolades continue for students who finished in the top of their classes at public and private schools in this county. Tampa Bay Times. Meanwhile, teachers and staff members got a briefing on school safety this week as part of the district’s annual School Safety Summit at Crosspoint Church. This year, two nationally recognized experts in school safety hosted keynote sessions. One, held Monday, featured Max Schachter, who lost a child in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Schacter said he is working on a project that focuses on keeping students in Florida safe. Baynews 9. Meanwhile, as HB 773 approaches Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk, a signature from the governor would mean it will be up to Hernando voters to decide whether the superintendent will be an appointed position by the school board or elected by voters in a partisan election. Controversy has arisen over John Stratton, the current superintendent, in recent years. If the bill is signed by the governor, it will need to be passed by referendum from Hernando voters in 2024. Partisan elections for superintendent would start four years after that.  WUFT.

Alachua: Priorities for comprehensive rezoning efforts will again be on the agenda for the school board’s meeting, in addition to public hearings for proposed changes to student conduct codes and other board policies. The school board here began a public discussion of its priorities for the rezoning effort at a May workshop. Students are spread unevenly, with some over capacity and others under, according to SBAC Chair Tina Certain. Main Street Daily News.

University and college news: New College of Florida’s visiting professor, Erik Wallenberg, learned in May that the school’s administration opted not to renew his contract — leaving the school without a U.S. history teacher. Miami New Times.

Black history: An EdWeek Research Center survey this year found that a slim majority of educators said they spend some or a lot of time teaching Black history. Meanwhile, chapters of the Florida coalition of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History are stepping in to teach Black history to high school students. In St. Petersburg, the Freedom School is a summer program aimed at high school students to be held at the local Carter G. Woodson Museum. Classes are free, and take place once a week through the beginning of August, with a limit of about 25 students for the pilot this year, officials say. It is one of at least two Florida chapters piloting such a program this year. The namesake harkens back to Freedom Schools of the 1960s. Education Week.

School study: Charter schools now outperform traditional public schools, according to a report from a group of researchers who have studied the evolution of charters since 2000. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Last week saw excitement in Arizona political circles as the state’s Department of Education estimated 2024 Empowerment Scholarship Enrollment at 100,000 students. But that excitement translated into absurd fear mongering predictions of financial ruin for Arizona. Matthew Ladner, reimaginED.  In October, about 70 school and district leaders from around the country gathered in Utah for a mental health summit. Administrators broke away more than once to deal with mental health emergencies in their districts. This brought to light what has become increasingly apparent over the past few years: Students are in the middle of a mental health crisis. Depression and anxiety are on the rise among young people, statistics show.  Anne Brown, The 74th.

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BY Camille Knox