Black history debate, charter school funding change, DeSantis appoints new Bay County superintendent, and more

Around the state: The state’s new black history curriculum is drawing criticism from some black conservatives, a Florida Department of Education rule change will give charter schools more time to improve struggling schools before capital funding is withheld, Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed a replacement for the resigning Bay County school superintendent, Broward school officials are warning the public to stay away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Aug. 4 when a re-enactment of the 2018 shooting that killed 17 is held with live ammunition as part of a court case, Lake school officials say a book about two male penguins raising a baby can return to elementary school libraries, and DeSantis downplays the faculty turnover at New College since its conservative makeover began. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: The director of finance at Scheck Hillel Community School, a Jewish co-ed private school in Ojus, was arrested this week and accused of stealing about $245,000 from the school between Jan. 12, 2021, and when she was fired Nov. 2, 2021. Police said Jennifer Tirado, 43, performed more than 30 fraudulent transfers, including $28,000 she withdrew at the Coconut Creek Seminole Casino. She faces charges of grand theft and organized scheme to defraud. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ.

Broward: School officials are warning the public to stay away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Aug. 4, when a court-ordered re-enactment of the 2018 shooting that in which 17 people were killed takes place with live ammunition. “District and school leadership understand how difficult this event may be for the entire community,” the district said in an official statement. “Advanced notice of this court-ordered event is being provided to families at all schools within the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High zone so they are aware and can make plans that best fits their needs on the day of the reenactment.” The re-enactment is part of a civil suit against former deputy Scot Peterson, who was recently acquitted of charges of failing to try to stop the shooter. Seventeen students and staff died and 17 others were wounded when Nikolas Cruz attacked the school Feb. 14, 2018. Florida Politics.

Hillsborough: Two teenagers have been arrested and accused of having a rifle on the campus of Schmidt Elementary School in Brandon on Tuesday. The school principal called deputies to report two boys with a gun. After the boys, 18 and 14, were arrested, deputies discovered the weapon was a pellet gun. WFLA. WTSP.

Duval: Former school district superintendent Diana Greene, who officially retired Monday, has been named CEO of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Children’s Literacy Initiative. “Children’s Literacy Initiative seeks to dismantle structural racism by providing black and Latinx children with the anti-racist early literacy instruction, support and advocacy needed to create equity in education,” according to its mission statement, and provides books for students and coaching for educators teaching in pre-K through grade 6. Jacksonville Today.

Polk: A Lakeland woman’s appeal to the state about a Japanese illustrated book series called Assassination Classroom could test Florida’s new appeals process for book challenges. The series, which is about an octopus-like alien working as a junior high homeroom teacher who wants to destroy the world, was reviewed by the district’s committees considering book challenges and all voted to retain the books in the libraries at Tenoroc High, Mulberry Senior High and the Gause Academy in Bartow. An addition to a state law allows parents to appeal to the Florida education commissioner if they disagree with the district’s decision. Lakeland Now.

Lee: Construction has begun on a new pre-K center at G. Weaver Hipps Elementary School in Lehigh Acres. The 30,000-square-foot building will have 20 classrooms and room for 200 children who are 3 and 4 years old. The project will cost $18.5 million, and the preschool is expected to open in the fall of 2024. WINK.

Pasco: District officials are proposing a nearly $2 billion budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, an increase of about 10 percent over last year. Most of the increase comes from added revenue will come from a boost in the base amount that the state spends for each student and with a voter-approved increase in the local tax rate. Even so, said Superintendent Kurt Browning, the plan includes no new or expanded programs. All the money from the new tax goes toward nonadministrative salary raises, and the extra money from the state will pay for new employees needed because of higher enrollment, increased retirement fund payments, health insurance cost hikes, and higher costs for software and school resource officer contracts. The final public hearing and a school board vote on the budget is set Sept. 11. Tampa Bay Times.

Manatee: The president of the IMG Academy in Bradenton said “nothing’s changing” at the school after its $1.25 billion sale to the Chinese private equity group BPEA EQT. “The new ownership is a global private equity firm, and with it, it brings an unbelievable resource to us, which is they own a massive world-leading global education system called Nord Anglia,” said Tim Pernetti. Nord Anglia oversees more than 80 boarding schools around the world, which Pernetti said opens possibilities for exchange programs. WTSP.

Lake: The school district has returned a book about two male penguins raising a chick to school libraries after officials said they received “clarification” from the state that the Parental Rights in Education Law “applies to classroom instruction and not to books in the media center. So, we are following the law based on the legal position of the Florida Department of Education and we have removed the age restrictions placed on library books.” And Tango Makes Three was restricted in June for students in grades K-3, sparking a lawsuit from the author and parents. A hearing on the suit was held Wednesday. WESH.

Escambia, Santa Rosa: School officials in the Escambia and Santa Rosa school districts say three teachers and three other employees who have been arrested this year are unlikely to be in schools when classes resume next month. All are accused of either sexual or physical assaults. Pensacola News Journal. Armed school guardians will help resource officers keep campuses safe when classes resume next month. The district joined the state program, in which volunteers are vetted and, if accepted, receive 144 hours of training. Only a few were accepted into the first class, and a second class could be ready by next spring. WEAR.

Alachua: Free meals will continue throughout the 2023-2024 academic year for all students at 32 schools, district officials announced Wednesday. The schools have been defined as federal Community Eligibility Provision sites, making all their students eligible for free meals regardless of their family income and without filing applications. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: Mark McQueen, the former Panama City manager, has been appointed by Gov. DeSantis as the new school superintendent, effective Aug. 1. He replaces Bill Husfelt, who announced in February that he would step down July 31. McQueen will finish Husfelt’s elected term, which ends in November 2024. McQueen had been the city manager since September 2018, and focused on rebuilding the city after Hurricane Michael hit the area that fall. He submitted his resignation May 23. WMBB. WJHG.

Citrus: As part of the district’s May purchase of $7.2 million worth of iPads, school board members this week gave approval to the district sending iPads that were replaced back to Apple for partial refunds. The board also approved the district’s 2023-2024 Mental Health Assistance Allocation Plan that outlines all of the school programs and services offered and procedures for handling mental health for both staff and students. It will now be submitted to the Florida Department of Education for approval. Citrus County Chronicle.

Gadsden: School Superintendent Elijah Key Jr. walked out of a school board meeting Wednesday after arguing with board members over his proposal to have one person handle both the risk management and school transportation director jobs. Board members objected, and Key left the meeting. WCTV.

Colleges and universities: Gov. DeSantis downplayed the high turnover of faculty at New College of Florida as it undergoes a conservative makeover. About a third of the faculty has departed, and DeSantis said Wednesday that was fine. “The media will say, ‘Oh, some of these professors are leaving, like New College. Like, isn’t that bad? Is that a brain drain?’ Well, you know, if you’re a professor in like, you know, Marxist studies, that’s not a loss for Florida if you’re going on, and trust me, I’m totally good with that.” News Service of Florida. Student-athlete recruitment at New College is driving down overall grade point average and test scores, which had helped the school earn a national reputation as a top public liberal arts college, accordiing to admissions data. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Charter school funding rules: Charter schools that receive two consecutive F grades from the state or three straight grades lower than a C would be ineligible for capital funding under new rules approved by the Florida Department of Education. Charters had been ineligible after receiving a single F grade from the state or two consecutive years of grades lower than a C. News Service of Florida. The Capitolist.

More on black history debate: U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds waded into the dispute over the state’s newly adopted teaching standard for black history Wednesday when he tweeted that “the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted.” Donalds, a Republican who represents the 19th Congressional district in southwest Florida and is the only black member of the state’s congressional delegation, said the new learning standards are generally “robust” and “accurate,” and that it “wasn’t the goal” to highlight the benefits of slavery. “I have faith that FLDOE will correct this,” he said. A spokesman for Gov. DeSantis criticized Donalds, saying, “Supposed conservatives in the federal government are pushing the same false narrative that originated from the White House.” The Black Conervative Federation also criticized the provision that says students should be taught that enslaved people learned skills that benefitted them. “This stance undermines the historical reality of slavery and the unimaginable hardships endured by millions of enslaved individuals,” the organization said in a statement on Wednesday. Politico Florida. The Hill. A history teacher at Ribault High School in Jacksonville said he’s resigning over the state’s new black history curriculum, which he calls hostile and tainted. “It’s just too much pressure now for a teacher to teach in this environment that they are created,” said R.L. Gundy. WJXT. WTLV. Here’s what the new rules say. Pensacola News Journal.

Opinions on schools: School districts need a book review process that adheres to state law but that also is clear, uniform, methodical and fair. Removing books without a challenge denies everyone the right to defend a title. It invites abuse, prevents a paper trail that makes accountability impossible and weakens a school district’s defense that it acted lawfully. The goal here should be keeping, not removing, as much educational material as possible. Tampa Bay Times. It might be true, as state officials maintain, that new teaching standards do not say slavery was good for the enslaved. But this is exactly what some people were saying many generations after the end of slavery, preaching it from pulpits, teaching it in schools and, in some instances, applying it for personal benefit. And that’s important to teach in Florida. Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union. Gov. DeSantis owns the horrific mistake the state has made with its new black history curriculum, even if he didn’t personally write the standards. It is his education department, run by his appointees. Sun-Sentinel. The state’s new rules on teaching about slavery put the “duh” in “Flori-duh.” Palm Beach Post. I’m a full-service Florida columnist who is willing to pick up the slack and do whatever I can to make white students feel better about our racial history. So here are the top 10 benefits of slavery to slaves in the United States. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff