Staffing woes plaguing districts, presidential search issues at FAU, loan forgiveness and more

Across the state: The State University System of Florida is investigating the presidential search at Florida Atlantic University, the Florida Board of Education is meeting this week to weigh approval of proposed rules, staffing shortages are plaguing districts across the state as the first day of school approaches and books that include the works of William Shakespeare are being debated for use in schools. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: A descendant of the founders of the town of Eatonville has joined a lawsuit contesting the Orange County School District’s control of property dedicated to the education of Black children. Plaintiff Bea Leach Hatler is the great-granddaughter of Robert Hungerford, whose namesake is the school built on the site. The school board attempted to sell 100 acres for the construction of a mixed-use development, but community objections forced the developer to call off the project. Now, the community hopes to develop a museum, conference center and school in honor of Zora Neale Hurston, who was born there. Florida Phoenix. Meanwhile, the district is on track to reopen Riverdale Elementary at the start of the school year. The school has been closed since Hurricane Ian hit and flooded it with 2.5 feet of floodwater, officials say. WKMG.

Pasco: A Zephyrhills math coach who supports the parental rights movement wants to serve on the Pasco school board. Clyde L. Smith has worked in Pasco schools since 2010. Tampa Bay Times.

Staffing woes: Students in Bay county will be heading back to school in less than a month. Meanwhile, district officials are hoping to be fully staffed when classes begin on Aug. 10. School officials are considering partnering with a full-tine substitute staffing company. “Over the last several years, we have experienced a sub shortage in the classroom, and on a daily basis, normally fill in about 78% of the vacancies,” said Executive Director of Human Resources Holly Buchanan. WJHG. In Santa Rosa county, there are about 200 positions open. Those positions need to be filled in all 38 schools in the district. School officials say 107 of those positions are instructional, and 80 are education support positions. WEAR.

Student loan forgiveness: More than 804,000 federal student loan borrowers will soon be notified that their debts will be automatically erased. “For far too long, borrowers fell through the cracks of a broken system that failed to keep accurate track of their progress towards forgiveness,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in press release. NPR. CNN. WFLA. While the U.S. Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s widespread plan for student loan forgiveness in a 6-3 ruling, another plan that could gradually achieve similar results is in the works. Biden’s plan would have provided up to $20,000 in debt relief to Pell grant recipients and $10,000 to non-Pell grant recipients.  NPR. Florida Today.

University and college news: A state investigation was launched into Florida Atlantic University’s presidential search, which is currently suspended.  The State University System of Florida, the agency in charge of regulating the public university system, assigned its inspector general to look into the process, and FAU cancelled public forums with the three candidates. Chancellor Ray Rodrigues cited two concerns regarding the search: The search committee’s use of secret ballots to narrow down candidates and a questionnaire asking about applicants sexual orientation and gender identity. “This office has received concerning information regarding anomalies that have been alleged in the Florida Atlantic University presidential search,” a letter from Rodrigues said. Florida Phoenix. South Florida Sun-Sentinel. WPEC. Florida Times-Union.

Teacher recognition: Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that teachers have received recognition for their civics training. Over 11,000 teachers participated in the state Department of Education training and received over $33 million. The Summer Civics Professional Learning Series and Civics Seal of Excellence Endorsement provides teachers tools to teach civics in the classroom. The 50-hour online program had video lessons on America’s history and government. Each teacher who earned the endorsement got a $3,000 stipend. DeSantis and the state Department of Education launched the Civics Seal of Excellence in January. WFTV.

School grades: This year, school grades will be delayed anywhere from late November to early January, according to an Escambia County District Schools data scientist. The reason: Florida students moved to a series of brand new state assessments called Florida Assessment of Student Thinking, or FAST, which prompted a delay in administering the grades. Pensacola News Journal.

Book challenges: Some say that the work of William Shakespeare could be at risk from being taught in state schools due to a new book challenge law, HB 1069, which took effect on July 1. Media specialists across the state are wondering if their interpretation breaks the law if they don’t remove media that has certain definitions. Tallahassee Democrat.

State Board of Education rules: The Board is slated this week to weigh approval of proposed rules that include measures that would stop the use of the social media app TikTok on campuses and bar teachers from asking students their preferred pronouns. Some of the proposals, which go before the board during a Wednesday meeting in Orlando, stem from new laws that arose from the 2023 legislative session. WMNF.

Shorter school week: Some schools across the nation are moving to a four-day week, with Mondays off. The goal? Promoting self-care and quality of life for both students and teachers. About 2,100 schools across 26 states have switched to four-day weeks, data shows.  Fox 35.

Best college’s list: Money magazine’s best colleges in America 2023 list included 17 Florida schools. The list looks at graduation rates, tuition, financial aid and alumni salaries. Patch.

Opinions on schools: One of the most insightful responses to the U.S. Supreme Court blocking affirmative action policies in university admissions came from Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University. The solution, Galloway argues, is to create radically more space in top universities. Travis Pillow, reimaginED. Liberal professors leaving Florida has prompted a variety of views from residents. Tampa Bay Times. I recently received thank you notes saying I had been a good teacher. I also got an invite to a graduation party. The truth is, I don’t feel like a good teacher. Yvette J. Green, Chalkbeat.

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BY Camille Knox