Alachua districtwide school rezoning proposed, Polk board member fined for campaign violations, more school bus problems in Duval, and more

Around the state: Hundreds of Alachua County students would change schools under a districtwide rezoning proposal submitted by Superintendent Shane Andrew, a first-term Polk County School Board member has been fined $1,250 by the Florida Elections Commission for violations of election laws on fund-raising, 350 people marched to the Miami-Dade County School Board meeting Wednesday to protest the state’s new black history standards, school bus problems continue in Duval County, free menstrual products are now available at 30 Title I schools in Duval, Bay County has had a rough first week of school because of student misbehavior, Sarasota school board members vote to suspend the district’s five-year strategic plan, and therapy bloodhounds have been assigned to four Brevard County elementary schools. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: About 350 protesters marched from Booker T. Washington Senior High School to the Miami-Dade School Board on Wednesday to condemn the state’s new black history standards, which suggest slaves benefited from their treatment by learning skills and that mob violence against blacks included “violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.” Members of the group demanded action from the school board, and District 2 board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall told them the board will not “sit silently. You must know that we’re not sitting here knowing that we don’t have power. We have it and we will use it.” Colleague Lucia Baez-Geller said the board will be an advocate for advancing education and not restricting learning or freedoms. Today is the first day of school in the district. Miami Herald. WSVN. WFOR. WTVJ. Associated Press. WPLG. WFOR.

Broward: A campus monitor at Margate Middle School in Tamarac has been arrested and accused of lewd and lascivious conduct, lewd and lascivious exhibit, lewd and lascivious molestation, and a weapons charge. Police said Maurice Powell, 31, stood naked in front of a 15-year-old girl’s home and masturbated. District officials have reassigned Powell to a duty that includes no contact with students during the investigation. WPLG.

Duval: School bus problems continued Wednesday, according to parents who say a teacher put five students on the wrong bus and the driver then dropped them off at a school on the other side of town that was closed. The children, who attend Bridge to Success Academy in Jacksonville, didn’t get home until almost 8 p.m. One of the parents said she will withdraw her daughter from the school and plans to take legal action. WJXT. Free menstrual products are now available at all the district’s Title I schools, which have high numbers of students from low-income families. Ninety-six dispensers have been installed in bathrooms at 17 middle schools and 13 high schools as part of a collaboration between the district and the nonprofit Renewing Dignity, which aims to eliminate “period poverty” through distribution, education and advocacy. Florida Times-Union. District officials will hold six community feedback sessions, starting next week, as part of the process for selecting a new superintendent. An online survey will also be posted on the district website this week. Jacksonville Today.

Polk: First-term school board member Rick Nolte has been fined $1,250 by the Florida Elections Commission for violating state election laws. In a negotiated deal, Nolte admitted that he broke laws by donating $5,200 to his own campaign and accepting ten $100 cash donations from people playing in a golf tournament. He won the District 3 board seat last November, narrowly defeating incumbent Sarah Fortney, with 50.97 percent of the vote to her 49.03 percent. “He had to commit an election crime to win by a small margin,” Fortney said. “It says a lot about who he is and the people that pushed their agenda. We have a liar and a cheater on a school board. Shouldn’t this be grounds for dismissal?” Lakeland Now.

Brevard: Therapy bloodhounds have been assigned to four elementary schools. The dogs, which comes from the Paws and Stripes program, give students an emotional break on campus when they’re feeling anxious, said sheriff’s Cpl. Carrie Pyne, who handles one of the dogs at Mila Elementary School in Merritt Island. “If you think about it,” she said, “a dog is unconditional love.” WKMG.

Sarasota: School board members have suspended the district’s five-year strategic plan that was implemented in 2020 by former superintendent Brennan Asplen. The plan listed five goals and five core values, but board members decided it lacked academic focus, and Superintendent Terry Connor has been asked to review it and make a recommendation whether it should be revised or scrapped. Board members did approve Connor’s realignment of upper level administrators. Chris Renouf, previously the chief academic officer, is now the chief of staff and Rachael O’Dea from Hillsborough County succeeds him as chief academic officer. Jennifer Mainelli comes from Massachusetts as the new chief of elementary schools, replacing Brandon Johnson who will oversee middle schools. Megan Green, formerly with the St. Lucie County School District, becomes the chief of high schools, former Sarasota High School principal David Jones is the new executive director of learning and professional development and Chris Parenteau is the supervisor of government affairs. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. School board members will meet in private Oct. 17 to discuss legal strategies in a civil lawsuit against the district. Last October, a student alleges she was raped at North Port High School by a student who had been expelled, and contends the school and its employees didn’t do enough to protect her. Charlotte Sun.

Okaloosa: Moms for Liberty, a conservative activist group that defends parental rights in schools, opened an Okaloosa chapter at the end of July and has 32 members. The group was launched in 2021 in Florida and now has 285 chapters and about 120,000 members in 45 states. Anne Thompson and Cara Marion are co-chairs of the local chapter. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: Hundreds of students would be rezoned for a new school under a proposal released this week by Superintendent Shane Andrew. Twenty of the district’s 36 schools are over capacity, including 14 of the 22 elementary schools, and some are underenrolled. District-wide rezoning hasn’t been done in 40 years, leading to overcrowding in many schools and underenrollment in others. School board members have begun discussions on the plan, and least 11 public meetings are scheduled before the new maps head to the school board for a vote in November. Gainesville Sun. WCJB. The school board also approved a new contract with Santa Fe College that will allow students to take dual-enrollment courses with SFC. Main Street Daily News. Superintendent Andrew told the board that the district could have an updated draft of a new LGBTQ+ guide ready for the Sept. 5 meeting. Main Street Daily News.

Bay: The first week of school has been marked by threats of violence, weapons being seized on multiple campuses, and alcohol, vape and drug use. “Sadly, I’ve already had to recommend expulsion of two children because of the threats,” said Superintendent Mark McQueen. “I’m just not going to accept that type of behavior in the Bay school system.” WMBB.

Charlotte: A 14-year-old Charlotte High School student is in serious condition at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg after falling 10 feet from the second story of the school Wednesday. Principal Angie Taillon said no other students or staff were involved. “Additional mental health staff are available for students who may have witnessed the incident,” she said. Charlotte Sun. WFTX. WBBH. WINK.

Walton: Book vending machines are being placed in district elementary schools to encourage reading. Students earn tokens by reading a book and taking a test, and can use those tokens to get more books from the machines. Dune Lakes Elementary School is the first to fill the machine, and others are going in at Bay School, Freeport, Maude Saunders, Paxton, Van R. Butler, and West Defuniak elementary schools. WMBB.

Jefferson: The air-conditioning at the Jefferson K-12 school is now working, thanks to a 150-ton chiller the school district is renting for $25,000. The start of school was delayed by two days because of the A/C problems. WCTV.

Colleges and universities: New College of Florida French and gender studies professor Amy Reid has been on the front line in trying to preserve the school she came to 28 years ago against the conservative takeover that began in January. The news has been mostly bad from her point of view, and this month she learned the gender studies program would be eliminated. Tampa Bay Times. Two weeks before classes begin, New College of Florida students are struggling with class cancellations and finding classes needed for their majors because of an exodus of professors, which also affects their ability to complete their required senior capstone projects. Inside Higher Ed. Three laid-off University of South Florida faculty members and faculty unions have filed yet another challenge against a new state law that places employment disputes solely under the authority of college presidents. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Florida Phoenix. Tallahassee Community College is changing its name, says President Jim Murdaugh. No name has been chosen, but he said it could happen as early as November. “I do think it’s time,” he said. “I understand that people may not want to have a bachelor’s degree hanging on their wall from a community college.” Tallahassee Democrat. WCTV. Two goats that had been wandering around the University of Florida campus recently were captured Wednesday by school employees using watermelon as bait. UF officials said if the original owner isn’t found, the goats will be relocated to a local farm. Gainesville Sun.

Florida education in the news: Florida continues to generate news about education, especially since Gov. Ron DeSantis decided to run for president. Here’s a recap of some of the education policy decisions made recently. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Implementing Florida’s new school choice initiatives will make a meaningful, historic difference in our education system. Skylar Zander, Tallahassee Democrat. We applaud Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. for saving Shakespeare from the grasp of Moms for Liberty by recommending Romeo and Juliet as one of his recommended books of the month for Florida’s high school students. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff