Corcoran one of three finalists for New College presidency, Sarasota’s ‘woke’ school budget, new cell phone rules in Orange schools, and more

Around the state: Interim New College of Florida president Richard Corcoran is named one of three finalists for the permanent position, Orange County’s school board approves a policy forbidding students from using their cell phones in classes in most cases, Sarasota school board members pass a $1.5 billion-plus budget after removing a sentence that some members of the community called “woke,” Vice President Kamala Harris rejects an invitation from Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss the controversial state standards on teaching black history, Brevard school officials announce how they’ll distribute revenues from a new tax to teachers and other school employees, and 9th- and 10th-graders at Babcock High School in Charlotte County are using a 3-D printer to make and assemble parts needed for prosthetic limbs. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Orange: District students won’t be able to use their cell phones in school unless teachers give their approval to be used for educational purposes, or a student has a medical condition that is monitored by her or his phone. The new policy allows students to have their phones with them, as long as they’re stowed away in a backpack or purse. They may not carry them in their pockets. “I’ve heard teachers kind of across the board on the issue, but it seems like the majority of them do believe that cell phones are causing more disruptions in the school environment,” said Clinton McCracken, president of the teachers union. WKMG. WOFL. WFTV. WESH. Spectrum News 13.

Palm Beach: Disability rights advocates are pressuring the district to do more for students who have been inappropriately detained under the Baker Act. The act has been misused against children with developmental disabilities, charges Disability Rights Florida, citing the district’s recent settlement of $440,000 to resolve a lawsuit. “We don’t want students traumatized further. And we believe that the district’s moving in the right direction,” said Ann Siegel, legal director for DRF, which was a plaintiff in the 2021 lawsuit. “We just want to work with them to ensure that the progress continues and that the number of students who are subjected to Baker Act go down substantially.” WLRN.

Duval: The teacher shortage seems to easing somewhat for district schools. With the first day of school less than two weeks away, 258 teaching jobs remain unfilled. Last year at this point, there were 453 openings. Interim superintendent Dana Kriznar said 86 of the openings are for elementary teachers, 77 for special education and 20 for math. She said the district also has openings for bus drivers. WJXT.

Lee: The renovated school formerly known as Lehigh Acres Middle School was officially dedicated Tuesday as Lemuel Teal Middle School, renamed for a 38-year math teacher in the district who died in 2020. Thirty of those years were spent at Fort Myers Middle Academy. “It is a great honor for my father’s legacy to be immortalized in this entire building,” said his daughter, Dr. Tiffany Teal. “This is something I know he’d just be beaming and just something he never would believe it would happen and that this would be a part of his legacy.” About $18.6 million was spent on the renovations, which added about 900 seats for students in grades 6-8. The school opens Aug. 10. WINK.

Brevard: Teachers and other district employees will soon start receiving higher pay from the increased property tax millage rate approved by voters in November, district officials announced Tuesday. Eighty percent of the revenue generated will go toward higher employee compensation, while 16 percent is going to student programs and the remaining 4 percent will be used for technology. Increases range from $365 for new teachers to $3,651 for those with 19 years or more experience, and will be spread over 20 pay periods beginning Aug. 21. “We are thankful to the voters for continuing to invest in Brevard Public Schools because without them this would not be possible,” said Superintendent Mark Rendell. “We are focused on using these funds to help retain and attract top educators while also providing our students with increased access to programs.” Florida Today.

Lake: A new preK-8 school named after an inspiring longtime principal opens to students Aug. 10. The Aurelia M. Cole Academy replaces Clermont Middle School as a performing arts-focused school offering a curriculum focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, with computer skills being taught at all grade levels, robotics being offered for 4th- and 5th-graders and a culinary program. Capacity is about 1,200 students. Daily Commercial.

Sarasota: School board members approved the school district’s proposed $1.5 billion-plus budget after a sentence was removed that some members of the community called “woke.” The initial budget had $57 million allocated to “Enhance social-emotional learning and supports provided to students to promote belonging, dignity, and inclusion.” An updated version of the tentative budget removed the targeted sentence, and the board approved it Tuesday night in a 4-1 vote. School board chair Bridget Ziegler voted against the budget, saying it might be out of compliance with state law even after the change was made. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Charlotte Sun.

Bay: Newly appointed Superintendent Mark McQueen said his first priority is to focus on teachers and develop a plan for deadling with enrollment growth. McQueen, the former Panama City manager who was named to the job by Gov. DeSantis when Bill Husfelt retired before the end of his term, also said he intends to be a candidate for the job in 2024. “I want to get a lot of things in motion, and I’d love to see them through completion,” he said. Schools reopen Aug. 10. WMBB.

Charlotte: Ninth- and 10th-graders at Babcock High School in Babcock Ranch are among U.S. high school students using a 3-D printer to make and assemble parts needed to make prosthetic limbs. Babcock students will produce upper and lower knees, the upper ankle and the foot portions of the leg out of materials like carbon fiber and Kevlar. Some students and the parts will then be sent to Mexico to fit recipients. “We can do a lot of good. That’s why I want to be part of this project,” said sophomore Aliana McFarlane. “Knowing that you improved other people’s lives, that stays with you for the rest of your life.” WFTX.

Flagler: School board members gave their tentative approval to paying their next superintendent between $165,000 and $200,000, which on the higher end would be an increase of nearly 50 percent in just the past three years. The previous superintendent, Cathy Mittelstadt, was hired at $135,000 three years ago and was being paid $145,000 when she was fired in the spring. The district has fewer than 13,000 students. Board members also will consider changing the job title to chief executive officer and superintendent. Flagler Live.

Franklin: School Superintendent Steve Lanier said the district still needs six teachers before classes begin Aug. 10. But he said there will be teachers in every class. “We’ll have to rearrange some things and make sure that the teachers are in there teaching. We may have to put a few more kids in a class within the limits,” he added. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: Three finalists for the New College of Florida presidency have been chosen by a search committee, and interim president Richard Corcoran is among them. The others are Tyler Fisher, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida, and Robert Gervasi, interim president at the University of Mount Union in Ohio and previously the president of Ohio Dominican University and Quincy University in Illinois. Finalists were culled from 63 applications, and eight candidates were interviewed. Trustees meet Aug. 10, and forums with the candidates will be announced on their website. Corcoran, who had been commissioner of the Florida Department of Education and was once speaker of the Florida House, was named the interim president in January by a trustees board dominated by Gov. DeSantis appointees. His interim salary is $699,000, which is nearly $400,000 more than the previous president was making when she was fired. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Tampa Bay Times. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Florida Phoenix. A Florida State University professor has been fired after his research on racial bias reportedly contained “numerous erroneous and false narratives” that could cause “unalterable” damage to the school’s reputation, said James Clark, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Eric Stewart, a criminologist, refuted the allegations. He had been at FSU for 16 years. Fox News.

No black history debate: Vice President Kamala Harris has rejected an invitation from Gov. DeSantis to meet and discuss Florida’s new standards for teaching black history in schools. “Right here in Florida, they plan to teach students that enslaved people benefited from slavery,” said Harris, speaking at an Orlando church Tuesday. “Well, I’m here in Florida and I will tell you there is no roundtable, no lecture, no invitation we will accept to debate an undeniable fact: there were no redeeming qualities of slavery.” Orlando Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico. Associated Press.

Top principals’ principles: Five Florida school principals who have been honored by the Florida TaxWatch organization for their leadership have put together a list of best practices for their colleagues. Among them: Being visible and available after work hours, greeting each student every morning, identifying teachers’ best practices and taking them schoolwide, attending student events at least six days a week, putting the highest-performing teachers with the lowest-performing students, and telling teachers what’s expected before they get hired. The principals winning the award are South Bay’s Rosenwald Elementary School principal Bruce Hightower, Lisa Lee of Lake City’s Richardson Sixth Grade Academy, Michael Mahl of Palm Bay Elementary, Matthew McLelland of Chiefland Middle High, and Bridgette Tate-Wyche of Miami Northwestern High. Florida Politics.

Impact of new FHSAA rules: New rules go into effect when schools open this month that affect eligibility for student-athletes. Charter and virtual school students can now participate in an after-school activity at a private school, public school students can too if their school doesn’t offer that activity, and any student who transfers from a public school can still participate in the sport at the school he or she left through the end of the season. Fort Myers News-Press.

Around the nation: New research suggests that the federal teacher loan forgiveness program isn’t keeping teachers in the classroom or attracting new ones. Part of the blame rests with the complexity of the process, which requires teachers to be aware of the program, meet the very specific eligibility standards, get a school administrator to submit the paperwork, and work with a loan provider to enroll. “The program has really good intentions,” said Brian Jacob, a professor at the University of Michigan and coauthor of the study. But, he added, “it’s not effective as it’s currently structured.” Chalkbeat. The number of U.S. students in special education classes has doubled in the past 45 years, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. In the 1976-1977 school year, 3.6 million students were in special education. That’s gone up to 7.3 million during the 2021-2022 school year. Almost 15 percent of K-12 students are now in special education classes. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Maybe Florida should just teach history like it really happened, warts and all. And maybe be fully transparent with taxpayer money and public positions. Unfortunately, that all seems like too much to ask. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. No matter what a court determines about the individuals’ culpability in a Palm Beach County high school sexual assault case that led to five administrators being suspended for failing to report it, the school district must ramp up employee training. Sticking one’s neck out by reporting an incident up the chain of command, or by approaching a student who shows signs of abuse, might go against some employees’ personal inclinations. But such inclinations need to get trained out of them. Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff