New college admissions test approved, faculty tenure rules changed, school budgets, football coach suspends himself for tirade, and more

BOG on CLT and more: Florida students can now use results from the Classic Learning Test instead of the SAT or ACT in applications to the state’s 12 public universities, the state’s Board of Governors decided Friday. Only 1 of the board’s 17 members voted against use of the CLT, which focuses less on contemporary writings and more on Western and Christian civilization and literature. The vote means students can begin submitting CLT scores with their college applications immediately. Orlando Sentinel. Florida Phoenix. Axios. New York Times. CNN. Higher Ed Dive. What’s on the CLT, and why have conservatives pushed for its use? Florida Phoenix. NPR. The board also approved a rule that requires tenured faculty members to go through a post-tenure review every five years, and gives university presidents final authority for hiring. Tallahassee Democrat. BOG members agreed to ask Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate whether the Florida Atlantic University trustees broke the law during the school’s presidential search by using a straw poll to narrow the field of candidates. After three finalists were chosen, the search was suspended amid allegations of wrongdoing. That is also the subject of an investigation, but now Chancellor Ray Rodrigues is saying it has been delayed because the university hired outside lawyers. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. Sun-Sentinel. The University of South Florida’s plan to borrow $200 million of the $340 million it will spend to build an on-campus football stadium got the go-ahead from the BOG on Friday. Expectations are that the stadium will be ready for the 2026 season. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Palm Beach’s school district revises its policy on library book challenges after being assured by the state that the Parental Rights in Education law does not apply to those books when it restricts instruction on sexuality and gender identity, Polk Superintendent Frederick Heid proposes an expansion of the district’s early education program, Leon school board members reject teachers’ recommendation for elementary school social studies textbooks, Volusia’s and Flagler’s school boards approve budgets and Alachua’s is expected to today, and a high school football coach in Collier suspends himself after a video surfaces that shows him profanely berating a player. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: District officials have reached a tentative agreement with the union representing employees in transportation, student nutrition services, security, maintenance and custodial services. The largest raises will go to workers in positions of critical need: 16 percent to bus drivers, whose starting pay is bumped to $18.65 an hour, and to school security officers, who will make a starting salary of $21.45 an hour. Others included in the deal are employees in transportation, student nutrition services, security, maintenance and custodial services. The deal must be approved by union members and the school board. WFTS. District 3 school board member Jessica Vaughn, who had said she probably wouldn’t run for re-election because of time demands and the needs of her family, now said she intends enter the race. But, she added, she might still decide against running. “If somebody jumped in the race that I could 100 percent support, I would re-evaluate whether to run,” she said. Three other candidates have already filed to run: Dalton Gregory Williford, Myosha Powell and Bonnie Sue Lambert. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: District officials have revised their policy on library book challenges after being assured by Attorney General Ashley Moody that the state’s Parental Rights in Education law does not apply to those books when it restricts instruction on sexuality and gender identity. The policy will still allow people to challenge books they believe are pornographic, inappropriate for the students accessing it, “not suited to students’ needs and ability to comprehend,” “harmful to minors” or don’t align with Florida state standards. Palm Beach Post. Some students from Royal Palm Beach High School have been told that the AP exams they took this summer were lost before they could be graded. The College Board said the students will have to retake the tests. Palm Beach Post. A former math teacher at Wellington Community High School has been arrested after an undisclosed allegation of misconduct, according to school principal Cara Hayden. The teacher, whom Hayden did not name, has been reassigned to a non-student contact assignment. WPEC.

Polk: Superintendent Frederick Heid is proposing to expand the district’s early-education programs, especially for pre-kindergarten students who are currently on a 1,000-children waiting list for admission. “It is no secret that VPK data clearly shows that students who attended VPK significantly outperform their counterparts in third-grade literacy,” Heid said. He said the district has the space to accommodate the extra students, but cost could be an issue. “There would be an expense given the requirements for each classroom, but I believe that the initial investment will yield similar results to those above and help prevent the need for remediation in subsequent years,” Heid said.  Lakeland Now. A former teacher at Lakeland High School teacher was sentenced Friday to 35 years in prison for child pornography. At the time of his arrest in November 2020, Shawn Fitzgerald, 49, had more than 700 pictures and videos of children, being sexually abused or exploited, according to the state attorney. WTSP. WTVT.

Brevard: The school board last week rejected a call from one of its members to suspend the Viera High School football season until a sheriff’s investigation is completed and the state attorney decides whether criminal charges are warranted. “If we haven’t seen an investigation from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, and the state attorney’s office has not even been in receipt of that investigation yet … then why are we allowing this program to resume?” asked board member Jennifer Jenkins. She drew the support of colleague Megan Wright, but not Matt Susin, Gene Trent and Katye Campbell. The investigation centers on a video that shows Viera High School football team members simulating sexual acts on at least two students. Superintendent Mark Rendell suspended the program, but it resumed a week later. Florida Today. Board members also unanimously approved a $1.6 billion budget last week. Space Coast Daily.

Volusia, Flagler: School boards in Volusia and Flagler counties approved budgets for this fiscal year at meetings last week. Volusia’s budget is $1.4 billion, which is more than $40 million more than last year’s spending. Flagler’s budget is $324.9 million, an increase of more than $123 million over the last year’s budget. Both districts dropped property tax rates slightly, but higher property values will result in more money going to the districts. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Collier: The football coach at the SWFL Preparatory and Technical Institute in Naples has suspended himself until further notice after a video circulated that shows him profanely berating a player. “I’m going to do what I can to seek mentorship for myself to be able to become a better coach and mentor to my players and so that I can make sure this never happens again,” said Derek Jenks in a video posted on the school’s Facebook page. Sitting beside him in the video is Alvin Day, the player who was the subject of the verbal assault. “I’m glad he’s holding himself to the same standard that he held us to and I do forgive the actions of Coach Jenks as he has been a good mentor to me,” Day said. “I’m hoping we can move forward.” Naples Daily News. USA Today.

Leon: School board members rejected the recommendation from a teachers committee to purchase Gallopade K-5 social studies textbooks, and instead approved buying Nystrom texts in a 4-1 vote. Several board members said Gallopade texts have historical inaccuracies about African American history and are significantly more expensive than Nystrom texts. The sole negative vote came from Laurie Lawson Cox, who said, “Twice we went through this process and the teachers chose the Gallopade curriculum not once, but twice. That has caused me such great angst because I think normally, we would go with the teacher’s recommendation.” Tallahassee Democrat. An appeals court has upheld the school district’s two-week suspension of Chiles High School principal Joe Burgess for misusing school funds in 2021. Burgess was accused of improperly paying employees for extra work and falsifying payroll records, though an investigation concluded no laws were broken. Burgess, who has maintained his innocence, begins the suspension today. WCTV.

Alachua: School board members are scheduled to vote today on the proposed $604 million budget. That’s 13 percent higher than last year’s spending. The property tax rate is projected to drop slightly, but will still raise nearly $15 million more because of higher property valuations. Gainesville Sun.

Colleges and universities: The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will investigate New College of Florida to determine if it “excluded qualified persons with disabilities from participation in, denied them the benefits of, or otherwise subjected them to discrimination in its programs, activities, aids, benefits, or services.” The announcement followed a complaint filed Aug. 22 by a civil rights group that cited an ongoing trend of discrimination against “protected groups” such as LGBTQ+ students. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. A 15-member committee has been appointed to search for a Florida Polytechnic University president to replace the outgoing Randy Avent, who said in July he was stepping down next summer and would return as a member of the faculty. Six of the 15 members of the committee are on the board of trustees. Beth Kigel, the vice chair of the trustees, will chair the search committee. Lakeland Ledger.

New classroom rules: A new Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida has been posted on the state’s website. Among the changes are prohibitions against teachers “intentionally” providing classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity unless that material is required under the curriculum, failing to notify parents about issues involving a student’s well-being unless they reasonably believe that disclosure would harm the child, and intentionally violating a new law governing the use of personal pronouns and titles in schools. Disobeying the rules leaves teachers open to sanctions. Tampa Bay Times.

Legislative committee assignments: Several Republican legislators who embraced the culture wars in education this year have been reappointed to the House Education & Employment Committee. Chair of the committee will be Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanton, who said that schools are providing litter boxes for children who identify as cats, an urban myth that was debunked. Another member is Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, who helped spearhead a law in the last legislative session that made it a criminal offense to take children to an “adult live performance.” The “anti-drag queen bill,” as it was called, was struck down in court. Florida Politics.

Opinions on schools: What if the goal of learning measurement were no longer to render different dimensions of students’ multifaceted learning and development legible to a number of large, impersonal institutions, but instead to give students and families and the educators who work most closely with them tools they could use to set their own objectives and measure progress? This might force the leaders of institutions to confront the reality that young people have diverse goals, interests, needs and talents, some of which, like the joy of children’s play or the beauty of a poem, defy measurement but nonetheless matter. Travis Pillow, reimaginED. The theatrics from the most recent Indian River County School Board meeting are Exhibit A of how not to stage a protest against books. TCPalm. Even a great superintendent can’t fix a clueless school board like Flagler’s. Pierre Tristam, Flagler Live.

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BY NextSteps staff