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Pay hikes, school replacements, National Blue Ribbon honors, transportation changes and more

Broward: School employees here will be soon receiving bigger paychecks after the school board approved an agreement with workers unions. Under the deal, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, police officers and other school support staff will be paid 5.5% more, at least for the next four years. That’s after the county’s voters passed a tax referendum in 2022 to invest in high salaries, mental health resources and school safety. “This helps retain our staff and our employees to make sure that they know we respect them,” Broward Superintendent Peter Licata told reporters after the vote. WLRN. WSVN.

Duval: School officials here are ready to start construction on an estimated $120 million project that would replace Ribault High with a next-generation school financed largely by a voter-approved sales tax. “It’s going to be a sight to see,” School Board member Darryl Willie told a crowd at a groundbreaking. Florida Times-Union.

Sarasota: Two years after the school board here redrew boundaries for the areas represented by the panel’s five members, the board started the process to revise district lines yet again. With a lone board member dissenting — Tom Edwards — the school board voted 4-1 to approve a $39,000 contract with a consultant to launch the redistricting effort. Sarasota Herald Tribune. Meanwhile, the school board also adopted a $1.5 billion budget at a special meeting on Monday, ending the district’s yearly budget process. The board voted 4-1 to approve the budget, with only Chairwoman Bridget Ziegler dissenting. Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Flagler: The school board in Flagler has assigned fellow board member Will Furry to hire a labor attorney at the district’s expense who will assist in firing Kristy Gavin, the board’s attorney, without risking a lawsuit. Flagler Live.

Alachua: The school board here hosted a workshop on Wednesday covering transportation changes coming to the Alachua County Public Schools district. Those changes include the elimination of courtesy stops, reduction of magnet stops and re-evaluation of school start times. In the face of a bus driver shortage, students who ride the bus have been up to an hour late for school since the fall semester began. Main Street Daily News.

Blue Ribbon honors: In all, 14 schools in the state of Florida were named National Blue Ribbon schools, according to the U.S Department of Education. The program “recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups,” the department’s website said. In all, about 350 schools were named National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2023.  WKMG. Patch. WQCS.

University and college news: The U.S. Department of Education on Monday asked state officials to pump more funding into Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University, pointing to what the federal agency called “longstanding and ongoing underinvestment” by the state of Florida. Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, sent letters to Gov. Ron DeSantis and governors of 15 other states highlighting what he noticed as funding disparities between historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCU’s, and their “non-HBCU land-grant peers” in the states. According to Cardona’s letter, over the past three decades, FAMU has been shortchanged financially by $1.97 billion. “These funds could have supported infrastructure and student services and would have better positioned the university to compete for research grants,” Cardona wrote. WFSU. A study by Degreechoices revealed that the University of Florida is the third best school based on value for money. UF was one of more than 400 national universities and colleges analyzed by college return of investment staff at Degreechoices. Main Street Daily News. Pasco-Hernando State College announced Tuesday that Jesse Pisors was selected as the school’s fifth president. Pisors has served as vice president at Texas AP&M University-San Antonio and the University of Houston-Victoria. He was one of four finalists for the job. “We have full confidence that Dr. Pisors will continue to uphold the college’s core values and will lead PHSC to further success in all future endeavors,” Lee Maggard, chairperson of the college’s board of trustees, said in a news release. Tampa Bay Times. The Florida State University System’s Board of Governors discussed a proposal by the University of Central Florida to close three of its campuses. According to state officials, the proposal would close the university’s South Orlando, Leesburg and Palm Bay campuses. WKMG. The Biden administration has requested a federal judge to dismiss Florida’s lawsuit against the accreditation requirements for colleges and universities, citing constitutional challenges. Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Education filed a 40-page motion disputing Florida’s arguments that the decades-old accreditation system gives too much power to private accrediting agencies.  CBS 47. Action News Jax. Generative artificial intelligence is being integrated into higher education at Florida Gulf Coast University. WGCU.

 Opinions on schools: Students must learn math. “Future of work” studies consistently underscore this point as analytical thinking and other math-rooted cognitive skills have become core to success in today’s economy.  Jeff Livingston, The 74th.

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BY Camille Knox