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Broward board approves sex ed curriculum and ends alternative discipline program, Hillsborough delays tax decision, and more

Around the state: Broward school board members have approved a sex education curriculum for all students and ended an alternative discipline program that has been heavily criticized since the 2018 Parkland school shooting, Hillsborough’s school board delays a decision to ask voters to approve a property tax hike for higher teacher pay, the Duval school board will consider 10 candidates for the superintendent’s job, Pasco school employees would get raises of 3.5 percent under a tentative contract agreement, Alachua’s school board delays action on a controversial school rezoning plan, Pinellas schools name a principal and assistant principal of the year, and four Florida schools are among the 33 semifinalists for the $1 million Yass Prize awarded to educators who are innovative and transformational. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: A media specialist at Charles R. Hadley Elementary School in Miami used a $15,000 grant to create what she calls a “food forest” at the school. Dianna Rose, other school employees and workers at partner Sprouts Farmers Market planted tropical plants and produce that includes bananas, spinach, spices and more for the cafeteria, and fill harvest bags for students. Miami Herald.

Broward: School board members voted 5-4 at a contentious meeting Tuesday to adopt a sex education curriculum for all K-12 students. If the reproductive health and disease prevention education materials are approved by the Florida Department of Education, parents will be permitted to opt their children out of the lessons. Board members also voted to end the alternative discipline program called PROMISE, which had been heavily criticized after it was revealed that Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was assigned to the program, though he never completed it. Under the program, students who committed minor crimes were given citations and counseled instead of being arrested. Sun-Sentinel. WFOR. WPLG. WSVN. WTVJ. A Margate Elementary School teacher has been arrested and accused of assaulting a 5-year-old kindergarten student on Oct. 10. Police said after the student threw some paper at a classmate, Khadijah Muhammad, 53, grabbed him by the wrist, lifted him off the ground, twisted his arms and shoved him across a hallway. WSVN.

Hillsborough: School board members are not quite ready to ask voters for a property tax increase to improve teacher pay. They voted unanimously Tuesday to have interim superintendent Van Ayres bring his recommendation back up for discussion in January, with the intention of approving it in February and placing it on the ballot in November. Ayres contends the money a tax hike would bring in is needed to recruit and retain teachers. But some board members believe the district hasn’t done enough to cut spending and don’t think Ayres has presented a compelling plan. Tampa Bay Times. WFTS. Three schools will be getting new principals at the end of this month. Administrator Christian Finch was named principal of Gibsonton’s Eisenhower Middle School, Mort Elementary assistant principal Kelly Snellgrove is moving up to the principal’s job, and Reddick Elementary principal Jennifer Dames is being transferred to the same position at Potter Elementary. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: A crisis intervention teacher at William T. Dwyer High School who admitted taking $60 from a student’s backpack could be fired today if the school board follows the recommendation of Superintendent Michael Burke. Matthew Csoka, 51, admitted taking the money on three occasions in September and October 2022 because he had run out of gas and didn’t have his wallet with him. Palm Beach Post. A former Wellington High School teacher who was accused of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student died earlier this month. The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office said Charles Maglio, 54, was found dead near his Coral Springs home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: The window to submit applications for the superintendent’s job has closed, and 10 candidates have come forward. School board members hope to chose semifinalists at today’s meeting, and name a superintendent by Nov. 21. The candidates are: Scott Schneider, chief of schools for the district; Marianne Simon, the district’s regional superintendent of elementary schools; and out-of-county applicants Clifford Burns, Garrick Askew, Adam Taylor, Corwin Robinson, Annie Cruez-Samuels, Robert Cox, Cheryl Proctor and Michael Kemp. Jacksonville Today. WJAX. Duval County School District.

Pinellas: Linda Burris of Tyrone Middle School has been selected as the school district’s principal of the year, and Candice Metcalf of Hollins High has been named the assistant principal of the year. Both are now eligible for the statewide competition. Pinellas County School District. St. Pete Catalyst.

Pasco: A tentative contract agreement between the school district and its 9,000-plus employees would boost salaries by 3.5 percent. For teachers, that’s in addition to an 8.9 percent raise from a property tax increase approved by voters last year and a 5.4 percent raise last year. “From our standpoint it’s never enough,” said Jeff Larsen, director of operations for the union. “We know certainly that our teachers and school-related personnel are working very hard and we wanted to put money in their pockets as soon as we possibly could.” The deal must be approved by union members and the school board. Tampa Bay Times.

Sarasota: New school board boundaries that align with the county commission’s were narrowly approved by the board Tuesday. Bridget Ziegler and Tom Edwards voted against adopting the new district lines, but Tim Enos said he thought having the same boundaries as the commission will help voters. School members must live in the district they wish to represent, but are elected countywide. WWSB. Charlotte Sun.

Escambia: Security in district schools will be bolstered early next year with the addition of portable detectors that will screen for guns, knives, or things like vapes. They will be placed in middle and high schools. WEAR.

Leon: School Superintendent Rocky Hanna issued a plea to parents Tuesday to keep “global divisions” caused by wars in the Middle East and Ukraine out of the classroom. “Our students are witnessing the division on all sides, and of course have their own opinions and reflections,” he said. “However, now is not the time to stir those divisions or bring them to school campuses as we continue our most important mission of not only keeping our students safe, but making them feel safe.” Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: A school board vote on an expansive rezoning proposal from interim superintendent Shane Andrew scheduled for Tuesday was put off until January after board members decided they still didn’t have the details they wanted. Instead, Andrew’s employment status came up unexpectedly when board member Kay Abbitt proposed skipping a search and naming him as superintendent. Board attorney David Delaney urged the board to delay making such a decision to allow time for the public to comment, and the matter was moved to the Dec. 5 board meeting. WCJB. Main Street Daily News.

Flagler: A four-year contract paying Superintendent LaShakia Moore $175,000 a year was approved Tuesday by school board members. Moore, who had been deputy superintendent, was named the district leader in September, replacing the fired Cathy Mittelstadt. Moore will also receive $14,000 a year in deferred compensation, use of a district vehicle, and a $700-a-month expense account. She can be fired within her first year without cause, but only if four of the board’s five members agree. Flagler County School District. Flagler Live. School board attorney Kristy Gavin and board members agreed Tuesday to try to work out a severance package that is mutually agreeable to both. Gavin met with board member Will Furry to discuss terms, and a public meeting is scheduled Oct. 26 for a board vote. Flagler Live. District officials acknowledge that a 5-year-old Wadsworth Elementary School student was mistakenly given the flu shot without the permission of her parent. The incident is being investigated by the district. WOFL.

Colleges and universities: State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues is calling on school presidents to investigate whether acts of anti-semitism have been committed by pro-Palestinian protesters. He said students who have called for the murder of Jews have violated the code of conduct and could be expelled. Daily Signal. The painting over of a Israeli flag with a Palestinian flag on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Spirit Rock has angered some students who are calling on school officials to paint over it. ERAU administrators are encouraging students angry about the conflict to seek support from counseling services. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

In the Legislature: Members of the House Education Quality Subcommittee were updated Tuesday on a new statewide threat assessment system that was approved by the Legislature last year and goes online Jan. 1. Threat-assessment teams will be present in every school, and all districts will use the same statewide online system to allow for information sharing. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chairs the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, told the panel that 46 districts use 12 different computer systems, and 21 districts keep information manually. News Service of Florida. WCJB. WPTV. State Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, was formally designated Tuesday as the next Senate president. He will succeed President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, after the 2024 elections. News Service of Florida.

Yass Prize semifinalists: Four Florida schools are among the 33 semifinalists for the $1 million Yass Prize awarded to educators who are both innovative and transformational. They are the CREATE Conservatory in Mount Dora, Indi-Ed in St. Petersburg, Optima Academy Online in Naples, and Verdi EcoSchool in Melbourne. Each of the semifinalists receives $200,000. The winning school will be announced Dec. 13. The Yass Prize. St. Pete Catalyst.

Around the nation: Traditional Scholastic Book Fairs will take on a different look this fall to comply with various state laws that place restrictions on books containing racial, gender-related and sexual themes. One change implemented by Scholastic is putting books focusing on race and sexuality into a separate display and giving schools the option of whether to order it. “We don’t pretend this solution is perfect. But the other option would be to not offer these books at all, which is not something we’d consider,” said a Scholastic spokesperson. NPR. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: Florida schools are no place for this punitive, religious finance book-right-wing, evangelical personal finance pundit Dave Ramsey’s religiously inspired and sometimes factually challenged textbook in the school’s financial literacy classes. Helaine Olen, Washington Post. A lot has been made of the Team DeSantis group of political cronies trying to remake New College into some kind of right-wing institution. But the closer you look, the more it looks like those involved have ambitions that are more financial than ideological. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff