AG says FAU search broke law, Duval union leaders retire after federal search, books removed, new school zone maps, and more

Around the state: Attorney General Ashley Moody said a Florida Atlantic University presidential search committee broke the Sunshine Law while it tried to whittle the number of applicants from 60 to 20, two Duval teachers union leaders resign about a month after the FBI and IRS conducted a search of union headquarters and carted out boxes of materials, Hernando’s school board votes to remove two books from library shelves, Alachua school leaders release revised elementary school zoning boundaries, Hernando’s principal and assistant principal of the year are chosen, and a Lake County school bus driver is being called a hero for using her bus to shield a hit-and-run victim lying in a street from further injury. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: For the third time, a Florida Virtual School student from Parkland has won the Math Prize for Girls competition hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s math department. Jessica Wan, a senior, correctly answered a record 17 of 20 questions. She also won as an 8th-grader in 2019, and as a junior in 2022. The competition paused for two years because of the pandemic. Katie He, a junior from Buchholz High in Gainesville, finished 10th. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hillsborough: Home-schooling in the United States is up 51 percent in the United States, 72 percent in Florida and 74 percent in Hillsborough County since the 2017-2018 school year, according to a recent analysis. With 10,680 children learning at home in 2022, a total that outnumbers the entire public school enrollment in thousands of U.S. districts, Hillsborough could be called the capital of American home-schooling. With that growth has come an infrastructure that allows students to play competitive sports, put on art productions, and have proms, homecomings and graduations. “Home-schoolers in Hillsborough County do not lack for anything,” said Corey McKeown, who has been home-schooling her children for 14 years. “We have come such a long way.” Washington Post.

Duval: Teachers union president Teresa Brady retired last week, and executive vice president Ruby George retired earlier in October, about a month after the FBI and IRS searched the union headquarters and carted away boxes of business materials, paperwork and computer equipment. It’s unknown what prompted the search, and no charges have been filed. Brady worked 40 years as an educator, including 30 in Duval, and led the union for 20 years. She said she was leaving to spend more time with her family. Union board members met Monday to elect a new president and vice president; results will be announced today. The union has about 6,500 members, or about 80 percent of eligible employees. Florida Times-Union. Jacksonville Today. WJAX.

Brevard: School board members celebrated the news that more students are being suspended and sent to detention, saying it’s the result of stricter disciplinary measures enacted this school year. “There were so many things that we’ve corrected,” board chair Matt Susin said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s a much better day in Brevard.” Disciplinary referrals are up 150 percent, suspensions 40 percent and detentions 10 percent over last year. WFTV. WKMG. WESH.

Seminole: Brad Wharton, band director at Lake Brantley High School, has resigned after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student. Wharton was put on administrative leave more than a month ago, when the district began an investigation after the girl’s parents told administrators he had been texting the girl and showing up at her job. Altamonte Springs police also investigated, but concluded no crime had been committed. WOFL. WFTV.

Lake: A school bus driver is being called a hero for blocking a Eustis street with her bus to shield a woman who was lying in the street after being seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver last week. Stacy Hatcher, who had just ended her shift, “did a great job by positioning her school bus to block the rest of traffic that was traveling westbound,” said Eustis Police Chief Craig Capri. “To make that split-second decision, take that bus and block that lane, that’s pretty amazing.” The injured woman, Abigail Stevens, had more than 20 broken bones and is in a hospital. WOFL. People.

St. Johns: A former chemistry teacher at St. Augustine High School has been sentenced to three years of probation and two years of sex offender probation after pleading no contest to sending lewd photos to a 13-year-old student a year ago. Kyle Spitzer also has to surrender his teaching license and can’t have contact with minors without the written consent of their parents or guardians. WJXT.

Marion: A 40-year-old district school driver was hospitalized Tuesday when she suffered some sort of medical emergency, veered off a highway and ran into a tree. She was the only person on the bus. WOFL. WCJB.

Alachua: New elementary school rezoning maps have been released by district officials that take into account concerns from the public and other factors. No changes were made to middle and high school maps. A public hearing on the maps is scheduled Nov. 14, and the school board is expected to vote on them Dec. 5. WCJB. Instructional time lost when Hurricane Idalia threatened the area in August will be made up in December, district officials have announced. Wednesday, Dec. 20, will now be a full day for all schools instead of an early release day, and classes also will be held Thursday, Dec. 21. Schools close Friday, Dec. 22, to start the winter break. WCJB. Alachua County School District.

Hernando: Patty Martin of Moton Elementary School has been named the school district’s principal of the year for 2024, and Dacey Hughes of Suncoast Elementary has been chosen as the top assistant principal. Both are now eligible for statewide honors. Hernando County School District. Two books have been removed from school libraries in a unanimous vote by the school board. It’s So Amazing and The Perks of Being a Wallflower were taken out after a complaint was filed, the books were reviewed by a committee and Superintendent John Stratton recommended they be removed. Public speakers also objected to at least six other books that are not being removed. Stratton said the district is following the book removal process. Suncoast News.

Flagler: Matanzas High School’s choir has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Jan. 7 as part of MidAmerica Productions’ 41st annual concert season. “Matanzas High School choir received this invitation because of the high level and quality of musicianship demonstrated by the singers,” said Peter Tiboris, general director and music director of MidAmerica Productions. The choir will perform John Rutter’s Magnificat, conducted by Rutter and accompanied by the New England Symphonic Ensemble. Daytona Beach News Journal.

Walton: County commissioners are applying for the 100-year-old Darlington School to be named a state historical site. The school opened before 1920 and was the primary school for Darlington residents until it closed in the 1980s. It’s now used as a community center for reunions and weddings. WMBB.

Colleges and universities: Florida Atlantic University’s presidential search committee violated the Sunshine Law when it privately told the search firm assisting it who its top choices were, state Attorney General Ashley Moody said this week. Her opinion is likely to restart the search process, which had named three finalists before being suspended July 7 over what State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues called “anomalies.” Sun-Sentinel. Pensacola State College’s new $22.5 million Bear Jones Moore Reeves Center for Math and Advanced Technology opens for classes in January. The center has eight classrooms and lecture halls, four computer labs, an emerging technologies lab, a prototyping lab, and offices for faculty and staff. Pensacola News Journal. Tim Parenton, former baseball coach at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville from 2018 to 2023, has died of cancer at the age of 61. WJAX. WJXT. University of North Florida.

In the Legislature: Both the Florida Senate and House will begin a special legislative session Monday at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the House will have a full floor session and the Senate has several committee meetings planned. Among the topics for the session are consideration of sanctions against Iran, aid for recovery from Hurricane Idalia, and increasing the number of state scholarships available for students with special needs. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: Grand Canyon University, a Christian college with more than 100,000 students around the country who take classes mostly online, is being fined $37.7 million by the U.S. Education Department for allegedly lying to students about the cost of its graduate programs. Grand Canyon has denied the accusations and has 20 days to appeal the fine. Associated Press. The number of computer science classes being offered in U.S. K-12 schools is rising, but boys are more than twice as likely to take them as girls are, according to’s annual report. Just 31 percent of high school girls take foundational computer science, a percentage that is unchanged over the past three years. Education Week.

Opinions on schools: We need to ensure our children and teachers are safe when they enter our schools. The answer is out there somewhere. We just don’t believe it is in the form of arming teachers. Florida Today.

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BY NextSteps staff