Bill would restrict what flags can fly at schools, charter school enrollment soars, and more

Around the state: Schools would be forbidden to fly any flags with a “political viewpoint” under a bill filled for the legislative session that starts next month, charter school enrollment is up 9 percent nationwide and 16 percent in Florida since the 2019-2020 school year, Broward’s superintendent proposes starting the school year earlier next fall, Alachua’s teachers union and the district reach a tentative contract agreement after 14 months of negotiations, a new principal is recommended for a Flagler elementary school that held an assembly about low test scores with black students only in August, and the University of Tampa has chosen a new president. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Peter Licata is recommending the school board approve a 2024-2025 academic calendar that calls for the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 12, and the last day on Monday, June 3. The impetus for starting nine days earlier than last year is to end the first semester before the winter break. “As an educator, a person who spent many years in the classroom and many years running schools, that time after a break is just so difficult to get any educational worth out of,” Licata said. He also wants to turn four early-release days into full days for students. “The board is trying to maximize instructional time to lead us to an A district,” said district spokesman John Sullivan. Sun-Sentinel. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resource officer Scot Peterson had no legal duty to confront the gunman who killed 17 people at the school in 2018, his attorneys argued Monday in asking a judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit brought by the victims’ families and survivors. Associated Press.

Orange: Free eye exams will be offered by the school district today from noon to 2:30 p.m. at Jones High School and the Orange County Public Schools Academic Center for Excellence. The exams are a collaboration between the district and the Florida Heiken Children’s Vision Program. WFTV.

Palm Beach: Firefighters extinguished a blaze Monday night at Gove Elementary School in Belle Glade. No one was injured, and no estimate of the damage was given. WPTV.

Lee: A student, a school bus driver and the bus attendant were injured and taken to a hospital Monday when a dump truck ran into the back of the bus on Alico Road. The truck driver also was injured. WINK. WBBH.

Alachua: Teachers union officials and the school district have reached a tentative contract agreement two months after the state’s deadline for doing so. It includes a 3.5 percent salary increase for instructional and non-instructional personnel and an automatic “step” increase, which is typically about 1 percent more. “We made a better increase than we’ve had in several years,” union president Carmen Ward said. “I’ve been in the public school system for 33 years and I would say I could count on one hand the years that we’ve had above 3 percent as an increase.” Union officials began negotiations 14 months ago by asking for a 10 percent pay hike over two years. The increase is retroactive to July 1 after the contract is approved by union members and the school board. Gainesville Sun. Independent Florida Alligator. Main Street Daily News. WCJB.

Charlotte: Two school-based administrators have been promoted to positions in the district office, Superintendent Mark Vianello has announced. Bob Bedford, principal at Lemon Bay High School, becomes the assistant superintendent of learning, and Sheila Brown, principal at Liberty Elementary, is the new director of elementary learning. Bedford is being replaced by Lemon Bay assistant principal Robert Murphy, and Brown is being replaced by Liberty assistant principal Carolyn Whaley. Charlotte County School District.

Flagler: A new principal has been recommended for Bunnell Elementary School, replacing the leader who resigned in August after a special assembly to discuss low test scores was held for black students only. Cari McGee, who has been the assistant principal at Bunnell since July 2019, would replace interim Marcus Sanfilippo, who took over when Donelle Evensen resigned a month after the controversial assembly. The teacher involved in the assembly, Anthony Hines, also resigned. School board members vote on the recommendation today. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WOFL. Winnie Oden, a teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, principal, school safety consultant and briefly a school board member, died last week at the age of 75. “She meant so much to this district over the years,” said Jason Wheeler, the school district’s chief spokesman. Flagler Live.

Columbia: A boy was arrested Monday after allegedly trying to run down a school resource officer Monday morning in the parking lot of Columbia High School. The officer said he saw a truck speeding in the parking lot and when he tried to get the driver’s attention, the boy swerved in the officer’s direction. He avoided being hit, and the driver sped off. The car, and its 15-year-old driver, were apprehended at a home nearby. He’s been charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. WJXT. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Texas Christian University’s provost has been named the next president at the University of Tampa. Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg was the choice after a months-long search that attracted more than 160 candidates. She will replace Ronald Vaughn, who led the private school of about 11,000 students for 29 years, starting June 1. Dahlberg has more than 20 years of higher education experience as a professor of computer science and university administrator. Tampa Bay Times. WUSF. Tim Cerio and Alan Levine have been reappointed to the Florida Board of Governors by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Their appoinements must be approved by the Florida Senate. Florida Daily. The number of first-year U.S college applicants for the 2023-2024 academic year is up 8 percent over the previous year, according to new Common App data. Common Data is an online portal students can use to apply to about 1,000 colleges. K-12 Dive.

In the Legislature: Florida’s K-12 schools, colleges and governments would be forbidden from flying flags that represent “a political viewpoint,” including those related to “sexual orientation and gender” or race, under a bill filed for the 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 9. HB 901 is sponsored by state Rep. David Borrero, R-Sweetwater. News Service of Florida. WPTV. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, talks about education deregulation bills being considered by the Legislature, the effects of the Parental Rights in Education law, protecting students from the impacts of social media, and more. WUSF.

Around the nation: The number of students in charter schools grew by more than 300,000 between 2019-2020 and 2022-2023, a 9 percent increase, according to a report of 42 states from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. In that same period, public schools lost 1.5 million students. Florida’s charter school enrollment in that period has grown from 329,219 to 382,367, an increase of 16 percent. The 74. Where do the Republican candidates stand on educational issues? Most want to shut down the Department of Education and start a federal voucher program that issues public money to students to attend private schools or be home-schooled. New York Times.

Opinions on schools: NAEP scores should be used with skepticism when ranking states’ charter schools. Here’s why. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps. To believe that Florida should cut off access to Chinese scholars (including prospective graduate students) and to simultaneously ignore the issue of the poor preparation of Florida’s high school students for college STEM majors is a form of hypocrisy. And it’s a hypocrisy of which the majority of Florida’s educational leaders are guilty. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow. Book-banning is creating a generation of children who feel isolated and ashamed, who fall behind, and whose history is erased. Our lawmakers in Congress must step in to help students in Florida and in other states that restrict what they can read. U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, Orlando Sentinel. Government thought control will not help Florida kids prepare for living and working in a diverse country that will soon be majority minority. Nor will it get them into a good college. The DeSantis regime is intellectually impoverished and proud of it. But Florida’s children should not be imprisoned in their prejudices and parochialism. Diane Roberts, Florida Phoenix. The modest and long-overdue steps toward educational deregulation are a welcome shift in philosophy for a Republican-dominated Legislature that for too long has micro-managed public education, while allowing private and religious schools to evade the same level of accountability. Orlando Sentinel and Sun-Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff