College presidential searches, school chaplains and uniforms, D and F schools, and more

Around the state: A proposed bill would require colleges and universities to select three to five finalists in presidential searches and another would allow school districts to decide whether to have volunteer school chaplains, Miami-Dade school board members vote today on extending the uniform policy to all schools, Hillsborough County has the most schools given grades of D or F from the state, the teacher of the year is named in Lee County, and a Citrus County high school teacher caused a lockdown when she inadvertently activated her crisis alert badge. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: School board members could decide today whether to extend its policy requiring school uniforms to students in pre-K and high school. While the district now requires only K-8 students to wear uniforms, most other schools also have standard dress codes. Only seven district high schools do not have a requirement that students wear uniforms. A majority of board members expressed support for the proposal, made by Roberto Alonso, during a committee meeting last week. “I know I’m not going to be a favorite among students, but at the end of the day, we were elected to make decisions for our schools,” Alonso said. “But I’m good with it, because I think it’s important.” Miami Herald.

Hillsborough, Tampa Bay area: Hillsborough has 32 schools that received D or F grades from the state last week, the most in Florida. One of the schools has already been closed and two others are scheduled to be after this school year. Superintendent Van Ayres called the numbers “unacceptable,” and said measures already in place are expected to bring improvement. “Am I expecting these grades coming out in July to be the best they’ll be? No,” Ayres said. “I think over the next two- or three-year period of time, they will continue to grow, and grow at a fast rate.” Tampa Bay Times. School superintendents from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties talk about vouchers, the use of cell phones in classes, removing books from schools and more. WMNF.

Palm Beach: A man driving under the influence who plowed into four students at a school bus stop in Royal Palm Beach in March 2022, killing two of them, has been semtenced to eight years in prison. Angel Lopez, 59, had agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. Killed were Tiana Johnson and Chand Wazir, both 15. WPEC.

Duval, northeast Florida: At least six threats against schools have been made in the past week, and parents say they’re worried for their children. Law enforcement responded to the threats to LaVilla School of the Arts, Fletcher Middle, Fletcher High, Raines High in Duval, Ponte Vedra High in St. Johns and Indian Trails Middle in Flagler, and no one was injured. But parents are still on edge. Susan Samko has twins who are freshmen at Ponte Vedra High School, said there was a threat late last week to kill students. “For my daughter who’s very commonly levelheaded, it was a big deal,” she said. WJXT.

Lee: Maria Rose, a 1st-grade teacher at Edison Park Creative and Expressive Arts School in Fort Myers, has been named the school district’s teacher of the year. The other finalists were Barbara Rebeor from Harns Marsh Middle School and Laura Jordan from Caloosa Elementary. Rose now is eligible for the state teacher of the year competition. Lee County School District.

Pasco: Eighteen students who had been categorized as “missing” from schools have been located, Vanessa Hilton, chief academic officer for the district, told the school board at a recent meeting. “The 18 that were found were either re-engaged in Pasco, found enrolled in another county or state, or who have now been connected to Home Ed,” Hilton said. “The success in this task is completely thanks to that team of social service coordinators, who utilized their determination, skills and creativity to look out for the safety of these younger students.” Laker Lutz News.

Brevard: Viera High School opened a new 20,000-square-foot building this week that will be home to the Brevard Learners Achieving Success Transition, choir, and career and technical education programs. The project cost $8.5 million. Space Coast Daily.

Citrus: A Lecanto High School teacher accidentally activated her crisis alert badge, which triggered a lockdown of the school Tuesday at 7:15 a.m. Parents dropping off their children and school buses were diverted from the school until the all-clear was given. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: Superintendent LaShakia Moore disregarded the recommendation of a 12-member hiring committee when she chose Cari McGee as the new principal at Bunnell Elementary School. Seven applicants were considered by the committee, which recommended Abra Seay, an assistant principal at Rymfire Elementary, be hired to replace Donelle Evensen, who resigned after approving a special assembly to discuss low test scores and inviting only black students. Instead, Moore selected assistant principal McGee, who is an advocate for diversity. Flagler Live.

Sumter: Edgar Warren Tomberlin, who was a longtime teacher and then principal at the old Colman School until it closed, taught at Bushnell High (which is now South Sumter High) and then became the principal at Bushnell Elementary, has died at the age of 99. The administration building at Bushnell Elementary is named in his honor. Villages News.

In the Legislature: Colleges and universities would be required to have three to five finalists in presidential searches under a bill filed Tuesday for the legislative session that begins Jan. 9. SB 990, sponsored by state Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, revises a law that provides a public records exemption for “a final group of applicants” in those searches to define that final group to “no fewer than three and no more than five applicants who will receive final consideration for president of a state university or Florida College System institution.” News Service of Florida. School districts and charter schools would be permitted to have volunteer chaplains under a bill filed this week. HB 931, filed by state Rep. Stan McClain, R-Ocala, would require school boards and charter governing boards to vote by Jan. 1, 2025, whether they would permit chaplains. Those that approve having chaplains would then have to maintain a list of volunteer chaplains, and their religious affiliations, on their websites. News Service of Florida.

Around the nation: About 40 percent of the 22 million people who were supposed to resume making payments on their student loans in October have failed to do so, according to the U.S. Department of Education. “While most borrowers have already made their first payment, others will need more time. Some are confused or overwhelmed about their options,” said Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal. There will be no penalties for the delinquent borrowers before September 2024. CNN. Scripps News.

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BY NextSteps staff