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Bullying scholarship repeal considered, NIL, dress code, teachers honored, and more

Bullying scholarship repeal: A seldom-used state scholarship allowing bullied students to switch schools would be repealed under a bill that has already advanced through two House committees. Only 538 students are using a Hope Scholarship this year, compared to more than 381,000 using Florida’s three other voucher programs, according to the Department of Education and Step Up For Students, which helps administer the scholarships and hosts this blog. Those on Hope Scholarships, which began in 2018, would be transferred to one of those programs. “Since we now have universal school choice that scholarship is no longer needed,” said state Rep. Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City, the sponsor of the bill. Orlando Sentinel.

Also in the Legislature: Students who have been sentenced as adults for homicide, sexual assault or lewd and lascivious offenses would be prohibited from playing high school sports under a bill that was approved Friday by the House Education Quality Subcommittee. The sponsor, state Rep. Berny Jacques, R-Seminole, said students can’t participate in sports if they can’t maintain a C average and “if you’re responsible for taking someone’s life, I don’t think you should play, either.” Tampa Bay Times. Student-athletes could do commercials, promotional activities and social media engagement provided by an organization approved by the Florida High School Athletic Association under a draft of the group’s proposal to pay a student for use of his or her name, image and likeness (NIL). Students could not use school logos or promote their deals during school or FHSAA events, schools and employees could not arrange deals, and NIL could not be used for recruiting. Tampa Bay Times.

Around the state: Broward school board members are being asked to approve a K-12 school dress code and a school start date of Aug. 19, Volusia’s school board votes Tuesday on a policy allowing random searches of students without probable cause, Alachua’s school board approves a contract agreement with teachers and other school employees, a former Miami-Dade school board member had her district-issued credit card limit increased in nearly every month in 2022, and Duval, Volusia, Bay and Charlotte school districts announce their teachers of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: District officials increased the spending limit on former school board member Lubby Navarro’s district-issued credit card in 10 of 12 months in 2022, from the standard $6,000 to as much as $15,000. And when Navarro spent $13,432 in December, much of it at Walmart, district chief of staff Jose Bueno investigated and discovered that items she was buying were not allowed by the district. Navarro, 49, was arrested earlier this month and accused of spending more than $100,000 on personal items. She’s been charged with felony fraud and grand theft. Miami Herald.

Broward: School board members will be asked Tuesday to consider initiating a policy requiring a “unified dress code” for all K-12 students, starting in the fall. Dress codes are in place in some elementary, middle and high schools, but are now decided on a school-by-school basis. If the motion is approved, development of the new code will take up to 90 days and must be approved by the board. Sun-Sentinel. Schools would start Aug. 19 under a proposal also being considered Tuesday by the board. Superintendent Peter Licata recommended the start be moved up a week so the first semester could be completed before the winter break, but it didn’t get the required approval from the teachers union. Union president Anna Fusco said the union is open to discussing an earlier start date for the 2025-2026 academic year. Sun-Sentinel. A $47 million renovation project nine years in the making has been completed at Northeast High School in Fort Lauderdale. The work includes 24 classrooms, art labs, office space and a teacher planning room. “It’s a process. There’s red tape, permitting. It had to be tied into the Oakland Park water system,” said principal Anthony Valachovic. WFOR.

Orange: Terrell Foy, an employee at the Blankner K-8 School and an assistant football coach at Winter Park High School, was arrested last week and accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 13-year-old Blankner student. Orlando police said Loy has been charged with lewd or lascivious conduct and offenses against students by authority figures. Blankner principal Junella Kreil sent a message to parents saying Foy will not return to the school. WKMG. WFTV. WESH. WOFL. Sports Illustrated.

Duval: Gustavo Guzman, a third-year biology teacher at Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville, has been named the school district’s teacher of the year. He now moves on to the statewide competition. Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Brevard: An 18-year-old Viera High School student has announced his candidacy for the District 4 school board seat. Max Madl joins Avanese Taylor, the mother of a student who was victimized in a hazing incident at Viera High, in challenging incumbent Matt Susin. “I would say in the 15 years that I’ve been in elections, that’s the youngest (candidate) I’ve ever seen,” said Supervisor of Elections Tim Bobanic. Florida Today. WKMG.

Volusia: Emily Fagerstorm, a math instructional coach  teacher at Champion Elementary School, has been named the school district’s teacher of the year and is now eligible for the statewide honor. The other finalists were Amy Dempsey of DeLand High, Caryn King of Ormond Beach Middle, Tanner K. Norvell of Seabreeze High School, and Gina Marie Walker of George Marks Elementary School. Volusia County School District. School board members vote Tuesday on a new policy that would allow school staff and law enforcement officers to search students randomly at schools and without cause. The policy has been limited to football games and after-school activities, and searches could be conducted only with probable cause. WESH.

Marion: An 18-year-old Forest High School has been arrested and accused of threatening to blow up several schools and “coming after” several teachers targeted by name in a Snapchat message. Ocala Star-Banner. WUFT. WFTV. WMFE.

Alachua: A contract agreement between the school district and the union representing teachers was approved Friday by the school board. It includes a salary increase of 3.5 percent for instructional and non-instructional personnel plus the 1 percent step increase employees receive at the beginning of each school year, and is retroactive to July 1. The cost to the district is about $6 million. Gainesville Sun. Main Street Daily News. WCJB.

Santa Rosa: A paraprofessional at Pace High School has been arrested and accused of helping her boyfriend avoid an arrest warrant for failing to register as a sex offender. Marcia Stephens, 43, “has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation,” district officials said. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Bay: Kenneth Kirkland, a music teacher at Patronis Elementary School in Panama City since 1999, has been named the school district’s teacher of the year. He’s now eligible for the state’s teacher of the year competition. WMBB.

Charlotte: Zuzana Lukackova, a high school math teacher at The Academy in Port Charlotte, was named the school district’s teacher of the year Friday, and secretary Mary Crawford of Deep Creek Elementary in Port Charlotte was chosen as the support person of the year. Both are now eligible for statewide honors. Charlotte Sun. WINK. Charlotte County School District.

Colleges and universities: The Board of Governors will decide Wednesday whether to extend State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues’ contract for a year, through November 2026, and raise his pay from $400,000 to $420,000 a year. News Service of Florida. In his now-ended campaign for president, Gov. Ron DeSantis has claimed he closed pro-Palestinian groups on the state’s university campuses. But in court, attorneys defending him in federal lawsuits filed by those groups say the governor was simply “encouraging” the University of Florida and the University of South Florida to shutter chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine last fall. Tampa Bay Times. Florida International University officials have received a $10 million donation from Benjamín León Jr., chairman and founder of Leon Medical Centers. It will be used to build an academic and cultural center that will be dedicated to Cuba. Miami Herald. Marvin Dunn, a professor emeritus at Florida International University, has been awarded the Tikkun Olam Prize for Promoting Public Historical Literacy from the American Historical Association. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: How could a Miami-Dade school board member have the ability to run up the tab on a board credit card over and over — and spend money on things like fake pregnancy bellies, refrigerators and 56 lemon pies — without setting off alarm bells? Miami Herald. There’s no practical way to protect children from ungovernable networks and their unending barrage of pornography, personal attacks, threats, bullying, conspiracy theories, racism, sexism and fanaticism. A kind of mad, mean anarchy has seeped into our lives via social networks, tainting what used to be known as childhood innocence. Sadly, a state law can’t fix it. Fred Grimm, Sun-Sentinel. The purpose of the university I’ve inhabited for 37 years is to help students learn to think about scientific or engineering problems like a physicist and to urge them to accept that each individual should take responsibility for her or his own decisions and actions. I will leave it to others who are much more influential than I am to decide whether that is good enough. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.

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BY NextSteps staff

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