Broward marks 6th anniversary of school shooting and plans metal detectors, reading plan and more

Around the state: The sixth anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County will be marked with service projects and a moment of silence for the 17 victims, Broward Superintendent Peter Licata said the district is planning to install metal detectors in schools, a Hillsborough school’s reading program was so successful that it’s being expanded throughout the district, Duval’s school board sets a timeline to select a new superintendent, a bill requiring Florida K-12 schools to teach the history of communism to all students is approved by a House committee, and the Jefferson County School District is celebrating its school’s first passing grade from the state in a decade. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Parents of students at the Coral Way K-8 School in Miami were surprised this week by being required to fill out a permission form for their child to be read to by a black author. A district spokesperson said, “In compliance with state law, permission slips were sent home because guest speakers would participate during a school-authorized education-related activity.” Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. responded, saying, “Florida does not require a permission slip to teach African American history or to celebrate Black History Month. Any school that does this is completely in the wrong.” It’s the second such incident in the past week. WTVJ.

Broward: Today is the sixth anniversary of a gunman’s attack on the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 students and school employees dead and 17 others wounded. All county schools will observe the day by reflecting on the lives of the victims and taking part in service projects. At 10:17 a.m., a moment of silence will honor the victims. Sun-Sentinel. WFOR. Palm Beach Post. Six design options for a permanent memorial to the slain students and employees will soon be presented to a panel chosen to make a recommendation to the school board. The board will then survey victims’ families and the public before choosing a design. Sun-Sentinel. School Superintendent Peter Licata said the district is planning to follow the lead of Palm Beach County schools and install metal detectors. “It’s not the end all, be all,” he said. “But if it’s catching one or two along the way, it’s well worth it.” WPTV. About two-thirds of parents and principals and 80 percent of teachers like the idea of a four-day school week, according to a new school district survey. Less enthused are students, who favor the proposal by a slim majority. Sun-Sentinel.

Hillsborough: One elementary school’s successful exploration of ways to improve students’ reading is being expanded to all elementary schools in the district. Barbara Zimmer, a 1st-grade teacher at Bay Crest Elementary School, was disappointed with the ongoing reading results at the school and began researching the issue when she came across the University of Florida Literacy Institute. She got its phonics-based program for her students and saw immediate improvement, leading the school to adopt it for other grades. When district leaders heard about the results, the program was expanded to other elementaries and is now a standard. Tampa Bay Times.

Duval: School board members agreed Tuesday to open the application process for the superintendent’s job from March 15 through April 15, identify semifinalists by April 23 and then choose finalists May 7. In-person interviews with the finalists are May 13 and 14, and the school board expects to choose a new superintendent May 23 so that she or he can begin work by July. Dana Kriznar has been the interim superintendent since Diana Greene retired last summer. The board attempted to conduct a national search after Greene stepped away, but drew only 10 applicants, including several who didn’t meet the minimum qualifications. Florida Times-Union. Jacksonville Today. WJXT. WJAX.

Polk: Rebekah Ricks, the state president of the group Moms For America and a home-school advocate, has announced her candidacy for the District 4 seat on the school board. Sarah Wyatt, who currently holds that seat, has not yet filed the paperwork to run for re-election. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: School Superintendent Christopher Bernier was one of four finalists to lead the Omaha public school system, but did not get the job. Instead, the school board voted Tuesday to give the job to the interim superintendent, Matthew Ray, who has been with the district for 27 years. Lee is switching to an elected superintendent, and Bernier decided not to run. KETV.

Collier: The former office manager at Sabal Palm Elementary School has pleaded guilty to grand theft and no contest to trespassing. Cecilia Andrea Hernandez, 50, was arrested in April 2022 and fired the following month after being accused of stealing more than $8,000 from the school between October 2021 and May 2022. She was sentenced to three years of probation. Naples Daily News.

Marion: Voters will be asked in November to approve adding a half-cent to the sales tax for renovation of schools, technology and other needs. “It becomes a source of funds to address all the building needs that our school system has, not just for today or tomorrow but really looking out for the next couple of decades,” said Kevin Sheilley, the president of the Chamber & Economic Partnership. The school board’s request now goes to the county commission, which has to approve its placement on the ballot. WCJB.

St. Lucie: School board members approved a proposal asking voters in November to pass a renewal of the half-cent sales tax to pay for school construction projects. The current tax expires Dec. 31, 2026, but district officials wanted to get it on this year’s ballot because it’s a presidential election year and more people will be voting. TCPalm.

Alachua: A call has been issued by principals at struggling elementary schools and community leaders to the community for volunteers to help in classrooms, cafeterias, reading programs and as mentors to help students succeed in their early childhood education. “Commit and don’t quit,” said Jacquelyn Randall, mayor of Hawthorne and education chair of the Alachua County NAACP. “We have to keep repeating until we get it right. They are all our children. … All children need is an opportunity — an opportunity from us to have the chance to succeed.” Gainesville Sun.

Bay: School board members are considering updating a policy detailing how much money school officials can spend without board approval. The question came up after Superintendent Mark McQueen spent $82,000 on furniture for developmentally challenged preschool classrooms. Board chair Steve Moss said while the board trusts McQueen, it wants to “update those policies to make sure we’re all on the same page in regards to how we spend taxpayers’ money.” WMBB.

Liberty: The mother of a student at Liberty County High School is suing the school board for paddling her 18-year-old daughter without her consent. Kristina Vann said principal Eric Willis and assistant principal Tim Davis, who is a former major league baseball player, administered the punishment. School officials said they are conducting an investigation of the incident but had no other comment. WMBB.

Jefferson: Students and staff at the Jefferson County K-12 School are celebrating getting a C grade from the state, the first time in a decade the school has earned a passing mark. Monticello News. Tallahassee Democrat.

Colleges and universities: A partnership between Florida Gulf Coast University and  and the nonprofit Southern Scholarship Foundation will provide virtually free housing for 17 students for the 2024-2025 school year. The collaborative effort envisioned building three houses where students would pay only for utilities, Internet, social events and food. Fort Myers News-Press. Florida A&M University is borrowing $97.5 million to build a 700-bed student residence building. It’s expected to be available for students by the summer of 2025. WTXL.

In the Legislature: A bill requiring all schools to teach K-12 students “age appropriate and developmentally appropriate” lessons about the history of communism was approved Tuesday by the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. If approved and signed into law, it would take effect for the 2026-2027 school year. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. More details of the House’s proposed tax cut package have been made available. The total of the cuts would be $647.3 million, which is about half of the amount offered in the current fiscal year. This year’s two-week back-to-school tax holiday in January would be killed, leaving one 14-day event in the summer before schools start. News Service of Florida. Florida Politics. A Senate committee approved changes in a law that would allow  vendors to get a commission on each ticket issued to drivers caught on camera illegally passing school buses, despite misgivings expressed by some about the propriety of doing so. Politico Florida. People who have been in the Florida prison system would be able to get in-state tuition for higher education as long as they have met other requirements, under a bill approved Tuesday by the Senate Education Appropriations Committee. News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: It would be a mistake to double down on a flawed industrial-era assumption — that learning can readily be distilled into tidy measures that are legible across diverse institutions — and extend that flawed assumption into so-called 21st century skills like leadership or collaboration. Instead, we need to make peace with the idea that different families and educators will approach education with different goals and value systems. They will need diverse measurement systems to match. Travis Pillow, NextSteps.

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BY NextSteps staff