Civics literacy requirements, state warning about tutoring company, year-round schooling, and more

Around the state: Florida’s Board of Governors meets today to decide whether to replace sociology with an American history course as a core course option and to meet the civics literacy requirement and whether to allow incoming first-year students to continue using the U.S. citizenship test to also meet that requirement, Florida’s education commissioner sends school districts a warning about doing business with a tutoring company that has ties to China, Florida Atlantic University puts plans for a dental school on hold after losing state funding for the project, Marion’s school board approves a year-round schooling test at an elementary school, and a New York City charter school company is applying to be in the state’s Schools of Hope program. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Hillsborough: Disagreements over proposed district restrictions on students’ use of cell phones in school were aired Tuesday by school board members, who nevertheless agreed to continue working on a policy to be voted on June 4 and implemented before the 2024-2025 school year. Among the concerns are cutting off parents’ ability to contact their children in an emergency, whether teachers and principals should have flexibility on allowing phone usage, and whether a new policy will comply with the state’s parental rights law. Tampa Bay Times. Teachers union officials have fallen just short of reaching the state-required threshold of dues-paying members to retain certification. They needed 60 percent. The union must now go through the recertification process to get signatures from 30 percent of potentials members in order to force a new election. WUSF.

Palm Beach: District high school seniors who are planning to use college entry exam scores to be eligible for graduation now have a higher bar to clear because the minimum test scores required have been raised. Last year, about 37 percent of the district’s seniors failed the state’s math and reading exams and used college entry exam scores to be eligible for graduation. Palm Beach Post.

Brevard: A family has filed a federal lawsuit against the school district, claiming it did nothing to protect their 13-year-old daughter from bullying at Edgewood Senior/Middle School in Merritt Island. The girl’s parents said they notified school officials, but the bullying continued and intensified into sexual harassment and physical assault. WFTV.

Osceola: School officials are now notifying parents early in the school day if their children are not in school, and are setting up an account in the parent portal allowing parents to view daily attendance reports. The policy change comes about a month after the mother of a 13-year-old Orange County student was not notified that her daughter wasn’t in school until later in the day. Madeline Soto was later found dead. WKMG. WFTV. WESH. The school district is in the midst of planning, designing and building $919 million worth of capital improvements being financed with sales tax revenues and impact fees. Five of the projects are in the planning stage, while 26 are being designed, 31 are under construction and 16 are being finished. A large chunk of the money is going for three new K-8 schools and a renovation at Gateway High School. Several of the projects will be completed this year. WKMG.

Seminole: The way the school district credits students who take dual-enrollment classes is being criticized by some parents who believe the process shortchanges students who take Advanced Placement courses. Dual-enrollment students get a half-credit in a semester if they get an A in the course, but it takes AP students two semesters to earn that same half-credit. Parents say the calculations can affect grade point average, class standing and Bright Futures scholarships. WFTV.

Volusia, Flagler: Graduation ceremonies have been scheduled for Volusia and Flagler public school seniors. All will be held at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach. Volusia’s first graduation is DeLand High’s, on May 21, and its last is Taylor Middle-High’s on May 26. Flagler’s ceremonies are May 22 at 3 p.m. for Mantanzas High, and at 7 p.m. for Flagler-Palm Coast High. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Lake: A former Apopka High School teacher was found guilty last week of sexually abusing a foreign exchange student last October. Prosecutors said Dmitri Kostyunin, 51, sexually abused an Italian student who was staying at his Mount Dora home. The student told his family, who called the FBI. WKMG.

St. Johns: An educational nonprofit organization is collaborating with community agencies to survey the mental health and behavioral needs of students and residents. Investing in Kids and several agencies have created the online surveys for students between the ages of 13 and 17, and for adults 18 and over. Survey results are expected to be released in August. St. Augustine Record.

Marion: A year-round schooling pilot program has been approved at Wyomina Park Elementary School. School board members voted Tuesday to start the program, which is part of a state test, this summer with students returning to school July 22. Students will be in classes for the same 180 days as students at other schools, and have the same breaks. WESH.

Escambia: As part of a plea deal, a former dean at Warrington Middle School in Pensacola has pleaded no contest to charges of lewd or lascivious conduct with a person less than 18 years old and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. By taking the deal, Darreyel Laster received 60 months of sex offender probation followed by 12 months of community control, instead of up to 25 years in prison. He resigned just before he was arrested in January 2023. Pensacola News Journal. WEAR.

Leon: The district is applying to the state for a $500,000 grant to expand campus security measures. Most of the money would be used to upgrade security cameras at Leon and SAIL high schools. WCTV. Average daily school attendance stands at 90.85 percent, school board members were told at a workshop meeting this week. That’s a sharp improvement over last year’s 82 percent, but still below the goal of 95 percent. Board members also tentatively approved an updated policy on homeless students, who will now be called “families in transition.” There are about 1,000 with students in the district, up from 800 last year. Tallahassee Reports. A 34-year-old parent was arrested this week at Godby High School after allegedly threatening a student with a knife for walking in front of his car in the school drop-off area. Thomas Ivester is charged with aggravated assault and having a weapon on campus, and battery on a law enforcement officer who intervened in the dispute. WCTV.

Alachua: A Newberry nonprofit that wants to convert the city’s three public schools into charter schools is proposing spending $22,271,986 in the first year and setting aside $1,191,125 in reserve. Its budget would be anchored with funding from the city, county, state and federal governments, and projects additional revenues in the second and third years due to higher enrollment. Mainstreet Daily News. WCJB.

Bay: Panama City commissioners have tabled a proposal to install speed detection cameras in city school zones over privacy concerns. WJHG. WMBB. District school officials said they were recently notified that a 6th-grader had compiled a “concerning” list during the last school year. The parent/guardian of the student discovered the list and notified authorities, who determined there was no credible safety threat and that the student had been “dealt with” at the school level. No other details were made available. WJHG. A 13 year-old Jinks Middle School student has been arrested after a fight with a classmate. The mother of the girl arrested was then called by another student, and showed up at the school with several family members. When she tried to intervene with the school resource officer to stop him from taking her daughter, she and two other students were arrested. WJHG.

Washington: A Chipley High School substitute teacher has been arrested and accused of vaping in her classroom and sharing the vape with her students. Cherise Renee McCorvey has been charged with an act that causes, tends to cause, encourages, or contributes to a child becoming a delinquent or dependent child or a child in need of services. WJHG.

Colleges and universities: Florida Atlantic University’s plans to build a dental school have been put on hold after the Legislature pulled back the $30 million it approved last year to help start the program. Sun-Sentinel. The Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport has approved a proposal to sell a 30.94-acre parcel to New College of Florida for $11.5 million that the school had been leasing. New athletic fields will be built on the property, and existing buildings will be renovated. The deal still has to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WUSF.

Charter expansion? Success Academy, a charter school company based in New York City that has never opened a school outside of the city, has applied to the Florida Board of Education to become a Schools of Hope operator. That would allow the company, which has a strong track record of achievement with its enrollment of mostly low-income students, to open schools in areas where the public schools have struggled. “We are immensely excited at the prospect of bringing our success to Florida and look forward to exploring what we can accomplish together, given that Florida is a national leader in educational choice, as the Schools of Hope program demonstrates,” said Success Academy’s founder Eva Moskowitz. NextSteps.

Tutoring program warning: Florida DOE officials issued a warning to school districts Tuesday against contracting with the online tutoring service “” because of its alleged ties to Chinese nationals. “Let me be clear — school districts, charter schools and state colleges should not contract with companies that have ties to foreign countries of concern and risk compromising student data,” wrote Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. The company’s website says it is controlled by Primavera Holdings Limited, a firm owned by Chinese nationals. At least one school district, Santa Rosa’s, has terminated its association with the company. WKRG. WEAR.

Civics literacy: Florida’s Board of Governors meets today to discuss whether to replace sociology with an American history course as a core course option and to meet the civics literacy requirement, and whether to allow incoming first-year students to continue using the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Test to also meet that requirement. WMFE. The board is also expected to vote today on New College’s request to start a master’s program in marine mammal science. Florida Politics.

Around the nation: Full-time equivalent staffing levels in schools are at an all-time high, according to new data from the National Center on Education Statistics, even as enrollment is stagnant or even falling in some districts. The combination means nearly three-quarters of 9,500 U.S. school districts have a lower student-to-teacher ratio than they did six years ago. The 74.

Opinions on schools: The central problem with K-12 is politicsand the COVID-19 fiasco made that sad fact blindingly obvious. The task ahead lies in recovery and in fiasco-proofing your family as best you can for the future. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps.

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BY NextSteps staff

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