Metal detectors headed to some Broward schools, USF launching first college for AI, free tuition initiatives and more

Around the state: Schools could be consolidated in Broward, Osceola commissioners unanimously voted to approve funding to continue a free college tuition program for high school graduates, the Escambia school board is asking the county commissioners to put the renewal of the half-cent sales tax on the ballot and the University of South Florida announced plans to launch the first college of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity in the state. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: An annual safety assembly was held in remembrance of a teen who was killed 30 years ago. The event was held at Southwest Senior High School in honor of Shannon Melendi. Miami Herald.

Broward: The school system here is preparing to close some schools after data shows that about 28% of public schools in the district have an enrollment that is under 70%. Superintendent Peter Licata said the trend is statewide and attributed it to a combination of factors, including the growing number of charter schools and parents’ use of vouchers. Licata said he plans to bring forward ideas at an April 16 workshop proposals that could include specific schools that could be combined, merged or dramatically changed. South Florida Sun Sentinel. WPLG. Meanwhile, a plan to install walk-through metal detectors at some Broward public schools was approved by school board members at a meeting earlier this week. Board members formally approved the plan, which calls for installing the metal detectors at a total of 10 high schools and other school centers. Flanagan High and Taravella High will receive the detectors for summer sessions, and eight more will receive them before school starts in August. WPTV. NBC Miami. The school district here “knowingly and willfully” refused to comply with the Florida law related to sharing 2018 referendum dollars with charter schools, and must pay millions by Dec. 31 or face sanctions according to a memo issued by Education Commissioner Manny Diaz. The district should document how it plans to comply prior to an April 17 meeting of the state Board of Education, Diaz wrote. He plans to make the formal recommendation to the state board on March 27. South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Five Palm Beach Central High educators who were arrested in July but cleared of all charges regarding their failure to report a sexual assault of a student are not going to return to campus according to the school district. The district is continuing to investigate former Palm Beach Central Principal Darren Edgecomb, then-Assistant Principals Dan Snider and Nereyda Cayado de Garcia, former chorus teacher Scott Houchins and former guidance counselor Priscilla Carter. All five employees were re-assigned to positions without contact with students following their arrests. Palm Beach Post.

Pasco: Voters in this county will choose their first new school superintendent in more than a decade. Kurt Browning is not seeking reelection after 12 years at the helm. Three candidates so far have announced campaigns to succeed him. Tampa Bay Times.

Osceola: Osceola commissioners unanimously voted to approve funding to continue the Osceola Prosper Program, which is a free college tuition initiative for high school graduates here. Approval from the commissioners allows the chair and vice chair of Osceola’s County Board of Commission to sign the Prosper III program, which would provide $8.3 million in funding for all 2024 graduates of Osceola County high schools so that they can enroll at Valencia College or Osceola Technical College. Recipients would have up to five years to complete their desired studies. Spectrum News.

Escambia: The school board here is asking the county commissioners to put the renewal of the half-cent sales tax on the November ballot. The half-cent sales tax, levied by the school board, generates about $40 million a year and funds construction and improvement of schools, including technology infrastructure. Pensacola News Journal.

Alachua: School Board Chair Diyonne McGraw spent time during a regular meeting this week rebutting a recent news report that Superintendent Shane Andrew asked the state to approve a new school. Main Street Daily News.

Supreme Court: A recent ruling could give school board members more freedom to block critics on social media. Chartbeat.

School resource officers: When the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act required armed officers or guardians in every school in the state starting in 2018, that created an opportunity for the Clermont Police Department to add officers to all elementary schools since the Lake County Sheriff’s Office was already in middle and high schools. The police department now has six SROs located at four elementary and K-8 schools, protecting 4,300 children. WKMG.

Lottery news: The Florida Lottery champions itself as a win for students in the state due to its donations toward public education. The lottery’s contribution to the state’s education system has exceeded $46 billion since its inception. An annual report breaks down how that money is split. WTSP.

Colleges and universities: Research funding awarded to the University of South Florida reached an all-time high of $692 million in the fiscal year of 2023. “The University of South Florida’s record-breaking success in research funding is a reflection of our commitment to advancing new knowledge, fostering innovation and making a positive impact on society,” USF President Rhea Law said. “The dedicated work of our world-class faculty, talented research staff and collaborative partners continues to lift USF’s research enterprise to new heights.” Yahoo News.  In other USF news, the university announced plans on Thursday to launch the first college of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity in the state. The college, which is still subject to approval by the USF board of trustees, would offer undergraduate and graduate programs in addition to certifications and continuing education choices. It would also bring together current faculty who research AI, cybersecurity and computing. Tampa Bay Times. Jacksonville is the frontrunner to become the future home of the University of Florida’s Florida Semiconductor Institute that Gov. Ron DeSantis calls the next step in building the state’s growing semiconductor industry. UF has not yet made a site selection. Florida Times-Union. The chancellor of Vanderbilt University has scheduled meetings in April with Palm Beach County commissioners to talk about bringing a university satellite campus to downtown West Palm Beach. The campus would be built on seven of the 12 acres offered in the aborted 2021 effort to woo a University of Florida graduate campus. Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier will be accompanied by lawyer and lobbyist Harvey Oyer in private meetings with commissioners. WLRN.

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BY Camille Knox

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