Broward’s Licata retiring over health and is quickly replaced, charter issue settled, Bob Graham dies, and more

Around the state: Broward school Superintendent Peter Licata is retiring for health reasons after just 10 months on the job, Broward’s school board reaches an agreement to pay charter schools an undisclosed amount of money from a 2018 tax referendum, former Florida governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham has died at the age of 87, the Pinellas school district is offering its employees discounted day-care for children 12 to 48 months old, four cities are named semi-finalists to land the state’s black history museum, and 21 candidates have applied to be Duval’s next school superintendent. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Superintendent Peter Licata announced at Tuesday’s school board meeting that he is retiring because of a medical condition. Licata, 59, was hired last July after a long career as a Palm Beach County teacher and assistant superintendent, and said he would retire Dec. 31. But the school board decided to replace him immediately, and hired chief academic officer Howard Hepburn to a three-year contract. Board chair Lori Alhadeff said Licata will remain for a period of time to help with Hepburn’s transition. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald. Politico Florida. WFOR. WTVJ. WLRN. WPLG. WSVN. School board members agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money from a 2018 referendum to 87 charter schools. The state estimated the amount owed was $80 million. Details of the deal will be announced at today’s Florida Board of Education meeting. Board members also took no action on proposals to rescind a raise to teachers and to fire general counsel Marylin Batista over her handling of the charter school payments issue, and also continued their discussion about repurposing or closing underenrolled schools. Sun-Sentinel. WTVJ. WLRN.

Duval: Twenty-one people have applied for the school superintendent’s job, and school board members will start the winnowing process next week. A late surge in applications doubled the number of candidates a year, when the board decided to start over with the search. Interviews are scheduled May 13-14, with the board expecting to choose a new superintendent May 23, and he or she will start work around July 1. Florida Times-Union. School board members also discussed a controversial proposal to close as many as 27 schools to help the district close a $1.4 billion budget gap. The district has lost 30,000 students in the past 10 years. District officials stressed at the meeting that they’re in the early stages of preparing a formal proposal and that no decisions will be made until the fall. WJXT. WTLV. Jacksonville Today. Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Jacksonville to sign HB 1285 and was asked about potential school closures in the district. He said in Florida’s funding model, “the money follows the student,” but added, “Even with robust choice, you are still going to have huge enrollment through school districts.” Florida Politics.

Pinellas: District officials will offer school employees discounted, day-long child-care services for children ages 12-48 months beginning in late July at the Pinellas Secondary School alternative school in Pinellas Park, whose students are being reassigned to other locations. Initially, the day-care center will have 160 openings and offer spots in the same proportion as the district staff — 54 percent for teachers, 42 percent for support staff and 4 percent for administrators. If the program is successful, the district will look to expand it, said Superintendent Kevin Hendrick. Tampa Bay Times.

Brevard: A power outage Tuesday morning canceled classes at Johnson Middle School in Melbourne. Repairs are being made to the air-conditioning system, and district officials expect the school to be open today. WKMG. A district survey of school bus drivers shows that 86 percent say reporting discipline incidents is easier this year, and 89 percent say discipline referrals are being processed faster. District officials say the improvement in discipline is helping with the driver shortage. WOFL.

Lake: In the first two weeks in which $100 tickets are being mailed to drivers who speed through a school zone in Eustis, 382 citations were recorded. “I didn’t think we’d have numbers like this,” said Police Chief Craig Capri. “I was hoping we’d have minimal numbers but unfortunately, people don’t pay attention.” The speed detection cameras are operational when schools are in session. WKMG.

Sarasota: School board members have approved the purchase of an artificial intelligence-powered education program to improve 9th- and 10th-graders’ writing and critical thinking skills. “We have to embrace technology, and artificial intelligence is alive and well and is coming fast and furious,” said Superintendent Terry Connor said. “We can sit there and try to hold it off, but it’s going to essentially be an essential part of our lives.” The board also approved seven new and revised job descriptions, ranging from exceptional student education administrative positions to construction project managers. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Student achievement has declined in math, English and science from 2018 to 2023, members of the financial advisory committee reported to the school board Tuesday. “It’s not a Sarasota problem, it’s a state problem,” committee chair Pam Truitt said. Charlotte Sun.

Alachua: School board members could not agree on an a proposed year-round school calendar for Rawlings and Metcalfe elementary schools, which are in the state’s pilot program, and will ask the state for assistance. The academic calendar for the 2024-2025 school year has to be approved by mid-May. WCJB.

Colleges and universities: Campus crime went back up in 2022 to pre-pandemic levels, according to a report from the consulting firm Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses. But even the latest levels are still consistent with totals since 2013, the firm says. The University of Florida reported 183 crimes in 2022, up from 117 the year before and the most in a decade. USA Today Florida Network. Florida Polytechnic University’s newly hired president, G. Devin Stephenson, will be paid between $782,000 and $1.224 million. He made $280,000 last year as president of Northwest Florida State College. News Service of Florida. Florida State College at Jacksonville has received a $1.48 million grant over three years to provide career-readiness technical training for up to 30 students with intellectual disabilities. Jacksonville Today. A group of black UF alumni are calling the school to use private donations to restore diversity, equity and inclusion programs that UF killed last month. Palm Beach Post.

HB 1285 signed: Gov. DeSantis formally signed HB 1285 into law Tuesday, a day after announcing he would do so. Among other things, the bill speeds up the process for turning a struggling public school into a charter school, restricts the number of book challenges a resident without children in a school district can make, and creates a certification for classical education teachers. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida. Miami Herald. Florida Phoenix. Jacksonville Today. WJXT. WKMG. WFLA. WPLG. Florida Politics. A Moms For Liberty leader in Indian River County is urging activists to make book challenges before the new law takes effect July 1 and limits the number non-parents can make in a month. “I know that a lot of other counties are scrambling to make sure that they have all their citizens of the community filing challenges before the change of law,” said Jennifer Pippin. WPTV. At the same news conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis also made a pitch for paying public school coaches more. A bill is being drafted for the 2025 session that would pay coaches anywhere from $11,000 to $22,000 a year while requiring a minimum number of work hours. Florida Politics.

Black history museum: St. Augustine, Eatonville, Sarasota and Opa-locka have been named as semi-finalists for the state’s proposed black history museum. The Florida Museum of Black History Task Force will interview representatives from each city Friday about their plans, then recommend three finalists to the state. WJXT. WTLV. WFTV. WESH.

Six teachers honored: Six Florida teachers have been chosen as finalists for the 2024 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching given by the federal government for K-12 STEM teaching. Elementary science finalists are Sara Berge of Lowry Elementary in Hillsborough County; Lainie Clowers-Gwynne of Dream Lake Elementary in Orange; and Kaye Ebelt of The Greene School in Palm Beach. Elementary math finalists are Nicolette Barone of Oak Park Elementary in Hillsborough; Stephanie Roehm of Plumosa School of the Arts in Palm Beach; and Cynthia Tennell of Rawlings Elementary in Alachua. Winners will be announced later this spring. WCJB. Mainstreet Daily News.

Former governor dies: Bob Graham, a former Democratic Florida governor and senator who said teaching civics for 18 weeks at Carol City Senior High School in Miami-Dade was a “life-transforming event,” has died at the age of 87. Work days were one of his campaign trademarks, and he did more than 400 that ranged from education to construction to farming to hospitality. Miami Herald. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: Superintendent Peter Licata’s sudden resignation Tuesday is yet another shock to the Broward County School District. But Broward schools are nothing if not resilient, and the district and the wider community need to unite behind their unexpected new leader. Sun-Sentinel. Conservatives’ attacks on children of immigrants are equal parts ineffective and myopic. What, precisely, do they hope to achieve by banning undocumented children from public schools? That this castigation will deter immigrant parents and caregivers from coming to the United States? Conor P. Williams and Alejandra Vazquez Baur, The 74.

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BY NextSteps staff