Duval cutting 700 jobs, Broward trims schools on closures list, penalties for protests, and more

Around the state: Duval school employees have been told the district will cut more than 700 positions and increase class sizes because of declining enrollments and budget pressures, Broward school officials trim the list of schools that could be closed from 70 to 36, pro-Palestinian student protesters at the University of Florida face suspension and banishment from campus for three years if they violate rules of behavior over protests, a federal judge rules that two authors and a student can pursue a First Amendment lawsuit against the Escambia school board for removing a book, Hernando is working on a contract to make an assistant superintendent the interim to replace the departing John Stratton, and Miami-Dade school officials announce their principal of the year. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Chantal Osborne, the principal of Lindsey Hopkins Technical Institute, was named the school district’s principal of the year at an awards ceremony Thursday. Romulo Espinosa of Carol City Middle School was chosen as assistant principal of the year. WPLG.

Broward: A list of schools that could be closed has been trimmed from 70 to 36 and is expected to be announced today at the first of seven town halls scheduled to discuss the closures or repurposing of schools. At least five schools are expected to be closed as the district deals with declining enrollment and budget problems. The list now focuses on schools in the Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Pembroke Pines areas. Other town halls are scheduled Tuesday, Wednesday, and May 6, 7, 8 and 9. Sun-Sentinel. New Superintendent Howard Hepburn would be paid $340,000 a year but get a limited severance package if he leaves in less than a year under a tentative contract. He would also be required to move to Broward by the end of 2025. A vote on the contract is scheduled May 21. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Duval: More than 700 school district jobs will be eliminated because of declining enrollment and budget problems, officials said in an email Friday to employees. More than 500 of the jobs would be school-based, 199 would be district-level positions, and class sizes also will be increased. “In normal circumstances, the decision to budget for an increase in class sizes would be the last of my recommendations. However, the financial situation is so challenging, it really leaves no other option to reach a balanced budget under the financial challenges we face,” interim superintendent Dana Kriznar wrote in the email. WJXT. Kriznar also issued an apology Friday to the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts community for not removing an arrested teacher at the school sooner. The district learned of algebra teacher Chris Allen-Black’s arrest for allegedly masturbating in front of an open window at Walt Disney World, but waited until April 11 to remove him from his classroom. “In hindsight, the decision to pull him from the classroom should have been immediate given the nature of the charge against him,” Kriznar said. Jacksonville Today. Florida Politics. WJXT. WTLV. The district’s 27 high school graduations begin May 17 and continue through June 3, school officials announced. WJAX.

Pinellas: Palm Harbor Middle School students are getting hands-on experience in the medical field through the first year of the school’s medical academy. There are 178 students in the academy, and they take blood pressures and perform other tests. Next year, 8th-graders will have access to a 9th-grade high school credit course, and students can get first aid and CPR certification. WFTS.

Lee: A debate will be held Tuesday between the two candidates for the school superintendent’s job. Denise Carlin and Morgan Wright will appear at the Club Cabaret at 6:30 p.m. Cape Coral Breeze.

Brevard: One student was taken into custody and several others were suspended Thursday after school resource officers discovered a gun at Cocoa High School. The student in custody had the gun, and those suspended had seen it. Florida Today.

Collier: School board chair Kelly Lichter violated state financial disclosure laws and the constitution by filing an inaccurate Form 6, the Florida Commission on Ethics found last week. But the commission chose not to pursue the matter. WBBH.

Escambia: A federal judge ruled last week that two authors and a student can pursue a First Amendment lawsuit against the school board for removing the book And Tango Makes Three from school libraries. The book tells the story of two male penguins adopting and raising a penguin chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo. But U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor dismissed allegations against state education officials and leaders of the Lake County School District. News Service of Florida.

Leon: School board member Alva Swafford Smith, nothing that the district’s student enrollment has declined by 2,578 over the past five years, said last week that the school district should consider downsizing. “We are not being fiscally responsible and good stewards of taxpayer dollars if we do not discuss downsizing in this district,” she said. “We are not the only district in this state that is having to have this conversation, and something’s got to give.” Superintendent Rocky Hanna disagreed, saying there is no need to discuss something so drastic. “We are not considering closing any schools at this time,” he said. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Many parents are unhappy with the new year-round academic calendar approved for Metcalfe and Rawlings elementary schools, saying the changes negatively affect their schedules, getting their children to and from school and also present safety issues for students. Now, the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, a public lab school of the University of Florida, will join the year-round program in the 2025-2026 academic year. WUFT.

Bay: A teacher at A. Gary Walsingham Academy in Panama City Beach who was arrested April 19 and accused of possession, promotion and presentation of obscene material depicting child sexual conduct was found dead last week. Deputies said Chad Everette Wallis committed suicide. Panama City News Herald.

Hernando: School board members are working on a one-year contract for Ray Pinder, the district’s assistant superintendent of business and support services, to become the interim superintendent. The board turned to Pinder after Gina Michalicka, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said she wasn’t interested in the job. In April, Superintendent John Stratton announced he was resigning at the end of this school year. Suncoast News. About two-dozen books are being challenged by the Moms for Liberty, but at least one of the authors is fighting back. Sonya Sones’ book, The Opposite of Innocent, tells the story of a 14-year-old girl sexually assaulted by an adult family friend. When she learned of the challenge, Sones wrote a letter to school board members asking them to look at more than excerpts and summaries. She also attended a book review committee meeting virtually. The committee recommended keeping the book, and the school board will make a decision May 7. Tampa Bay Times. Hernando Sun.

Martin: The school district has 30 teaching positions to fill before the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year, according to district officials. “Our job board kind of fluctuates with how many openings there are at a time, but spread out across 20 or so schools, that’s only about one to two teachers per site. Our second biggest opening though is for paraprofessionals, teacher assistants,” said district spokesman Derek Lowe. WPBF.

Citrus: The First Baptist Church of Inverness is starting a school in the fall. It will start with grades 6-8, with the intention of adding high school and elementary grades later. About 15 students are expected for each grade. Citrus County Chronicle.

Okeechobee: A 13-year-old student at Osceola Middle School in Okeechobee has been arrested and accused of planning a mass shooting at the school. The boy told deputies he “reported hearing the voices of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the Columbine shooting in 1999” in Colorado that told him to plan a shooting at his school. WFLX. WPTV.

Monroe: The $4 million price for a new restroom and concessions building at Key West High School’s new football stadium and baseball was rejected by the school board, which had expected the work to cost $2 million. Board member Darren Horan suggested that the district rebid that portion of the project. Florida Keys Weekly.

Gadsden: School officials are starting a mentorship program in the fall that they hope will boost the district’s 74 percent high school graduation rate. The “Be a Mentor” program will start at the Carter Paramore Academy, where at-risk students will be paired with mentors. “Just from research, a positive influence in a student’s life actually helps them do better academically as well as improving their behavior and just their attendance in school,” said Superintendent Elijah Key. WTXL.

Colleges and universities: Pro-Palestinian student protesters at the University of Florida face suspension and banishment from campus for three years if they violate rules of behavior over protests, campus officials announced Friday. Professors or employees who break the rules will be fired, they added. Some of the rules include banning the use of bullhorns or speakers, possessing weapons or protesting inside buildings on campus, littering, camping or use of tents, sleeping bags or pillows, and blocking anyone’s path. There is also “no sleeping” on a campus where students often nap in the sun between classes. Fresh Take Florida. About 200 University of Central Florida students joined others around the nation with a rally Friday supporting Palestinians and opposing the war in Gaza. No arrests were reported. Orlando Sentinel. Chinese professors at the University of Florida expect a new state law banning state schools from “agreements” with people from a “country of concern,” including China, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, North Korea and Cuba, to eventually drive them out of state. Politico. University of Florida provost Joe Glover has been hired as the senior vice president of academic affairs and provost at the University of Arizona. Mainstreet Daily news. Gainesville Sun.

New state laws: Among the 28 bills signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday were four related to education: HB 707 allows a state universities to carry forward unspent funds over the 7 percent minimum of its state operating budget as an annual reserve balance, HB 917 allows students 16 and 17 with the proper certification to work in home construction, SB 1688 adds requirements to improve student awareness of career and technical education opportunities, and HB 1281 allows parents to record “oral communications” from adults attempting to goad the youth into sexual activity, effective immediately. The others go into effect July 1. WKMG. Florida Politics.

Green Ribbon Schools: Four Florida schools are among the 41 across the country selected by the U.S. Department of Education as Green Ribbon Schools for creative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and offer effective sustainability education. They are Dommerich Elementary in Maitland, Sally Ride Elementary in Orlando, Zellwood Elementary in Zellwood, and Northside Christian in St. Petersburg. U.S. Department of Education.

Around the nation: College students and faculty who have been arrested and suspended for protesting against Israel’s war in Gaza are demanding amnesty. They worry that their suspensions and legal records will cause them problems with their tuition, grades and future prospects. Associated Press.

Opinions on schools: I’m wondering if maybe in his race to build a better higher-education system at Indian River State College, President Timothy Moore, aka Captain Velocity, might need to slow down a tad and allow some of his stakeholders to catch up to him. Blake Fontenay, TCPalm.

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BY NextSteps staff