DeSantis and protesters square off at UF, two more state teacher of the year finalists named, NIL, and more

Around the state: Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters rallied Wednesday at the University of Florida as Gov. Ron DeSantis praised the school’s response to what he called “nonsense” on campus, teachers from Marion and Hernando are chosen as finalists for the state’s teacher of the year award, two Duval school board members oppose the appointment of a new district police chief, Lee County teachers and the school district reach a tentative contract agreement, and the FHSAA will consider a policy change at Tuesday’s meeting that would open the door for high school athletes to be paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Hollywood officials are asking the school district to reconsider its inclusion of Oakridge Elementary School on the list of schools scheduled to be closed. Most of the schools on the list are underenrolled, but Oakridge is not one of them. It does have dated facilities and was assigned a D grade by the state. It serves a predominantly black neighborhood, and city manager George Keller noted in his request that it “has historically been a strong neighborhood school where most of the students come from the immediate surrounding neighborhood and under-enrollment is not a concern.” A school board decision on closings is expected in June. Miami Herald.

Orange: Fifteen new schools will be needed in the next 10 years to handle enrollment growth, district officials said at a meeting this week. Building those would cost billions, they said in making a pitch to ask voters to renew the half-cent sales tax option for the district’s capital needs. Spectrum News 13.

Palm Beach: The 4th District Court of Appeal has ruled that Franklin Academy, a Palm Beach County charter school, is a “state” agency, not a county one, as the court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against the school for a 2018 playground accident. An injured student’s family sued the academy in 2022. But lawsuits against state agencies must be brought within three years of the incident, a requirement that doesn’t apply to county agencies. News Service of Florida. Cardinal Newman High School’s graduation ceremony was Monday. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Two school board members say they can’t support the appointment of Jackson Short as chief of the district’s police force because of his ties to Kent Stermon, a political broker who killed himself in December 2022 after being accused of asking a teenage girl to undress in exchange for Taylor Swift tickets. Short was referenced in Stermon’s suicide note, but the connection has never been explained. On Wednesday, interim superintendent Dana Kriznar appointed Short to replace Greg Burton, who is stepping down because of health issues. WJAX. WJXT. WTLV. Florida Politics. Jacksonville City Council members had questions for the school board at a joint meeting Wednesday about the district’s plan to close some schools because of declining enrollment and budget problems. WTLV. WJXT.

Lee: Teachers union representatives and the school district have reached a tentative contract agreement. The deal calls for pay raises based on years of experience, starting at 1 percent and going up to 5.25 percent for teachers with 20 years or more in the classroom. Teachers will vote at the end of the month on the deal, which also has to be approved by the school board. WINK. The school district has received a little more than $2 million as its share of the nationwide settlement between school districts and the Juul e-cigarette manufacturer. Lee plans to use the money to install vape detection devices in school bathrooms. WINK.

Osceola: A teacher at the Discovery Intermediate School in Poinciana has been removed from the classroom after being accused of “looking at inappropriate material on the computer,” according to a district spokesperson. The district’s human resources department is investigating the charge. WOFL.

Marion: Jennifer Brown, a math teacher at Forest High School in Ocala, has been named one of five finalists for the Florida teacher of the year award give annually by the state Department of Education. The winner will be announced July 25. WCJB. Florida Department of Education.

Leon: Leon High School in Tallahassee is partnering with Tallahassee Community College’s Fire Academy on a program offering students a path to firefighting certification. Superintendent Rocky Hanna said the program is the first of its kind in Tallahassee. “It’s just a wonderful program and it gives our kids one more option to look at as far as their career choice in the future,” he said. Leon High will dedicate a classroom to the academy. Students will graduate with 191 credit hours to fulfill the firefighter 1 course, and can then continue into the firefighter 2 course at TCC’s Fire Academy or become a certified volunteer firefighter. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Teachers union president Carmen Ward said this week that both the teachers and education support staff had cleared the 60 percent threshold required by the state to remain certified. Sixty-five percent of teachers are dues-paying members, and 61 percent of support staff as of April 25, Ward said. Independent Florida Alligator. Officials at P.K. Yonge, a K-12 school governed by the University of Florida, wrote a letter to the school community Monday to discuss proposed changes in the admissions process intended to elevate the school into the top five in the state. The plan would keep K-8 student population aligned with state demographics, but have a more selective process for the high school. A decision could be made at the UF trustees meeting June 13-14. Gainesville Sun.

Hernando: Jaime Suarez, a math teacher at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics in Spring Hill, has been named one of five finalists for the Florida teacher of the year award give annually by the state Department of Education. The winner will be announced July 25. Florida Department of Education. Nineteen of the 20 books challenged for content were removed from schools by school board members at a meeting this week. The only book kept was Spinning, by Tillie Walden. The challenges were made by Julia Thomas of the Moms for Liberty local chapter. “Moms for Liberty considers this a very big win today,” she said.  WUSF.

Flagler: District officials will pay a former teacher $40,000 to settle a lawsuit in which the teacher, who is black, alleged she had been unfairly passed over for promotions in favor of white applicants. JaWanda Dove was a teacher at Indian Trails Elementary School when she filed the suit in 2020. Dove is now a dean at Rymfire Elementary. Flagler Live.

Colleges and universities: Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters rallied Wednesday at the University of Florida as Gov. Ron DeSantis praised the school’s response to what he called “nonsense” on campus. DeSantis also announced that the state would make another $20 million available for security at Jewish day schools and $20 million to improve safety at historically black colleges and universities. Orlando Sentinel. Gainesville Sun. Central Florida Public Media. Florida Phoenix. Mainstreet Daily News. DeSantis personally ordered the response of the Florida Highway Patrol to handle campus protesters last week, said Dave Kerner, executive director of the Florida Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles, which oversees the FHP. Tampa Bay Times. Florida A&M University trustees are scheduling an emergency meeting next week to answer questions raised about a controversial $237.75 million donation announced last Saturday during graduation ceremonies. Tallahassee Democrat. G. Devin Stephenson was confirmed as president of Florida Polytechnic University by the Board of Governors on Wednesday. Lakeland Ledger. News Service of Florida. Carson Good, president of Good Capital Group and a Winter Park resident, has been appointed to the board of governors for the State University System by Gov. DeSantis. Orlando Sentinel.

FHSAA talking NIL: A policy change that would allow high school athletes in Florida to be compensated for use of their names, images and likenesses while maintaining their eligibility will be considered Tuesday at a meeting of the Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors. The revision authorizes student-athletes to negotiate NIL deals without involving their school, district or the FHSAA. Students would not be permitted to use school uniforms, logos and names in any deals. Palm Beach Post.

When schools resume: Fifty-eight of the state’s 67 school districts start the 2024-2025 school year on Aug. 12. The earliest they’re permitted to start is Aug. 10, but that falls on a Saturday this year. Clay and Collier start Aug. 13, while Broward, Liberty, Monroe, Sumter and Taylor start Aug. 14, and Miami-Dade starts Aug. 14. Madison County will have a “rolling” start between Aug. 12-14. The school year is a minimum of 180 days and, for students in K-3, 720 instructional hours. That increases to 900 for students in grades 4-12. USA Today Florida Network.

Opinions on schools: It’s been 100 days since the public was invited to comment on a draft master plan for the New College of Florida campus, and the draft still has not been made available. In addition, no one seems to know when the draft plan will become available, and several projected dates for revealing it have already come and gone. Jono Miller, Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff

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