Graduations galore, housing for teachers, new schools, FAMU’s controversial donation, and more

Around the state: Dozens of high school graduations have been held around the state in the past week, Hendry County school officials said they want to building affordable housing for teacher on unused district property, the donor of a $237 million stock gift to FAMU stands by it even as the school has backed away from it and begun an investigation, Duval’s interim superintendent vows to clean up teacher misconduct at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, construction began Friday on the first of three new high schools being built in the next few years in Putnam County, and a former senior chancellor at the state Department of Education is expected to be named Tuesday as the interim president at Northwest Florida State College. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Broward school officials said over the weekend a social media post claiming that students’ scores on state assessments and end-of-course exams had been invalidated and that they would have to retake the tests is false. On its X feed, the district said, “Please share this message to prevent students from being adversely affected by a fictitious post.” WLRN. Seven district high school seniors have been awarded National Merit scholarships. Broward County School District.

Hillsborough: A Republican running for the District 1 school board seat is accusing an ally of one of her opponents, also a Republican, of trying to bribe her to drop out of the race. Julie Magill made the charge against opponent Layla Collins, wife of state Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa. Magill and Layla Collins are challenging incumbent Nadia Combs. Tampa Bay Times. A man has been arrested and accused of stealing a district school bus Saturday night and driving it to Miami. Troopers said Daniel Saez, 32, was arrested in Venice on Sunday morning, as he was driving back to Tampa. He said he was drunk and high when he stole the bus. He’s charged with grand theft auto. Tampa Bay Times. Bradenton Herald. WTVJ. WTVT. WTSP. WFTS.

Palm Beach: Alexandria Ayala, the first Hispanic woman elected to the school board in 2020, has announced she will not run for re-election to her District 2 seat. She didn’t explain her decision, and said she would continue to work to improve education. The declared candidates for the seat are Angel Rodriguez Suarez and Mariana Blanco. Florida Politics. Graduation ceremonies have been held for Boca Raton, Lake Worth Community, Boynton Beach, Palm Beach Central, Palm Beach Gardens, Inlet Grove and John Leonard high schools, and South Tech and Oxbridge academies. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attended his son Barron’s commencement at Oxbridge. Palm Beach Post.

Duval: Interim superintendent Dana Kriznar is vowing to make policy changes to end the run of teacher misconduct at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, where five teachers have been removed in the past two years for having inappropriate relationships with students. In a letter to parents, Kriznar wrote, “It is my intention to begin implementing stronger policies, procedures, and other strategies to prevent anything of this nature happening at Douglas Anderson or any other school in our district.” She’s asking for input from parents to help build those policies. WJAX.

Polk: Graduation ceremonies were held last weekend for Ridge, Davenport, Haines City, Frostproof, Lake Gibson and Lakeland high schools and the Harrison School for the Arts. Lakeland Ledger. Two county students have received National Merit scholarships: Nicholas Kieffer of Bartow High School International Baccalaureate, and James Lovely of All Saints Academy in Winter Haven. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Graduation ceremonies were held over the weekend for Pinellas Park, Osceola, Gibbs, Northeast, Largo, St. Petersburg, Palm Harbor, Hollins, Tarpon Springs and Richard O. Jacobson Tech high schools. Pinellas County School District.

Lee: Graduation ceremonies have been held for East Lee, North Fort Myers, Island Coast, Lehigh, Dunbar, Estero, Riverdale, Fort Myers, Cypress Lake, Mariner, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Gateway and Bishop Verot high schools. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: High school graduation season in the county began Saturday with a ceremony for Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne. Florida Today.

Osceola: A lobbyist who is a former state representative has been charged with battery against school board member Jon Arguello. St. Cloud police said an altercation between Michael Horner, 56, and Arguello at a restaurant Friday began when Arguello started filming a video of himself talking about the political fund-raiser they were attending. Orlando Sentinel. WOFL. WESH.

Lake: In the two months that a vape-sniffing dog has been on duty in district middle and high schools, she has detected 40 nicotine vapes and five THC vapes, according to school resource officer and K-9 handler Erica Stamborski. Samba has also sniffed out marijuana and alcohol in backpacks. She was purchased by the district in November, and completed her training in March. WKMG. Graduation ceremonies have been held for Lake Minneola, Mount Dora and Leesburg high schools. Orlando Sentinel. Daily Commercial.

Manatee: Graduation ceremonies have been held for Southeast, Palmetto and Manatee high schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Sarasota: Graduation ceremonies have been held for Sarasota, Riverview, VeniceSuncoast Polytechnical, Oak Park, Booker, Cardinal Mooney Catholic and North Port high schools. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. YouTube. A police report compiled during the investigation of a rape allegation against the husband of school board member Bridget Ziegler describes how he prowled bars looking for partners for sexual threesomes. Christian Ziegler used to clandestinely photograph women at bars and text them to his wife to see if she approved, according to the report. No charges were filed after the investigation was completed in January, and the issue now is whether records of the query should be released. Bridget Ziegler, a Moms For Liberty cofounder who has supported anti-LGBTQ measures, has ignored calls for her to step down from her board position. Florida Trinity.

Marion: Commencement was held Friday for the Ocala Christian Academy. Ocala Star Banner.

St. Lucie: Commencement was held Friday for John Carroll High School. TCPalm.

Escambia: Graduation for Pensacola Catholic High School seniors was held Saturday. Pensacola News Journal. A retired teacher from Pensacola has pleaded guilty to threatening a federal judge in Orlando who ruled in favor of the state in a challenge to the Parental Rights in Education law. Stephen Thorn, 66, faces up to five years in prison. Reuters.

Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla: Graduation was last week for high school seniors in Wakulla County, and is this week for seniors in Leon and Gadsden counties. Here are class valedictorians, salutatorians and the graduating classes. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Six county students — five from Buchholz High and one from Eastside — have been awarded National Merit scholarships. Gainesville Sun.

Hernando: School board members are expected to decide May 28 between two candidates for the job as interim superintendent. Assistant superintendent Ray Pinder and retired Moton elementary principal Brent Gaustad are the choices. In April, Superintendent John Stratton announced he was retiring at the end of this school year. Suncoast News.

Martin: Graduation ceremonies have been held for Martin County High School and for the Clark Advanced Learning Center. TCPalm.

Indian River: Graduation ceremonies have been held for Indian River Charter, Vero Beach and Sebastian River high schools. TCPalm.

Charlotte: A graduation ceremony was held Friday for Lemon Bay High School. Charlotte Sun.

Citrus: Seven students from the Citrus Resource for Exceptional Students in Transition in Lecanto graduated Friday. Citrus County Chronicle.

Flagler: Last week was “intense” after a series of swatting calls at Buddy Taylor Middle and other schools in the county, Superintendent LaShakia Moore said in a video message to parents. On Friday, a 13-year-old Daytona boy was arrested and accused of making the calls. He told deputies he was dared by a friend to call in the threats. Daytona Beach News-Journal. WKMG.

Putnam: Construction began Friday on the first of three new high schools that will be built in the next few years. Crescent City Junior-Senior High School, which was built in 1968, will be rebuilt and reopen by the fall of 2025, said district officials. The approximate cost of $95 million will be paid by the Florida Department of Education. Interlachen and Palatka junior-senior high rebuilds are next on the schedule. Palatka Daily News.

Hendry: School officials have announced a plan to build affordable housing for teachers on unused district property. Clewiston Middle School principal Tina Kelley said she has lost several prospective teachers after they discover they can’t find a place to live that they can afford. “Right now, the average rent here is $1,300 to $1,500 a month, and when you do the backward engineering on that there’s not a lot of profit leftover in a teacher salary,” said Superintendent Michael Swindle. “So if we can cut that in half or even significantly down, that would make up for some of the salary we can’t give them.” He wants to build one apartment complex in Clewiston and another in LaBelle. WFTX.

Colleges and universities: Gregory Gerami, the hemp farming executive who presented Florida A&M University in May with 14 million shares of Issac Batterson Family 7th Trust stock that he said is worth at least $237 million, stands by his donation even as the school has backed away from the gift and begun an investigation. Tallahassee Democrat. Henry Mack, a vice president for academic affairs at Northwest Florida State College, is widely expected to be named the interim president of the school at a meeting of the trustees Tuesday. Chair Lori Kelley is recommending Mack fill in temporarily for Devon Stephenson, who is leaving this summer to become president of Florida Polytechnic University. News Service of Florida. A Jewish activist recently posed as a Muslim in an attempt to befriend Muslim professors at the University of Florida and catch them making remarks that would expose them as anti-Semitic. His real name is Anthony Damon Wray, 46, of Melbourne, who is a registered Republican and part of a Messianic Jewish hip hop group called Hazakim. Fresh Take Florida. New College of Florida’s graduation ceremony was Friday. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Around the nation: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Friday that U.S. schools should promote the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, offer vaccinations for employees, host vaccination clinics and students and encourage the use of masks indoors when respiratory diseases are spreading. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo have spoken against vaccines and masks, and last year Florida passed a law forbidding mask mandates by government agencies and schools. Florida Phoenix.

Opinions on schools: It is crucial, more than ever, to teach STEM and journalism for developing critical thinking skills. Ella Dorfman, Florida Today. Parents no longer communicate with teachers when they have concerns. They go straight to the administration. The goal is to intimidate the teacher into compliance rather than resolve legitimate concerns. This is presented as parents’ rights. It is destroying the quality of education. Michael Andoscia, Fort Myers News-Press.

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BY NextSteps staff