School safety issues, library training changes, NIL impact, spelling champ relaxes, and more

Around the state: Many school district officials worry they won’t be able to comply with state safety requirements even after spending millions of dollars, changes have been made to the training school librarians get about policing library and classroom bookshelves, will the impact of Florida’s expected approval of compensation for high school athletes this week be transformational or underwhelming, the latest national spelling champ from Florida is looking for some relaxation time after a year of studying, some experts are reluctant to attribute school closings directly to universal school vouchers, and teacher shortages persist despite many school districts and universities partnering to create an educator pipeline. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Some district students and their parents are taking proms to a new level, with luxury vehicles, elaborate designer dresses and choreographed sendoffs that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Kenneth Grant, whose daughter Kamaya was a senior at Norland High School in Miami, dropped $20,000 on her prom. “Now that it was over, I think it was worth it,” he said. “She went viral. She went on the Shade Room. All the famous TikTokers posted her.” Miami Herald.

Broward: District officials are investigating an allegation that a 5th-grade teacher at Eagle Ridge Elementary School in Coral Springs illegally helped students during the recent state assessment testing. Students who were affected are retaking the test, and the teacher has been reassigned pending the outcome of the investigation. WPLG. A science teacher at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek was arrested last week and accused of child abuse. Police said after a student called 64-year-old Christopher Cagle “Cagle bagel,” Cagle grasped his hand and twisted the boy’s arm behind his back, then grabbed him by the hair and ear and pushed him against a table. The student said he hit his head and was treated by paramedics for dizziness. Cagle was reassigned until the case is resolved. WSVN.

Hillsborough: Winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee last week has earned 12-year-old Bruhat Soma of Tampa some free time to work on his basketball skills, join new clubs when he enters the 8th grade at Turner/Bartels K-8 School in the fall, and just relax, he said. Spelling practice was 6 hours on weekdays and 10 hours on weekends, leaving little time for anything else. But the work was worth it, he said. “It’s been pretty exciting to win,” he said. “It’s been what I’ve been working for the whole past year.” Tampa Bay Times. WFLA. WTSP.

Polk: Lake Wales High School students received their diplomas during a graduation ceremony last week. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: Students from the private Canterbury School in Fort Myers were awarded diplomas in a recent ceremony. Fort Myers News-Press.

Pasco: Graduation ceremonies were held last weekend for Gulf, Cypress Creek, Anclote, Hudson, Land O’Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Pasco high schools, and continue today, Tuesday and Wednesday. Most are at the USF Yuengling Center, and are being livestreamed. Tampa Bay Times. Pasco County School District.

Collier: Freshmen entering Lorenzo Walker Technical High School in the fall will be the final class to graduate from there, the district has announced. Superintendent Leslie Ricciardelli said the school will be converted into more space for the adjacent Lorenzo Walker Technical High College so that juniors and seniors from all district high schools can take part in career dual-enrollment classes, beginning in the fall of 2026. That model more closely resembles the district’s dual-enrollment program at Florida SouthWestern State College, she said. WINK. Collier County School District.

St. Johns: Plans for a K-8 charter school in the Treaty Park area just outside St. Augustine will be going to the county commission for consideration Tuesday. The proposal has already received the approval of the County Planning and Zoning Agency. Jacksonville Daily Record.

Marion: An investigation into the school district’s handling of a construction management contract exonerated the district, but is critical of a school board member for berating Superintendent Diane Gullett in a “disrespectful” and “threatening” way. The report also accused a local construction company of improper and even threatening communications with school officials during the selection process. Ausley Construction denies those accusations. Ocala Star Banner. A former dean at Vanguard High School in Ocala has been arrested and accused of sexually exploiting several students. Gregory Ramputi, 42, allegedly groped students, asked them to show their breasts and engaged in sex acts with at least one student, according to complaints made by several students in early May. Ramputi resigned May 21. WKMG. Ocala Star Banner.

Escambia: School board member Bill Slayton has announced he won’t seek re-election to a fifth term. “I think 16 years is enough,” Slayton said. “This makes 52 years I have been in education.” Candidates for the District 5 seat are Thomas Harrell, Joshua Matthew Luther and Jim Taylor.

Okaloosa: A settlement has been reached between the principal of the Okaloosa STEMM Academy and the state’s Education Practices Commission over an allegation that she improperly disciplined a student with a disability during the 2020-2021 school year. Scheree Martin was alleged to have punished an autistic male student for behavior linked to his disability, and pressuring staff to ignore parental requests to be present when the discipline was imposed. She was fined $750, reprimanded, put on probation for two years and ordered to take two education ethics courses. Northwest Florida Daily News.

Alachua: Graduation ceremonies were held last weekend for Buchholz, Gainesville and Eastside high schools. Gainesville Sun. The district’s application to start an International Baccalaureate program at Williams Elementary School in Gainesville has been approved. Williams is the first school in the district to participate in the International Baccalaureate Organization’s primary years program. Gainesville Sun. WCJB.

Putnam: Graduation ceremonies were held last week for students at Crescent City and Palatka high schools. Palatka Daily News.

Sumter: Students from Wildwood and South Sumter high schools received their diplomas in ceremonies last week. The Villages Daily Sun.

Highlands: A ceremony last week marked the graduation of two-dozen students from the Highlands Virtual School. Highlands Sun.

Monroe: A graduation ceremony was recently held for Marathon High School. Florida Keys Weekly.

Colleges and universities: Teacher shortages continue around the state despite an increasing number of agreements between school districts and universities that provide incentives for aspiring educators to move into the classroom after they graduate. WLRN. Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted Saturday that conservative reforms have wrested control of New College of Florida from “woke” education policies of the left. “That is something that I think will attract people, not just throughout Florida, but throughout the country,” he said in a speech at the school. Florida Politics. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In his state of the school message to alumni, Florida A&M President Larry Robinson mentioned record research funding, the increase in applications and the effects of three recent tornadoes, but ignored the “ceased” $237 million donation that has made national news and triggered an investigation. Tallahassee Democrat. University of Miami trustees have elected Manuel Kadre as the board’s new chair, replacing Laurie Silvers. Kadre, the chairman and CEO of MBB Auto Group, will serve until 2027. Miami Herald.

School safety measures: School officials around the state are expressing concern about the potential costs of complying with a new state law requiring all classroom, building and campus entrances and exits closed and locked when students are present unless classes are changing or an employee is monitoring those spots. “The intent was good,” says Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning about the law Gov. DeSantis signed in May. “It is the actual implementation of that bill that is causing the Pasco district, and districts across the state, a great deal of pause.” John Newman, chief of security for Hillsborough schools added, “I don’t think there’s a school district in the entire state that is going to be able to lock every door and every gate, or have it staffed.” Tampa Bay Times.

School closings and vouchers: While many Florida education experts contend that universal school choice in Florida is leading directly to public school closures, others aren’t convinced. “That is not a problem with choice because choice in this case — people are selecting something that they think works better for themselves,” argues Neal McCluskey, director for the Center for Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute. “And that’s ultimately what we should want for the education system, is that people are getting what they think is the best education for their unique kids and for their families.” The Hill. The number of applications for school vouchers in the state has already exceeded the number awarded during the last school year, according to Step Up For Students, which helps administer the scholarships and hosts this blog. With months left to apply, more than 386,000 applications have already been received. Last year, almost 350,000 scholarships were awarded. WUSF.

Library book training: Changes have been made in the state’s program training for school media specialists about policing library and classroom bookshelves. Passages that critics said misrepresented the law and led to confusion and unnecessary book removals have been revised. “Based on some stakeholder input, we’d like to provide some clarifying language,” K-12 Chancellor Paul Burns told the State Board of Education last week, which accepted the changes. “We appreciate the adoption of the last-minute amendment that resolves the confusing language and advises districts to conduct a thorough review of materials rather than permanently removing based on a single excerpt,” the Florida Freedom to Read Project wrote in a statement. USA Today Florida Network.

The NIL question: Will the expected approval this week of a proposal to allow high school athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses bring a seismic shift or mirror Georgia’s experience? There, only 0.016 percent of athletes have received NIL deals. At that rate, less than 50 Florida students would benefit. “Based on what’s happened in other states, I wouldn’t expect some mad rush at all,” said Mit Winter, a Missouri attorney who specializes in collegiate sports law. “I think people are overestimating the amount that takes place at the high school level.” Florida Times-Union. Palm Beach Post. WJXT.

Free summer meals: The Orange, Lee, Volusia, Manatee, Charlotte and Bay school districts have joined others around the state in offering free breakfasts and lunches to children 18 and under this summer through the federal Summer Food Service Program. Areas where 50 percent or more of the children qualify for free and reduced-price meals during the school year are eligible. WFTV. WJHG. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Bradenton Herald. WINK. WBBH.

Opinions on schools: When the K-12 education marketplace has lots and lots of providers vying for the business of both bundlers and unbundlers, two great things happen. Robust competition pushes quality up and costs down. William Mattox, Florida Politics. There may be no way of halting the increasing commercialization of college sports, but there are many reasons to regret how far it has already gone. Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel. A dysfunctional subgroup of graduating New College of Florida students showed their lack of seriousness in a sickening mix of the heckler’s veto and a “cool” historically ignorant antisemitism – the flavor of the moment for juvenile “rebels.” Robert Allen Jr., Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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BY NextSteps staff

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