USF lands virus research center in Tampa, portables in Duval, Lee pay deal narrowly approved, and more

Around the state: USF’s medical campus in downtown Tampa will be the new headquarters for a group of more than 80 virology research centers called the Global Virus Network, Duval school board members approve buying eight portable classrooms for two overcrowded schools even as it considers shuttering dozens of other schools, Broward’s superintendent ignored a committee recommendation in pushing for the firing of a high school employee whose transgender child played for the girls volleyball team, a contract agreement between the Lee school district and teachers is narrowly approved by the school board, Florida’s Supreme Court hears arguments in the case of a UF student who sued the school for a refund of student fees collected when the campus was shut down during the pandemic, and a 90-year-old retires after working for 65 years at Coral Gables High School. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: After 65 years as a teacher, coach, athletic director, business manager and, finally, counselor at Coral Gables High School, 90-year-old Dan Finora is retiring. “He’s the heart and soul of Coral Gables,” said Ada Trujillo, a former transcript coordinator at the school, at a celebration Tuesday. “Well, it was, ya know, something I didn’t expect. It was awesome,” said Finora. Miami Herald.

Broward: A district disciplinary committee made up of principals and administrators voted March 20 to recommend that Monarch High School employee Jessica Norton be suspended for 10 days for her role in allowing her transgender child to play with the girls volleyball team. But then-superintendent Peter Licata instead recommended she be fired, and new Superintendent Howard Hepburn has upheld that. A school board vote is scheduled June 18. Sun Sentinel. Fourteen sets of twins and a set of triplets graduated from Cooper City High School on Wednesday night. School officials believe this is the highest number of twins graduating at the same time from a single school. “We knew we had quite a few twins seeing them around campus. Didn’t quite know the actual number until just recently when a parent brought it up,” said principal Vera Perkovic. WTVJ.

Duval: A graduation ceremony was held this week for seniors at Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach. Florida Times-Union. Even as the district considers closing schools, school board members have approved the purchase of  portable classrooms for two overcrowded schools. Four portables will be placed at Baldwin Middle-High and four more at Atlantic Coast High, at a cost of $6.5 million. Florida Times-Union. Two hours after the FHSAA approved a proposal Tuesday to allow high school athletes to be paid for the use of the names, images and likenesses, a football player at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville announced he’d signed a deal with a Miami-based jewelry store, GLD Shop. The status of the deal is unclear since the new state policy still has to be ratified by the Florida Department of Education at a meeting July 24 before taking effect. Florida Times-Union.

Polk: School board member Sara Beth Wyatt is stepping down as president and CEO of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce because of increased family responsibilities and to focus on her race for re-election to her District 4 seat, she has announced. Wyatt has run the chamber for about two years. She’s being challenged for the school board by Rebekah Ricks. Lakeland Ledger.

Lee: A contract agreement between the school district and the teachers union was narrowly approved by the school board this week in a 4-3 vote. The deal calls for pay raises ranging from 1 percent to as much as 5.25 percent for teachers with 20 or more years of experience. That prompted a no vote from board member Armor Persons, who said, “The union is not looking out for those beginning teachers, or even first-year teachers that have finished the first year. They did not even get the full amount. So I’m just disappointed in them.” Union president Kevin Daly called the vote “unprecedented. In my 27 years, I can never remember a single board member voting against a contract.” WINK.

Pasco: Sophie Cuviello, a 5th-grader from of Oakstead Elementary School in Land O’Lakes, has been named the state’s school safety patroller of the year by the American Automobile Association. She said she joined the school’s safety patrol because she wanted to help others. WTVT. WMNF. AAA.

Sarasota: School board members decided this week to split the public comment periods at board meetings, with comments of up to 3 minutes about agenda items before board business is conducted and general comments of up to 2 minutes after new business. The board also approved a new 82-page district strategic plan to follow through 2030. Most notably, it says the district will look for other funding sources for voluntary prekindergarten programs to replace the expiring federal pandemic funding. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Leon: Eleven recent high school graduates have been named semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Chiles and Leon high schools each had four students chosen, with one apiece from Lincoln, Rickards and the Community Leadership Academy. Tallahassee Democrat.

Alachua: Ten schools are getting new principals after the school board approved the appointments this week. Some members of the audience at the board meeting questioned the changes, with one calling it “musical principals.” A database clerk at Terwilliger Elementary, Khanya Bennett, said she has seen five principals and seven assistant principals — likely to be eight soon — in her nine years at the school. “Thirteen admin changes in nine years. I hope that number makes somebody cringe. It’s not fair for the kids to constantly have these changes. They need consistency,” she said. Mainstreet Daily News. Gainesville Sun. Santa Fe High School baseball coach Travis Yeckring is being accused of having sexual contact with an underage female student, beginning in the fall of 2022. Yeckring has been on paid administrative leave since March. An attorney for the family of the victim has filed a notice of claim charging that the school and district failed to protect the student and also failed to document any of Yeckring’s alleged behavior. WCJB.

Martin: School board members are considering a proposal that would require students in certain middle and high schools to put their phones in a school-issued pouch that is then locked until the end of the school day. Schools participating would be Hidden Oaks, Stuart, Murray and Indiantown middle schools, and South Fork, Jensen Beach and Martin County high school. The cost for the pouches would be about $220,000. WPEC.

Colleges and universities: The University of South Florida’s medical campus in downtown Tampa will be the new home for the Global Virus Network, a group of more than 80 virology research centers in 40 countries. Its cofounder, Robert Gallo, known for his early work on the HIV virus, will join the USF faculty. Tampa Bay Times. The Atlantic Coast Conference has asked a Tallahassee-based appeals court to place on hold a lawsuit filed by Florida State University against the conference while a similar case plays out in North Carolina. News Service of Florida. Eddie Jackson, who worked for Florida A&M University for 39 years as sports information director, director of placement and career counseling, university public relations director, and vice president for university relations before retiring in 2002, has died at the age of 86. Tallahassee Democrat. WFSU. WCTV. Charges of soliciting prostitution have been dropped against the former vice chair of the University of Central Florida trustees. Prosecutors said they could not meet the burden of proof against businessman Harold Mills, 53. WESH.

Court hears fees case: Florida’s Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in the case of a University of Florida graduate student who sued the school for a refund of student fees collected when the campus was shut down during the pandemic. The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that a circuit judge should have dismissed the case because UF is shielded by sovereign immunity. But Anthony Rojas’ lawyer argues that UF breached a contract by not providing services for which it was paid. News Service of Florida.

Opinions on schools: Schools should help students find career paths that appeal to them, not to steer them into avenues that serve the needs of school district officials. Whether grow-your-own programs for teachers ultimately have much of an impact on staffing, I fear they fall short on that count. Rick Hess, Education Week. Excuse me for scoffing out loud, but it’s absolutely ridiculous that the Florida High School Athletics Association actually wants us to believe that it can police and enforce the new name, image and likeness legislation it passed earlier this week. Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel.

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BY NextSteps staff

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