7 UF students kicked out for up to 4 years for protest, Broward school building demolished, and more

Around the state: Seven University of Florida students who took part in a pro-Palestinian protest on campus in April have been kicked out of school for up to four years, the Broward school building that was the site of the 2018 mass shooting that killed 17 has been demolished, Pasco school officials back off an earlier decision to charge school volunteers for their required background checks, St. Johns and Nassau were the top two scoring districts in the recent state assessments, and 263,000 Florida students now use open enrollment to attend a school other than the one they’re zoned to go to. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Broward: Demolition of the 1200 Building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and staff were shot to death and 17 others injured in 2018, is complete and the debris has been cleared, district officials said Tuesday. The site will now be covered with sod until the school board decides on a plan for its use, said spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion. One possibility is a “legacy” field for sports and band practices. “We would really like it to be a space where life flourishes,” said board member Debbi Hixon, whose husband Chris was among those who died. Sun Sentinel. Families of the dead and wounded in the school shooting are urging a judge to speed up their civil case against the sheriff’s office. Other unresolved cases are against deputy Scot Peterson and campus monitors Andrew Medina and David Taylor. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: Taryn Anello, the assistant principal at New Tampa’s Wharton High, has been named the school’s principal, effective July 22. She takes over for Michael Rowan, who is now the district’s general director of student engagement. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: District 2 school board member Alexandria Ayala says she chose not to run for re-election because of her career and her relationship, but vowed to stay active in promoting education and Hispanic representation in it. Ayala’s seat will be filled by Virginia Savietto, who was the only candidate to qualify, on Nov. 19. Two other incumbents, Frank Barbieri and Barbara McQuinn, are also leaving the board. WLRN.

Polk: Almost 8,000 district students walked across the stage on their schools’ graduation days, but 523 of them — almost 7 percent — received a certificate of completion instead of a diploma. The state average is 2.9 percent. Last year, 735 seniors were handed certificates instead of diplomas. Lakeland Now.

Pasco: District officials have decided against charging school volunteers for getting fingerprinted as part of their background checks after hearing from many that doing so might stop them from volunteering. Instead, the district will cover the $41.25 cost, which includes crime database screenings over five years. The screening program, however, will continue. “We were running into the potential of having folks in our system as approved volunteers, but who were carrying disqualifying events,” said assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley. Tampa Bay Times. Two more schools are getting new principals. Gretchen Rudolph-Fladd, the leader at Centennial Elementary School in Zephyrhills, has been appointed principal at Pasco Elementary in Dade City. Valerie Hammen, who has been the assistant principal at Centennial, is being promoted to replace Rudolph-Fladd. Tampa Bay Times.

Collier: Union officials representing district teachers proposed a raise of $5,700 to the current base rate during a bargaining session Tuesday, while the district is offering $3,000, which would bump starting pay from $54,000 to $57,000 a year. The average Collier teacher makes about $69,000 a year. “Our expectations are teachers need a livable wage. We demand it,” said union president Ken Mouton. Negotiations resume July 18. WINK.

St. Johns, Nassau: St. Johns and Nassau school districts again led the state in the percentage of students scoring at grade level or above in the Florida Assessment of Student Thinking testing. The districts tied in math, with 77 percent of students scoring at Level 3 or higher, compared with the state average of 56 percent. In reading, St. Johns had the highest percentage of students scoring at grade level or higher with 72 percent, while Nassau was second with 66 percent. The state average was 53 percent. WJXT.

Marion: School board members approved the hiring of the Harvard Jolly Architecture firm to design a replacement for Lake Weir Middle School. The cost for the architect will be $3 million, and the design will be based on a Palm Beach middle school. WCJB.

St. Lucie: Florida Atlantic University’s college’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce will be paid $294,000 for the St. Lucie school district’s oceanographic curriculum, school board members decided this week. TCPalm.

Leon: District students improved their scores on the state math assessments test by 2 percent over last year, and by 1 percent in reading. The number of district students performing at grade level or above was 1 percentage point lower than the state averages for both reading and math. Tallahassee Democrat. The district’s decision to quit using local off-duty law enforcement officers for its 22 elementary schools and instead hire a private security company and armed school guardians is being criticized by District 4 school board candidate Jeremy Rogers, who said the change is making schools less safe and was a disservice to the officers used. Superintendent Rocky Hanna disputes the characterization, saying Dynamic Integrated Security is able to assign guards to schools, which allows them to develop relationships with the students and staff. WFSU.

Okaloosa: School board members have approved the appointments of Stephanie Wheat as principal at Longwood Elementary School and Kimberly Nihill Taylor as principal of Okaloosa STEMM Academy. Okaloosa County School District.

Bay: District 3rd-graders improved their state assessment test scores by 9 percent this year, boosting the school system to the 25th ranking among the state’s 67 districts. “That is good, but it is not good enough,” said Superintendent Mark McQueen. “We are continuing to press on and get there. We are continuing to put that A back in Bay.” WJHG.

Citrus: Superintendent candidates Scott Herbert and Jason Koon, and District 2 school board contenders Laura Gatling-Wright, Dale Merrill, Victoria Smith and Ken Frink answered questions this week at a community forum about why they’re qualified, the big issues facing the school district and what they’d like to accomplish if elected. Citrus County Chronicle.

Highlands: School support employees will vote next month to decide if their union will be recertified, after they failed to reach the state-required membership of 60 percent of eligible workers. Voting begins in August and closes Sept. 4. Highlands News-Sun.

Colleges and universities: Seven University of Florida students who took part in a pro-Palestinian rally on campus April 29 have been kicked out of schools for up to four years. In four cases, dean of students Chris Summerlin overruled recommendations from the hearing bodies for a more lenient punishment. All seven said they have appealed the decisions. Fresh Take Florida. Florida A&M University is receiving a $749,997 grant from the National Park Service to help preserve the historical Carnegie Library. WTXL. Florida State University has created a new academic logo and will reserve use of the Seminole head logo for sports. Work on the new logo was handled by FSU employees. Tallahassee Democrat.

Open enrollment use: Nearly 263,000 Florida students used open enrollment to attend a school other than the one they’re zoned to go to, according to data from the state. That’s 9 percent of the state’s total student enrollment. Just over 5,500 moved to a different district, while almost 257,500 switched schools within their district. Seventy-two percent of students moved to schools with A or B grades from the state. Education Next.

Around the nation: More than twice as many students are arrested at schools that have police officers on site than ones that do not, according to an analysis of data by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The report cited several investigations by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights into discipline disparities in some school districts. One of those was in Pasco County, where the district agreed to make changes after it was discovered to have used suspensions and referrals to law enforcement as a response to students’ disability-related behaviors. K-12 Dive.

Opinions on schools: I think all parents and educators want textbooks vetted. And it’s probably only natural for there to be some give and take in the editing process. But I also think most of us would like scientists to write our science books and chemists to choose our chemistry lessons. Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel. As the director of FOOLS — Floridians Organized to Obstruct Learning Science — I applaud Gov. Ron DeSantis for his stand to alter science textbooks to comport with Florida’s ultimate goal of teaching young people to revere the oil and gas industry at all costs. Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post.

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BY NextSteps staff

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