Principal rehired despite Holocaust comments, learning formats, teachers leaving, pay and more

Around the state: A divided Palm Beach County School Board has reluctantly rehired a principal who was fired after declining to call the Holocaust a factual event, another 70,000-plus students return to Miami-Dade County classrooms, St. Johns County schools will no longer allow students to move from in-person to online learning, teachers continue to leave the profession because of the coronavirus, Hillsborough’s superintendent proposes the formation of a teachers advisory council, and a contract agreement is reached in Brevard County that boosts starting teacher pay by $7,324. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts and private schools:

Miami-Dade: More than 70,000 more students returned to Miami-Dade classrooms on Wednesday in the second phase of the reopening. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was pleased with how the reopening went. “Today was the day we braced ourselves for,” he said. “I am reasonably happy and satisfied.” The first phase began Monday with about 22,000 pre-K, kindergarten, 1st grade students and those with disabilities showing up for in-person instruction. Yesterday, the rest of the elementary students, plus those in grades 6, 9 and 10, returned. The third and final phase is Friday, when all other students can begin in-person instruction. By then, about half the district’s 255,000 students will be in classrooms, with the rest learning virtually. Miami Herald. WFOR. A case of coronavirus was confirmed at the Downtown Doral Charter Elementary School, closing the school temporarily for cleaning and putting those who were in close contact with the infected student into quarantine. WSVN.

Broward: Leslie Brown, the former chief portfolio services officer of the Broward County School District who was hired as the East Baton Rouge Parish school superintendent in August, has resigned after just two months on the job. Brown, 62, cited declining health. “Today, it is with great sadness I write to you, as her husband and as her power of attorney, to report her health has continued to deteriorate, leaving her unable to pen this letter herself and forcing her to tender her resignation,” her husband wrote to the school board. The nature of her illness has not been disclosed. The Advocate.

Hillsborough: Superintendent Addison Davis has proposed that two teachers from each grade be named to an advisory council that would meet with him monthly to discuss district issues. The appointments would be for seven months, and applications are being accepted through Oct. 14. Teachers union executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins was cool to the idea, calling it “a knee jerk reaction” to the dissatisfaction expressed by teachers during a recent contract negotiation session. “As the union representing employees, we provide input all the time,” she said. “It’s just that I don’t think they are happy to hear the input we’re providing.” Davis also told school board members that the number of unaccounted for students is down to about 3,000, and the board has agreed to authorize the borrowing of up to $80 million to pay bills in case property tax collections are delayed. Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: The high school principal who was fired in 2019 after he said he couldn’t say the Holocaust was a historical fact has been rehired by the school board in a 4-3 vote and given $152,000 in back pay. William Latson was the principal at Spanish River High School when he made the comments in 2018. He was later fired for “ethical misconduct” and “failure to carry out job responsibilities.” He appealed, and an administrative law judge ruled that Latson should be rehired and receive back pay. He will be a “principal on assignment.” The board’s only Jewish member, Karen Brill, said, “If we rehire Dr. Latson, it is going be a stain on this school district that will never go away.” Palm Beach Post. Miami Herald. Sun Sentinel. WPTV. WPEC. District officials said this week that homemade desk shields put together by teachers had to be removed and that only the shields purchased by the district can be used. But there is disagreement among district officials about the bulletin that was sent to schools. District spokeswoman Julie Trieste said the only desk shields that had to be removed were ones made by hanging shower curtains. But the district’s manager of building code services and maintenance director disagree, saying anything other than the district-provided shields have to be removed. Palm Beach Post.

Central Florida: Here’s an overview of the school board races in the central Florida counties of Orange, Lake, Osceola, Volusia and Marion counties. Election day is Nov. 3. WKMG.

Polk: An elementary school being built in the Mulberry area needs a name, and the school district is asking for help from residents to choose one. A naming committee has narrowed the options to two: Poley Bridge Elementary or Willow Oak Elementary. Online voting continues through Oct. 21. The school is scheduled to reopen next fall for up to 1,000 students. WFTS. Tom Freeman, a landscape painter who taught art at Lake Wales High School and later became an assistant principal, has died at the age of 94. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Racial politics is very much a part of the election for the District 7 seat on the school board, though both candidates are urging voters to look deeper. The seat has been held by an African-American for two decades, and has provided the sole black school board member in that time. Now a white former St. Petersburg city councilman, Karl Nurse, is running against teacher Caprice Edmond, an African-American, for the job. Both say voters should look at their experiences and where they stand on the issues instead of their skin color. Tampa Bay Times. Twenty-four more district classrooms in four schools were put under quarantine this week after six coronavirus cases were confirmed. Florida Politics. St. Petersburg College said that the entire St. Petersburg Collegiate High School was not closed after a positive coronavirus test, as the Pinellas County School District announced this week. Florida Politics.

Lee: Students have until Oct. 16 to decide if they want to change their form of learning for the second quarter, which begins Nov. 2. About 1,800 requests have already been made, with most of them asking to be switched from online to in-person learning, said district spokesman Rob Spicker. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: The district and its teachers union reached a tentative contract agreement Wednesday that will pay all teachers at least $46,550. That’s an increase of $7,324 for starting teachers. All teachers who are already making more than the minimum will receive an $850 raise. The deal also includes five days of paid parental leave to any teacher who gives birth or adopts a child, and sets new health insurance premiums. Teachers and school board members still have to approved the proposed deal. Florida Today. Space Coast Daily. WFTV. The Verdi EcoSchool in Melbourne has been cited as one of 10 U.S. schools providing the guidance and inspiration for reinventing K-12 education. The school emphasizes immersion in the outdoors as a way to develop innovative thinking while engaging with community in an environmentally responsible way. Education Post.

Manatee: More than 59 percent of the 12,539 parents who answered a school district survey said they would choose to send their child to school for in-person instruction even if doing so would make it harder for schools to maintain social distancing. About 70 percent said they don’t intend to switch their child’s learning format for the next quarter, while 3,786 said they would. School board members will discuss the results of its districtwide survey at today’s meeting. Bradenton Herald. Two more cases of the coronavirus have been reported at Lakewood Ranch High and Moody Elementary. Eleven people were placed under quarantine. Bradenton Herald.

Lake: School board members and district officials met with the legislative delegation to discuss priorities for the next session. Topping the list is funding equity, since the state’s formula has left Lake with below-average per-student funding for years. Daily Commercial.

St. Johns: District officials announced this week that students will no longer be permitted to switch from in-person to remote learning. “Now that we are past the first interim reporting period, we will no longer move students to school-based distance learning unless there is a unique high-risk health factor for a student,” said Superintendent Tim Forson. “The teachers are doing amazing work, but it is increasingly more difficult to manage both platforms throughout the entire day. To provide the best instructional experience for your child, we need more consistency and fewer changes.” WJXT.

Sarasota: School board members have given Superintendent Brennan Asplen the authority to improve security for school board meetings. The decision came after opposing groups confronted each other outside the board offices and during the meeting this week. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The district has reworked its coronavirus dashboard to provide more information. Now available are school-by-school numbers, total positive cases, the number of people quarantined over the last 48 hours, and cumulative numbers for the year. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Three veteran teachers explain why they decided to continue teaching, retire or take a leave of absence because of the pandemic. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Alachua: County commissioners are offering the school district $1.3 million in aid from the federal coronavirus relief bill. The district had asked for $13 million. The money will be used to buy monitors for teachers, bluetooth microphones and headsets, document cameras, and to train teachers on the Hyflex learning system. Teachers have complained about Hyflex, which blends digital and in-person instruction. Gainesville Sun. A child-care center affiliated with the ACCEPT dropout program for pregnant teens is in danger of losing three of its four caregivers if enrollment doesn’t increase in the next 30 days. Gainesville Sun.

Bay: A social media vote has chosen the mascot for the A. Gary Walsingham Academy in Panama City Beach, which is expected to open next fall. The overwhelming pick was the Wahoo, which is a large mackerel. WMBB.

Martin: School board members have agreed to vote Oct. 20 on a proposal to proclaim October as LGBTQ+ History Month. The request was initiated in September by board member Victoria Defenthaler. TCPalm.

Indian River: District officials said the transitional learning model will continue as an option for students in the second quarter. The model, which allows students to virtually follow their classes as they are scheduled for in-person students, had been set to expire. Superintendent David Moore also recommended that the current coronavirus safety precautions stay in place, and the school board agreed. TCPalm.

More on the coronavirus: Halfway through the first semester, hundreds of Florida teachers continue to leave because of the pandemic or the working conditions caused by it. In Collier County, two-dozen teachers have quit since school started. In Orange County, it’s 118 and in St. Lucie, it’s 36. WFTS. The state has released its second weekly coronavirus dashboard update for schools, with data included from Sept. 27 through Oct. 3. Almost 1,500 cases were reported in schools. Florida Phoenix. WPLG. The Council of Chief State School Officers is advising state education leaders to closely research and evaluate student achievement data, no matter what evaluation model is used, before applying that data for high-stakes purposes. Education Dive.

Education podcasts: Louis Algaze, the president and chief executive officer of the Florida Virtual School, talks with Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill about the school’s rapid growth, how its competency-based model is being incorporated into the district education model, and what the school is hearing from remote learners. redefinED.

Opinions on schools: The Miami-Dade County School District provides an example of how districts can buck the staffing surge trend to lower expenses without sacrificing student achievement. Michael Q. McShane, Education Next.