Corcoran not a finalist: Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is not among the three finalists for the Florida State University president’s job. After interviewing the nine finalists on Saturday, the presidential search committee chose Robert Blouin, executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Richard McCullough, vice president for research at Harvard University; and Giovanni Piedimonte, vice president for research at Tulane University and professor of pediatrics in the Tulane School of Medicine. Corcoran was one of the four candidates with deep ties to Tallahassee or FSU who were overlooked. On-campus interviews of the finalists with faculty, staff and students are this week. Tallahassee Democrat. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Tampa Bay Times. Florida Politics. WFSU.
Mask changes for schools? Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated Americans could stop wearing masks at most indoor events and outdoors even in crowds. Saturday, the agency issued further guidance recommending that schools continue to require students and employees to wear face masks in schools and maintain social distancing for the rest of the academic year. CDC officials said they wanted to clarify how schools should proceed after the earlier announcement raised questions. Few students would be fully vaccinated in the short time left in the school year, the CDC reasoned in issuing the latest guidance, and only students 12 and above are eligible for the shots. Most Florida school districts have decided to keep their mask policies until summer school or the start of the 2021-2022 academic year. CDC officials said they will soon offer additional advice for schools for next year. New York Times. Fox News. Reuters. New York Post. WFLA. Florida Phoenix. Miami Herald. Gray News. Requiring proof of being vaccinated against the coronavirus has been banned in Florida, but schools can still require immunizations to attend. So who has the right to ask if someone has been vaccinated? WPTV.
Around the state: Troubling learning losses, especially in math, are reported in the Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Pinellas school districts, cameras could be placed in Broward classrooms that have a majority of students with disabilities to catch instances of child abuse, demand for coronavirus vaccination shots among children 12-15 outstripped supply over the weekend in some Osceola County outlets, Polk school board members get their first detailed look at the budget for the next fiscal year, and Ralph Turlington, a former University of Florida professor, Florida House speaker and education commissioner, has died in North Carolina at the age of 100. Here are details about those stories and other developments from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:
Miami-Dade: About 54 percent of the district’s pre-K through 3rd-grade students are testing below grade level in math, and 43 percent are below grade level in reading, according to school officials. In pre-K, about 15 percent of students are behind grade level in reading and 13 percent in math. For kindergartners it’s 16 percent in reading and 24 percent in math; for 1st-graders it’s 37 percent in reading and 41 percent in math. Thirty-six percent of 2nd-graders are behind in reading and 41 percent in math, and among 3rd-graders it’s 27 percent in reading and 40 percent in math. “These numbers are alarming,” said school board member Mari Tere Rojas, who requested the report. Miami Herald.
Broward: Cameras could be placed in Broward classrooms that have a majority of students with special needs this fall to watch for child abuse. A bill the Legislature approved a bill this session that restricts the use of restraints and seclusion of students with disabilities also establishes a pilot program setting cameras up in classrooms if parents submit a written request. Only district and law enforcement officials and parents can watch the videos, and only if abuse serious enough to warrant a Department of Child and Families investigation is suspected. Sun Sentinel. Scott Israel, who was suspended as county sheriff by Gov. Ron DeSantis for his department’s failings during the Parkland school shooting, and later removed from office by the Legislature, has a new job. He’s been hired by the town of Davie to review red light camera footage and appear in court if anyone challenges a ticket. The 64-year-old Israel will be paid $65,000 a year. He’s also been getting a pension from Fort Lauderdale since 2004 that pays him $5,651 a month. Sun Sentinel.
Tampa Bay: Testing results in Hillsborough and Pinellas schools show that students lost more ground in math than in reading during the pandemic. Hillsborough’s tests showed an average decline of 3.1 percentage points in reading, but a 5 point drop in math. In 18 elementary schools, less than 10 percent of students were ready to pass the state reading assessments, while the same was true for math in 32 schools. In Pinellas County, students showed slight gains in reading but a drop of 7 percent of children testing at or above expectations for their grade in math. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay area school districts are looking for ways to engage students in summer sessions with academics leavened with physical education, music, art and plenty of hands-on projects. “If that learning is just workbooks, worksheets — senseless — then nobody would benefit from that,” said Darlene DeMarie, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of South Florida who also serves on the board of the East Tampa Academy charter school. “Life isn’t a multiple choice test. We need meaningful learning, in context.” There will also be counselors, behavior specialists and other providers available to help with students’ mental health needs. Tampa Bay Times.
Palm Beach: Damon Weaver, who made headlines when, as an 11-year-old student at Canal Point Elementary School, he interviewed President Obama at the White House in 2009, died May 1 at the age of 23. His sister said Weaver died of natural causes. Palm Beach Post. A closer look at a single case, of a 7-year-old student that a school administrator wanted involuntarily committed under the Baker Act in 2017, shows the complexity of the factors involved for police officers and school officials in making such a decision. Palm Beach Post. A boy was arrested Friday after a handgun was found in his backpack at Roosevelt Middle School in West Palm Beach. The boy is not a student at the school and it’s unclear why he came onto Roosevelt’s campus, said principal Jeremiah Stewart. Sun Sentinel.
Polk: School board members got their first look at the 2021-2022 fiscal year budget that they are planning to keep near this year’s $1.9 billion. The district is getting about $7.7 million extra because for the first time in a decade, the Legislature did not require that districts roll back the tax rate to offset increasing property values. But there’s also about $26 million in new expenses, which includes an additional $3.6 million for the retirement system, $2 million extra in shipping for COVID-related expenses, $2.4 million in turnaround services for struggling schools that the state is no longer paying for, $3.6 million for higher employee insurance costs, and $737,000 to bump 496 employees’ pay to $10 an hour. Lakeland Ledger. Details about employee raises and bonuses were released Friday by district officials. The minimum teacher pay has been set at $45,172, and all 6,836 teachers will get raises ranging from $1,200 to $4,200. Bonuses of $1,000 will go to 5,542 classroom teachers and 150 school principals, courtesy of pandemic relief aid. Also getting $1,000 bonuses are other teachers and support staff. Finally, teachers who instructed in-person and online students simultaneously will get $800 bonuses. Lakeland Ledger. Nicholas Lopez, a senior at Winter Haven High School, has won a National Merit Scholarship. He plans at attend Harvard University in the fall and study applied mathematics. Lakeland Ledger.
Pinellas: A science teacher at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg recently helped find a gigantic fossilized bone from a Colombian mammoth, the largest elephant that ever existed but went extinct at least 10,000 years ago. Henry Sadler and Derek Demeter, the director of the Seminole State Planetarium, discovered the bone and part of a saber tooth tiger fang while diving in the Peace River near Arcadia. WUSF.
Lee: The mother of a student at a Cape Coral elementary school said she’s not satisfied with the school’s response after her son complained about racist comments made by a classmate. Fort Myers News-Press. District officials and the sheriff’s office said they are investigating an allegation of sexual assault against a student at the North Fort Myers Academy. The unwanted contact began in March. WFTX.
Osceola: Demand for coronavirus vaccinations for children 12-15 was so much than higher than expected last weekend that at least one supplier ran out of doses. Eric Laron, the owner at Prescriptions Unlimited, said they were able to fill about 16,000 appointments after getting more doses from the health department. County officials said the shots will continue to be offered by appointment from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and 1-5 p.m. Wednesdays. Walk-ins can get shots from noon-1 p.m. on each of those days except Wednesdays, when hours are 5-6 p.m. WESH.
Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto: Sarasota County school students and employees who have been fully vaccinated will no longer have to go into quarantine if they’ve been exposed to someone with the coronavirus, district officials have announced. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The number of people who can attend Manatee County high school graduations at LECOM Park has been doubled from 2,500 to 5,000. Students will be able to get more tickets for guests, but how many will depend on the number of graduates. WWSB. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 demonstrated both the need for widespread, reliable Internet access in schools, home and businesses, and how far some rural counties such as DeSoto have to go to get there. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Collier: A woman has been arrested and accused of hitting a boy on a bike with her car in a school zone last week, then driving away. Deputies found the injured boy lying in the road when they arrived on the scene. A witness got the license plate of the car that hit the boy, and Heather Bryant was arrested at her home. WBBH.
St. Johns: No face masks will be required for students and employees next fall in schools, Superintendent Tim Forson announced Friday. He said the changes go into effect June 14. His letter to parents also said school events such as dances, performing arts shows and athletics will return. WTLV. WJAX.
St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: School officials in the three counties are getting ready for changes in the state’s voluntary pre-K program. A progress-monitoring system is being started, and assessments that have been done early in the kindergarten year are now being moved back to the end of the final VPK year as a way of earlier identification of students who need help. TCPalm.
Leon: District officials said changing the face mask policy with just three weeks in school could be confusing, so masks will continue to be required for the rest of the semester. WTXL.
Alachua: The school district will continue its policy requiring face masks in schools until the end of the school year, district officials have said. “In order to make a decision that works for everyone, we’re going to have to find some common ground again,” Superintendent Carlee Simon has said. “And right now, I think it’s important to err on the side of safety. And, so, we are going to stay with masks indoors through the end of the year.” Masks will be optional when schools resume in August. Gainesville Sun.
Bay, Walton: Both the Bay and Walton school districts will be able to buy new equipment for special programs thanks to grants of more than $300,000 from the St. Joe Co. The money will be used to buy equipment for Bay High School’s allied health care program moving into a new STEM building that is expected to open in December, and equipment and supplies for the Magnet Innovation Center’s new biomedical program at South Walton High School. Panama City News Herald.
Flagler: John Fischer, a member of the school board from 2010 to 2014, died May 14 at the age of 76. “You couldn’t find a bigger cheerleader for our kids, teachers, staff and administrators in all of Flagler County,” said board chair Trevor Tucker. Palm Coast Observer. Flagler Live.
Monroe: Doug Pryor, a facilities planner, has been named the school district’s manager of the year. Key West Citizen.
Hendry: Clewiston High School senior Julian Avalo died in a car crash Thursday, the day before his graduation, when he lost control of his car in the rain and slammed into a semi. So his father walked across the stage and collected the diploma for the 18-year-old student who had worked so hard to overcome his kidney transplant. “Today was his day,” said Carlos Avalo. “He made it. We were very proud of his accomplishments. He did it. He was real happy to graduate, and he was so excited. He was looking forward to it, and I couldn’t miss that for him.” WINK.
Notable deaths: Ralph Turlington, a former University of Florida professor, Florida House speaker and education commissioner, has died in North Carolina at the age of 100. The liberal Democrat who represented Alachua County in the Legislature for 24 years is credited with creating the Florida Lottery, the Government in the Sunshine law, the state employees’ pension system, the state’s first corporate income tax, and lowering the voting age to 18. “He brought the best out in people. He brought the best out in legislation,” said his former aide Frank Mirabella. Gainesville Sun. Associated Press. Florida Phoenix. WCJB. Capitol News Service.
Opinions on schools: There should be no reason to countenance the use of corporal punishment in any school environment in modern-day Florida. Not in any fashion. Not in any form. Period. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In a year that set many countless children further behind, Lakewood Elementary School in St. Petersburg defied expectations and showed what’s possible with the right combination of a strong principal, an energetic staff and an environment that supports experimentation while measuring results. Tampa Bay Times. If we really wanted critical thinking by our students, we’d present the 1619 Project alongside other historical interpretations and let students sort out the difference. Jonathan Zimmerman, Orlando Sentinel. Legislators in states including Florida who think they’re defending free speech with new laws targeting :divisive concepts” are actually hurting it. For colleges and universities to advance progress through open inquiry, they need to be free from outside interference that undermines the scientific process. Charlie Ruger, Real Clear Education. By requiring a moment of silence every day in schools and teaching a counterfactual version of history, Florida officials are dangerously — and unconstitutionally — promoting Christian nationalism in public schools. Ryan D. Jayne, Tallahassee Democrat. A report from the American Institute of Physics shows that the percentage of high school graduates who have taken at least one physics class in high school grew significantly between 2013 and 2019. Meanwhile, the situation in Florida is quite different. Paul Cottle, Bridge to Tomorrow.